When you are talking about online communities or social media efforts for a company, you need to think very carefully about who you put in charge. In particular, this applies to community managers, bloggers, and the people running your social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) The people in these positions become the face of your company. You want someone who will do a great job of representing your company and who fits well within your corporate culture. In short, an actual full-time employee of your company.
Earlier this week, I ran across a blog post by Jackie Huba about The Intern Trap where she says:
“Would you let a company intern:
- Man your customer service line?
- Be your receptionist?
- Be your spokesperson to the Wall Street Journal?
- Be the main contact for your most talkative customers?
If not, then why do companies put, or think of putting, interns in charge of their social media presence?”
Quoted from Church of the Customer Blog
This doesn’t just apply to interns, either. I often see companies put consultants, public relations firms, and other outsiders in these key positions. As a result, the face of the company is someone who isn’t even a company employee.
These conversations come up frequently with clients. In general, I encourage clients to put employees in these key positions rather than putting someone from the outside into a role that has so much visibility. This doesn’t mean that your interns, public relations firms, and consultants can’t be involved, but I prefer to see them helping out behind the scenes rather than being front and center. Have them work on your content roadmap for your social media efforts, find data or quotes for a blog post, or provide feedback and suggestions for making a blog post better. Consultants can provide advice and mentoring for your community manager rather than managing the community themselves.
I also think that there are a few exceptions to this rule, especially when you are dealing with very large companies. In those cases, having someone on a contract basis or as an intern step up to help with some minor community moderation can help during times where you need a little help, but not enough for a full-time employee. Likewise, big companies with dozens of bloggers can bring in someone to write a few posts in their area of expertise as a way to add some additional content under the direction of company employees. In these cases, you are bringing someone in as a supporting role, rather than putting them in a position where they become the face of the company.
I’d love to hear some examples if your company has tried this (successfully or unsuccessfully).
5 thoughts on “Community Managers and Bloggers: The Face of Your Company”
I personally think that having an intern be a community manager is ok but that having consultants or people who are not completely community manager minded is a terrible idea. Interns are at least working under the company and because it’s an internship, will put in a lot of effort. Since consultants aren’t full time employees and are hired as a temp position, they don’t necessarily feel the need to completely immerse themselves into the company/role, which is bad for you. And as for putting anyone else whose primary job is something other than community managing like marketing, ui, etc, the job will not be executed as well because being a community manager is second on their list. They are merely there filling the position until someone is hired specifically for the job.
It is completely possible that you hire an intern/consultant/other to fill your community manager position and it works out perfectly but I don’t think that is normally the case.
I am interning at a place as a Community Evangelist and because I currently have a limited role, it sometimes is hard to figure out what to say to users while you are trying to be the voice of reason. But I love interacting with my users and listening to what they have to say. And I am grooming myself to be an actual Community Manager someday so my company is probably slightly better off than other companies that have interns who are more interested in other things.
I was just put in charge of starting the company’s social media efforts. There’s a lot of work being put in to getting buy-in from management at all levels.
The goal I have is to get departments like sales & customer service involved in the process so that we all have a clear picture of how the public perceives us. Luckily, our upper management is behind the efforts.
My company, CareNetworks.com, builds and manages online communities for care-related companies and organizations. Our community managers are all health care professionals who also have expertise in social media and online community management. I personally manage three communities for three different companies. I am not an employee of any of these organizations, but I do have a vested interest in the success of their online community.
We use a “done-with-you” approach to community management by partnering with key stakeholders at each company and walking WITH them on the journey. We build trusting relationships with these individuals and help THEM be the online face of their company. We manage the technical aspects of the community, provide customer support, moderate discussions, provide education on social media, and continually optimize the site so our customers can focus on the business goals of the site and spend more time in the community. It’s a creative way to have a top-notch community manager on board without all of the associated costs. Plus, in my experience, may companies, at least in the caring professions, would be lost in the world of social media without a helping hand to guide them.
I agree that companies should not just place a paid consultant, PR firm, or other outsider in charge of their social media campaigns. This “done-for-you” approach is foolish and defeats the true purpose of company-sponsored online community and social media. The right partner, however, can bring a company’s social media campaign to a whole new level and significantly increase the likelihood of optimal outcomes.
I agree that interns will usually be very enthusiastic and will work hard during their time at the company. I’m a huge fan of intern programs and have managed many interns over the years at various companies. The issue I’m talking about is the turmoil in the community after you leave and go back to school. People get accustomed to interacting with you and then you leave and someone else comes in to manage the community, usually with a slightly different approach or different ways of doing things. This transition is what makes it difficult for the community. It will be made more difficult if they have a series of temporary community managers changing every 3-6 months. Communities are about people, and community loyalty is often as much about the people as it is about the organization behind the community.
I like the distinction you make between done-with-you and done-for-you. When I work with clients, I usually stay behind the scenes helping and providing advice while making sure that the client stays front and center in the interactions with their community. As a consultant, I can help in many different ways without ever becoming the face of the community.
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