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.
I’m starting a new series today on Communications Conversations. One aimed at highlighting a group that has one of the tougher jobs in digital marketing, but also one of the most high profile: The community manager.
There’s a ton of folks out there doing great work in this area, and I want to profile some of them here. So, if you know someone who might make a good profile down the road, please send me a note at email@example.com or leave a comment below.
To start, I thought we’d take a closer look at someone I think is doing an admirable job in the non-profit world: Drew Gneiser. Drew works for a former client of mine, Feed My Starving Children. And, he’s doing fantastic work. Let’s take a peek.
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 manage Feed My Starving Children’s blog as well as all of our social media pages – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Flickr, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Yelp, etc. I’ve been in my role for about a year and a half. Aside from occasional design help, I write all the content and manage, update, and foster every page FMSC is on.
How has Facebook’s recent increased emphasis on advertising for brands impacted your approach on the platform? Do you even use Facebook advertising? What do you see down the road?
I do not use Facebook advertising. Here’s why: I’m a big believer that good content speaks for itself. As a community manager, my job is to create a place where interaction and value happen (whether by what I write/publish or between members of the community). While I understand that you can lose lots of eye balls after a while, that’s the challenge, isn’t it? Keep them engaged. It feels like if you need to use advertising dollars to get the eye balls, you’re promoting a message that can’t stand on it’s own (and in that case, advertising money won’t help anyways). Online advertising isn’t always bad, but it’s not the answer to the problem of lack of engagement either.
Structure-wise, how does your role fit into the org chart at your company?
My role is within FMSC’s Marketing Department and reports to our Communications Manager. Since our Marketing Department supports all of the other departments at FMSC, my position often takes me past the boundaries of a job description.
You’ve started using Instagram in the last year. Why did you start using Instagram? And what do you hope to accomplish by sharing pics and engaging there?
I started using Instagram because it’s fun! Pictures are a quick and simple way to say a lot without a lot of words. If Instagram lets our fans see what’s happening right now or get a unique behind the scenes look, then I think it’s worth it. Hopefully these things help people care about our org more.
What’s the biggest consistent challenge in managing your page(s)?
My biggest challenge is focusing. Our organization is very multifaceted – the volunteer packing experience, MobilePacking events, working with partner NGOs around the globe, and fundraising. Throw in a big dose of growing pains (over 5000% growth in 10 years), and you’ve got lots to juggle for a lean nonprofit staff. While there are many good things to share with our community, managing the timing and pacing of our stories and announcements can be tough.
We’re coming off Give to the Max Day, but how exactly do you use social to drive donations throughout the year?
Nonprofits run on donations. It’s always the biggest need and often the biggest challenge. Our org is no different. When it comes to fundraising through social, I have a specific strategy that many completely disagree with. I don’t ask for donations very often. Instead, I try to share lots and lots of stories. Stories like how Marilyn’s life was saved through the meals we provided our partners in Haiti. Stories like how Harvey sold his entire prized car collection, raising money to feed kids. Stories of impact, effectiveness, and of hope. I believe these types of stories will inherently inspire people to be part of our movement, and often times give their time and money.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in community management in the last year?
I think the biggest change is that the marketing world is finally admitting that not everyone’s good at community management. “Young,” “digital native,” or “I know Facebook” are not prerequisites for success. Community management takes lots of patience, love of word-smithing, thoughtful planning, and hustling to be successful (and by “successful” I don’t mean “lots of Facebook Likes.” I mean an engaged and active community).
Feed My Starving Children is active on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, YouTube, Google+ and you have a blog to manage. And it’s just you managing those channels. How do you do it all? Have you thought about consolidating?
There are lots of sites out there. One way I picked: if your fans are there, you should be there too. You’d be missing opportunities to interact by skipping out. And yes, clearly, it’s important to put more attention on some sites than others, which can help with management.
You can never do everything you want, but to manage a lot of channels requires organization tools (like spreadsheets, scheduling, and RSS), lots of uninterrupted time to write and plan content, and hustle. Hustle is the most under-rated tool for the marketer and social media manager. How do I “do it all?” I try. Your community and fans deserve it. If they take the time to interact, you should do what it takes to respond or thank them.
What’s the most rewarding part of being a community manager?
Stories. Stories of the lives affected by your organization’s work, stories of people who are genuinely inspired by the community, and stories full of life. Pour into your community and it will pour into you and the world.