WTF is a Social Media Community Manager?

What is a Social Media Community Manager?

These days, most of us know that social media is taking over an ever-larger portion of our lives. In fact, for many people this is considered the best place to catch up with friends, network, read the latest news, and find out about the latest products. For marketers, of course, the social media effect on sales is critical. Most of us work many hours at broadcasting a brand message that’s both positive and persuasive.

However, not all the product-related traffic is controlled by the brands. In fact, user-generated content is king, whether that’s a product review or just showing off the latest thing. Furthermore, not all of the discussion about a brand will be positive. A whopping 81% of consumers between the ages of 25 and 34 have used social media to complain about a brand.

How are brands dealing with these complaints? In many cases, not well. Often these customer complaints on social media are either brushed off or ignored. This is a disaster for brands, especially if the anger goes viral. Enter the social media community manager. Their job is to both address customer complaints and encourage positive conversations about a brand.

Why is social media community management important?

In short, it’s important to have a social media community manager because community will happen, with or without a brand’s help. On the other hand, a carefully managed brand community can be a positive place where people that are interested in a brand can discuss their common interest. Over time, these people can move through the stages of brand affinity, starting from interest all the way to advocacy.

A social media community manager is critical for reputation management

Here’s the thing: a lot of people go on a brand’s social media site because they’re fired up about some aspect of a brand. It can be everything from deciding that a customer service experience is exceptional to whining about an awful product. Besides this, they might air some grievance against a brand.

Since negativity isn’t exactly what a brand wants on their community page, it’s necessary for brands to manage their reputation. In the case of someone complaining about their products or customer service, a social media community manager needs to demonstrate that their concerns are being addressed. Here, the idea is to deal with a problem before they go viral.

Social media community management will keep discussions on topic.

Unfortunately, there are people who just want attention, and who will do anything to get it. One way to get the desired attention is to start a discussion that’s off topic, but that many people will want to participate in. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic there have been lots of controversial topics that can easily start lengthy “debates.” With proper community management, a brand can keep their pages and forums relatively free of these discussions.

Similarly, competent community management facilitates the right kind of discussions. For instance, if a brand wants to improve their product then they can “listen in” on the customer discussions around that product. In the process, they’ll learn what customers like about their current products, and how they figure those products should be improved. This idea exchange provides value for both the brand and its community.

Community management helps brands turn customers into advocates.

Finally, having a social media community manager means that you can more easily turn people with a passive brand interest into customers, and then advocates. One way that this happens is that a managed social media community talks about how a product can be beneficial to certain customers. For instance, a fashion brand might develop pants for a certain demographic of women. The brand will advertise, but women from that demographic are ultimately the best judges of how well those pants fit.

What does a social media community manager do?

The most important thing that social media community managers do is keep that community on track and benefitting the brand. However, this is a broad measure of success, and it requires a lot of careful work. There are a lot of things which can derail a community and reduce its value for the brand and community alike. To that end, managers must be competent at many tasks on social media.

Serving as a community gatekeeper.

One of the most important things a social media community manager must do is serve as the community gatekeeper. This role encompasses several individual tasks, each of which makes the community a safe place to hang out and talk. While some only think of a social media community manager as monitoring social media mentions, they can also play an important role as more brand create communities inside Facebook Groups and elsewhere.

First, the community manager will approve applicants for membership to the community. Many forums require a user registration and agreement with a code of conduct.

Similarly, a community manager will remove people who don’t follow the rules. Community managers of Facebook groups will kick people out for being rude to other members. Other groups have different rules, but this one’s common. By booting people that misbehave, community managers preserve both the image of their brand and the dignity of other community members.

They serve as moderators.

Another task for the social media community manager is moderating both discussions and comments. Managers can, for instance, set up filters for offensive words. The definition of “offensive” can vary based on the community and its goals, as well as cultural context. This way, people can be part of the community without worrying that they’ll get angered by other members.

Moderation of a community discussion also involves keeping the spammers and trolls at bay. As the old (for the internet) saying goes, “don’t feed the trolls.” On an unmoderated Internet forum, trolls must simply be ignored. But with a managed community they can be removed or blocked, depending on the setup.

Finally, the community manager is responsible for fostering the right discussions. These discussions can specifically revolve around a brand’s offerings, a piece of consumer education content, or other related topics. In most cases, there will be a mixture of them.

A social media community manager stimulates discussions.

Stimulating discussions can be more than an artful post. Depending on the brand and its audience, a social media community manager might participate in public dialogue with influencers. Or, they might have a virtual event, use a giveaway, or employ other creative ideas. What all of this has in common, though, is furthering the brand’s goals.

Who does a social media community manager report to?

Within most companies, the social media community manager is part of the marketing department. However, their role involves working across departments, including customer service and technical. That’s because these professionals all are involved when forest fires need to be put out or if strategic campaigns in social media are begin run.

At the same time, a community manager doesn’t work alone. According to industry experts, they work alongside the social media manager because these roles are two sides of the same coin: making a company look good on social media and generating word-of-mouth marketing. To that end, both professionals typically report to higher level management in the marketing department. This can be the “director of marketing” or similar role.

What are the skills of a good social media community manager?

Being a social media community manager requires a relatively broad range of skills. That’s because this role performs many tasks that require both precision and tact. For instance, you will need to be good at writing for social media. You’ll also require excellent customer relations and other people skills, such as reputation management and pacifying angry customers. And thinking strategically in real time is invaluable for long-term effectiveness.

How much do social media community managers make?

According to Salary.com, this role typically has a base salary, benefits, and a bonus structure. For a base salary, you can make between $46,600 and $76,600. The average is $53,300, and bonuses can add a couple thousand dollars more annually. Compensation varies based on experience, the size of the brand, and other factors.

What’s the difference between a social media manager and a community manager?

That’s a good question, because they both work within branded communities on social media. In fact, the community manager role split off from the other one as social media communities grew and became more influential. The difference between these roles primarily revolves around each manager’s identity on the network. It also helps determine how a problem is approached by each manager.

Social media managers communicate in more “branded” ways.

Perhaps the easiest way to distinguish social media and community managers is the way in which they communicate. A social media manager in particular is more responsible for posting product announcements, responding to customer complaints on behalf of the company, and creating branded content. Everything they do is strictly in accord with brand voice, whether it’s the way they respond to things or the content they create.

Besides this, the social media manager posts as the brand. They are the people who will, for example, comment on a post using the brand’s account. For example, if you are angry that your catalog order didn’t arrive on time, and then complain on Twitter about it, the response usually comes from the catalog’s account. You’re really talking to the social media manager.

Community managers are more personal.

If you hang out on a corporate social media page, there’s typically someone who acts as a personal representative of the brand. This is your social media community manager. This person’s job is to interact with community members as a person, not a corporation. Let’s look at the customer complaint example again. When the community manager responds, they’ll post from an account that has a personal face. You’ll feel like you’re talking to customer service, but this person has more authority.

Besides doing customer relations or service tasks, a community manager interfaces with the other community members. For instance, they’ll elicit customer feedback on products (think, “how does the music sound through our headphones?”). This has several purposes, such as finding opportunities for improvement and helping potential customers see how awesome a product is.

The role of social media community manager is a relatively new one in the grand scheme of things. While it used to be that your social media manager would do the community tasks, the more impersonal tasks now take too much time for one person. To address this issue, the community manager task was developed. Because of the separation of roles, however, brands can now enjoy better community relations than ever. In fact, branded communities have evolved to benefit brands more than ever.

Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.
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