With the prevalence and growing importance of using social media to connect with customer communities, the community or social media manager is fast becoming a commonplace and much-needed position at companies around the world.
Determining whether or not you need a community manager for your small business is a question in and of itself (though this post is not without some guidance on that front). But once you do make the decision to hire someone to be the online and offline face of your company, as well as the go-between for internal resources and external voices, then you need to focus on finding that right person.??
The best way to start your search for a community or social media manager is to talk to and learn from those already succeeding in the role. I tracked down three recognizable staffers in customer-facing community positions, each with their own creative approach to community building, and asked them to identify one nonnegotiable quality that you should look for during the hiring process. Here's what they had to say:
1. Intellectual Curiosity
George G Smith Jr. [@GeorgeGSmithJr] is Crocs' rock star resident social media specialist. He believes that all businesses, regardless of their size, "already have a community manager in some form or another," but that if "a businesses' community is growing to the point where they start to question whether they should have an in house Community Manager, then they probably do."??
His advice for small businesses looking to hire a community manager is to seek out individuals with intellectual curiosity.??
Smith Jr. says, "I think a quality that almost all Community Managers have is intellectual curiosity. That trait is pervasive throughout their entire job description. You need to have that intellectual curiosity to learn everything you can about the company/brand that you are working for. Whether it’s customer service procedures, specifics about products, or just corporate culture – a successful community manager will have the curiosity to learn it all. On the flip side, they will also take that trait into the community. They will want to engage the members of their community because the curiosity is really a form of passion which will allow them to integrate seamlessly into their targeted community. It won’t be a one way relationship but a true two way relationship."??
Speaking from my own prior experience as a community manager, I agree with Smith Jr. wholeheartedly. A great community manager is one who has an unquenchable hunger for knowledge.??
Of course, intellectual curiosity is hard to find from bullet points listed in a resume, so Smith recommends that you, "ask questions about a person’s passions and hobbies in life. I think you’ll find that the intellectually curious will always be discovering new things that they can feel passionate about. Listening to someone talk about the things that they do for fun will reveal a lot about their methodology behind the things that they work on professionally."
Brad Nelson has become the poster boy for how to use Twitter to build and support a massive online and offline community. He's been Starbuck's "Official Tweeter" [@Starbucks], and has been their product manager on a social media front since before it was trendy to tweet. In fact, Nelson's role, and the visibility of the Starbucks Twitter account, has no doubt influenced countless other big brands to take the Twitter leap.??
As to whether or not you need a community manager for your small business, Nelson says, "The community manager is the voice for the company externally, and the voice for the customer internally. All types of business have found success in the online space, so don’t think it’s not for you. More than ever, customers turn online to find your company or leave good and bad comments about your company. If you’re approachable, they will turn to you and ask questions. Every company should embrace this role, in some way or capacity. It comes down to being an approachable and friendly company online."??
The one quality that Nelson says you can't live without in a good community manager is passion. "The most important aspect of any community or social media manager is passion for the company, the product and the people. Every great community manager I’ve ever met loves all of these things. Yes, you need to have someone who is savvy online, but passion is more important. I worked as a barista at Starbucks during high school and college. I really came to love the customers, the coffeehouse and the coffee, so I try to take the type of conversations I had in stores and apply them online."
3. Knowledge of Your Business
As JetBlue Airways’ Manager of Corporate Communication, one of Morgan Johnston's tasks is to manage the company’s very popular Twitter account, putting him on the front lines for fielding costumer and media inquiries and attacks.??
His take is that, "Every company should at least be monitoring social media. As for those that should take the step of hiring a social media manager? Any company where a large number of their target customers are online; any company where there is a lack of available information online; any company where the customers could benefit from having a community."
Morgan advises those small businesses looking to fill a community or social media manager position to pay less attention to social media prowess, and instead put someone in the position with "an intimate knowledge of your business, or the immediate resources to access and apply that knowledge."
Morgan also asserts that, "Social media acumen can be learned - and your customers will be more than happy to teach what they want, but what they need is someone with the knowledge and expertise in the subject that only you can provide."
Image courtesy of iStockphotoKogal