Why Companies Need Experienced Community Managers

March 4, 2024

Managing a community is not just about posting content or policing forums for bad language. It’s a multifaceted, strategic role that demands a unique blend of skills, experience, and finesse that is often underestimated by executive leadership. Let’s dive into some of the nuanced and strategic skills needed by a good community manager, and why it requires someone with a wealth of experience, not just enthusiasm to build, grow, and scale a successful community.

Internal alignment and evangelism.

A seasoned community manager acts as a bridge between the brand and its customers–that’s a given. But in my experience, around 40% of the job also involves internally aligning various department stakeholders (marketing, product management, customer success and sales), usually at the executive level. This alignment is crucial for conveying consistent messages and leveraging community feedback to drive improvements.

It also requires the confidence and clout to say to a VP or department head, “Hey, I need you to show up for a 1 hour Ask Me Anything customer event,” “Tell me how this customer feedback is influencing the roadmap”, or “I need to hijack 10 minutes of your department meeting to brief the team on what’s happening in the community”. In other words, the community manager must lead by influence to hold all the other stakeholders accountable for their part in the community’s success.

Connecting with customers.

Experienced community managers have the knack for building genuine relationships. They understand the nuances of each individual customer’s behavior, preferences, and pain points, allowing them to engage in meaningful conversations, not just transactions. This deep connection fosters brand loyalty and turns community members into brand advocates. Let’s say for example, a customer redeems all of their community’s rewards at once.

An experienced community manager would know to follow up with that customer, congratulate them on their rewards, and ask if there’s a story behind the redemption–because often, “cashing out” is indicative that the customer is leaving their job (and what a great opportunity to discover that early and have a warm lead at the new company!) A less experienced community manager would likely not even notice or follow up on the “cashing out” behavior, let alone what it indicates or the potential it could create.

Driving business outcomes.

It’s a misconception that community management is just about engagement. Vanity metrics like social shares, and monthly active users are easy to cite, but they don’t demonstrate to a CFO how the community is ultimately contributing to revenue. Through targeted content, exclusive offers, and direct engagement, seasoned managers can subtly guide members towards additional purchases, often by showcasing the value and relevance of how other customers within the community are already benefiting from those additional features/products and making the appropriate introductions.

It’s as much a matchmaking skill as it is storytelling, and it all has to be subtle. Community needs to be a safe space, and customers will not engage (or stay) if they feel like they’re being pressured to buy. In order to strike that delicate balance, the community manager is often going to have to tell an enthusiastic sales leader “no”, or “not like this”, or push back on a marketing executive who wants to invite everybody to join the community (so that there’s more immediate ROI) in favor of a more measured approach that leads toward better long-term success.

Content strategy and creation.

While content creation is a part of the job, the strategic development of that content is where the real magic happens. Experienced professionals understand how to craft content that resonates, educates, entertains, and converts. It’s not just about what’s posted, but when, how, and why—aligning content with broader business goals and customer journeys.

A junior community manager is likely to simply take the content from Product Marketing and Sales–which is usually written for an audience of top-of-funnel prospects rather than customers–and repost it verbatim. A seasoned pro is much more likely to consider customer needs and rewrite that content into something relevant to customers at each stage of their lifecycle. They’ll also be able to leverage their deeper relationships with customers to source and produce compelling customer-generated content.

Crisis management and moderation.

Communities are unpredictable. A comment, post, or external event can quickly escalate into a crisis. Experienced community managers are adept at noticing subtle signs of customer frustration and can communicate that issue to the appropriate stakeholders within the company, as well as offer potential remedies.

In many ways, the aberrant behavior by a community member can be the first sign of trouble within an account, since most Customer Success Managers only regularly communicate with one or two contacts, and it’s unlikely that the community member with the issue is one of those people. A seasoned pro can identify and triage these problems before they escalate and put the renewal/upsell/cross-sell at risk.

Ultimately, while enthusiasm and a fresh perspective are valuable, managing a community is a strategic role that significantly impacts a brand’s reputation, customer loyalty, and even its bottom line. It requires an experienced professional who can navigate the complex, dynamic world of community management with strategic insight, business acumen, and a deep understanding of human behavior.

To put it simply: it’s the difference between someone who does what they’re told, and someone with the expertise to tell others in the organization (including people higher up the authority chain) what needs to be done for the community’s success and have the vision and gravitas to make sure it happens.

Why companies need experienced community managers

This is a guest blog by Lauren Turner, member of the Advocacy Mavens Coalition.

The Advocacy Mavens Coalition is an association of open for contracting customer-led professionals, each with extensive industry experience. We’re experts in building advocacy and community programs, designing experiences, running advisory boards, creating content, managing and migrating platforms, and more.

Our members are experienced advocacy marketing strategists, community and customer success managers, educators, designers, video producers, analysts, and technical consultants. Whatever your program goals, this coalition has you covered!

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