What exactly does a community manager do?

Posted on | January 11, 2011 | 13 Comments

Crowded by http://www.flickr.com/photos/merwingInspired by a post by Lee Odden at the TopRank Blog, I wrote a few words about my experience as a community manager. I’ve been doing all sorts of community management tasks for quite a while now starting from some sneaker forums back in the day (yes I am a sneaker freaker!) through heading up various blogs to my current role as a community manager here at Nokia.

I really do community management only about 30% of my time. In addition to that, I’m also the editor in chief for all the channels I manage, head up planning and social strategy for certain areas, write guidelines and policies, consult global marketing campaign projects as well as write the occasional blog post too on a company blog.

Even if my role involves a lot of planning and looking ahead on what to do next, I believe, like mentioned in the very first post, that in order to have any clue on how to create fantastic digital marketing, you absolutely have to know what is going out there, get your hands dirty and join the other people on the internet.

Besides, I love the part of my job where I get to talk to people, so complaining there! Obviously this all is not done by me only, but with my virtual team of fellow community managers and product experts such as @suryasnair, @haikus, @ovisteven and @davisatnokia in addition to fantastic people from @1000heads.

A community manager wears a wide variety of hats including customer relations, marketing including planning and execution, PR and communications, event planning, writing, tech support, metrics and insights expert, someone who tries to decipher legal texts into something that makes sense to us mere mortals outside the legal department too, to an internal lobbyist who tirelessly goes on about the importance of listening to what the customer has to say and forgets themselves sitting in front of their laptop staring at tweets and Facebook wall posts rolling in.

Needless to say that a role like this requires passion, heaps of it. Blaise Grimes-Viort wrote an excellent post about this earlier where he captures the same thing very well. Here’s a snippet from his post:

…you need to have a basic passion for people, and helping them interact with each other and the positive experience your brand is promoting to them. Investigating all the shades of grey in human communication must be something you are naturally pulled towards.

What’s equally important that the the traditional “Ad Men” are not a good fit for a role like this. The traditional advertising or marketing guy created fab ads on TV or newspapers, later on flashy microsites and flew over to Cannes to get the prize and have a glass of bubbly and moved on to the next project. Now, this does not really work anymore when we are talking about communities on the web.

A community manager is not the one who wants to stand under the spotlight, he or she puts their community first. It is about helping people to connect and the community grow, which does not happen overnight. You need to be an absolute team player and walk the extra mile for the community, not for yourself. Of course the big campaign bangs are needed too, but for them to succeed, you need to have your “base” in good shape.

To get to the original point, a glimpse of my day, not a typical one as every day is so very different. On the underground to work: checking RSS, news, tweets, FB wall posts, alerts etc to get an overview of what’s been going on while I was sleeping. The rest of the day consists of (in random order): working on Twitter RT-ing, responding or assigning tweets to product area experts, looking through FB comments and wall posts, approving/responding to blog comments if there are any. Making calls to different teams in case there has been issues, emailing to customer care and product teams about issues or feedback. Occasionally consulting PR department with responses. Agreeing on schedules and writing copy with the team. Talking with marketing campaign people about upcoming campaigns and social integration. Participating into various internal and external tool and platform development projects. Thinking about the strategy and where to go next. Testing out new apps, services & things both our own and others. Meeting up with digital marketing or developer agencies to take projects further. Working on metrics and related processes with the metrics and analytics people and taking that insight further in the organization. Planning and organizing events from time to time. Trying to make Nokia employees get involved on these channels.

…and just generally coming up with something fun that my community would like. The list could go on and on. Sometimes you are so busy that you’d like to multiply yourself at least by three, but then you also get to do a wide variety of things – just the way I like it.


13 Responses to “What exactly does a community manager do?”

  1. Jussi
    January 11th, 2011 @ 20:38

    Thanks for the insight :) So in short you have to be a true modern day DaVinci + people person to handle this role. A pretty rare talent but worth finding. In my opnion these people will be the ones crucial in helping companies change and embrace / succeed in the new world that is ruled by the consumer – not so much the brands.

    So kudos and hang in there :)

  2. saara
    January 11th, 2011 @ 21:37

    Maybe calling me DaVinci is just a tiny bit exaggerated here, but cheers for the compliment Jussi :-D And there’s a bunch of people with me on this, so many brilliant brains at work – luckily!

  3. Clinton Jeff
    January 11th, 2011 @ 23:12

    Great post there Saara :)

  4. surya
    January 11th, 2011 @ 23:14

    Awesome post. I will send it to my mom when she asks me next time what I really do.

    And “A community manager is not the one who wants to stand under the spotlight, he or she puts their community first.” every community manager should get it henna’d or tattoo’d on them!

  5. Tweets that mention What exactly does a community manager do? : //saara -- Topsy.com
    January 11th, 2011 @ 23:35

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Surya, Saara Bergström and others. Saara Bergström said: What exactly does a community manager do? http://bit.ly/ffqV3a [...]

  6. Lee Odden
    January 12th, 2011 @ 05:22

    Hey Saara, thank you for sharing your experience as a Community Manager. As I mentioned in my reply to your comment on our blog, it was the objective of the post to attract CMs to share their experiences and yours is insightful.

    I especially like, “in order to have any clue on how to create fantastic digital marketing, you absolutely have to know what is going out there, get your hands dirty and join the other people on the internet.”

    Thanks for stopping by and especially for having a great blog yourself. :)

  7. saara
    January 12th, 2011 @ 21:05

    Thanks Clinton!

    Surya, or maybe we’ll just finally have the T-shirts made ;-)

    Lee, thanks for taking the time and reading the post. Looking forward to reading more from you too!

  8. Blaise Grimes-Viort
    January 19th, 2011 @ 15:04

    Hi Saara,

    Very kind of you to mention my blog post, I appreciate it and am glad you found it useful :)

    One line in your post stood out for me:

    “and just generally coming up with something fun that my community would like. ”

    That’s the big challenge isn’t it – I have a whole section in my google reader dedicated to creative and art related blogs to inspire me, but sometimes imagination just runs dry!

  9. saara
    January 19th, 2011 @ 22:03

    So true that Blaise. I have something similar set up on my reader too. I also follow what’s happening in quite many communities that are completely unrelated to our business. In some of them I’m involved in out of my own interest and in some I’m just a lurker for fun. Just seeing what makes them tick can give you a lot of ideas. The ones centered around a very niche topic are the best as they usually are the most passionate ones.

    Thans for stopping by!

  10. Online Community Management Links Roundup 21/01/11 | Community Management | Blaise Grimes-Viort
    January 21st, 2011 @ 11:29

    [...] What exactly does a community manager do? [...]

  11. Judi Huck
    January 22nd, 2011 @ 03:03

    Totally agree with you about each day being different!

    It’s easier for me to look at the whole week and define the routine from there…

    You’ve helped inspire me to write it all out now. Cheers!

  12. saara
    January 23rd, 2011 @ 20:25

    Hi Judi, just left a comment on your blog! Interesting to see what kind of days other community managers have. And it’s true that looking at the whole week is a lot easier than just a day.

  13. A community manager is a piñata | //saara
    June 13th, 2011 @ 15:00

    [...] posted earlier about what community managers really do, and came across this nice infographic on the role of a community manager on the Get Satisfaction [...]

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