What exactly is a community manager and why do I need one?
Donal O’Conghaile. Image: Bryan Anselm

What exactly is a community manager and why do I need one?

20 Jul 2017

Jobseekers and start-ups alike can be left a little confused about what exactly a community manager does. However, Donal O’Conghaile is here to shed some light on the value they add to a company.

Start-ups struggle with an important piece of the growth puzzle: building a group of loyal customers or users around their new brand. They are busy chasing investment and press, too often neglecting the very people who use their app or service: their ‘community’.

Community is why we use Instagram and not Hipstamatic. It’s why Etsy is known around the world and its competitors are not. As a community manager who works with community-focused tech companies, I’ve seen what a powerful sense of community can do for a start-up’s success.

If a group of people are so important that your start-up would fail without them, then it makes sense to guard that group of people with your life – or, at the very least, with a community manager.

Let’s look at what a community manager does, what to consider when hiring one, and how this hire will boost the bottom line of your business.

What does a community manager do?

Community needs vary from company to company, depending on if you’re a brand with an established audience or a start-up building a user base from zero. On a typical day, a community manager could be doing any number of important tasks to build a community of loyal advocates:

  • Engaging with your audience via email and social media
  • Reaching out to potential new users to let them know about your company
  • Initiating and developing relationships with influential people in your industry
  • Working with product teams to deliver and work on important insights from the community
  • Poring over data to develop strategies for retention and growth
  • Developing a programme of community events
  • Creating content that will resonate with your audience
  • Being first to respond in a crisis before something becomes a PR nightmare

While your community could be anywhere – forums, Slack, on a company’s own platform – a start-up’s most common focus for community building is on social media. Out there in the public eye, a start-up needs to show that they’re listening to and serving both their existing users and potential users.

Where do I find a community manager?

So, you’ve decided you want a community manager to join your team. What should you look for in the perfect candidate? Whether you’re bringing on board an experienced community builder or a fresh college graduate, these are the top skills to look out for.

1. A community manager needs to be an excellent communicator, especially when using digital channels such as email and social media. How do they interact with people online? Are they friendly and engaging? This is vital for building healthy relationships between your company and its users.

2. A community manager needs to know how to listen. They will be on the pulse of what your community is talking about, and should be able to understand problems and provide essential support to keep your users happy.

3. In this rapidly changing online world, a community manager needs to know the latest shifts in technology and be adaptable enough to roll with it. A growth strategy that might be working right now could be out of date in a month. A willingness to change is key.

4. In a typical day, a community manager juggles many different responsibilities at the same time. They should have a strong attention to detail, with the ability to manage multiple projects and keep pushing each one along while still executing day-to-day tasks.

5. A community manager is a self-starter, because they proactively reach out and build relationships with users online. You can’t wait for people to come to your business – a community manager is always looking for new engagement opportunities and seizing them when they arise.

6. A community manager is analytical. Community management is more than relationships, it’s highly powered by numbers. By studying user data, activity rates, social media engagements and more, they ensure your community is on track to achieve your company’s goals.

It is a community manager’s job to know a company’s audience deeply, to foster loyalty and develop new relationships to ensure continued growth. Make sure your candidate has the skills to do so.

How a community manager impacts your start-up

Once you hire a community manager to join your team, these are the areas where a focus on community will add business value.

Attract new users

It’s marketing’s job to bring new users to your door, but what happens once they open that door and walk in? By welcoming new users and making them feel at home, they’re more likely to stick with you and not one of your competitors.

Retain your existing users

You can spend advertising money bringing in new users today, not even realising that yesterday’s users are already leaving because no one was around to nurture those relationships. It costs 80pc more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one, so don’t overlook the value in focusing on retention.

Strengthen brand loyalty

You want your audience to get value from your service so that they keep coming back for more. A community manager creates programmes to foster a positive community environment and encourage fans to spread the good word to more people. Your business has the power to make people happy, and doing so will secure them as loyal users for a long time.

Manage relationships with influencers

Working with influential people in your industry, such as celebrities, bloggers or social media stars, is an excellent tactic to get your brand out there in front of large audiences. A community manager nurtures these highly influential relationships to contribute to your start-up’s growth.

Act fast in a crisis

It’s a fact that companies mess up from time to time. If you upset your audience – for example, by releasing an unintentionally offensive ad or getting rid of a feature that users loved – your community manager will be the first to hear about it directly from the source. They handle these difficult situations and put out a PR fire before it spreads.

Inform your product development

To deliver features your community loves, you need to listen to your users’ comments, ideas and criticisms so you can ensure they don’t cancel their subscription or delete your app. Your community manager is listening and engaging with users all day, so they can prioritise what your users want and feed the feedback loop for your product development team.

Being a community-first company has tremendous marketing value. Done right, your community of users becomes an extension of your marketing team because they are spreading the word about your brand in their daily lives. Hiring someone to be responsible for supporting and growing your community will help drive your start-up’s bottom line.

By Donal O’Conghaile

Donal O’Conghaile established himself as a community manager in New York City, spending six years engaging audiences for start-ups and internationally known consumer brands.

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