The Four Tenets of the Community Manager

The budding Community Manager industry holds 4 tenets; these values resonate as a common thread within the role. The include community advocation, brand ambassadorship, online communication skills, and product requirements gathering and improvements.

Recently, I’ve been doing some research on the Community Manager role, which is appearing at most brands that take online communities and communication seriously. This was a role I had this role at Hitachi Data Systems, and many of my friends and peers have this role around the industry, and I’ve written about it extensively.

16 real job descriptions
I put out requests on Twitter, blog and email to get submissions, as well as scoured the public job listings and I’ve reviewed 16 job descriptions from companies ranging from LinkedIn, Buzz about wireless (Sprint), Vancity, Communispace, Imagination Corp, Microsoft, Flock VMware, GamesforChange, Disney, ACDsee, Dogster, SimplyHired, Yahoo, and many others. It was a global sample from B2B to B2C, and the beliefs and values that these individuals require in the job description indicate a direct pattern.

The Four Tenets of the Community Manager
In the following, I’m not going to list out all my findings, but it was clear there were 4 number of Tenets, or beliefs that each role holds. In nearly all the job descriptions, the following beliefs were spelled out as requirements for the role.

1) A Community Advocate
As a community advocate, the community managers’ primary role is to represent the customer. This includes listening, which results in monitoring, and being active in understanding what customers are saying in both the corporate community as well as external websites. Secondly, they engage customers by responding to their requests and needs or just conversations, both in private and in public.

2) Brand Evangelist
In this evangelistic role (it goes both ways) the community manager will promote events, products and upgrades to customers by using traditional marketing tactics and conversational discussions. As proven as a trusted member of the community (tenet 1) the individual has a higher degree of trust and will offer good products.

3) Savvy Communication Skills, Shapes Editorial
This tenet, which is both editorial planning and mediation serves the individual well. The community manager should first be very familiar with the tools of communication, from forums, to blogs, to podcasts, to twitter, and then understand the language and jargon that is used in the community. This individual is also responsible for mediating disputes within the community, and will lean on advocates, and embrace detractors –and sometimes removing them completely. Importantly, the role is responsible for the editorial strategy and planning within the community, and will work with many internal stakeholders to identify content, plan, publish, and follow up.

4) Gathers Community Input for Future Product and Services Perhaps the most strategic of all tenets, community managers are responsible for gathering the requirements of the community in a responsible way and presenting it to product teams. This may involve formal product requirements methods from surveys to focus groups, to facilitating the relationships between product teams and customers. The opportunity to build better products and services through this real-time live focus group are ripe, in many cases, customer communities have been waiting for a chance to give feedback.

While there is much deeper research on this role to be completed such as where are they, how much do they make, who do they report to, best practices, etc, I’ll just be publishing the above. Thank you so much to all those who’ve submitted content to me.

Additional Resources
I’ve been very involved with this new role, here’s some related content:

  • Meet your peers and Join the Community Manager group in Facebook
  • Understanding the Community/Evangelist Role, and profiles of a few of my Favorite Folks
  • Capture from the Community UnConference
  • Forum One Community Roundtable–Strategies for Community
  • Video of Dell: When the Web team leads product development, the evolution of Dell Hell to Dell Swell
  • Video: Web Strategy Show: Community Strategies with Jake McKee
  • Update: Also see this association of community managers (IOCMA) that are now calling for members (link via Connie)
  • (Update: based upon comment feedback, I modified the language of this 4th tenet for clarification, thanks Shashib, and Connie)

    (Update 2: Kevin adds a lot to the conversation and challenges the idea that “They aren’t your communities to manage“, also read Evan’s response to Kevin.)