The 5 Qualities of Highly Effective Community Managers
Less than three years ago, community managers were a rare group of employees most often found at technology startups. Today, the role of community manager is common at companies of all sizes — from startups to multinational corporations. Despite their ubiquity, there is still a lot of confusion around what a community manager actually does and what employers should look for when hiring one.
Performable founder David Cancel recently wrote about the traits he looks for in potential startup hires. He placed the most importance on cultural fit and the least importance on previous startup experience. He also discussed why he hires people based on their personality, not their resume. Employers should take the same approach to hiring a community manager. It’s not necessarily about how many tweets the person has sent out, it’s about whether they’re passionate about your company and can become a brand advocate.
Here are the five qualities you should look for in a community manager to ensure he or she will be the right fit for your company.
1. Passion for Your Industry
A community manager is the face and voice of your brand, providing communications in both directions. If you’re a florist, it’s imperative that the person you hire is passionate about gardening. If you own a bakery, make sure the person either loves making or eating cake (shouldn’t be too difficult). This person will be living and breathing your brand, so you need an employee to take an interest in publications, key players and events within your industry. You can’t force passion, so find out in the interview if the candidate actually cares about what you do.
2. Varied Experience
A community manager is a jack-of-all-trades, especially at a startup. This person won’t have one specific role — like public relations or customer service — within the company. Rather, your community manager will have hands in different departments. The more varied the candidate’s background experience, the better they’ll adapt to the role. Look for someone who has a diversity of experiences on his or her resume — journalism will help him or her create amazing content, while PR and online marketing backgrounds will help him or her get the word out about your company and lead social media efforts. Look for experience with event planning, online analytics, SEO and customer service. You won’t find someone with experience in all of these areas, so rank your top three priorities and find a candidate with experience to match.
While past experience is great, it’s not a deal breaker for a potential community manager. It’s not whether this person already knows how to do something, it’s whether he or she can go out and find the answer without guidance. If you’re an entrepreneur, you won’t have the time to hold your new community manager’s hand while he or she learns the ins and outs of your business and your industry. And if you’re a big company, you need someone who can take the initiative to find answers and work independently with different departments.
Every day for a community manager is different. Whether attending events, working on a PR push for a product launch or creating content for your online properties, this new employee needs to be able to roll with the punches and adjust his or her schedule based on the news of the day — and that doesn’t always fall within the 9-to-5 workday. If a company crisis occurs on a Saturday or there’s an important event on a Thursday night, you need your community manager to be on top of it without complaining. Find someone who thrives on that variety.
It’s important for your new hires to have a great personality and to fit in well with your other employees. But when hiring a community manager it’s also important to find someone who has a vibrant personality that will resonate with your community. Your community manager is the first point of contact for customers and community members, and his or her interaction dictates whether your audience will have a positive or negative opinion of your brand. Find someone who knows how to communicate in a fun, interesting way; who knows how to be diplomatic when people complain or criticize the company; and who can meet strangers at events. Finding someone who’s a cultural fit internally is important, but finding someone who is a cultural fit with your community is imperative.
Every company has a list of projects and responsibilities they want their communi