What to Look for When Hiring a Social Media Community Manager

This post first appeared on Constant Contact’s blog.

Many businesses know the buzz words or the basic functions of the community manager’s role on social channels, many don’t have clarity as to what they actually need or what a community manager does beyond tweeting and posting. If you’re looking to hire someone for this role, read this first. A community manager’s role is often more broad than businesses suppose. 

So, what does a community manager actually do?

At its most basic, a social media community manager’s job is to drive visibility and engagement of a brand via social media channels. At the tactical level, this means managing several streams of content on a variety of different platforms. They have to be careful to position their company in the best possible light while being responsive to all kinds of comments, questions, and yes, at times, rage—all on (very) public forums. All while projecting an approachable, knowledgeable, and genuine brand personality. Oh, and they often have to limit the space in which they have to do this down to the character.

Community managers also have to source and create consistent, reliable streams of content that are relevant to both the business and their audience for all of these channels. And each channel has its own rules, limitations, etiquette, and best practices.

Reporting and analytics

A community manager should have an excellent handle on engagement and visibility metrics. They need to be able to gauge the effectiveness of both individual pieces of content as well as the program as a whole. If your community manager has some marketing operations background, they may be adept at integrating these social-specific metrics with marketing campaigns and programs focused on customer acquisition and conversion.

Stress management

As most people in the industry will tell you, very few brands actually have large teams of community managers at the ready. Often it’s one person internally (occasionally with the help of an agency) who’s trying to keep their head above water doing all the content, customer service, reporting, strategy, operations, thought leadership, and whatever else the organization needs in terms of social media marketing.

In short, to be a community manager you have to be a bit masochistic in addition to being passionate and slightly nerdy about the ever-changing technology landscape, get excited about connecting to people and starting conversations, and have a healthy dose of competitive drive.

But all those characteristics can quickly lead to burnout as well. When you’re planning to hire a community manager, make sure you create a contingency plan. A community manager will get sick, take a holiday, or need to unplug a bit just like everyone else. Your company needs to have a backup plan to make sure your community manager isn’t a walking zombie after three months on the job.

Business savvy and excellent judgment

Community managers also have to be quick-witted enough to capitalize on opportunities as they arise. The window of social media opportunity lasts about as long as a Kardashian marriage. News stories and memes become passé at an extraordinarily fast rate. It’s an extraordinary balancing act: chime in too early, and your audience may not have a clue what you’re referencing; chime in too late and your brand may seem rather uncool.

In addition, having excellent relationships with internal business partners is key. Why? Community managers will field a wide range of questions from best practices, to support, to sales, to PR. They have to know either what the right answer is or know where to find it quickly.

Thinking beyond the tweet

However, most often a community manager’s role extends far beyond this description. Sometimes this is out of necessity because many companies (especially small and medium sized businesses) don’t have social media-specific roles beyond this title (if at all). Other times community managers started off in other specialties—content creation, marketing, and PR are probably the most common. Think about where the community manager will sit in your organization and what other needs you might have. Don’t have enough people writing content for your blog? Choose someone who can help fill in there as well.

Even if your organization has a social strategist or director, hiring someone who has skills in a variety of areas makes good sense. Social is cross-functional by nature and intersects with almost every area of the business. For example, a background in SEO is very helpful, as are experience in other technical areas such as photo and video editing and even some light coding skills (hello custom Facebook apps).

Social business integration

Also, if your company doesn’t have a digital strategist or a marketing manager who truly understands how to use social for programs and campaigns that drive business, the burden of social business integration might fall to this person as well. Or at least it is often this person banging the drum. Ideally, social should already be integrated into all areas of business. But practically speaking, this level of change management hasn’t occurred at most businesses both large and small.

What’s on your social media community manager wishlist?

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