Community Managers: The Unsung Heroes of Brand Building

In the era of digital transformation, companies are realizing that building a strong online community is no longer a nice-to-have – it‘s a must-have. And at the center of these thriving communities are the unsung heroes of brand building: community managers.

Community managers are the bridge between a brand and its audience, responsible for fostering meaningful connections, driving engagement, and promoting loyalty. But what does it really take to excel in this dynamic role?

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll dive into what a community manager does, why they‘re so critical for business success, and most importantly – how to become a truly great one. Let‘s get started!

The Community Manager Role, Defined

At the most basic level, a community manager is responsible for building, growing, and nurturing a brand‘s online community. This can include moderating discussions, creating content, answering questions, and serving as the face and voice of the brand across various platforms.

But dig a little deeper, and you‘ll see that community management is so much more than just posting on social media or responding to comments. It‘s about:

  • Building relationships: Community managers are the human connection between a brand and its customers. They build trust, foster emotional connections, and make people feel seen and valued.

  • Driving engagement: A thriving community doesn‘t just happen – it needs to be strategically cultivated. Community managers constantly ideate new ways to spark conversations, encourage interactions, and keep people coming back for more.

  • Listening and learning: Community managers have their finger on the pulse of the audience. They listen to feedback (both positive and negative), identify trends, and gather insights that can inform everything from product development to marketing strategies.

  • Shaping brand perception: In many ways, the community manager is the guardian of the brand. They ensure that all interactions align with the brand‘s voice, values, and goals, and quickly address any potential issues or crises.

In short, community managers wear many hats – and their impact extends far beyond the realm of likes and comments. They are essential drivers of brand awareness, customer satisfaction, and ultimately, business growth.

The Business Impact of Community Management

Still not convinced that community management is a critical role? Let the data speak for itself:

  • 86% of marketers believe having a branded online community deepens customer relationships (source)
  • 66% of companies with online communities say their community has led to increased web traffic (source)
  • Highly engaged communities can result in 21% greater profitability (source)

What‘s more, investing in community can have a direct impact on your bottom line:

  • 90% of online community members say the community has an influence over their purchase behaviors (source)
  • Customers who engage with a brand‘s community spend 19% more than those who don‘t (source)

Beyond the numbers, a strong community can also serve as an invaluable source of insights and feedback. 71% of marketers say their community has provided perspectives they would have otherwise missed (source).

The takeaway? Having a dedicated community manager isn‘t just a smart move – it‘s a business imperative.

What Great Community Managers Do Differently

Now that we‘ve established the immense value of community management, let‘s look at what sets the great ones apart from the rest. After years of working with and learning from top community builders, here are the key things I‘ve observed:

1. They prioritize relationships over metrics

Great community managers understand that fostering genuine, human connections is more important than chasing vanity metrics. While they certainly track key performance indicators (KPIs), they don‘t let the numbers overshadow the needs of individual community members.

Here are some ways they put relationships first:

  • Personalizing interactions: Whether it‘s using someone‘s name, referencing a past conversation, or simply using a warm and friendly tone, great community managers make people feel seen and valued as individuals.
  • Going above and beyond: They don‘t just provide surface-level answers, but aim to thoroughly address people‘s needs and concerns. This may involve doing additional research, connecting them with useful resources, or even hopping on a quick call.
  • Showing appreciation: From thanking someone for their feedback to highlighting a member‘s contributions, they consistently express gratitude and make people feel appreciated.

2. They act as brand ambassadors

Community managers are often the most visible and accessible representatives of a brand, so it‘s crucial that they embody the brand‘s mission, values, and voice in every interaction.

Some key things great CMs do to uphold the brand:

  • Staying true to brand guidelines: They ensure all communications (even casual social posts) align with established brand guidelines around tone, style, and messaging.
  • Embodying brand values: They walk the talk by demonstrating the brand‘s core values in their own conduct. For example, if a core value is transparency, they communicate openly and honestly with the community.
  • Advocating for the community‘s needs: They act as a bridge between the community and internal teams, relaying feedback and ensuring the community‘s voice is heard in company decisions.

3. They‘re always learning and adapting

The digital landscape is constantly evolving, and great community managers are committed to staying ahead of the curve. They‘re open to new ideas, tools, and strategies that can help them better serve their communities.

Some ways they stay agile:

  • Staying up to date on trends: They follow industry publications, attend events, and participate in online forums to stay in the know about the latest community management best practices and platform updates.
  • Experimenting and iterating: They‘re not afraid to try new engagement tactics, whether it‘s a new content format or a creative campaign idea. They closely monitor results and use data to continuously optimize their approach.
  • Seeking out knowledge sharing: They proactively connect with other community managers to swap ideas, troubleshoot challenges, and learn from one another‘s experiences.
Skill Beginning Developing Proficient Advanced
Engagement Responds to direct questions and comments Proactively starts conversations and encourages interactions Develops and implements engagement strategies, e.g. contests, AMAs Continuously optimizes engagement tactics based on community data and feedback
Content Creation Curates relevant content to share with the community Creates original content (e.g. blog posts, graphics) based on community interests Develops and executes a content calendar aligned with key initiatives Collaborates with cross-functional teams to create interactive content experiences
Crisis Management Escalates potential issues to manager Tactfully addresses conflicts while adhering to community guidelines Develops crisis response plans and messaging templates Leads real-time response to high-stakes community crises
Data Analysis Tracks basic community metrics like membership growth and engagement rate Identifies trends and insights from community data Develops dashboards and reports to share learnings with key stakeholders Uses community insights to make strategic recommendations to leadership

Community Manager Skills Progression Matrix

4. They balance reactive and proactive engagement

Much of community management is reactive by nature – you‘re responding to questions, feedback, and issues as they arise. But great CMs also proactively cultivate engagement and nurture relationships.

Some proactive engagement tactics:

  • Conversation starters: Posing thoughtful questions, sharing relevant news stories, or creating polls to spark discussions.
  • Exclusive content: Offering community-only perks like sneak peeks, beta access, or special discounts.
  • Value-added resources: Creating helpful content like how-to guides, video tutorials, or case studies based on community needs and interests.

5. They have strong soft skills

Technical skills like data analysis and content creation are certainly important, but the best community managers also possess standout soft skills. After all, the role is all about building relationships and shaping experiences.

Some of the most essential soft skills for CMs:

  • Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of others, and communicate in a way that makes people feel supported.
  • Active listening: Fully concentrating on and comprehending what‘s being said, and responding thoughtfully.
  • Adaptability: Being able to adjust quickly to different situations, platforms, and personalities.
  • Creativity: Generating innovative ideas to keep the community engaged and energized.

Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Other important skills include collaboration, problem-solving, and of course – a good sense of humor!

Measuring Community Manager Success

As with any role, it‘s important to have clear metrics in place to track performance and measure ROI. While exact KPIs will vary based on community maturity and specific goals, here are some common ones:

  • Engagement rate: Measures the level of interaction within the community, such as comments, likes, and shares per post.
  • Response time: Tracks how quickly community managers respond to questions and comments.
  • Membership growth: Measures how many new members join the community over a given period.
  • Retention rate: Assesses how well the community retains existing members over time.
  • Sentiment: Gauges the overall tone and attitude of community conversations (positive, neutral, negative).

To give you a sense of benchmarks, here are some average engagement rates by platform:

Platform Average Engagement Rate
Facebook 0.27%
Twitter 0.07%
Instagram 1.16%
LinkedIn 0.35%

Source: Rival IQ, 2022 Social Media Industry Benchmark Report

Keep in mind that these are just averages – engagement rates can vary widely by industry, content type, and audience size. The key is to track your own metrics consistently over time and use them to inform your strategy.

Beyond the quantitative metrics, it‘s also important to track qualitative feedback from the community. Regular surveys, sentiment analysis, and even casual check-ins can provide valuable insights into what‘s working and where there‘s room for improvement.

Career Paths for Community Managers

As the importance of community management continues to grow, so do the career opportunities. While exact titles and responsibilities may vary by company, here‘s a general career progression for community managers:

  1. Junior/Associate Community Manager: Typically an entry-level role focused on day-to-day community operations like moderating conversations, responding to questions, and creating content.

  2. Community Manager: A mid-level role that involves more strategic planning and cross-functional collaboration, in addition to daily community management tasks.

  3. Senior Community Manager: A leadership role that oversees a team of community managers, sets the overall community strategy, and works closely with stakeholders across the organization.

  4. Director of Community: An executive-level role responsible for driving community-led growth across the company, managing budgets, and proving the ROI of community efforts.

According to Glassdoor, the average base pay for a community manager in the United States is $53,856 per year, with salaries ranging from $37,000 to $77,000 depending on experience level and location.

But career growth isn‘t just about climbing the corporate ladder – it‘s also about continually expanding your skill set and finding ways to make a bigger impact. Some additional career paths for community managers include:

  • Community Strategist: Focuses on developing high-level community strategies and programs aligned with business goals.
  • Community Operations Manager: Oversees the technical and logistical aspects of running a community, such as platform management and vendor relationships.
  • Community Evangelist: Acts as the face and voice of the community, building relationships with key members and advocating for the community both internally and externally.

Regardless of your exact career path, one thing is certain – the future is bright for community managers. As more and more brands recognize the power of community, there will be no shortage of opportunities to make your mark.

Go Forth and Build Community!

We covered a lot of ground in this guide – from the nitty gritty of what community managers do every day to the big picture impact they can have on a company‘s bottom line. But perhaps the most important takeaway is this:

Community management is all about people.

It‘s about building genuine connections, creating a sense of belonging, and empowering people to come together around a shared passion or purpose. And in a world that‘s increasingly digital and disconnected, that‘s a pretty powerful thing.

So whether you‘re just starting out in your community management career or you‘re a seasoned pro looking to up your game, remember that your work matters. By showing up, engaging authentically, and always putting your community first, you have the power to make a real difference – not just for your company, but for the people you serve.

Now if you‘ll excuse me, I have some comments to respond to!