Some time ago, I wrote about employees as brand ambassadors and how they can help – or hurt – an organization’s global and social brand. It depends on how well the lines between personal brand and company brand are drawn.
Once a company and leadership has the brand issue sorted out, it’s time to think more deeply about social community and the actual role of community managers.
Many of my clients have created community manager roles. In fact, my friend and colleague Tim McDonald (and several other talented, hard working people listed here – Take time to read the stories of those who are in the social trenches making this role a reality) is a living, breathing example as a Community Manager for HuffPost Live. I believe this role may be a necessity for any company which relies on the good will and contributions of many people, including those who aren’t even employees. Think of the many brands that fall in this category: Apple AAPL -0.56%, TOMS Shoes, The Linux Foundation, too many tech companies to mention (ok, Canonical, local Boston area heroes Google GOOG -0.71% here in Cambridge, Black Duck Software, HubSpot and Acquia) and the gazillion other consumer brands who are waking up to the power of collaborating with loosely-coupled online social communities.
Companies which value collaboration, understand the value of social buzz, and see the need to add (or subtract) a step in the sales process are all ripe for social community development. So are brands which have sustained brand damage. So what are the guidelines for establishing a community manager role in your organization?
Here are 5 ways to empower a great community manager(s):
1) Know the boundaries of your existing community. Is there a Facebook page? A corporate Twitter handle? How about G+, LinkedIn, YouTube, wikis, or a customer portal? Good, then you have community. At least the start of one. Now it’s time to show them the love. It’s time to manage it actively (and positively) with a community manager.
2) Build guardrails around your community with a very light touch. Don’t tell your various communities of interest that you’re putting them in a big box – craft a community entity (think brand) by gradually bringing them closer. Try surveys, outreach, and blogs asking people what they’d like to see from your company’s brand, and build from there.
3) Hire carefully. There are lots of self-styled community managers out there. Look at Jono Bacon’s book The Art of Community. Use it as a guide as you build the job description. Or better yet – start “actively listening” in on social channels about what people are saying. And take the time to figure out what you want to accomplish with the community.
4) Don’t forget the importance of process. Communities work best when all understand the ground rules. Craft a community manifesto or a similar guidebook and share it.
5) Empower your communities. Once you have the community manager in place, and the goals, build an action plan. Make the goals both short and long-term; monthly, yearly, five years. Know what you want, and put the plan in place to get there. Make it measurable, and make sure your leadership and the community manager is accountable. This is a team effort.
Communities are critical to building a business which can navigate channels – direct to customer, social, sales, partner and employee. Leaders need to act now to gather community around their brands.
It’s 2016, talented people. Time to climb in the social sandbox. Maybe it’s time to show the community manager some love and respect as an essential and valued role within your organization. Let’s keep talking. This is only the beginning.
A version of this post was first published on Forbes.com on 10/22/12