By Siobhan Fagan –
Quick, what does a community manager do?
Having a hard time answering? You’re not alone. The Community Roundtable’s latest report seeks to correct that.
While the concept of communities is nothing new and the role of thecommunity manager is past the nascent stage, the exact duties and job descriptions of community managers is still unclear to many. With “The 2013 State of Community Management: The Value of Community Management,” the CR reports on a maturing profession, one still misunderstood and struggling for resources, funding and recognition, but demonstrating measurable results.
The results are based on an in depth look into 40 organizations, many from high tech, telecom and software industries. The maturity of this sampling is noted, with 43% reporting a fully networked organization, 55% describing their organizations as strategically innovative and nearly 40% reporting measurable value from the community manager role.
This report, the fourth that the organization has issued, is the first time the CR turned to quantitative methods, measuring the roles and responsibilities of community managers and the value created for organizations and pointing the way to emergent patterns in the field. This demonstration of the discipline’s maturity level shows the graduation from art to an equal mixture of art and science. Some may be distracted by the so called “soft” skills required to perform a community manager’s duties well into equating the discipline is soft, and in that they would be wrong — this report shows the verifiable outcomes that can result.
The differentiation between those organizations reporting measurable value and those who do not is reflected throughout the survey. The points where those who measure value and those who don’t diverge are of interest — suggesting areas that might need more attention in your current community program or skills that should be sought in filling a community manager role. Though the report is quick to point out that all communities are unique and require attention to their specific dynamics, these patterns represent the formation of standards in the field.
Portrait of a Community Manager
Banish the vision of community manager as college intern or inexperienced recent hire. The average experience level of community managers is over eight years, with over three spent as community manager. Candidates come from diverse backgrounds but bring with them strong communication and people skills, with technical skills taking a back seat.
The lack of emphasis on the technological skills is a point of interest as was the conspicuous lack of tool-talk in the report. If anyone out there still thinks that having a community means setting up a social media account, it’s time to put that belief to rest.
Communicator, Advocate, Mediator
The community manager performs daily balancing acts, acting as go-between across departments, between external customers and internal teams, between executives and employees. It will not come as a surprise then that community managers are spread thin, particularly in larger organizations, due to lack of resources and cross functional demands. While larger organizations contain multiple communities, the dedicated teams to manage them, while larger than in small to medium businesses, is not proportional.
This is one of the areas where the difference between those measuring value varies greatly from those who do not, with 80% of those with established value employing more than one community manager as compared with 40% of respondents employing only one. These hires are mainly internal, reflecting the relationships and establishment of trust necessary for successful communities, with only 10% outsourcing internal community management and 22% outsourcing external. The CR predicts these numbers will change as the demands on these teams will grow.
The place of the community manager within the organizational structure is fluid, crossing departmental boundaries. This is again an area where the differences between those with demonstrated community management value and the average diverge, with those community managers in organizations with demonstrated value moving more frequently between departments.