The loneliness of the community manager: unclear tasks and little support.
To successfully launch and grow a community requires a strategy, tactics, skills and investment. Often, however, companies hire a dedicated professional without providing the right support to achieve the objective. In this article we will talk about some mistakes that should be avoided.
More and more companies are constantly looking for community managers, without finding them. What the tasks of the community manager are, does not seem to be clear. If you look at the frequency of community manager job postings on Linkedin, it would seem that this is today’s most popular job.
Reading them all, however, one realises that this profession has porous boundaries to say the least, often finding very different activities and responsibilities attributed to him/her.
The only common factor is that a great deal is demanded of them, but their experience and remuneration are not always adequate.
The resulting impression is that those who apply don’t have much clarity about the role, which is then reflected in the work they actually have to do.
What often happens is that a community manager is hired with the task of launching a community and making it grow without building the conditions and the context that would allow him to actually do so. According to my experience gained in these years of training and consultancy on community design, in fact, very often we find ourselves faced with community managers on their own, without a support team and without proper dialogue with the rest of the organisation.
As if the task of growing the relationship with their stakeholders were their own business, and theirs alone, and not a problem, or rather an opportunity for the whole organisation. Thus community managers often find themselves with a weight on their shoulders for which they feel all the responsibility and difficulty, but often surrounded by little or nothing.
Strategy first, community then
Why do we say that the community manager is alone?
Firstly, because they often do not know the strategy of the community. The role of the community manager should be to manage the community, to enable it, not to define the business objective, the value that the community shares, the actors that are part of it, and what they do together.All these aspects should be given to the community manager by the organisation and it should be his task to put them into practice.
However, some community managers find it difficult to explain to their bosses the difference between the public and the community, and to the question: “What is the value that the community shares?” they cannot answer because no one has ever asked the question.
Lack of strategy is accompanied by a deficiency in tactics, and this is also why the community manager is alone. He is often asked for everything and nothing. What he has to do is sometimes not clear even to the organisation. There are those who use the label community manager but are basically looking for a social media manager, or those who think they are getting an animator or, perhaps, a creative.
I happened to meet a community manager who had been entrusted with the task of facilitating the community but not of creating content: without stimulating discussion, the community never took off. Moreover, the community manager is alone because he often does not have a budget.
I happened to make a training offer to a head of community (i.e. the head of the community managers or of the team that manages the community) who only had a low — very low — budget to organise events and who hoped that, thanks to the pandemic, he would be able to save some money and invest it in training.
Often, in fact, the community manager does not have a budget to create content, to experiment with different communication formats, to reward members, to organise moments of co-design. How can a community grow?
Without a team — and evaluated on wrong metrics
One of the main tasks a community manager should do is to monitor the sentiment and needs of the community. However, when they do monitor, when they notice and understand what functionality or service the community requires, they often do not have a team to implement it.
I once met the community manager of a peer-to-peer platform who would have known how to improve community engagement but his bosses never gave him the chance to proceed, due to lack of resources, budget or perhaps lack of confidence in the growth of the community.
Fearing failure, they stood still.
Finally, the community manager is often a lonely soul within an organisation because the metrics of his success continue to be measured on economics rather than on the value of the relationship.
This is another case where I met a community manager who was asked to nurture and grow the relationship with members, but then the growth results were measured on the value of the average receipt. I do not mean that it is not right to think about making ends meet, on the contrary, but if you want to grow a community you have to give yourself time and, above all, trust that the economic results will come after building a relationship with people. When there is a community that grows around a shared value then not only are those people more willing to buy (assuming you create valuable services for them), but they are also the first to encourage word of mouth.
Of course, this is not always the case. There are a lot of community managers who work with a team and lead. But the experience I have gained in recent years in consultancy and training tells me that there are also many community managers who are not put in a position to do their job properly.
Why does this happen?
It’s not an intention, it’s simply that often in organisations there is no awareness of what it means to launch a community and what it takes to manage it. They improvise, without knowing that launching and growing a community requires a strategy, tactics, skills and investment. Nothing different, in short, from what is done when a new service or product is launched on the market. The difference, however, is that the community is made up of people who, when they get going and seriously start, become a surprising river of opportunities. You just have to know how to listen to them and put yourself in a position to take advantage of them.
originally published in Italian on Digital4biz — 14/12/21