Can you build community without strategy? #CMAD

Posted on January 28, 2014

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In honor of yesterday’s Community Manager Appreciation Day (#CMAD), I’ve been thinking about the role community managers play in the success of businesses*. It has been said that community managers are “key to the future of business,” and many community managers (CMs) spent yesterday’s holiday opining on the evolution of the discipline

Community managers can be essential to customer care, social media and product development. Good CMs will act as a canary in the coal mine, alerting their colleagues to product, PR or customer support issues before they’re even noticed internally. At their best, community managers are feet-on-the-street and real-time market research wrapped into one witty, eloquent package.

In 2013, Jeremiah Owyang’s Altimeter looked at the required skills for community managers. He found that writing, customer care and working with other departments were deemed most essential to carrying out the CM job. While “create a plan” and “reporting and analytics” also ranked on his list, I was disappointed to see there weren’t more strategic skills reflected in the survey. In my experience, you can arm your CMs with all the customer care training you can throw at them, but if they don’t take an active role in strategy — either on the product side, or in marketing and PR — then customers are inevitably going to have a disconnected experience. 

You (and your community) only get the most from your CMs if they’re constantly looking at the “why” and are involved in shaping a strategy that addresses the needs of the business and the community. I hope the “evolution of the community manager” (the theme of this year’s CMAD) is one that leads the discipline down a strategic path and even further away from the 24-hour content-for-the-sake-of-content churn. 

Along those lines, I love what this group is doing with their “Community Manager Manifesto” and the idea that community managers should report directly to the CEO.

 

*Full disclosure: While it’s not my official job title, I act as an online community manager for social media channels at 23andMe.

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