Community Manager is a role that did not exist when I started my career, but it’s a role of growing importance as the usefulness of social media continues to rise and rise. There’s even a “Community Manager’s Appreciation Day” (it’s on the fourth Monday in January – put it in your agenda). There’s an ongoing discussion on the role of a community manager, most often in relation to externally focused activities of a company, but I’ve been thinking about it more in relation to the work we do with community managers working on our Enterprise Social Network (ESN).
What does an ESN community manager do? Here are the four main areas the Community manager makes a difference;
- Aligns with Business Purpose
Communities formed within a company should be supporting a business purpose, it’s up to the community manager to maintain the alignment between the community and the business purpose. We have communities that are about sharing knowledge, others provide a service channel, some are related to specific projects or events. In all those cases the community managers are working with all community members to make sure the community supports the business. Of course we also have some more “social” communities, I’m the CM for a travelling community for example, these are considered the “water cooler” of our ESN.
- Maintains Community Culture
Community managers are there to help new members find their way, encourage contribution and make sure behaviour within their community remains respectful. In a mature community all members will take this on, but we’ve seen that it’s up to the Community manager to lead by example.
- Manages Content in the Community
Content feeds a community, and it’s the community manager’s role to develop or curate content that will build a community, to encourage contributions and discussions from all community members, and to moderate/mediate any discussions that get out of hand.
- Represents Community
The community manager should act as an ambassador for the community within the company, showing the value of the community to colleagues and managers, and working to attract new members.
- Platform Development
This might depend on how you’ve implemented your ESN, for us we’re looking for user input to help the development of the platform to meet future needs. We give this as input to our supply company or make our own customisations. For bigger needs we have to start a new development project, in which case the community manager might be securing a sponsor and working with us to develop and test a solution.
Some ESN experts advocated having full time community managers, with specialist expertise. We have made a deliberate choice to train subject matter experts on community management and support them as they build communities. We believe this helps connect the community to the business purpose. I’m not aware of anyone who has a full time job as a community manager in our company (yet!). The successful community managers tend to be a great communicators, unflappable, generalists and have some geek genes – for the right person it’s a fun role to play.