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The Community Manager in Your Organization’s Future

The Community Manager in Your Organization’s Future
At a time when many associations have had to cut back their communications teams, the world of social media strategy is delivering a one-two punch.

Not only should you expect to expand your communications activities in the not too distant future. It’s more than likely that you’ll be hiring for skills that hadn’t even been fully defined two or three years ago.

The Rise of the Community Manager

In February 2012, Mashable published an excellent infographic that laid out the key job functions in a social media team, along with the salaries different team members could expect to receive in the top 20 U.S. markets. The focus was limited to one country, the salary scales may have been debatable, and in any case, the numbers are out of date. But the chart shows what an integrated social media presence should look like—and places the community manager at the heart of the operation.

Earlier this year, Mashable digital strategist Ryan Lytle laid out 10 key qualities of an effective community manager. His list included:

  • Strong communication skills
  • Good judgement
  • Empathy
  • Dedication
  • Organizational skills
  • Adaptability
  • Level-headed attitude
  • Background in analytics
  • Ability to enable the community
  • Passion for the brand.

Oh, and it helps if they’re faster than a speeding bullet, and have video of the last time they jumped a tall building in a single bound. But that’s another blog for another day (and maybe another universe).

It Takes a Team

Lytle’s list points to a tough reality that will make it even more challenging for organizations to gear up their social media programs: you won’t likely find one social media manager who can do the whole job.

Although the 2013 Association Communication Benchmarking Survey by Naylor LLC and the Association Adviser tracked an increase in associations’ social media activity, more online contact doesn’t necessarily mean that time-challenged communications staff are getting out to meet members face to face. Or that a great writer who prefers the company of his or her keyboard will particularly want to communicate in person.

A community manager might do a fantastic job of juggling the day-to-day demands of a multi-platform social media campaign, without having the skills or inclination to develop the audience targeting strategy that makes the campaign worthwhile.

The communications strategist who produced the original campaign plan might not have the right skills or temperament to deliver it.

And you might have to look elsewhere in your organization, or call in an outside advisor, to find the expertise in analytics and evaluation to measure the campaign against its original objectives.

The Staffing to Do the Job

All of which adds depth to Naylor’s and Association Adviser’s argument that an effective communications program needs the right staffing.

“Rather than assigning administrative or IT personnel to maintain your online or social presence, as 46% of associations did in 2011, argue for a larger budget so you can hire true communications professionals,” they advise. “The key is to have communication experts—not best available staff—handling your all-important member communications.”

If your organization lacks the staffing and volunteer base to get the job done, they add, “look to freelancers and other outsourced publishing partners who have expertise in your industry or profession.”