I was talking at Columbia College and to the Founding Moms this week and THE question came up both times – what makes for a good social media community manager? What should you look for when you hire a community manager? They must be popular on Twitter, right? They must have social media experience?
Maybe, maybe not.
Here are the 3 characteristics that set up social media community managers for success:
1. Must love people.
The most effective community managers are the ones who are genuinely social and interested in others. Those who cannot feel respect and appreciation for their audiences will have a hard time building an audience. Just because social networks don’t allow direct eye contact it doesn’t mean all human relationship building rules go out the window. In fact, since it is impossible to read physical cues online, our interactions have to be highly infused with energetic and illustrative language, warmth, responsiveness and curiosity. And since I brought up language, it is time to move on to number 2.
2. Can write, and must write very very well.
Although social media networks use “short form” writing, the principles of writing still apply. Writing is story-telling, it’s math, it’s music, it’s poetry, it’s logic. It’s the ability to write your story in a way that allows our audience to empathize with it yet be fair, balanced and rational. And then you have to be able to let your writing belong to someone else, your audience.
As Stephen King describes it in “On Writing”:
Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right — as right as you can, anyway — it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize it.
3. Must have tough skin
I love turtles. They are tough and steady, yet soft on the inside. They gave unbelievable grace and speed under water. They live a long time, and can spend time on land and under water. They are the guardians of the reefs, and without our reefs our Oceans’ ecosystems are not possible.
The community manager should be graceful and tough-shelled like a turtle. When we represent businesses online we expect a small percentage of people will complain, give unfair feedback, demand discounts or any other number of possibly-unpleasant interactions. The community manager shouldn’t care. Customer satisfaction comes first. Whether the customer is right or wrong, we must respond with kindness, quickly resolve problems, and move on to helping other customers.
We have much to learn here from the “call center reps.” Despite what we may think of call centers, they are amazing service machines. Imagine dozens of calls coming in, most of them from unhappy and demanding customers, and you have to keep them happy, and meet quality and cost-savings standars (keep the call at the required time-length for example), and often close the call with a sale. So far social media community managers have it easy compared to the call center rep.
Social media networks are new media customer service centers where complaints and feedback are publicly and very quickly dished out. So if you can deal with criticism, with being turned down, challenged and having your buttons pushed, as well be able t0 focus on the true privilege and joy of meeting people online and building relationships, you will make for a great community manager.
In your experience, what are the top qualities of a social media community manager?
Seeing the turtle made me want to add a #5, be quick like a rabbit. But if you have the first three qualities, then you'll naturally reply fast anyways, because A) You care, B) You have the confidence in writing C) You won't run away. Great article, manamica
Absolutely love this, Mana. Spot on. Particularly #2. Words are so easy to manipulate and people are so brief these days that a bad writer can really mess things up for a company. I think you're only missing one suggestion: Hire Mana.
And thanks for the Founding Moms mention!