As our world has become more connected, the role of community managers has grown exponentially. From large companies selling their wares to non-profits engaging with their supporters, there is a massive demand for effective community managers.
But what does a community manager actually do?
A subset of digital marketing, community management involves fostering communities of users around a particular product, service, or brand. Community managers work in the digital sphere, managing social media accounts, moderating online forums, and working through other digital channels.
In this article, we’ll explore what community managers do, the essential skills they need, and other topics, such as how to pursue a career in this interactive area of digital marketing.
- What is a community manager?
- Essential skills for community managers
- Community management strategies
- Community metrics and analytics
- Career paths in community management
- Next steps
Ready to learn all the basics of community management? Then let’s jump in.
1. What is a community manager?
A community manager is a digital marketing professional responsible for building, growing, and managing communities of users around a product, service, or brand. Their role typically includes managing social media, moderating online forums, creating engaging content, reviewing data and insights, and responding to customer feedback.
While community managers undertake varied activities, these all work towards a unifying goal: fostering a sense of belonging within a community and creating a supportive environment where users can share experiences, feedback, and ideas—not just with a brand but with one another.
But what exactly counts as a community? There are many examples of online communities that brands might manage. These include:
- Social media platforms: The most common type of online community management involves managing a brand’s presence on popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok. Whenever you get a personalized response to a Tweet or comment, for example? There’s a community manager on the other end!
- Online forums: Also fairly well-known, community managers will create and moderate discussions on forums like Reddit, Quora, or Stack Exchange. Their aim here is to give users a trusted place to ask questions and interact with one another around their topic of interest.
- Customer feedback platforms: Some brands manage online communities using a type of software called a customer feedback platform. A couple of examples include IdeaScale and UserVoice. While your average internet user mightn’t have heard of these, platforms like this offer a valuable way for brands to collect ideas, product feedback, and improvement suggestions direct from their community.
- Branded online communities/ Fan groups: Finally, brands with dedicated followers often create fan groups or branded online communities. Typically delivered via an app or branded platform, this is where fans can share stories and access exclusive content, special discounts, and other perks. Prominent examples of fan groups include Nike Run Club, Lego Ideas, and Harley Owners Group.
To the lay internet user, community management may not be the most prominent or visible digital marketing role. But it’s one of the most important. Online communities offer opportunities to organizations and individuals alike.
For businesses, online communities allow brands to boost awareness while obtaining unprecedented insights into their customers’ thoughts and opinions. Meanwhile, for individuals, community management offers an exciting career path with many diverse opportunities.
2. Essential skills for community managers
Here are some of the essential skills you’ll need to thrive as a community manager:
First and foremost, community managers need excellent written and verbal communication skills. You’ll have to communicate effectively with customers, social media users, and other team members. For those working in dedicated community management agencies, communication also means working with clients to understand their business drivers and expectations, regardless of their expertise area.
Problem-solving and conflict management
Since you’ll find daily tasks driven by external forces (i.e. community members), you’ll need excellent problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills. Community managers must often handle difficult situations and challenging customers. This requires quick thinking and a cool head to prevent conflicts from escalating.
Another essential skill for community managers is creativity. Community managers must develop engaging content and instinctively understand the kinds of content that will resonate with different audiences. Where instinct fails, you’ll need to turn to data-driven insights to tap into the desires and needs of your audience.
Passion for the topic
It always helps when community managers are genuinely interested in their community topic. You might not put an enthusiastic gearhead, for example, in charge of a baking community (although that’s not to say you can’t love both cars and cakes!) The point, however, is that a community manager with a passion for their topic will connect more authentically with an audience and create content that resonates better.
Finally, community managers need good technical skills, including familiarity with various social media platforms, community management tools, and analytics software. OK, so you don’t need to be a full-blown tech expert here, but a good working knowledge of things like HTML and graphic design software can be beneficial.
3. Community management strategies
Community management strategies are the tactics community managers apply when growing their communities. Although these vary depending on a community’s objective, here are some common strategic steps community managers will take:
- Establish clear objectives: Before getting started, determine your community’s objectives. Your goal might be increasing engagement, driving sales, or building brand awareness. Or perhaps it’s something more specific, like reducing customer support inquiries.
- Create engaging content: Community managers must regularly schedule and develop new content. Whether this includes blog posts, videos, or something else, all content should be relevant, informative, or entertaining.
- Encourage user-generated content: Managing communities single-handedly is almost impossible. Most strategies, therefore, include promoting user-generated content like photos or videos. This reduces the content that managers must produce. A bonus is that users typically consider user-generated content more authentic.
- Monitor and measure community activity: Like any other digital marketing activity, community management involves measuring engagement to understand what works. We’ll explore this more in section 4.
- Continuously improve the community: Finally, community managers must constantly seek ways of improving their community. This can involve launching new features, hosting events, or partnering with influencers and other brands.
Naturally, this isn’t an exhaustive list. Plus, strategies constantly evolve with the times. As such, stay attuned to the latest hot community management trends!
4. Community metrics and analytics
In section 3, we mentioned the importance of monitoring community activity to improve future efforts. In this section, we’ll explore this in more detail.
To determine a strategy’s effectiveness, here are some important community metrics and analytics techniques that community managers use.
- Engagement metrics: These track how active a community is. Common ones include the number of comments, likes, shares, and other interactions.
- Reach metrics: These measure a community’s size. Common ones include follower numbers or community subscribers. These metrics help community managers determine if they’re reaching their target audience properly.
- Sentiment analysis: Sentiment analysis involves analyzing emotions and opinions expressed by community users in their comments, reviews, and other feedback. It helps community managers identify areas where users are dissatisfied so they can take steps to address these concerns.
- Conversion metrics: These measure how effectively a community drives business outcomes. Typical metrics include website traffic, lead generation, or sales. In short, anything that measures the community’s specific goals.
- Social listening: This involves monitoring social media channels for brand or product mentions. Doing so helps community managers identify trends they can exploit to improve community engagement.
Tracking and analyzing these types of metrics helps community managers optimize their strategies to deliver better outcomes for their brand and, of course, its followers.
5. Career paths in community management
As you may have already realized, community management offers many diverse career paths. For instance, community managers can work for large corporations, startups, non-profit organizations, or specialized agencies that manage communities for third-party clients.
Furthermore, some community managers specialize in specific industries (like healthcare or technology), whereas others focus on promoting specific products, services, or interests.
In this dynamic and continuously evolving field, the options for career growth are virtually limitless. Typically, the only prerequisite for most entry-level community management roles is a bachelor’s degree. Ideally, this will be in an area like communication, marketing, or a related field, but any degree will do so long as you can demonstrate enthusiasm and passion.
Some specific roles in community management include Social Media Manager, Community Engagement Manager, and Content Manager, among others. If you’re thinking longer-term, be sure to research these options further. This will help you consider what steps to take to progress along your chosen career path.
6. Next steps
In this post, we’ve answered the question: What does a community manager do? We’ve learned that the role involves nurturing communities of individuals who share common interests, values, and goals, often to promote a product or build brand loyalty.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in community management, your next step might include taking a course or certification in digital marketing. You could also gain experience by volunteering to manage a social media account or online community for a local organization or non-profit. Alternatively, you could even build your own online community around one of your hobbies.
Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of networking! Try connecting with other community managers by attending industry events or joining professional organizations like the Community Roundtable. These are valuable ways of meeting other community managers and staying abreast of the latest industry news.
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