The Dirty – Real Responsibilities of a Community Manager

Posted on 12 May 2011

I just read another article regarding “attributes of a good community manager.”  Unfortunately, it’s almost identical to the last article I read, with an almost identical title.

We all know about “passion,” and “listening,” and being a brand “evangelist” don’t we?  This rehashing of bulleted content makes me wonder who the intended audience is because most of it is simply preaching to choir.  It’s usually our bosses that don’t understand the basics of what we do.

Most of those posts are great but they should be in email form and sent directly to all major CEOs with the heading “Hire people like this.”

What I don’t see is the real stuff, or what I refer to as “the Dirty.”  The integral part of our jobs that isn’t flashy or full of catch phrases is the dirty, the stuff that most CMs should be good at.  This is the stuff that I think would be helpful to other CMs.

Bug Ticket pushing is a big one for me. I work for a very large tech company and some of my projects involve many groups responsible for lots of different stuff.   Navigating those disparate groups to get bug tickets pushed through requires a lot of patience, perseverance, tenacity and social engineering.  I work just as hard managing my communities internally as externally.  Knowing WHO to approach with WHAT is also a big challenge and be one of the first things a CM should get straight.

SQL queries and working with our databases is another big task of mine. CMs absolutely need to access and understand how to use the user/account database!  Every bit of data that your end users give you about themselves is located in the user database, whether it’s usernames, email addresses, account status…and it’s all useful in resolving everyday issues your customers face.  If you’re a CM and don’t know the basics of SQL query generation you should buy this book.

All CM’s should know how to use an image editor. I don’t care if it’s Photoshop, Paintshop, GIMP, whatever, as long as you don’t have to ask someone else to do it for you.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used GIMP to edit a last minute photo addition to my (and other people’s) copy.  Once other people know you’ve got those skills you’ll be surprised how often you’re approached for last minute help!

Own the posting of your content. How are articles and images posted on your website?  It could be FTP, so it’s helpful to have an understanding of the process and the ability to do it yourself.  There are plenty of free, quality FTP clients so you’ve got no excuse…besides it adds to your knowledge base!  The less a CM has to rely on others the better.

Good book!

HTML is another one of those little pesky things that many CMs choose not to delve into and that’s a mistake.  Become familiar with the basics of HTML and you’ll find you have much more control over your content than any editor will give you.  Don’t get me wrong, relying on HTML editors isn’t a bad thing, but knowing how to tweak your code is incredibly helpful.  There are so many HTML tags and you NEED a good book.  I’m not big on technical reading so I use this particular book as a reference tool and find it most useful.  Again, if it saves you from having to bug someone else then it’s worth doing and you’ll be a better CM because of it.

Community managers used to be referred to as “Jacks of All Trade” because CMs usually fill in “the cracks” in regards to work environment.  They did “the Dirty,” all the things that no one else wants or cares to get involved in.  In the last 5 years or so the growth in social media has redefined community managers as marketers, which big business can embrace because “marketing” has been in the corporate lexicon for decades.

Marketing is amazingly important but a distinct step away from the “Jack of All Trades” moniker…the original catchphrase that made CMs indispensable.

I urge all CMs to embrace all the roles of a CM, especially the Dirty.

What’s your Dirty?  Please share!

Cheers!

-Eric


3 responses to The Dirty – Real Responsibilities of a Community Manager

  • Mike Ricard says:

    Good call Eric, all relevant, ‘dirty’ activities for your typical community manager, particularly the internal variety. All the above apply to me since my background is in IT Support, so SQL searches of member data, and chasing bug fixes and connectivity issues is pretty standard for me.

    Another ‘dirty’ activity growing in significance is promoting your members on Twitter and LinkedIn (I don’t do Facebook, so I can’t own up to that). The value of promoting your members on Twitter is that it help them to build their internal AND external online reputations. Something many members are appreciative about.

    I offer to recommend active members on LinkedIn; again, something that will be of value to them when they move on from their present roles.

  • eric says:

    Thanks Mike! I find that most experienced community managers come from an IT or support background which, as you know, can be invaluable.

    Now most CM jobs I see are based around marketing, which is my weak suit. Yeah, I write a lot but I’m not Twitter or LinkedIn expert.

    Thanks so much for commenting!

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