Career Focus: Community Management

Cerebra Submitted by on the 13th of January 2016

In a world where our phones are constantly pinging with notifications, and we’re being bombarded every minute with marketing messages, how do companies win their customers’ hearts and minds online? By developing a solid online voice – a voice that is personable and engages with communities on social media. Enter the community manager, the people we’re celebrating for the month of January.

A common misconception is that community managers spend their time acting as online customer service agents, but that is only part of the story. If successful, the community manager becomes the voice of the brand, building meaningful relationships with customers along the way. They are the first to identify a crisis and can advise brands on how best to deliver information and services.

The role can shift between being a live reporter, a crisis communications expert, and a PR or marketing professional in the amount of time it takes to refresh your browser.

At Cerebra, our community managers fulfil an incredibly important role, manning the frontline of our clients’ social presence, making fast-paced decisions, and handling tough questions and direct critiques that would keep most people up at night.

So, what does it take to be a great community manager? Below, we list several tips and resources that could help you achieve community management greatness:

3 personal attributes you need

Outside of professional skills like being a strong writer, a team player and someone who can handle pressure, here are some of the key human skills that every community manager needs to offer:

  1. Empathy. You will have to deal with a wide range of people and problems daily. You must be able to understand why something seemingly minor could be hugely important to the person you’re dealing with. While the customer isn’t always right, empathy will help you understand where they’re coming from, and it will also help you represent your brand’s voice effectively.
  2. Patience. As frustrating as it can be, you will need to handle sometimes-irrational demands from both customers and clients, and it is your job to ensure that their needs are met timeously and with grace. Never lose your temper, especially online, and always take a moment to find the best possible solution to any problem.
  3. Adaptability. The community management landscape is always changing. If you can’t handle change, you will never thrive. Stay up to date with the latest platform updates, current affairs and trends and always be a step ahead of the customer and client. You need to be the expert and be ready to propose crazy ideas before anyone else.

3 books you should read

While reading anything from Harry Potter to the Oxford English Dictionary will help to improve your writing, some books go further and are aimed at changing the way you approach your work. Here are our top recommendations:

  1. The Art of Community by Jono Bacon. The first step in becoming a community manager is understanding what community actually means. This book has been widely praised for its simple and direct approach to describing the phenomenon. For a no-frills guide to community management, you should also take a look at Online Community Management for Dummies by Deborah Ng.
  2. On Writing by Stephen King. Suggested by one of our top writers, this book is especially valuable to someone who also needs to create content. Another great resource is Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, which looks at the incredible nuances in the English language. Even if you don’t become a content producer, strong writing skills will always be key to your role.
  3. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. This book delves deep into the hidden influences behind decision making, making it invaluable to someone who has to deal with people on a daily basis. Ariely is a behavioural economist and proves his case through fascinating research and stories. An equally interesting but quicker read is Sway by Rom and Ori Brafman, which also takes a scientific and psychological approach to understanding the way people behave.

3 Cerebra eBooks you should read

Cerebra has published a wide range of eBooks covering various topics in social media. While every eBook is worth reading, some of the most important to community managers include:

  1. The Social Service Gap. While it isn’t the only part of community management that matters, strong customer service is key to the role. The Social Service Gap looks at improving the way we use social media to deal with customers while using research and insights to improve the way a brand does business.
  2. The Social Identity. One of the hardest parts of managing a brand’s social media presence is understanding who that brand actually is. The Social Identity is one of our most popular eBooks ever, and for good reason.
  3. The Community Management Spectrum. Our most recent eBook, The Community Management Spectrum tackles misconceptions around the role and offers a unique insight into the depth and significance of community management. It will open your eyes to the incredible variety of opportunities open to brands and community managers alike.

3 ways to learn the skills you need

There is no one qualification you need to become a community manager. People from all kinds of backgrounds including journalism, traditional advertising and even broadcasting, have made successful careers in community management. However, if you’re still looking to build you skills, these options could help:

  1. Tertiary education. Whether you study a degree in media or communications at university or pursue a brand management or digital marketing qualification at a private advertising school like Vega, Red & Yellow or AAA, you will receive a solid introduction to the industry. You will be exposed to the theory, case studies and practical work that will build and mould your skills while forming networks that could get your foot in the door at your dream job.
  2. Online courses. Today, there are any number of online courses available. While these might not expose you to a network in the same way as university can, they give you the flexibility to develop your skills while continuing with work full-time. With so many options available, Google is your friend – use it to find the best one for you.
  3. Internships. Many agencies, including Cerebra, offer internships to recent graduates and people looking to kickstart their career in the industry. These programmes offer incredible exposure and give you hands-on experience with the work you’ll be doing. If you’re keen to join Cerebra’s intern programme, keep an eye on our Facebook Page for updates.

 3 online resources you should follow

A good community manager keeps abreast with the latest social trends and industry innovations at all times. To succeed, you need to follow the right people and understand the way social media is being used. Here are a few ways to do that:

  1. Social Media Today, Mashable and Memeburn. Keeping up to date with the world around you is vital. While simply logging onto Facebook or Twitter every day is a great start, it’s important to keep an eye on websites such as these because of the approach they take to deciphering the connected world.
  2. The Social Media Community Managers Club. If you aren’t already a member, you should request to join this SA-based Facebook group. It’s a safe space for community managers to share knowledge, ask questions and vent their frustrations when necessary. You’ll also hear about jobs and opportunities regularly.
  3. The Cerebra Blog. Cerebrans frequently contribute to our blog with posts around developments in the social media industry and sharing our thoughts, lessons and ideas. Browse our older posts and keep up with new ones – the insights are always valuable.

3 tips from our team of experts

Cerebra is fortunate to be home to a large and diverse team of talented community managers. We got a few of them together to share their thoughts on what it takes to succeed:

  1. “Don’t get personally involved. Keep a level head and remember that you’re speaking for the brand. Having a human voice can help, but always be professional.”
  2. “Use a dictionary and work on your vocab – good writers are good community managers. Mistakes are not acceptable.”
  3. “Time management is the most important thing to remember. How fast you respond will affect how consumers feel about your brand, and falling behind will cause unnecessary stress.”

In the end, there’s no rulebook for community management. It’s a fast-changing environment and the key to being great is being ready to adapt and learn at all times.

We’re always looking for the best. If you think you’ve got what it takes, check out our careers page.