Community Managers Must Deliver ROI: Commandments For Surviving a Recession

I’m a former community manager, and many of my friends are currently in this role, and I want to make sure they are armed with the right knowledge to succeed during hard times –I know some of them may get laid off.

Community Managers are at risk of being let go
During a recession, we know that marketing, sometimes new media and unknown expenses get cut. Unfortunately, to some, the Community Manager role may sit in all three of those areas of scrutiny. Although I’ve been tracking quite a few Community Managers working at enterprise class companies, they must quickly learn to measure, and demonstrate ROI or risk getting cut.

Community Managers must educate stakeholders and management.
Measurement depends on which objective they are trying to solve, so I’ll break it down into specific objectives and tasks. During incidents the community manager should report in real-time to key stakeholders. Secondly, they should provide weekly updates that can be quickly scanned in 30 seconds to community managers. Each month, they should provide a detailed report, and initiate a 30-60 minute meeting with key stakeholders to discuss changes.

Among these changes they should measure:

Improvement in marketing efficiency
Community Managers should measure increased speed from word of mouth or marketing awareness, the best way to measure this is time from awareness to close –or spread of WOM. This could also include increase understanding of customers (listening) for marketing research, or warning stakeholders about potential detractors before they become real issues. Unfortunately, these metrics aren’t valued as much as the next two, so focus accordingly.

Reduction in support costs
The bottom line is always important to business, so if you can measure a decrese in customers going to physical stores, emailing account reps, or calling the support center as they instead rely on community to help self-support themselves, you can start to put dollar costs on this actual community savings.

Actual improvement to sales
This matters most. Community Managers should start to measure how clicks from community directly impact ecommerce, go to product pages (perhaps if you’re B2B) or to affiliate marketing to demonstrate how community interaction increases revenue. If you can demonstrate this (like Dell’s million dollar sales in Twitter) tout this loudly to management.

Conduct additional research
If you’re like most companies, layoffs are coming, therefore Community Managers must educate the powers that be the value that they offer when it comes to customer service and support. Rather than focus purely on the role that they have, they should demonstrate the overall of the community –then discusss why a role is needed (like a physical store manager) in order to keep it running smoothly. Consider running quarterly surveys that measure Net Ratings or customer satisfaction, and don’t forget to quote qualitative responses from community members themselves, there’s nothing like a pure customer testimonial about why they are customers.

If you’ve other tips for Community Managers during a recession, leave a comment below.

Update: Bill Johnston has some additional tips you should read, he also left a comment below.