A couple weeks ago I spoke to a group of aspiring community managers at the Social Lights training program. During that talk, I spoke a lot about how the skills and abilities of community managers continues to evolve–and how the social media community manager “unicorn” still does not exist.
At least not in great numbers.
There are plenty of community folks who have SOME of the skills we’ll mention in this post. But I have yet to meet too many who have all of them.
Start researching “community manager skills” online, and you’ll find the usual suspects pop up:
* Strong communications skills
* Good judgment
* Strong organizational skills
* A deep knowledge of online analytics
* Passion for the brand
* Strong interpersonal skills
Personally, I’d add a few things to that list (which seems pretty generic, to be honest):
Art directing skills
I’ve talked about it before, but art directing skills are an absolute must for any community manager right now, with the weight of visuals in today’s online environment.
Strong copywriting skills
Note I didn’t say “communication skills”–there is a difference. “Copywriting skills” is the skill set people who work for Wieden & Kennedy have. Or Fallon. Or, Olgilvy. It’s the difference between communicating via a long-form email and communicating via a 140-character tweet (or 120 characters, if you want it to get retweeted and shared).
Video production skills
With short-form video taking off, video editing and production skills will be even more important in the next year. Just look at all the horribly boring corporate Vines out there right now. Community managers need to step up their game in this area, to be sure.
Strong negotiating skills
The soft skill no one talks about: Negotiating. As a community manager you have to be strong in this area. Why? Because you’re going to get constant requests from managers and leaders around things they probably have no idea about. Therefore, you’re going to have to satiate their needs, but also deliver something that makes sense on the social Web (fun, right?).
* Content creation skills
* Social media marketing skills
* Event planning skills
* PR, customer service skills
* Analytics skills
* Business development skills
Most people I know that are strong in PR are not-so-great (that’s putting it gently) when it comes to analytics.
Most people I know who are great event planners aren’t the best salespeople.
And most people I know who are great content folks have no interest in customer service.
And this is why we have our social media community manager unicorn dilemma.
As a new type of position, it’s a moving target in terms of skills and requirements. Two years ago, art directing wouldn’t have been a requirement for a community manager. Today: It’s an absolute must.
And next year, we’ll probably be saying the same thing about video production skills thanks to Vine, Instagram video and the continued reliance on YouTube.
So, if these unicorns are impossible to find, what are companies to do?
I’m not sure there is a lot they can do right now. But, there’s a lot aspiring community managers can do to round out their skill sets and become this next generation of “unicorns”:
Hack your own training program
The big problem with this role is that there really is no formal training for it. Universities, largely, aren’t addressing it–yet employers are expecting it. So, it’s on YOU to train yourself. Learn video production via a FinalCut class in your market. Learn more about art direction by joining AdFed and buddying up with some experienced art directors. There’s a way to hack your own personal training–find it and pursue it.
Find emerging programs
Like the Social Lights program here in Minneapolis/St. Paul. There are others starting to pop up around the country. Find them, research them and see if they can teach you anything you might be able to use in a professional community management role (but be careful, some programs aren’t exactly what I’d call “legit”)
Find a community management mentor
Every market has them–a handful of community managers who have now been at this job for 2-3 years. Find these people. They are fonts of knowledge and experience in a discipline that’s still growing. Even though some of these folks might not be the aforementioned “unicorns” they have plenty to teach you. Soak it all up.
A few years ago, a young woman came on my radar. Her name: Samantha Ogborn. At the time, Samantha was working for a small agency in Chicago. She was just starting her career–but you could tell there was potential there. A little over a year ago, Samantha took a job at Walgreens. And since, she’s been doing great work for the retail/pharmacy giant.
Let’s get a glimpse into what Samantha’s world is like managing online communities for Walgreens.
What pages do you community manage specifically? How long have you been doing that? How many (if any) people assist you in this role?
I strategize and create engaging content around Walgreens’ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more. I’ve been doing this for a year now. While I work on our social media team, I am the sole owner of this portion of our social media development.
Structure-wise, how does your role fit into the org chart at your company?
My role as well as our social team falls within the Digital Marketing and Emerging Media team, which then falls under the larger strategy portion of our business for the eCommerce division.
What’s the biggest consistent challenge in managing your page(s)?
The amount of customer inquiries we receive on a daily basis can be intimidating. Luckily, we’ve trained our customer service team to read and respond to customer concerns in real time, which has been helpful. It’s also been a unique and fun challenge to streamline our content under one voice and ensure that all of our messaging has an equal opportunity to be successful with our fans. Successful loosely meaning we see engagement or some kind of action taken.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in community management in the last year?
Overall I think any community manager has to be able to roll with the industry punches and stay proactive. Facebook changes its algorithm all of the time, for example. You can’t come into work every day expecting that the same kind of content you’re coming up with is going to be a success. In the last year alone, I’ve watched my execution evolve in its consistency, language, and format. What used to be a simple status update is now much more intricate and necessitates strategic thinking. You have to be comfortable being a chameleon in this role. It’s also a false assumption to think the customer isn’t intelligent. Our social customers get the space and challenge me every day to keep up with how we interact as a brand. This is what I love about my job.
What’s the most rewarding part of being a community manager?
There are many rewards to being a community manager! One of them is nearly instantaneous results. I work best when I can fly by the seat of my pants, which doesn’t necessarily jive with traditional media planning or messaging. I enjoy coming up with an idea, working quickly to execute, and sitting back and watching the performance, all within the same day. I also enjoy our customers’ honest feedback, always. I have no hesitation asking our community for their thoughts; they have no qualms about being honest and open. I can deliver feedback to any of my colleagues right away, and that is incredibly satisfying. Lastly, now that I’ve been the community manager for a year, I’ve come to recognize many familiar faces on each of our social platforms. It’s fantastic to see that our consistency has resulted in longevity and loyalty.