Hiring a Community Manager: The (please) don'ts!
Hiring a Community Manager: The (please) don'ts!

Hiring a Community Manager: The (please) don'ts!

What should you look for if you’re hiring an online community manager?

14th September 2010

Habbo player hugs avatarImage by Jyri

What should you look for if you’re hiring an online community manager?

Don’t hire a social media addict/guru/ninja/expert

Plenty of community management ads call for one who is addicted to Facebook and Twitter. Being an avid user of social media, a community manager does not make. Can they manage a high-activity personal Twitter account whilst balancing a role as community rep? If you wanted to hire a mechanic would you look for someone who spent all day driving? The role carries very high levels of responsibility – a Community Manager is the public facing representative for your brand or organisation. They need highly developed communication skills, a business sense, the list goes on. Obsessive use of tools shouldn’t feature highly on your requirements.

Don’t hire an intern

The same goes for hiring interns. Do not place your social media presence in the hands of an intern. Being young (and/or digitally savvy) does not translate to being an effective community manager. I would much rather place my brand in the hands of someone who had decades of experience in engaging with people of all walks of life.

For more posts on this issue:
Don’t hire a social media intern
Should you hire a social media intern?
Interns make coffee not social media strategies

Don’t hire someone whose experience is limited to Facebook

Sure the rise of Facebook pages has given people a window into “Community” Management but one might argue that in most cases Facebook likes do not really constitute a community. If you were to compare virtual world communities, forum communities, gaming communities and Facebook likes you would see they behave and in particular – interact-  quite differently. (A post for another day!)

It’s hard to say with any authority that the person behind the Nestle Palm Oil social media disaster had no community manager experience, but it’s probably a safe bet. That was a steep learning curve I’d wish on no-one! I would always give preference to someone who is an active participant of an online community over their Facebook experience.

Update: This has become increasingly harder due to the rapid demand for the role. In that time we’ve seen Social Media Managers/Marketers develop relevant portfolios of experience, so if facebook is your primary platform look for someone with experience, especially in dealing with issues.

Don’t hire someone who has multiple career focuses

Beware of hiring someone who lists community management alongside a raft of other careers: developer, digital strategist, marketer, PR co-ordinator and so forth. From my experience community management isn’t something you dabble in. It is however something that a lot of people have been “lumped” with in their time. Community management is very much a career of passion, so I would be careful about ensuring this is where their focus lies.

I still see so many jobs that span events, marketing, SEO, PR, and journalism – sometimes all at once. Developing a healthy, sustainable community for the company should be considered a long-term goal, and an asset. It’s not something to be squeezed in between five other competing focuses.

So where does this leave you?

If you are looking to hire or engage the services of a community manager, it is worth examining their practical experience. If you can’t find someone with real online community experience I would prioritise their written communication and conflict resolution/crisis management skills. Whilst working knowledge of these platforms is ideal, someone with client or customer-facing experience, and the diplomacy that accompanies it will be valuable.

Lots of posts will suggest you hire a “people” person, whilst this is absolutely true – are they an online ‘people person’? In a way being a community manager can be socially isolating within a business because the majority of your work socialising will be with your community. Or if you are working remotely, again it can be isolating. So be sure they truly enjoy and find online socialising enriching. Often people’s online personality can be much larger or smaller than their IRL persona.

(Or outsource the work. Disclaimer: yes I run business offering these services!)

Community Manager Responsibilities

For more on the Role of a Community Manager, or hiring a Community Manager, please read these excellent posts:

Community Manager’s Job Description by @cbensen
Community Managers’ Responsibilities & Roles by @cbensen
Online Community Job Descriptions by @blaisegv
Four Tenants of the Community Manager by @jowyang

If you have any more questions about what to look for or prioritise, please ask!

Have an opinion?

We'd love to hear what you have to say in the comments below

Comment & Discuss
  • Thanks for the link love 🙂

    It might seem attractive to take the easy (and cheap!) option of cutting corners when hiring a community manager, but you'll pay for it in the end. Great post!

  • Thanks Blaise! I get the impression a lot of companies believe the industry is quite new and therefore settle for people that lack the appropriate skills. Or perhaps its due to the role broadening to encompass PR & marketing efforts, and therefore demanding dual skill sets?

  • Did you take part in yesterday's #cmgrchat? the last question was about this, some interesting views were shared. I think part of the problem is that CM is still being shoehorned into departments ranging from PR/Marketing/Editorial/Production, when actually it should probably sit on its own in the middle. I don;t actually think you need to be an expert in any of those disciplines, just know enough to manage the flow of information (in a project managery way) between those departments.

  • Kim Ahmer

    Hi, we are in the process of hiring on online community manager and Alison, you are right on the mark. I think our HR department was impressed that we recieved applications from people who actually have experience doing the job. We did get quite a lot of applications from people with some social media experience and lots of people with marketing/communications experience but honestly, the four we interviewed where true community managers. Two had a Knowledge Management backgroud and I would encourage anyone posting a community position include KM as a desired skill set.

  • I missed the #cmgr chat unfortunately, I believe they fall at a strange Australian time. You make an excellent and valid point as always, the role doesn't fit neatly into any of those department. If I had to align it to any, I'd say editorial, but again that would vary on the role and the company/organisation. I really need to add don't hire an “expert”!

  • Hi Kim, thanks for the comment, it sounds like you received some great applications! Community Managers are hard to come by in Australia – unemployed ones anyway! You're absolutely right in recognising knowledge management as a valued foundation and skill set for a community manager. Thanks for posting this!

    For those interested in where the fields of CM and KM overlap – the gurus would have to be Nancy White (@choconancy) and Etienne Wenger.

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  • Anonymous

    You make an excellent and valid point as always, the role doesn’t fit neatly into any of those department and online community manager.
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  • Varina Brown

    Awesome post.. Really, your tips will definitely be the top points of mine while hiring the community manager.. However, I didn’t understand in one point you told not to hire the social media addict and in another point you are telling to hire a person with experience in Facebook.. Please explain..

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    • Hi Varina, in the second point I say don’t hire someone whose experience is *limited* to Facebook. Give their written & communication skills equal priority when accessing their social media experience. I hope this explains the post further. Thanks for your comment.

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