I want to go beyond some simple advice for community managers, the keys to handle social media efficiently, how to increase sales on social networks or tricks to optimise your social media strategy. I believe there are some aspects regarding the community manager and social media scene which have to be looked into in depth to understand their implications.
Understanding the play between Social Media and Online Community Leadership
These are some of the things we should pay more attention to when working in the field of the social web so that we're able to understand what we have on our hands, what we're facing and how to do something of relevance.
I have always believed, and have confirmed, that we will never be a simple Community Leader/Connector or Social Media Manager but a hybrid, located somewhere between Social Media, Community, Marketing, Digital, New Media, Communication, PR, Sales, and HR. That is where the potential lies. Oh! And also in remaining human.
That is, many tasks which aren't fully defined or detailed. Are you dedicated solely and exclusively to leading online communities? I very much doubt it. You're likely working also in Marketing, Communication, even PR if necessary, Sales Management, Customer Services and even in screening job candidates. We're hybrids. You can take a look at this role in depth and how to develop it, here.
Online Leaders of your Brand
This is a delicate matter. Would you put your company's Facebook page in my cousin's hands? Probably not. Well we're talking about the same thing here. There's no one better than someone on the inside to learn and progress until they're capable of taking on all of these tasks and responsibilities. There is an added complexity -and risk- in giving this task to an intern; representing the brand in the online sphere is, after all, a vital role, and isn't limited to using Twitter, Facebook or Google+. Remember these people lead people, they're not directing things.
How to Connect with the Community
Quite simply, don't invade their space! We live in the era of permission marketing, an interruption of the system, processes based on a human attitude that intends to do something with a meaning, open innovation, creation and chaos. This isn't an era of communication and marketing, once the interruption created an over-communicated society through intrusive marketing and mass communication a while back.
Now we're at it again with the social media. Our sole intention is to get our message out there and for our message to have an impact on as many people as possible; feedback is unimportant if we have many likes and comments. That's 'short-term gain, long-term pain'! The people who want to reach you will do so because of your content, your interaction, your attention, humanity, closeness, humility, truthfulness and credibility. The only thing you need to do is to be visible at all times and create relevant content that engages your audience. Then, make sure you remain human at all times.
What to Do
Test, try, do something, review what you do, make corrections, launch something again, try one campaign, another one, and then another one, one of them will work, try not to risk too much, remain loyal to your brand value, what you represent as a brand and as a person, make the brand truthful, make the person behind the brand visible, manage the whole online fabric, follow the conversations, observe and measure your content's scope, the state of your community; if you're launching a campaign, whether you need to review your Apps, your landing page, the comments, likes, repercussions, etc. Creation and distribution means actions carried out with your content.
You can do whatever takes you where you want to be. You can specialise or not; the advantage of doing so is that you focus on a niche, and the smaller, the better.
How to Coordinate
Work in the distribution of tasks, create GANT charts, timelines for the different parts of the projects and actions, anything that helps you in the structure and architecture of your objectives, responsibilities and team work. This may help you.
Internal or External
An example: we work with a multinational company as Advisors and Online Project Leadership Team. When we arrived at the company and during the first few meetings to carry out an online audit, the topic arose of who would lead the online community operations. The company said it did not have the human resources and that none of them would be able take on any of the tasks as they were all up to their ears with work.
We always recommend someone who's been trained on the inside. First of all, it's easier to act as a consultant and educator and to train someone inside the company in the knowledge necessary to carry out the job than to bring someone from outside who needs to adapt to, understand and work in new surroundings.
However, what we did in this case was to bring an outside person; not an intern, but someone knowledgeable in Social Media, Communities, PR, Communication and some Marketing. We established a part-time job for six months (working Monday to Friday, 09:00 to 14:00). During the first month, this person did no online work but simply learnt about the company's departments, lines of business, products, staff, culture, company ethics, suppliers and other important details necessary for them to carry out their job in an efficient, professional and results-oriented manner.
Once the month was up, this person (a freelance worker) understood the running of the company perfectly and was ready to start. It all went so well that this person now works permanently as part of the company as Head of Social Media and Online Community. We're happy that this is the case.
All of this goes beyond what we think is going on. I'm talking about leading, connecting, aligning, developing, integrating, implementing, managing, updating, building, consolidating, driving, comparing, executing, measuring, following, monetizing, listening, reading, commenting, understanding, acting, doing something, remaining human.