Image 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.
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!