What is a Community Manager and What Do They Do?

Posted on August 27, 2019 by in Marketing | 4 comments

What is a Community Manager and What Do They Do?

We’ve talked about building a community from the ground up. But where do you go once that task is complete? You have dozens to hundreds (if not thousands) of people who love you. Each of whom now wants their moment of attention from you and your brand. That’s where the community manager comes in. The responsibilities, though, can be kind of amorphous. They may even be shared with other, similar positions. In this post we want to solidify those into a useful description of a Community Manager’s role and responsibilities that you can use to enhance the community that you’ve worked so hard to build.

What is a Community Manager, Exactly?

The confusion tends to be that people conflate social media managers with community managers. And yes, they do share some similar responsibilities and often work in the same trenches. Maybe even the same accounts. But the roles do differ enough that it’s worth looking into having both on staff. If that’s not an option, it’s worth delineating in your job descriptions how you want your community managed. And by whom.

In general, a social media manager will run your social media accounts (obviously). They’re representatives of your brand, company, and product. They tend to message from the persona of the brand itself, keeping the voice of any official accounts consistent with the brand’s overall focus. A social media manager take a higher-level, data-driven look at the community.

A community manager, however, doesn’t represent the brand to the customers. Quite the opposite. The community manager represents the community to the brand. These people are active participants in discussions, are aware of issues that members may have, and are regularly involved with members on an individual basis. Rather than tweeting from the @company account, keeping with branded voice and messaging, the community manager would be posting from their own accounts. They do this as themselves, with it known that they are official representatives from and to the company.

Think About It Like This

The social media manager and the community manager might work from the same, branded account. But their takes on running it will be different. Think about different official accounts that have multiple users. They generally sign each tweet or post with their initials.

The social media manager will be the one providing the update posts and the feature releases. Their messages more often than not might not come with a signature because it doesn’t necessarily matter if Nathan, Raquel, Mitch, Joy, or Nick posted it. It is (part of) the social media manager’s job to make sure the post queue is full, scheduled, and goes out on time, every time. If a post is scheduled, it probably came from the social manager. Not the CM.

The community manager’s posts, however, would (should be) be signed. Because they are the ones that are the @ replies to individuals. The ones that talk candidly as though there’s a person using the app on their phone to reply. (Because there is). The community manager’s posts can’t be scheduled because they’re conversation with someone in the community. They RT things. The CMs share posts from related publications or professionals. And they generally use the brand’s Twitter or Facebook account as though it were their own.

Community Management Specifics

All that being said, we want to take a look at some of the specifics of what a community manager deals with on a day-to-day basis. That way, you know whether or not your team needs a dedicated CM. Or if the responsibilities fall (or could fall) to an existing team member.

Relaying Messages Back and Forth

For a community manager, being a liason between the community at large and the company is a big part of the job. When there are concerns within the community about the product, it’s the community manager’s place to take those back to the development and management teams. Doing so puts a human spin on it. What may not seem like a big deal on paper or within the greater scope of the company might be a daily pain-point on an individual level that is driving people away.

As news comes from higher-ups, too, the CM is the one who can relay that to the community in a human way. Rather than putting out a single Tweet, Story, or post about an upcoming change or update, the community manager takes the time to tell the community about it in a way that isn’t sterile and too formal. They will talk with community members about it. They provide reasoning and support, as well as an ear to hear concerns about the service or software or whatever the community has gathered around.

Standing on the Front Lines

Along those lines, the CM is also the one on the front lines when things go awry. There are going to be times when public relations disasters happen. Or potential ones do. The community manager will jump into the fray immediately, assuaging doubts, putting out an official line for the company that is more than a boilerplate, branded response. They take questions, offer potential solutions, and do their best to spin the issues into something as palatable as they can be.

Literally Standing on the Front Lines

Some CMs even plan community events IRL (in real life). Not only do they get to know people online, but sometimes a CM can organize meetups and gatherings for the community to come together and get real face time. In doing so, the brand gets a human face and a reputation for putting the community as a high priority. It also lets the CM develop deeper relationships than may be possible through forums or social media or email.

Building Relationships with Influencers and Experts

A major part of community management right now is the development of not only relationships with your community itself, but also with adjacent communities and people who might benefit from being a part of your culture. Influencer marketing is huge, and it generally falls to the CM to reach out and get the best people possible to champion your brand to their communities. So as a CM, you’re not only building your own community, but you’re also always looking for ways you can benefit others, too.

The same goes for experts in your field and industry. A CM will be aware of who the big names are in your area and will work to develop a working relationship (if not a personal one) with these folks so the company has a collection of references and potential partners for promotions and releases.

It’s Not For Everyone

The thing to keep in mind regarding community management is that it is certainly not a field for everyone. Even more so than social media management and content creation, being a CM requires that you are always plugged in. If you’re not the kind of person who wants to be tethered to their phone for work, community management is likely not a field for you. Additionally, if you don’t like actually speaking with people and engaging in conversation, it might be better to look into a more data-driven area of social marketing.

However, if you are the kind of person who thrives with these kinds of interactions and who is likely already on your social apps at all hours, seeking a community management job might be right up your alley. You don’t have to be an extrovert to do the job, as much of it is online, so the introverts out there can still recharge on their own terms, but being willing to initiate and engage with other people is an absolute must. Enjoying it helps, too.

Wrapping Up

The specifics of community management are kind of tough for a lot of people to grasp. But we hope that we’ve clarified a few of the specific details that differentiate actual community managers from similar positions. From social media managers, marketing managers, and even content creators who engage with their audiences. If you’re a people person (even if that’s only online), maybe community management is a field you should look into. And if you think your team could benefit from a dedicated CM, you could find a large return from being able to focus the community and audience you’ve already built. You might even make some friends while you’re at it, too.

What do you look for in a community manager for your audience?

Article featured image by Max Griboedov / shutterstock.com

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4 Comments

  1. Hello! Thanks for sharing this information with us!

  2. I wasn’t aware that there was an actual difference between a Social Media Manager and a Community Manager, thank you for the article and for enlightening me.

  3. Wow, this is amazing. I just know all these now. Thanks for sharing a very informative post.

  4. Community management is a field that has become part of me unknowingly, it was not planned and I have grown to love being one, though I will like to be a paid CM 😁

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