When you tell someone you’re a community manager, you’re probably bracing yourself for two things. One, that you’ll have to explain what that means—and you probably already have your pithy elevator pitch in your pocket—and two, that you’ll have to further explain that no, no, you’re not just a professional tweeter/facebooker/instagrammer by trade. Sigh.
We know that our jobs are about much more than just the social channels we help manage, and someday most of the business world will finally catch up, too. In fact, we tend to have so many irons in the fire that it can even be difficult for us to tell what makes us so good and suited for our jobs.
We’ve boiled it down to make it much easier for you.
Excellent Organizational Skills
Having above-average organizational skills can really be one of the single most skills that helps community managers keep ahead of the game. There are just so many different tasks—from scheduling posts to responding to community members, handling reporting to keeping media files in order, community managers have a lot on their plates. Not to mention budgeting, project management of projects that need to be turned around in hours, customer care on social media channels, the list just goes on and on. Being able to track everything is essential to getting work done.
Even if you manage a team that has ample resources and access to creative help from copywriters, designers, and artists—and most of us don’t have that luxury—it’s likely that you’re still called on to whip up some clever copy or help with branding designs or logos. After all, you’re likely the person in your organization who understands your community the best, so it falls on your shoulders to be able to understand its zeitgeist and tell the stories that will help captivate and engage them.
Curiosity might have killed the cat, but in the world of community, a curious mind is precisely what you’ll need to stay ahead of the curve. Adaptability is a must-have in a landscape that involves constantly evolving technologies and platforms, consumers who are becoming more and more savvy, and trends that come and go in the blink of an eye. And the best way to be adaptable is to be curious enough about the world around you to actively seek out what’s new and learn the skills you need to stay on the cutting-edge.
While analytics and metrics and spreadsheets aren’t necessarily the most glamorous aspects of our jobs as community managers, they can be one of the most essential. After all, it’s important for us to know what’s working—and what’s not—in order to know what the next steps are. You’re the one who needs to prove to the higher-ups how your community engagement is helping to further the company’s business goals. The only way to do that is to actively collect data that can help you analyze and manage progress. Having a mind that is analytical and can wade through data is essential in doing this job right.
Passion and Loyalty
While these are two different concepts, in community management, they are complementary skills that drive one another. As the gatekeepers of our brands’ storytelling efforts, it’s imperative that we believe passionately in what we’re doing. You can’t convince people that your brand is worth engaging with if you don’t have that basic belief yourself. Think of it as being both the cheerleader on the sidelines and the star basketball player at the same time.
Which is where loyalty steps in. Sometimes, you’re going to have to deal with a lot of negativity in your role as community manager, either because of a misstep you or someone in your company made, because something beyond your control went wrong, or because there are just some people who are impossible to make happy. If you can keep your focus on what’s important—your brand—and truly believe in it because of loyalty, you’ll be able to navigate the pitfalls and keep your community churning forward on the right track.
Oodles of Patience
Which is a great lead-in for our next two skills that every community manager needs. The first one? Patience. Heaps and heaps of patience. A lot of your job revolves around interacting on the internet with folks who often have anonymity on their side. Which means they aren’t always demonstrating their best behavior and you’re the one charged with dealing with it. Being patient enough to listen and cut through the negativity to the grist of any complaints is the key to being able to deescalate the touchy situations that may arise. And that, my friend, takes patience and steely resolve to not take it personally.
In any community, even ones that seem like they are fairly homogenous, you’re going to run up against a host of different personalities. That can pose a challenge in knowing how to communicate a strong message that becomes personal for so many different temperaments. A skilled community manager is empathetic and able to see their brand through the perspective of all the varying personalities that are drawn to it in order to craft messages that resonate with everyone. Since social media is increasingly the place consumers turn to for customer service, empathy and understanding are essential in helping you help them.
Even further, having both empathy and understanding is essential to being able to understand not just what types of content succeed with your community, but why they do. When you understand both the what and the why, you are better prepared to replicate successes more readily in the future.
Business savvy is an important element of a lot of what the most successful community managers do. And it’s not just so you speak the same language as your company’s CEO—although that would surely help you with generating buy-in within your organization and to engage your stakeholders.
As the community manager, you are the public face and ambassador for your company. Which requires an innate understanding of not just human interactions, but business interactions as well. That’s why successful community managers have at least a working knowledge of business development and public relations, as well as above-par negotiation abilities.
Finally, the last ingredient that makes for a stellar community manager is clear forward-thinking and vision. We must have our finger on the pulse in a landscape that’s catering to increasingly short attention spans. It’s our role to engage our communities in conversation and help build strong community foundations. To do that, a strong community manager should have a sense of what her community needs in the present and what it will need in the future. It’s not a matter of seeing the future, rather of being able to make informed decisions that move the dial.