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Beyond the Tweet

The future of the community manager

The second day of the week-long FutureM event featured back-to-back-to-back events on community management and listening. The sessions were filled with tasty bits and sound bites, leaving me full of ideas and questions (not to mention an excess of Mediterranean food). As a long-time social media aficionado, I found the events to be thought provoking in exploring how brands listen, engage and cultivate community online, and how the role of the community manager goes far beyond just tweets.

Availability + Accessibility + Analyzability = Advantage

Steve Rappaport (presenter at lunchtime presentation TastyBytes and author of Listen First!) explored why brands listen, and how that information can be used to drive businesses forward. The best example of this can be seen in the below graphic on social media consumption– in just 60 seconds, there is SO much content being produced and readily shared, that brands are crazy not to leverage it.

60 seconds in social media

Photo via Gizmodo


The abundant availability and accessibility of this information is valuable for both brands and businesses. It enables them to identify and connect trends, gather usable data, and create more valuable experiences for customers. We’ve seen brands like Comcast leverage this listening ability as a major advantage in connecting with customers. The end goal is harmonizing customer needs to improve the bottom line (Sense, Respond, Innovate mentality). Luckily, the community management doubleheader in the afternoon was a perfect segue into how to do just that.

Addiction and Codependency

Plenty of innuendos ensued at the Future of Communities event (perhaps everyone was a bit punchy after nearly 2 days of straight events? I know I was.). Addressing everything from ‘how to get customers addicted’ to ‘does size matter?’, the panels got right into all gritty details behind being a community manager.

While “listening” is often associated with social media, and also used interchangeably with the word “community” (guilty as charged), the panel was quick to address the distinctions.

Rachel Happe aptly pointed out that social media is socialized content, social networks are the connections enabled between people contributing social media, and the communities are the social structure of relationships between those people. Based on this logic, follower count is simply not the metric that counts.

As Sarah Mahoney of Children’s Hospital Boston (the one medical professional on the panel) candidly stated, “What does count is getting the folks in the community addicted. In a sense, you are what you measure, as you are what you eat – focus where you need to grow.”

It’s one thing to have followers, but truly compelling them to participate regularly, almost subconsciously, is the true measure of success in communities. ISITE’s monthly newsletter, Insight (shameless plug), would hardly be worth the effort  if we didn’t see the consistent feedback from readers, like our diehard Trivia fans (Judah, we’re talking to you).

The panel continued to explore the idea of what that addictive interaction really means. They explained that a certain co-dependency emerges, allowing organizations to rely on the feedback and engagement for useful data to recognize opportunities for innovation. However, having a huge community requires a large amount of management. Which begs the question, DOES (community) size matter? The answer from the panel (unsurprisingly) – it’s not the size, but what you do with it.

The Iceberg Effect

Cindy Meltzer discussed how the day in the life of a community manager is not only about maintaining the appropriate levels of engagement within the community, but also facilitating dozens of roles internally.

These roles include protecting the fish from the sharks (ensuring the community isn’t accidentally harassed), endlessly wrangling content and ultimately measuring success. It became clear that the role of a community manager is ever-changing and growing (See: the Iceberg Effect).

As the panel concluded, I started to wonder “Am I actually a community manager?!”  as Cindy jokingly warned the role has a way of sneaking up on marketers. But it was clear – in some respect, we are all community managers; as we continue to monitor, engage, and understand our markets, we must use that to accelerate innovation.


Related Resources:

The State of Community Management

Listen First Excerpts


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