Published: May 01, 2018
My second job in the world of marketing was as a Community Manager at a startup called Vend. When I tell people this, without fail 9/10 people respond with some version of “oh, so you Facebook and Twitter all day”. The other 1/10 are usually just making polite conversation, and want to go back to the snack table as quickly as possible.
Community Manager is one of those roles where the individual words themselves make sense, but their meaning when combined is obscured – like ‘Angel Investor’ or ‘Growth Hacker’. This is especially true for Community Managers at lean startups, where even traditional and established roles have very non-traditional job descriptions.
Here are the four traits I'd put in every Community Manager job description to make sure I'm hiring the right person.
Back in my Community Manager days, I was often pleasantly surprised to meet customers in the real world who knew and recognised me from emails or interactions on social.
Customer: “You look less tired than your profile photo.” Me: “Umm, thanks…I guess?”
The most important goal for a Community Manager is to give their company a human presence online. People feel vulnerable and antagonised when they deal with faceless corporations, Community Managers help by giving customers a real person to talk to.
Your Sales Team and Support Team are also avatars for your company, but an important difference is their communications with customers is generally private, where as a Community Manager is representing the business to where the sup Community Managers are incredibly public-facing. So every touch point with a customer is an interaction with thousands of potential customers.
Ideally, you work in a company where every single person tries their best to represent the best interest of the customer, but the Community Manager has to go above and beyond. Community Managers need to be the most advocatiest advocate to ever advocate on behalf of an advocatee. Ever.
Community Managers are a conduit between customers and the product team, making sure both sides are kept in the loop with what’s going on the otherside. You take feedback from customers, and help your team understand why and how it’s important.
A lot of the time the feedback is given in angry frustrated ALL CAPS, which can sting, but negative feedback is absolute gold for a startup. They’ll help you find the pain points and give you opportunities to publicly turn a negative comment into something positive.
Most of the time, Community Managers are content creators. We share and curate content that’s useful to our customers, and where there’s a gap, we create our own. Whether that’s writing product comms, taking photos at events, creating neat little videos, or doing the monthly newsletter.
A Community Manager should be comfortable wearing whatever content creation hat is needed to engage with their audience – the customer.
My KPIs at Vend were different to the rest of the marketing team. The rest of the team was more lead generation focused, while as a Community Manager I was focused on community engagement and churn reduction (reducing the number of customers leaving).
Churn is one of the most important indicators of success (or failure) for a SaaS startup. Achieving a low (or ideally negative) churn can be the difference between world domination and faltering at the start line. Community Managers impact churn by increasing customer awareness of improvements, providing delightful interactions online, and empowering evangelists to create a positive aura around your brand.
Community Managers need to feel comfortable experimenting with new ideas, and confident in their ability to turn those experiments into actionable insights. At the end of the day, your job is to move the needle – whether that’s for lead generation or churn reduction.
We had a pretty famous motto at Vend: “Just Fucking Do It”.
JFDI is all about pulling up your sleeves, and finding a way to do awesome. It’s about valuing positive action over negative procrastination. This is so important to startup cultures and why they succeed, and should be a mantra for every Community Manager.
The pace of startup life can be best described as ‘rabbits-on-crack’. Products are released quickly, customers are acquired at blazing rates, teams grow and spread like wildfire. Community Managers need to keep on top of that, and identify areas to take advantage of all the change.
See an opportunity to talk about something cool a team-mate is working on? JFDI. New feature release? Why not JFDI a gif or video or a webinar? Want to test out an idea that could significantly move the needle? You guessed it, JFDI!
Community Managers need to be designers, programmers, and sometimes wearers of skin-tight unitards – what ever the moment requires, that’s what you JFDI.