The explosion of social media is something of a double-edged sword for marketers. While the proliferation of social media networks provides numerous new channels for direct customer engagement, the necessary scale of participation can be overwhelming.

Community Manager -- The 3 Essential Functions

That’s where the community manager comes in. As detailed in a new e-book from marketing automation vendor Eloqua, “The Grande Guide to Community Management,” there are three essential functions of a community manager. Namely:

  • Customer Advocate -- The spread of social media means a single customer can share their opinions with thousands of people worldwide, amplifying the impact of both positive and negative feedback. The community manager monitors social media commentary on a brand and its competitors and initiates dialogue or routes customer concerns and complaints to appropriate experts as needed.

  • Company Glue -- The community manager connects appropriate people and department behind the scenes so that customers receive a unified and appropriate message through disparate social media channels.

  • Creative Kickstarter -- Customers often share ideas for new products, additional features, or product enhancements. The community manager is responsible for spreading these ideas internally. 

Community Management Cuts Off PR Disasters

A community manager acts as a buffer between a company and its customers, and performs many tasks including fielding complaints and using modern communication skills to address external issues with internal solutions. By delving deep into social media “chatter” to retrieve valuable data, the community manager uncovers valuable information no other employee or department otherwise has access to.

As a result, the community manager can notify marketing executives as soon as any negative trends develop, gather other appropriate stakeholders, help drive the creation of a response plan, and then serve as a direct responder to customer concerns and complaints, thus diffusing what could otherwise have proven to be a disastrous and embarrassing PR gaffe.

In addition, the community manager can help separate influential customers from “cranks” or non-influential customers and also notify customers when a complaint has been resolved.  

The community manager can enhance their value by taking their work offline. This can include steps such as hosting in-person meetups or conferences with a brand’s social followers, bringing customers, employees and prospects together with informal networking “happy hours,” and having one-on-one coffees, lunches and dinners with the most influential social followers.

Measuring Community Manager Value

It is always a little tricky to measure the value of a social media expense such as community management, but Eloqua recommends benchmarking statistics such as number of social media followers and social community participants to form a baseline before launching a community management effort. This allows a company to set concrete goals (such as increasing social media followers by 50 percent) and also see how much new engagement a community manager creates. 

In terms of hard ROI, Eloqua advises that while a company can determine results such as the cost of an individual “like” on Facebook, there is no set value for a single “like,” so some internal analysis will be required to determine an actual ROI value. Companies should also examine results such as whether a community manager reduces the hours, manpower or money spent on managing social media activities.

To maximize the value a community manager provides, Eloqua recommends they possess five key traits: strong listening and writing skills, commitment to making customers and prospects feel heard, a team mentality, strong initiative and willingness to experiment.

Social Media Campaigns Don’t Match Consumer Engagement Patterns

As an example of what happens when companies do not engage in proper community management, consider recent findings from Yesmail. Using its proprietary Market Intelligence tool, Yesmail tracked and analyzed more than 20 popular clothing retailers’ Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and email campaigns over a three-month period to assess how effective they were in driving consumer engagement. What they found indicated that many social media and email campaigns do not match up with consumers’ patterns for when and how they engage with brands.

What’s causing the disconnect, exactly? Yesmail seems to think that it’s combination of not having the right tools, not being able to harness the power of the customer data available, and the inability to produce actionable insights to drive a successful brand strategy. A qualified community manager can enact a strategy to solve all of these problems and align social media campaigns with consumer engagement patterns.