Originally posted on my site: tinyurl.com/1o0xvl05
Cover photo: unsplash.com/@bamagal
‘So, what do you do,” asks anyone, anywhere, most of the time.
‘Oh, me? I’m a community manager at an edtech company,’ … silence ensues … “ah, well it’s like a combination of guidance counselor, hype person and operations analyst, if I had to do a quick sum up.”
They’ve, walked away… Great.
Other renditions of this conversation:
‘Oh!! So you’re in support? Got it’
‘So, you must be part time then. What do you want to be doing?’
‘There are communities anymore?’
Okay! Welcome to the hard-to-define-yet-somehow-viscerally-understood career pathway that is community. I’ll admit, I haven’t been in the community sphere for long, but I have been so consistently attracted to communities and community-esque roles, that now I feel it appropriate to start jotting down some puntos.
The point of the matter is, or TL;DR if you will, is that community is here to stay and it’s a sensible business move in a world where capitalism and consumerism are showing their shadow sides.
Community management used to revolve around social media management and/or marketing. Community was lumped in with the likes of: reaching a target demographic, engagement of said demographic and online traffic.
At some relatively recent point, maybe within the last seven years or so, community seems to have split into two separate arenas entirely. Where social media management typically lives in the marketing departments of the world and community, can live in the same place, yet is more versatile. Osmosis, where I’m the Community Manager, has community nestled under the People Team, which allows it be people centric as opposed to solely, revenue generating.
Community today,is about attracting your loyal audience, engaging with that audience often via high-touch [very direct and consistent contact] communications, sourcing data, user research capabilities, and ideally compiling data metrics. If we wanted to go a smidgen deeper, you’d find that community managers also: create processes and systems around things like onboarding or communication guidelines, we are often pseudo designers, we are creating content calendars, we are discerning what our teammates need from community members before those teammates know where to begin, we are troubleshooters, we are liaisons, we’d better be sufficient to excellent communicators both written and verbal, we are spending time scouring the web to find better and more relevant platforms and apps to integrate our tracking situations with; I mean, need I go on? A community manager doesn’t have to be in a start up environment just to wear hundreds of professional hats, which is why I think working in community can be such a leg up in ones’ career.
Community, within a business, is a place where your audience and targeted consumers/buyers can discern [without being hovered over] why they enjoy what you’re bringing to their table, how they can get more of this on their table, and the ways they can share your goodies to their friends’ tables. In a world of likes and shares, community is a necessity.
Social media management is broad and vast, where community management can be focused and intimate. In a land of automation, algorithms to beat, and bots in general, people prefer to be dealing with people. This is just another sweet spot where community managers handle business best. Between setting your customer success team up with templated messages in the event they come across quality potential community members to having an open door communication policy [mine is sharing my calendly.com link far and wide in the community]; community can feel much more direct and thus, attractive. With this, you can better: manage complaints, turn customers into loyalists, network & partner, get valuable raw feedback, do lots of tests, obtain user generated content, and so much more.
How I got here
When I was an outreach coordinator at the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, I hadn’t yet realized that this was peak community management. I was one of the first designated hires that was specific to maintaining the open communication pathway and management of our burgeoning group of volunteer event directors around the USA, whom were tasked with the behemoth of a job in curating an entire annual fundraising event for their communities. Typically, I was a plane ride distance from these volunteer coordinators and thus email, phone, and Facebook messaging were our most vital assets. What we didn’t have at that time, was some digital forum or open messaging chat where the coordinators could brainstorm and troubleshoot with one another, as opposed to always and primarily coming to me and later, my boss. We were troubleshooting 1x1 and often, when being able to do so in a webinar style situation would have been game changing. However, this is where I learned how imperative consistent direct contact is with your community members; they feel heard, seen, and hopefully understood. And so, they remain.
Then I was a program leader with Remote Year and was tasked with an absolutely crazy job description for ensuring the maintenance and operations of an in-person community of fifty or so digital nomads. This was a completely different ball game and although I was working remotely, I was in close proximity of my community 24/7. I was integrated into their personal and professional lives by way of often defaulting to the myriad roles of: surrogate family member, therapist, handy-hunny, travel guide, liaison, event planner, etc. From T2T, I brought with me the idea that an open door policy and consistent, direct contact were both too vital to ever let go to the wayside. So, my work wife and I even created a google sheet to keep track of which community members we had an irl [in real life] 1x1 meeting with on a monthly basis, so that no one ever went too long without hearing from us and had the chance to sit down and connect. This is when I started learning about tracking things like NPS [Net Promoter Score] and general engagement.
At Osmosis, once again I was the first designated hire for community and this time, it’s entirely digital and remote. My community are global medical students that use and love the Osmosis product, and beyond customer support, I’m doing my best to keep morale and engagement up, tracking activities and metrics, creating processes and systems, ideating around scaling and improving, as well as discerning what other teams might need and how community can fill gaps for them. Often, community managers are in a team of one or two if you’re lucky, so having personal systems of keeping your tasks organized and timely is apex level importance. I’ve been able to grab my slew of experiences from seemingly disparate arenas [first-responder non profit to digital nomad travel company and more] and mold them into exactly what community management is; essentially being the pillar-esque support system for a group of people interested in interacting what you bring to the table [product, service, dialogue, and more].
If you use things like Yelp, Google Reviews, Goodreads or any sort of reviewing system [like I obviously do], then you already have a leaning toward understanding the vitality of community in general. Without those reviewers, you may not have bought or engaged with that thing. If you’re in reddit, Facebook, or Twitter groups, then there are most likely moderators that keep the conversation going, instigate discussion, and keep the tone at an acceptable and welcoming note. This is all community. You’re probably more knowledgable about community than you thought!
One angry customer has immense power to screw your business up, so it pays to play well in the sandbox. Get in communities, watch how they run, engage, and get you one! Or, get in one :)