Originally posted on allfacebook.de.
Facebook not only changed the social web, its relevance has also created an entirely new profession.
Community Managers are no longer programmers
The days when community managers were just programming nerds were over with the dawn of Facebook. Before Facebook became the dominant social media platform, the main task for community managers was to program forums and communications systems. A necessary side job of their data management responsibility was to act as moderator, and they often did it poorly.
And today? The Facebook universe, with its intuitive user interface, makes programming and data management skills unimportant and suddenly changed the requirements for the job.
From Data to Dialogue Management
In place of data management came stakeholder dialogue. Facebook’s ease of use and mass capability makes the platform an entry point for more and more people to contact brands and businesses directly. Compared to the pre-Facebook era, the work of community managers is not just increasingly about content; it’s also taking a more strategic focus.
Companies and their community managers are faced with real-time communication and its associated challenges. In addition to a new job profile, it includes the creation of new working conditions such as flexible hours, as Facebook fans don’t arrange their activities around the close of business.
Communication independent of time and place as well as the new form of dialogue management require new competencies.
The New Community Manager Profile
Community Management features the word “management” in its name for good reason. HR departments should do the term justice by giving the position an active leadership function, e.g. a description in middle management of a company, which includes the planning, organization, leadership and control of the business-related community. This requires sound strategic skills, social skills and project management know-how.
The reality is somewhat different. In many cases, companies are lagging behind the rapid development of the profession. They either leave it to programmers and technical specialists in the field or they hire community managers that have an online affinity, but little strategic expertise due to their education or limited professional experience. Too much potential is being handed away here.
The Necessary Areas of Expertise for a Community Manager
Among the deciding strategic requirements of a community manager are the understanding of the complete functional operation of the business and the anticipation of cross-functional relationships between the various components of the value chain – from procurement to customer service.
Facebook fans should be viewed as more than a community of followers. This is an extremely heterogeneous group with different expectations of the company and therefore equivalent to the sum of all stakeholders.
Experience shows this standard is not limited to a department. It can be about every arbitrary topic within the value chain of a company. Facebook offers the opportunity to use the platform effectively in all areas and is playing an increasing role in support activities like human resource management. Successful career fan pages like the one from the brand Stihl demonstrate this. To support the long-term profitability of the value chain, community management must be anchored in all areas of a business and involved in strategic communication and business objectives.
Community management on Facebook is not reduced to individual tactics. It maintains an overall objective that is relevant for the entire company. The community manager must be able to steer content management for the community in terms of strategic objectives. Community Management on Facebook runs throughout the entire value chain
In the role as mediator between the business and the community, the community manager is not just facilitating and moderating the fan page. The community manager is also responsible for responding to the feedback from fans, working to prevent crises and leading the community. This means a community manager needs to bring all of the social skills of a conventional manager: motivation, leadership and conflict resolution.
Community Management Must be Based on Business Principles
The decision to become active on Facebook or other platforms is less a question of the product and more about the corporate culture, which is primarily defined by the companies guiding principles. Authenticity is a key success factor for fan pages. Therefore, a company cannot operate to the detriment of its own mission statement and defined values. Even when the platform has made new conversation methods and cultures socially acceptable. For the community manager, this means staying true to company principles on Facebook in order to be perceived as a credible conversation partner.
From the way fans are addressed (formally or informally) to the basic tonality and theme of contributions up to the frequency and occasions for posts, it is the responsibility of the community manager to represent the company authentically. This requires high emotional intelligence.
Project Management Expertise
As the interface between company and community, the community manager governs the process of dialogue between companies and stakeholders. They aggregate all relevant information within the company along the value chain and convert it into consistent corporate messages. This is done in coordination with all departments that are of importance for the community dialogue and generally moves into an approval or clearance process with heads of corporate communication.
Additionally, the community manager is responsible for the compilation of valid key data to measure the success of community dialogue. This requires sound project management skills, as complex communication processes are planned, managed and evaluated throughout the value chain.
Community Management is a Long-Term Process
Businesses that invest in dialogue with stakeholders are engaging in a long-term process. Communication with stakeholders can’t be turned off with the touch of a button. The rapid and often short-lived exchange with Facebook fans should not obscure the fact that the relationship building between the community and the business is durable – just as durable as the community itself.
“Consequently communities will first be an obsolete phenomenon when people stop being social creatures and no longer want to live in society and communicate.” (Source: F.Mühlenbeck, K.Skibicki: Community Marketing Management, 2. Aufl. 2008)
Based on this background, an important area of responsibility for the community manager will be the ongoing development of the relationship between the business and community through new content, interactions and tactics.
The profession of community manager has developed rapidly thanks to Facebook. The social media platform has raised “community management” from a technically driven niche into the management sphere.
For businesses, it means:
- Make the decision to integrate community management into long-term strategic and communication objectives.
- Create the appropriate framework and working conditions for community management.
- Consider the impact on internal processes.
- Review potential candidates for these positions based on strategic, communication, social and management skills.
What will the community manager of tomorrow look like?
It’s possible that the community manager of tomorrow will no longer manage a few, larger communities, but many smaller groups if the predicted trend for the fragmentation of communities actually occurs. No one knows for sure if this will take place on Facebook or on other new platforms. One thing is sure: the job profile of community manager 3.0 will surely increase in complexity, as fan communities of companies will grow with increasing Internet use and present their demands and requirements to the company. It’s all the more important that the strategic relevance and spectrum of tasks for the community manager be granted and accepted within the company.
If businesses want stakeholder communication to be profitable, they need to create a new job profile. Community management should advance to middle management and be supported by top management.
Image credit: Bastografie / photocase.com