Community Management Thoughts and Challenges for 2014

In 2013, the field of community management expanded more than ever. According to The Community Roundtablethe average community manager has 3.7 years of experience. Just imagine how many more companies are employing community managers now than in 2010!

Today, January 27th, is the 5th annual Community Manager Appreciation Day. In honor of this event, I’ve compiled a few interesting stats on the world of community management from 2013, and added in a few tips from my two years of experience in the field. Feel free to pass them along!

Some may ask, what does it take to be a community manager? The Altimeter Group has an answer to that.

Interestingly, writing is the top skill that companies look for in community managers. Based on my experience at Scoop.it, I can certainly affirm this stat. Over the last two years, I have written more than I ever thought I would, especially for professional reasons.

I’ve found that content is an integral part of community management as it’s a way to connect with others over ideas and shared interests. From writing blogposts to product copy, marketing and community emails to curated microblogging, I’ve been able to connect with the Scoop.it community in ways that I never would have thought. The fact of the matter is, if you’re not writing, then you’re probably not too visible. And If you’re not visible, then it’s likely that your community will have a hard time relating to you.

Community managers, I challenge you to write more in 2014. Write a blogpost, create a curated blog about something your community is interested in, write a weekly email to your customers. Words are one of the most powerful means of connecting with people, and isn’t that really what community management is all about?

(And hey! Join me at 3pm PST for a live panel talking about building communities with content!)

Before moving on, I think the skill of reporting is also necessary to address. Having had many conversations with countless community managers over the last two years, I’ve found that this is actually one of the most difficult parts of the job. I’ve head from many of my peers that they have a difficult time proving the value of their position to the rest of their company, namely those who directly manage them.

I’m extremely lucky to work for a social, community-focused company who values community management and makes it a part of everything they do. Because of this, I’ve been able to learn a lot about what metrics are important to focus on and how to leverage them to define success.

The most important part of reporting and analyzing success, in my experience, has been the identification of specific objectives. It’s impossible to report when you’re not entirely sure what you’re reporting on in the first place. It’s also a common mistake to simply gather data and present it in a semi-organized fashion and stick a label on that that says “Reports.” Unsurprisingly, this leaves much to be desired for business-minded leaders looking for results.

Community managers, I challenge you to define objectives and analyze them specifically in 2014. When I first started my job at Scoop.it, I wasn’t even sure what exactly a community manager was. During the first few reporting periods of my employment, I went with the “gather-miscellaneous-data-and-share-it” approach. This made it difficult not only for the rest of the team, but for me to quantify my success. Two years later, my team and I have developed a system of defining overly-specific objectives based upon the business goals of the company as well as how we want to work together with our community. This helps focus my daily workflow and priorities, as well as create much more meaningful reports.

Aside from the aforementioned skill sets of community managers, it’s also important to be able to work alongside, and even partake in the activities of, other business departments.

According to a study conducted by The Community Roundtable, the top business departments that community managers work the closest with are marketing and internal & external communications. This may sound like a no-brainer – communication is an integral part of community management – but there are certain parts of these business areas that are often overlooked. For example, I’ve worked closely with the product marketing team at Scoop.it to build new features, mostly as a liaison between the company and the community.

Over two years of working with a very product-centric company and community, I’ve learned the importance of taking user feedback into consideration. Realistically, without users, Scoop.it would not exist. In fact, this mentality can be applied to many companies, and I believe that it’s important for all community managers to remember on a daily basis.

If your customers aren’t happy with your product, they will leave. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are unhappy with what you have to offer; it might just be that your product or service isn’t meeting their needs. As a community manager, I’ve learned how to actively listen – without necessarily engaging. The information that I can gather from being this listener is invaluable to the product marketing team, resulting in a very close work relationship between myself and them.

Community managers, I challenge you to spend more time with the other departments of your companies in 2014. Not only will the knowledge that you gain from being on the front lines help the rest of your company, but having a closer relationship with other departments will help solve the often-discussed frustrations of community managers feeling disconnected from or misunderstood by other business departments.

I hope you take these three challenges to heart and continue developing as community managers and integral parts of each and every company.

About Ally Greer

Ally heads up community management, social media, and customer support at Scoop.it. She loves to geek out over anything social, Internet, or tech related. When she isn't working, you'll probably find her running the streets of San Francisco. Follow Ally on Twitter @allygreer.