Archive for the ‘Community Manager’ Category


Trend: Some Community Management Activities to be Outsourced

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As we continue to conduct research in the social business arena, it’s important to point out the trends in the space. In particular, a role that is so key to success for customer engagement (marketing and service) is the challenging (and often under-appreciated) community manager role.  Lately, I’ve found a few trends that community managers (and their bosses) need to be aware of, as the space continues to grow.

Third Party Community Management Specialists On The Rise:
Here’s what we’ve been seeing based on a few briefings and interactions I’ve taken in the past few months: 

  • Recently, I spoke to a group of community managers at Weber Shandwick (invited by Stephanie Agresta) a communications agency, they work closely with their clients and are often representing the brand on behalf of the client who is unable to scale with limited resources. They also offer an interesting service called Firebell which simulates crises in a safe environment.
  • A few days ago, I was briefed by Cap Gemini who offers BPO (Business Process Outsourcing, a term I’ve found most on the marketing side don’t know), and they are partnered with Attensity (software) to provide community management services and support.
  • While many community platforms offer CM services, Liveworld (client) has focus here and, is one of the seasoned mainstays in community management and offers services (and software) to brands that seek community management services on demand.
  • I’ve been briefed by Sean O’Driscoll at Ant’s Eye View and they offer a range of services at the strategy level for their clients but also offers community management and analytics services.
  • A few weeks back, Chief Strategy Officer Peter Kim from Dachis group briefed Altimeter on their various strategy, implementation services, including community management as a managed service.

Altimeter Data Shows Staff and Agency Spend Top Spends
If you look at Altimeter spending data in Social Business, we already see a significant amount of revenues going to internal staff as well as agency folks, and it’s interesting to see how boutique social media agencies overtake traditional agencies in spending, I’m seeing an increase of community management staff be on demand from agency and third party side.

Expect Emerging Markets to Offer BPO Services, Outsourcing Some Activities
Last year, I went out to Manila to meet with the local web, agency, and business groups, and met some folks who work within the established BPO industry, most of these companies are known to manage the overseas call centers that you speak to for customer support. While I found they were not ready for ‘social support’ I’m starting to get briefings and hearing how they are gearing up to move into outsourced community management.  Based upon my experience, I see a range of Community Management services, I’m open to adding to this, based upon your feedback:


Matrix: Four Levels of Community Management Services:

Activity What it looks like Trends
4) Strategy Often behind the scenes, they lead the overall strategy of how customers fit into multiple business units. Often does reporting and responsible for return on investment. This activity is likely to stay within the corporation as they have understanding of business goals, and key relationships
3) Brand Representation Represents the story of the brand (and of course that of customers) and is often a primary face of the company in online communities on an ongoing basis. Often within the corporation, sometimes this role is being held by agency partners, such as “Jenny at Axe” who was a full time Edelman employee.
2) Member Response Responds to frequent product inquiries such as “Do you have this or that?” or “Does anyone know how to X” Often this is being served by a Product Marketing Manager, Product Manager, or Customer service representative –all who have been trained and know where knowledge is. Like other customer service channels, expect more of this role to be shifted to third-parties.
1) Moderation, Curation, Analytics Often behind the scenes, this group reviews content, and conducts triage for the content. They also may curate content and conduct basic reporting. Frequently, I’m hearing these skills are being leveraged by outsourced providers as they have minimal impact to customer relationships, I expect this to continue



Expect A Change in Community Management Sourcing:
The one constant of business is that it is always changing.  Due to weak financial markets and inability for most to measure social business, scrutiny of resources is always top of mind, as a result, expect the following trends: 

  • An increase in offerings of community management services from “emerging” markets. While in many cases, I’ve found that community managers are often in the brand or agency side that are close to the corporate HQ, expect to see an increase of service providers from Philippines, India, and perhaps in South America.  They’ve over a decade of experience managing customer service operations for brands on channels like phone –and can benefit to use channels accents won’t be a distraction to the customer experience.
  • Brands to continue to outsource some community manager activities –while strategic skills stay in house. Expect that brands will outsource activities such as moderation/curation and often reporting, and rely on knowledge workers who have specific product information or key client relationships to stay close to the brand.  In the case of a few companies who enter the “holistic” formation, they will enable thousands of employees to respond –spreading the role across the company.
  • Backlash from embedded community managers –yet savvy will “skill up” now. While we see that the number of social media accounts a brand has to manage on the rise (data), this trend won’t be met without opposition, in fact, many voiced their concern on my Google+ page how outsourcing key relationships between brands and customers is what gets companies into hot waters in the first place.  Yet, I expect many community managers to move into high echelon activities such as community programming on the content side, reporting and analytics, and learning to manage outsourced teams.

While I’m no longer in a community role (I used to be on brand side for social media), I wanted to provide my perspective from my vantage point.  Lastly, remember that Community Manager Appreciation Day is every fourth Monday in Jan, every year (this coming Monday, Jan 24th 2012), and should be used to celebrate all community managers, whether on brand side, agency, or outsourced.

Update: Taking a briefing from Crowdflower that have some of these services, but it must go through their platform and API. They do crowdsourced BPO

List of Corporate Social Media Strategists, Corporate Community Managers in 2010

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Update Jan 7, 2011: I am no longer updating this list, instead, find the more updated list for 2011 for Corporate Social Strategists.

As an industry watcher, I look at trends, data, spending, technologies, yet what’s really important is watching the trend of professionals as they grow into these roles managing disruptive technologies.  Update: Brian Hayashi has created a spreadsheet of this with additional info –like Twitter handles. We’re staying coordinated so the data is matched, follow Brian on Twitter.

[Connecting with customers using social technologies is deceptively challenging, as most outsiders don’t recognize the leadership to change internal cultural. Now, in public, let’s recognize those who are paving the way]

Methodology: About this List
This 2010 list is an update from the original I started in 2008, it was woefully out of date as people moved around.  This list is updated, as I’ve separated the large technology section in HW vs SW and am only linking to LinkedIn accounts.

A majority of this data is based off submissions in the 2008 post, which most which are self-submissions or from their fellow colleagues and we only link to their already public profile in LinkedIn for verification.  We’ve spend days compiling this data, but due to the content ever changing, we expect there to be some inaccuracies, leave a comment if you see something that needs fixing. Thanks to Sonal Mehta a student at American University who I’ve hired helped me in this research.

Read Carefully: How to get on this List
In a world of noise, curation becomes very valuable, as a result, there are very specific requirements for this list, which include:  1) You must have a public LinkedIn profile page, as this is one of the best way to verify employment. 2) The profile indicates that social media is part of your full time employee role at the corporation–not just for personal or casual use.  3) You must work at an enterprise class corporation with more than 1000 employees, 4) Must be on brand side  5) You’ll kindly leave a comment below with the submission for review.   Due to excess volume, submissions by Twitter and emails or other channels will not be included, kindly leave a comment in this centralized area below.

In an effort to keep information in a tight scope, I’m not able to include folks who are doing great work in other sectors.  However, if you decide to create a list for other sectors, I’ll prominently link to it from this post.  Update: Here’s a growing list for non-profits.

Sign Up For Upcoming Free Report: Skillset of the Social Media Strategist
The Altimeter Group is developing a free research report, on “Skillsets of Social Media Strategists” and will identify the attributes, backgrounds, experience of this emerging role, if you’re interested in receiving a copy, please register on this form.  We will use portions of the data found in this post for the research report, so thanks for helping to update it.


Social Media Strategists at Corporations
The strategist is a program manager, who mainly focuses internally rather than being the external public face like the community manager. They are primarily responsible for resources, processes, teams, they are usually internally focused and ultimately, return on investment.

Airline

Automotive

Business Services

Consumer Product Goods

Electronics, Devices, Mobile

Financial Services

Health and Life Sciences

Hospitality, Food Service

Government, Armed Services, Education

Media and Entertainment

Retail

Technology, Hardware, Networking, Component, Computer

Technology, Software, Internet


Community Managers at Corporations
The  community manager is primarily externally facing, and interacts with customers as the public face of the company.  They are primarily customer advocates, evangelists, bloggers, community moderators,  and experts at using social technologies to communicate.  We honor them every fourth Monday of January on Community Manager Appreciation Day.  To keep the focus tight, this list is only of corporate community managers, and not those on contract at community platform vendors or service companies on contract.

Automotive

Business Services

Government, Armed Services, Education

Hospitality and Travel

Electronics, Devices, Mobile

Financial Services

Retail

Technology, Hardware, Networking, Component, Computer

Technology, Software, Internet

Social Media Researchers and Social Media Product Managers at Corporations
When I started this list in 2008, I didn’t have a specific slot for researchers and product managers who are creating these products. These roles are not folks who are using the technologies for marketing, support, or other business use cases (end users) but instead are researching and creating the products that the above professionals will use in their jobs.

I’m passionate about what these folks do, as I, myself, was a strategist/community manager at an enterprise corporation a few years ago.   Update: Thanks to Altimeter’s Andrew Jones for the assistance on the updates.

Community Manager Appreciation Day #CMAD (Every 4th Monday of Jan)

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Every fourth Monday of January, let’s take the time to pause, recognize, and celebrate the efforts community managers around the world to improve customer experiences.

Passionate About Customers
The title matters not, whether it’s online customer advocate, online customer support, company evangelist, disgruntled customer handler. Instead, focus on what they do: A customer advocate willing to help regardless of where they are online. Learn more by reading the Four Tenants of Community Managers.

Yet, Community Managers Don’t Have it Easy
Yet despite their admirable intentions, we know they face several uphill challenges:

  • Many challenges are internal: Most companies want to hide customer issues, and shuffle them into existing support systems. Additionally, measuring ROI in new media when a company wants to keep the kimono shut, increasingly becomes a challenge.
  • Seemingly never ending job: Customers never stop having problems, and with the global internet, the questions, complains, and inquires never stop.
  • Emotional drain impacts lifestyle: The sheer emotional strain of dealing with a hundreds of yelling customers and the occasional trouble maker will take a strain on anyone.
  • Privacy risks in the world of transparency: In an effort to build trust with customers, they expose their real name exposing their personal –and family– privacy forever on.

Now, Recognize A Community Manager, Every 4th Monday of January
While we agree with common manners to always thank someone after they’ve helped you, just take a moment to pause.. and think. Why would someone willingly go through the above mentioned challenges? Because of their passion to improve the company, and help customers have a better relationship. In many cases, a genuine ‘thank you’ can mean more than a yearly customer satisfaction survey. Take the time to recognize and thank the community manager that may have helped you while you during your time of need.

  • If you’re a customer, and your problem was solved by a community manager be sure to thank them in the medium that helped you in. Use the hashtag #CMAD.
  • If you’re a colleague with community manager, take the time to understand their passion to improve the customer –and company experience. Copy their boss.
  • If you’re a community manager, stop and breathe for a second, and know that you’re appreciated. Hug your family.

This isn’t just about a single role, but a bigger trend of making product and services more efficient, and thereby our world a little bit more efficient and sustainable. The comments are wide open if you wanted to share your experience working with community manager, or as one, feel free to thank them below.

Supported by Bill Johnston, Connie Benson, Rachel Happe, Jake McKee, Sean O’Driscoll, Lane Becker, Dawn Foster, Thor Muller, Amy Muller and Jeremiah Owyang, as we recognize and salate community managers!

Related Links

  • HRZone recognizes Becky Midgley
  • Jake McKee says this is (just about) the loneliest job
  • Bill Johnston, recognizes community managers
  • Amy Muller, Get Satisfaction contemplates where community management is and where it’s heading.
  • Amy also asks the community to showcase her community management heros.
  • Dawn Foster asks if you’ve thanked your community manager today.
  • Dawn shouts out to community managers.
  • Sam reasons why the community manager role is essential.
  • Connie Benson, a great friend, shouts out to community managers.
  • Rachel Happe gives reasons why we should pause and thank community managers
  • Connie Bensen of Alterian sent me this screenshot of mentions
  • Community Managers Must Deliver ROI: Commandments For Surviving a Recession

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    I’m a former community manager, and many of my friends are currently in this role, and I want to make sure they are armed with the right knowledge to succeed during hard times –I know some of them may get laid off.

    Community Managers are at risk of being let go
    During a recession, we know that marketing, sometimes new media and unknown expenses get cut. Unfortunately, to some, the Community Manager role may sit in all three of those areas of scrutiny. Although I’ve been tracking quite a few Community Managers working at enterprise class companies, they must quickly learn to measure, and demonstrate ROI or risk getting cut.

    Community Managers must educate stakeholders and management.
    Measurement depends on which objective they are trying to solve, so I’ll break it down into specific objectives and tasks. During incidents the community manager should report in real-time to key stakeholders. Secondly, they should provide weekly updates that can be quickly scanned in 30 seconds to community managers. Each month, they should provide a detailed report, and initiate a 30-60 minute meeting with key stakeholders to discuss changes.

    Among these changes they should measure:

    Improvement in marketing efficiency
    Community Managers should measure increased speed from word of mouth or marketing awareness, the best way to measure this is time from awareness to close –or spread of WOM. This could also include increase understanding of customers (listening) for marketing research, or warning stakeholders about potential detractors before they become real issues. Unfortunately, these metrics aren’t valued as much as the next two, so focus accordingly.

    Reduction in support costs
    The bottom line is always important to business, so if you can measure a decrese in customers going to physical stores, emailing account reps, or calling the support center as they instead rely on community to help self-support themselves, you can start to put dollar costs on this actual community savings.

    Actual improvement to sales
    This matters most. Community Managers should start to measure how clicks from community directly impact ecommerce, go to product pages (perhaps if you’re B2B) or to affiliate marketing to demonstrate how community interaction increases revenue. If you can demonstrate this (like Dell’s million dollar sales in Twitter) tout this loudly to management.

    Conduct additional research
    If you’re like most companies, layoffs are coming, therefore Community Managers must educate the powers that be the value that they offer when it comes to customer service and support. Rather than focus purely on the role that they have, they should demonstrate the overall of the community –then discusss why a role is needed (like a physical store manager) in order to keep it running smoothly. Consider running quarterly surveys that measure Net Ratings or customer satisfaction, and don’t forget to quote qualitative responses from community members themselves, there’s nothing like a pure customer testimonial about why they are customers.

    If you’ve other tips for Community Managers during a recession, leave a comment below.

    Update: Bill Johnston has some additional tips you should read, he also left a comment below.

    Job Hazards of the Community Manager

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    I started out my social media career as a community manager, and can see why several community managers have expressed some concerns about our over connected world. It seems that some of them are cursed with the very technology that gets them paid.

    You see, some community managers have a hard time separating their personal and their professional lives. In some cases, I’ve heard that the members of the communities they serve become so comfortable with them as a social contact that they send them friend requests in Facebook, (where some community managers may have personal and family info) follow their tweets, and connect with them in many ways.

    As a result, the work of the community manager is never done, they’re now completely connected to the community they serve. While sure, an effective for way to build trust and really know your community at work, this leaves very little personal space. In some cases, I’m sure that community managers will get requests in Facebook to solve issues, or take feedback, as well as exposing their personal life to their customers.

    Perhaps one of the most scary cases are those of troublemaker community members that become so livid when they are reprimanded or removed from a community that they seek personal revenge against the community manager, and are able to find out way more information than any phone support person would have supplied.

    As a result, expect community managers to create more than one personal identity, withhold personal information, and potentially suffer from burnout or frustration at work and at home. These are the challenges of being connected to the community you serve –even during off hours.

    Love to hear from the community managers out there, what are the other hazards of the job?

    Scorecard: Should Startups Have Community Managers?

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    Marshall poses the question (and does analysis and conducts informal interviews) do startups need Community Managers? He points to my growing list of enterprise class companies who are adopting these roles, but we should also examine the startup.

    First of all, if you don’t know what a community manager is, start with these four tenants on my blog, or read the Forrester report (aimed towards corporate, not startups) how to staff for social computing.

    An excellent piece, but let’s step it up and look at the bigger question, for startups, corporations, or mid sized companies. The real question to ask is “Should companies engage customers and prospects in a collaborative nature online”. The answer? “it depends”.

    Marshall’s post gleans opinions from those that agree and disagree with the notion, all of them make sense, and I’m sure I’d agree that you don’t always need one. For example, the cash strapped company, having a dedicated role to manage community relations is costly, especially when you’re trying to get the next product iteration out. Another thought is that for small startups, nearly everyone is doing community relations, it’s not one specific role. Lastly, a few reasons why it doesn’t make sense is if there is no social aspect to your product, if it’s just being consumed, and no one has questions or needs to develop or share it with others (a component part perhaps) they the need to have relations doesn’t make sense.

    Of course there are lots of considerations, Dawn lists out others, for some financial companies this may be a challenge due to legal restrictions (although Mint had Damon Billian as the community manager for some time). But taking a look at most startups (as to how Marshall is referring to them) he’s often asking about the web startups.

    [Should Startups Have Community Managers? It depends, use this informal scorecard to conduct self-analysis and to trigger an internal discussion]

    Startups are unique compared to large funded corporations, so, let’s list out when it makes sense and when it doesn’t using this scorecard


    Add Positive Points. Startups should have a community manager when:
    You should tally check marks as “+1” for each of these:

  • Score one point if the startup has a thriving online discussion around their product
  • Score one point if the startup has a thriving discussion around the “lifestyle” that the product provides (different from above)
  • Score one point if the startup has an online web product or service
  • Score one point if the startup wants to improve products from direct customer feedback
  • Score one point if the startup’s business model requires third party developers to help growth
  • Score one point if the startup has a competitor with a community
  • Score one point if the startup has a strong product in the market and is ready for mass adoption
  • Score one point if the startup has a competitor that has a community manager role
  • Score one point if customers are ‘banging at the door’ with questions, suggestions from forums, blogs, and other resources.
  • Score one point if your customers are specifically asking for a community manager
  • Tally your positive score

    Subtract Points. Startups should NOT have a community manager for the following scenarios
    You should tally check marks as “-1” for each of these:

  • Minus one point if the startup is in stealth mode and the product isn’t yet revealed
  • Minus one point if the startup is small enough where everyone can participate
  • Minus one point if no one interacts with your existing products, or perhaps it’s quickly consumed and not discussed
  • Minus one point if the startup is small enough where every employee can act as community liaisons
  • Minus one point if the startup if there is no current online discussion at the “lifestyle” level
  • Minus one point if the startup’s product is failing and all resources should be focused on building the product
  • Minus one point if the product can be supported by the community at a 95% or greater threshold
  • Minus TWO points if the startup’s management and the orginization is not prepared to take in community feedback to make changes.
  • Tally your negative score


    = combine positive and negative points



    Next: Conduct your own self-analysis and have an internal (and external) discussion

    If you can suggest other additions or subtractions, leave a comment below. First, put yourself in the seat of the CEO or COO, does this make business sense?

    I’m not going to give you a single number where a startup should or should not hire a community manager, as I think there are internal factors that will set each companies ‘go or no go’ threshold number, but instead, use this checklist as an internal discussion point and conduct your own self-analysis.