Tuesday, July 07, 2015

What makes a good community manager?

In an interview last week, I was asked what I thought was necessary to being a good community manager.

First: I think you have to be good with people. (And if you're not great with people, you should at least be willing to learn how to be better.) The internet is made of people, and if you aren't good at relating to others or working with them, then you're signing up for a struggle. Because it's people work, done over social media, day in and day out.

Each month we see examples of brands/people misstepping on social media and receiving a giant backlash because of it. Making a mistake when you're the voice of a brand carries a weight that making a mistake as a person doesn't. It's why one of the first things community managers learn (or get taught) is when not to engage. That's more than just knowing how to listen to people and evaluate what's being said, it's understanding which conversations aren't for the brand. There's also a ratio of responding/not responding, and it's not a one-algorithm-suits-all kind of thing. (That's why brands employ people to make those judgement calls.)

However, when brands are tagged into conversations and legitimate concerns are presented... it becomes a brand reputation risk not to engage. Not engaging can be seen as "not caring" or "ignoring" these legitimate concerns. A community manager learns quickly how to acknowledge people and make them feel that their concerns have been heard.

A good community manager puts out fires. Constantly. At the merest whiff of smoke, they're there to evaluate the potential issue. Stop it before it spreads, before the conversation mutates into something that has their brand attached to it but is no longer even really about what may have happened. Sometimes the difference between EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE and an even-toned discussion of how to resolve the concern is beginning a response with "I'm sorry you feel that way." (I am sorry people feel upset or have had a bad experience, because that sucks. Who wants to have a bad day if they don't have to?)

The degree of crisis management involved varies brand to brand, but it's always beneficial to be able to keep calm and remember comments received aren't personal. They're about the brand, and a community manager serves the community in order to preserve the integrity and good reputation of the brand. (Most brands also have commenting policies that help to protect community members—and the brand—from abuse.)

Second: The most important thing in your life is you. Or the best life advice I ever got from a job interview:

• First you take care of yourself.
• Then you take care of your loved ones (partner, family, friends.)
• Your job comes after all of that.

In service roles a large percentage of time is spent expanding energy on the needs of other people. To be generous of spirit, empathic, and professionally courteous, we have to take care of ourselves before we get to work. Eat well. Get enough sleep. Do things that make us happy. Live life.

But that's good advice for any career.

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