How to find your perfect Community Manager

I'm seeing a shift, the community management industry - it's leaving its puppy pen and has reached adolescence. Over the past few years, only a small number of companies have invested in their own social departments, choosing to outsource their community actives to agencies. Now, as brands and companies identify that full integration between Social and existing Comms teams is essential, they're putting out their feelers to find their Mr (or Ms) Right in Community Management. Just looking at the #cmgr hash tag on twitter you'll see there is an increasing need for in-house CMs.

For the past few months I've been leading the community effort over at The Social Practice, helping to build the team to support our clients requirements. As a result, I've met a lot of Community Managers, some excellent, and some down right awful. I currently work with a selection of CMs that have a wide variety of skill sets, and knowing the clients I work with, I partner these together with the right brands. It's not easy and I've been working in Community Management for years! So I thought it would be useful to outline some things you should be looking for to find the right Community Manager for you and your brand.

Do you like the way they communicate?
Resource is often stretched to manage multiple clients agency side so bringing your social in-house you'll now have someone fully committed to building and creating relationships for your brand. For this reason, it's important that who you choose has strong communication skills both on and offline. This means, they have to communicate on your level as you're essentially asking them to represent your brand both on and offline.

Can they create engaging content?
A huge part of your Community Managers role will be to generate and implement engaging content around your comms strategy. This not only means having an eye for a good picture, but also being able to craft an update in only 140 characters with a clear call to action inline with your social KPIs and objectives.

Do they know your brand?
Yes you want someone who lives, breathes and eats your brand… but you won't always get that. You will however find wonderfully prepared Community Managers who have done their research and really know your brand history, ethos and want to be passionate about your products.

The Top 5 Things Your Community Manager Needs:
- Passion and enthusiasm, not just of your brand but of community management and social activity online.
- Connections, or the ability to be versatile enough to make new ones easily within your sector.
- Ability to create good quality, relevant content under pressure.
- To be brave, confident and likeable.
- Have a solid understanding of behaviour on the social channels you'll be requiring them to work on.

I'd strong recommend that you set your CM a task to do in a set amount of time to test all of the above. Never underestimate the affect a little bit of stress can have on the out put of a CM.

Best of luck with your search!


Facebook Reply Functionality – A Guide for Brands

This was orginally posted on The Social Practice Blog 3/4/13

Facebook rolled out threaded commenting across all brand and subscription pages last week, and this is a working guide to best practices for both brands and agencies that manage Facebook pages. Rather than a Fan replying in a single list under a post, they can now also reply directly to another readers comment. We’ve summarised the change, the effect on pages and outlined some simple action points to help co-ordinate a successful approach.

Why and what:
Historically, the commenting functionality, particularly on popular brand pages, didn’t work well from a community perspective. It was confusing, hard to follow and resulted in “fly by night” fan postings, rather than genuine conversations. Facebook has tested threaded commenting since 2012, and it’s now available on all brand and subscriber pages. But before we lose you to go check your pages or chase up your social media agency for an update – this change is currently optional and you can still turn Replies on and off in your Permissions settings (phew!).

During the past week we’ve see Facebook fan behaviour change. Interaction between users is simpler and helps fans to engage with each other rather than just the brand. Where a passing comment previously would have been lost, now with support (engagement) from fellow Friends or Fans, it will appear directly under your original post, regardless of its time stamp – this is affected by both Likes and Comments. If you’re familiar with Reddit, you’ll understand the power this gives your fans and why it can’t be ignored.
Brands that rely on the platform for customer service are now able to easily respond to individual comments left on the wall post – it’s taking a while for users to get use to this and we’re currently seeing some fans engaging on threads rather than the main comment stream. However, customer service teams aren’t the only page admins enjoying the update, community managers who have been trying to engage their fans on a deeper level for years no longer have to deal with a vertical conversation. This is beautifully described by @poetagrafico over on Mashable “now it’s like a chain with links where the links are individual group discussions”.

Top Tips when making the change:
  1. Get a budget for a moderation tool. The current Facebook notification process is a logistical nightmare. A tool should be able to solve this. As Emoderation’s Tia Fisher highlighted this week, the current Facebook API does not support this change so if you are using an existing tool, don’t turn on your replies yet. The changeover isn’t obligatory until July so you’ve got lots of time to start your research, trial a few tools and retrain your staff to use them.
  2. Revisit your House Rules to include a guideline for behaviour towards other Facebook users on the page, as well as towards the brand. We’ve always taken the stand that your page is yours, so OWN IT! Don’t be afraid to ban or hide comments that break your rules. Your page’s fans are a representation of your brand, if someone visits your page and has a bad experience due to your badly behaved fans, that is a reflection of you. For example, last month Justin Bieber was held responsible for his fan’s manic and often aggressive behaviour on Twitter towards each other.  This instance further fuels the theory that the way your fans and consumers behave on a public platform has implications for your brand. Read this and deal with it.
  3. Clearly define the purpose and Call To Action on every post. Of course everything you post has a clear Call To Action and purpose, but if you are calling for conversational engagement from your fans manage the direction. Unfortunately, left to their own devices, the most engaged post (and therefore prolific) isn’t always the most popular or intelligent (see pt. 4).
  4. Be extra vigilant with your moderation and watch out for Trolls. Bringing the content that’s most engaging to people seems like a great idea until someone decides to post inflammatory or irrelevant messages for no other reason other than to provoke an emotional response from your fans. They may even abuse Facebook’s new ranking system to get their comments to appear most prolifically on the page by Liking and Commenting on their own comments.
In summary, get ready!
Have a clear timeline, of when you want all your documentation to be completed, as well as a date in mind for when you’ll have the resource and budget to manage the change over efficiently. Finally, look over your content strategy and double check that your direction is one step ahead of your fans.
A huge thank you to the fabulous #CMGR community over at e Mint for their comments and thoughts.