Community Managers have always existed...It doesn’t matter which industry of work you’re in because you surely have seen the curious job title of “Community Manager” everywhere. While not everyone will eventually be a Community Manager, it’s crucial to understand how this evolving (yes I reckon it is still in its premature stage) role can help businesses.
People often tell me, “Hey Nigel, forget about community management because it’s just a title that the big boys that Apple or Google come up with.” Thoughts like that put me to sleep because if you still think like that, you risk being left out of the new world. If you’re like the people above, quit reading this now.
The truth is that community management has been existing even before the big boys coined the titles and formal roles. As a teenager that grew up with online gaming, I saw community management everywhere in that industry. The people that ran the IRC chat rooms (to organize multiplayer games), the hot babes that were MMORPG Game Masters and even Blizzard Games experts in the gaming forums – All these people were doing some form of community management.
Fast forward to 2015 and community management is permeating every industry there is. Companies and brands are scrambling to hire community management folks, even if only under the guise of “digital marketing”.
Although I’m still not entirely sure what a Community Manager (that’s because we probably choose to do everything we like to do) does, below are some points on why you should have one.
High Return of InvestmentDon’t laugh when I tell you that a CM can give you high returns because it’s true. CMs can influence in all stages of the consumer buying process and the power of this influence is a subtle, soft one. CMs aren’t going to announce to everyone on what their brand is selling but they’ll just whisper it or just be around your customer when the time is right. A lot of time is spent into whispering into the 1 million cold leads that you company may have. A concrete example of my own job is that I often have students who come to me with excellent referrals.
Exponential ConnectivityA CM connects people through many layers and all sorts of funnels. By connecting people, they remember us and the connectivity is a key driver of many of my points in this post.I connect students, faculty, partners, guest speakers, public and just about anyone in my sphere or community. Here’s a basic flow of what I can possibly accomplish:
1) Guest speaker is coming to the School to talk about innovation
2) I go to the talk, I bump into students there who love innovation, I link speaker and student up
3) We go for beers and wasted ourselves, we only remember we had fun.
4) Speaker goes back home to his country but one fine day, gets to know someone keen in studying innovation in Singapore
5) Speaker remembers me and connects me with this someone –> BINGO!
But hey that's not all...
6) Speaker visits again
7) Wants to do interview with students –> BINGO!
Get it already?
Dispel negative reputationThis feature of a CM is always detrimental to the morale of the CM. If you’re a CM that works for a company that gets a lot of flak (usually in the service industry), then you’d better have thick skin syndrome because you’re going to need it.
I know of CMs in the transport industry who get it all the time from the media, public and even government officials. They basically attend conferences, stand there and very often just say “sorry”.
But that’s good news for the brand because once your stakeholders release their emotions on the poor CM, they’re likely to be satiated and when they go home and think about it, they’ll be like “oh man, that poor guy, it’s not entirely his fault and he has a family too bla bla bla…”. Brands get humanized this way and negativity dispels itself. SMRT did a very good campaign by using an aspect of this - they put up pictures of their workers hard at work.
So give your CM a pat on the day, any day. He or she deserves it.
Cutting edge integration throughout content strategy & sales funnelsAs mentioned earlier, a CM’s exponential connections mean a CM can be highly effective throughout the digital marketing chain. Whether it is subtly injecting informal hints (to the community) about a product launch to boost organic reach or simply “roughly” knowing what consumers want to hear about, your CM is your instant “focus group” in insane mode.
When you have a CM who is competent, milk him or her for his insights and views and try to formalize/back this up so your CM’s hunches are well targeted. Make your CM do A/B testing with communities and do formal, subtle experiments.
You’ll never turn to agencies to do focus groups again.
Working odd hours are no problemOdd hours are no problem for CMs – all the good work involving human interactions are done away from office hours anyway. The late night beer drinking, partying with communities never happen in the day time. Your CM is highly likely to be 24/7 on Twitter or Facebook just being the ultimate social junkie that you ever have. He or she will do the odd things like skip lunch (and attend a talk related his or her community) and more.
Don’t ever box in the CM to “office hours”. You’ll likely be stripping him or her of their powers.
Highly dependable ears on the groundBeing everywhere around the community also means your CM understands the intricacies of rival brands and it’s also probably because rival communities overlap all the time. This is why your CM is the ultimate guru in strategic planning.
I worked for a brand at an IT fair once and CMs were everywhere – they were doing checks on live retail prices, checking out on the models and really just eyeballing 24/7 or even interacting with rival brand’s customers.
I personally remembered a CM of an IT brand checking up on our prices and literally running back to his sales booth to print out an updated price list (because he saw that ours was better). After the new price was up, he mobilized his sales army to get this information out to the public.
Imagine the amount of damage a CM can do to your rivals.
Favours, favours everywhereCMs are also all about favours which is not going to happen if you don’t know enough people in the community. I get a lot of requests from my colleagues on who to ask, who to pick and I’m still proud to say that I almost always know.
The common requests are like, “Nigel, can you find someone to interview this Prof… I need someone who is well versed in this topic”. And then I go like sure no problem, I’ll call Jane (not a real name) to be there tomorrow at 2.30pm. Jane then turns up at 2.30pm the next day, we wrap up the shoot and go for beers after that (which the CM always pays).
If your company has no CM, maybe you’ll be finding that someone for tomorrow with a mass Email which would probably fail miserably. Favours are priceless and a surviving human aspect in our increasingly digital landscape.
Do a favour now, get yourself a CM if you haven't had.
Nigel is a Marketing Communications Executive at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. While he is not a qualified academic, he is an environment enthusiast with a particular interest in sustainable fishing, urban farming and climate issues. He has been featured in the media for a few fishing related cover stories and articles.