Community Managers: Your organization’s guide along Social Media Revolutionary Road

Filed in Sharisax Is Out There 4 comments

Center of Community, center of influencers

Center of Community, center of influencers

Hiring or Applying?

You’ll do well to check out chapter 15 in the social media/PR 2.0 book I’ve been reviewing  — Putting the PUBLIC Back in Public Relations by Brian Solis and Dierdre Breakenridge.

Who OWNS the responsibility of managing social media conversations for an organization?

Brian and Dierdre conclude that “every facet of a business is responsible for its channel of social monitoring and interaction,” and strategies and tactics for each department can best be directed by a community manager — or one of several other titles:

  • Community Advocate
  • Brand Ambassador
  • Social Media Specialist
  • Social Media Evangelist
  • VP of Social Media
  • Chief Social Officer
  • Community Relations Manager
  • Community Builder

The socialization of the corporate marketing infrastructure isn’t a matter of IF it should happen, but instead WHEN it will happen.

Marketers in every industry are agreeing with a core social media concept that People Do Business with People, not Entities: “Brands don’t engage with people — people engage with people.”

The dynamic of listening to and engaging in everyday dialogue is often referred to as the conversation.

The conversation is between the the organization representatives and the new influencers which comprise customers, peers, employees, partners, enthusiasts, bloggers, reporters, and analysts.

What is it that you learn by listening?

Whether the online conversations are positive, neutral, or negative, the insight garnered from listening and observing will reveal opportunities not just for engagement, but also for gathering real-world intelligence

— the type of information that is “ear to the street” and that you can feed back into your organization to improve the existing service, product, and management infrastructure.

The authors included a discussion of the Four Tenets of the Community Manager by Forrester social computing analyst Jeremiah Owyang:

  1. Community Advocate: represents the organization.
  2. Brand Evangelist: promotes events and products.
  3. Savvy Communication Skills: shapes editorial and mediates disputes
  4. Gathers Community Input: gathers and shares comments from marketplace conversation

Here’s a definition of the role of the community manager by a community manager — Connie Bensen:

A community manager is the voice of the company externally and the voice of the customers internally. The value lies in the community manager serving as a hub and having the ability to personally connect with the customers and providing feedback to many departments internally.

Community Managers: Please feel free to add your experiences and tips for organizations looking for individuals to fill this role AND for communications specialists seeking these positions.

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Posted by Shari Weiss   @   13 September 2009
Tags : , , , , , ,
Sep 14, 2009
5:53 am

Very interesting how this role is coming up in various blog posts and conversations. What I find hard to distinguish is what matters more the role or the person performing it? For example, if Brad from Starbucks (he’s ID’d on Starbucks twitter profile, leaves how will Starbucks maintain their social media presence?

The other question I have is whether community managers must/should be employees of a company. If you’re a small business and you want to engage through social media but don’t have the qualified and/or dedicated staff for such a role what are the owners options?

Author Sep 14, 2009
5:30 pm

Great questions, Chris. Here’s my take on where we are at in “administering” social media efforts for companies.

FIRST OFF: Not one of your questions, but a topic I’ll be chatting about soon – Social Media Guidelines. These rules/procedures/limits need to be in place before organizations “let people loose” to represent them.

Your question about “what matters most – role or person?”
Not easy to give a simple answer; my own understanding comes from hearing Michael Brito and Richard Brewer-Hay talk about their roles as Chief Bloggers at Intel and Ebay.

You can hear what they said on my videos from that discussion:

Basically, though, they realized that they were “real people” representing themselves as company spokespeople. Brian & Deirdre’s book makes it clear that companies need to take care in finding the right people whom they can trust, people who know the company AND the customers AND how to listen & engage.

Your second question re:whether the SM manager NEEDS to be a company employee or not? I believe that that’s why some of us are starting Social Media consulting groups SO THAT we can become “part-time” employees of your company. Learning the In’s & Out’s of SM . . . and keep up with the trends DOES take time and effort.

Please ask more questions. It makes me put on my thinking cap.

Jan 21, 2010
2:04 am


If I may, I would like to jump in and expand on Chris’ question. I agree greatly with the answer to the SM manager/director of community, etc. for a small business does not have to be in-house. Small business owners are great at what they do for the business (this is not to say that they would not be great at SM) however, they outsource the graphics, accounting, other vendors so why try and take on SM?

It is interesting to think about it this way as Chris is correct in that there has been a lot of discussion about this recently. People are split on it as the concern is the voice of the company. Well, let’s look at it this way … if you hire an agency that does graphic design and a specific artist generally does your work and they leave – does the corporate identity go to the crapper?

No, someone else jumps in and takes it over as they have a reference to go off of. To that point, hiring someone to do your SM they have to get a feel for the “voice” of your company and not their own voice. The accountant who did your taxes last year may not be the person in the firm who does them this year; if that person leaves, someone else jumps in and learns and gets them done. If you are working with a smaller co or a consultant they are not leaving any time soon (unless they go out of business) so this is almost a mute point.

In bigger companies if the SM manager/director of community leaves, it will have an effect of course; however that goes both ways. The person himself has built a personal brand within the corporate brand. They have to disassociate (which as the company you probably do not care as much) but they have to introduce the new person and hand over the reigns. It is a bit trickier in a big company when the community manager has a bigger following that they communicate with regularly. In a small biz it is not as much of a problem; as for my clients, I am them and not my twitter account.

Just wanted to jump in and share some of my thoughts. Great post as always, making me think more. =-)

Author Jan 21, 2010
2:43 am

Suzanne, you make some great points to support the value of outsourcing social media responsibilities, e.g., graphic artists and tax preparers.

What about all the companies who rely on outside agencies for PR and advertising? It’s difficult for me to see a difference when it comes to handling an organization’s social media. I’m certain that you would agree with me that it’s taken a huge amount of time and focus to learn what we’ve learned about social media strategies and tools — and, of course, you and I are just scratching the surface.

The topic of Blogger Personality came out in an excellent panel discussion sponsored by HP last August in which Ebay Chief Blogger Richard Brewer-Hay and Intel Chief Blogger Michael Brito [] described their views on Blogger Voice vs. Company Voice. Interestingly, after building a huge following for his company blog, Michael has now left Intel and joined international PR firm Edelman. I don’t know whether he is still working with Intel in his new position, but I imagine he could do the same job from his new perch.

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