Community Managers Part 1: Definitions

September 22nd, 2010 by Gia Lyons Leave a reply »

Differences and similarities in social business activities and related  job roles

Introduction

As many experienced at JiveWorld 2010, when it comes to which social business role is responsible for what set of activities, we are all struggling to reach a common language. Others have adroitly identified the differences between “community” and “social media,” so I won’t cover that here. Instead, I’m going to focus on the differences and similarities in what is done in three areas – Employees (Intranet), Customers/Partners (Extranet), Social Web (Internet) – and who does it.

Part 1: Definitions

First, let’s talk about what typical online community activities are. Then, I’ll describe who does them. There are horizontal, “always on” online community behaviors, or Ongoing Practices, and there are vertical, “start and stop” online community event series, or Programs.

Ongoing Practices

Similar to answering the phone when it rings and responding to email when it arrives, ongoing online community practices are primarily reactive behaviors. They are ad hoc responses to something that has happened. They typically do not have discrete funding tied to them, and do not have required formal success metrics. They are just “part of the job.”

Such ongoing practices include:

  • Notifying someone of a discussion thread they should chime in on
  • Approving access to a private group
  • Replying to a tweet or Facebook fan page post with an answer, or relevant link to more information
  • Responding to Partners’ questions in an external branded community
  • Handling reports of inappropriate use in an employee community
  • Monitoring negative comments about your brand in the social Web
  • Much, much more…
Programs

Programs, while ongoing, are made up of planned events with start and stop dates, and are primarily proactive. They usually have discrete funding tied to each of them, and require some sort of formal success metrics.

Such programs might include:

  • Corporate communications intranet content program
  • Employee profile completion awareness program
  • Partner enablement program
  • Brand champions program
  • Employee onboarding program
  • Product marketing program
  • Many more…

(I’d argue that Movements are a third area, but perhaps are an evolution of the two above into a single, new thing. If you want to learn about Movements, be sure to read the Brains on Fire book and get connected with that organization’s excellent group of kindred spirits.)

Now, let’s talk about who does this stuff.

There are several roles responsible for enacting Ongoing Practices and Programs, with many people fulfilling multiple roles. There are many other roles who participate, but are not necessarily responsible. I’m only focused on the responsible parties.

Roles for Programs

These roles are responsible for planning, creating, implementing and measuring their respective programs. I think there’s enough understanding about what these roles do, so I’m not going to cover them here. Just know that they exist and are tasked with producing results in their focus area, using social business practices and software/media, as well as more traditional communication/networking/collaboration/marketing tools, channels, media, etc.

  • Corporate Communications Director (example)
  • Employee Engagement Director
  • Sales and Channel Enablement Marketing Manager
  • Customer Marketing Manager
  • Partner Marketing Manager (example)
  • Social Media Marketing Manager
  • Product Marketing Manager
Roles For Ongoing Practices

When it comes to Ongoing Practices, things get much murkier. There are three primary roles, differentiated mainly by where the people in their community decide to participate online (there’s a whole offline component to “community” that I trust you already understand):

  • Internal Community Manager (example): focused on people who participate in employee communities
  • External Branded Community Manager (example): focused on people who participate in dedicated support, partner, business, developer, learning, conference, etc. communities
  • Social Media Community Manager (example): focused on people who interact with their company’s people, products, and brand in a variety of social Web communities, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.

There are two other roles worth mentioning – one is a superset of one or more of the above, the other is a subset.

  • Enterprise Community Manager (example): usually focused on people who participate in one or more communities, whether internal, externally branded, or social Web
  • Individual Community Manager (example): usually designated to a portion of a community rather than the entire thing, e.g., Partner Community Manager

Like I said, in many cases there is one person responsible for both the Program and Ongoing Practices in a given area. In other cases, the Program Manager has the luxury of a team of people across whom responsibilities are dispersed.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Differences and Similarities between Community Manager Types

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4 comments

  1. Rick Ladd says:

    Thanks for this, Gia. I am going to attach this to my Personal Brain as a piece of fundamental information I need to be as productive as I can be. I am currently focusing on provided my services to small to medium sized businesses where it’s likely only one person will wear many of these hats. Some, of course, are irrelevant in a small org, but there are at least ongoing activities that must be attended to for many of these roles.

    This is helpful for me to better understand, and be able to communicate, how these roles work. I look forward to Part Two, so I can have a better idea of their similarities and differences, as well.

  2. Gia Lyons says:

    Great, Rick! Glad it was helpful. I need to find some time to research for Part 2 – I was planning to check out the job histories of a cross section of practicing community managers to get a feel for any patterns of experience. All very much non-scientific, of course, since it’s not my JOB to do this kind of research, so Part 2 will likely be more of an “here are my observations – what are yours” kind of thing.

  3. Gia Lyons says:

    So, I’m going to hold off on Part 2 of this, in anticipation of Jeremiah Owyang’s upcoming research: What do Employers Want in a Corporate Social Media Strategist? http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2010/09/30/research-what-do-employers-want-in-a-corporate-social-media-strategist/

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