(Editor’s note: Erin Bury is the Community Manager at Sprouter, an online collaboration tool for entrepreneurs. She submitted this story to VentureBeat.)
These next-generation communications persons blend social media savvy with an up-to-the-minute knowledge of online trends and master networking skills. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all role. The person and qualities your company requires depend on a number of factors, including where you are in your business’s growth trajectory, how big the company is, your budget limitations and your specific goals.
I’ve been a Community Manager for a year and a half for Sprouter,. When I began, our goals were simple: Build our brand recognition on a grassroots level while working on new features and functionality behind the scenes.
When we launched the current version of our site last August (with a new name and new branding), the focus shifted to getting media attention, gathering feedback from users and answering questions from the community. These days, my role includes speaking at, attending and organizing events, planning out social media strategy, public relations; customer service, content creation – and sometimes playing receptionist. (I should point out Sprouter only has four people on staff).
The point is: My role at the company has changed dramatically and it will continue to evolve. So too will your needs vary depending on where your company is in its evolution.
While it’s essential that your community manager have an outgoing personality and at least a basic understanding of social media and communications, it’s more important to first know what you’re trying to achieve and then find a potential hire that matches those ambitions. Otherwise, you’ll never get the most out of the role.
If you’re in the market for a Community Manager here are my five tips for finding someone who works for you and your business:
Figure out your priorities – What’s important now – and what do you expect to be important in a year? Is your main priority to build brand recognition before your public launch or to acquire more customers for your established company? Know what you want the community manager to focus on, so you can develop the role from there.
Use those priorities to build your job description – If your priority is to get media coverage then consider hiring someone with a public relations background. If you’re looking to create great content for your blog or newsletter, then look for someone with journalism or other writing experience. And if you’re looking for someone who can shake hands at events, make sure they’re not afraid to walk up to a crowd of strangers and introduce themselves.
Communicate duties and goals effectively – Make sure to outline metrics goals and specific day-to-day duties you want the candidate to achieve – giving them something to work toward. Community management is about relationships, but it’s also about impact on your bottom line.
Experience isn’t as essential as you think – Since the role of community manager is fairly new, you’ll likely interview people who have never held such a position. Don’t overlook them due to this inexperience. This is truly a field where the best way to learn is by doing. Ambition and smarts can actually be more valuable than experience.
Bring them into your inner circle – The best tool a community manager has in their arsenal is a deep understanding of your business. They’re the ones communicating your message, so make sure they understand your growth strategy and your goals for the future. If you regularly update your them, they’ll not only be able to evangelize your company, they’ll be able to adapt the role as needed.