Many of us participated in Facebook’s Marketing Summit last week. We shared some of our early view of the implications here. One of the byproducts of the integration of the new set of advertising offerings with page management is a more complex job and set of skills for the person managing that page. Chances are, you are not paying them enough.
History of Community Management
At the risk of sounding like the doddering old man, I remember when community managers lived on message boards. They got to know the members – the outspoken few and the culture of the many. Their “job” – sometimes a volunteer position – was to steward the community. They helped maintain a healthy environment but in many ways, their job was to stay out of the way of those drawn there to talk about their shared interests and affinities.
It’s Just Conversation, Right?
With the dawn of the social network era, we began to launch a new wave of brand and affinity communities on Facebook, MySpace (wait for the comeback), Orkut and more. Forums still mattered. We debated whether services like Twitter and YouTube really represented communities. For branded Facebook pages, we saw the challenge differently than stewarding a community brought together based upon their love for crafting, snowboarding or Lykke Li because people were “joining” brand pages.
They wanted something from the brand not just interactions with others publishing on the page. We even called it “conversation management” to try and distinguish from the seemingly old-school images of message board mavens asking members to be more civil as they debated the merits of different quilting techniques. Managing a Facebook page seemed so simple. If anything, you needed to hire someone who “got it” (i.e. think “young person”) and was willing to talk back and forth with the vocal minority. I even heard of brands delegating the job to the interns.
Protecting Your Investment
Fast forward to last week. As more and more brands invest in social media and in their Facebook commitments alone, the job of Community Manager becomes increasingly important. We are starting to see the benefits to business from community and ‘social relationship management.’ Cultivating millions of addressable customers on a Facebook page and letting them know that a new flavor just launched or that they and they alone could get a special deal became very appealing from a business perspective. The ‘measurability’ of all this remains a work in progress. But only the most stick-in-the-mud, ROI-first stalwart question the likelihood that this would significantly change business. If you are going to invest conservatively 10’s of millions of dollars in Facebook advertising as many big consumer brands are doing (I would guess that today’s FMCGs are ‘playing’ with budgets for Facebook alone that are 2-4% of total marcom spend), then you ought not leave the hub of that experience in the hands of anyone less than a race car driver.
Community Business Director
The community manager needs to be able to control the content of ads and the deployment of the units. In Facebook terms, they are emphasizing “story” over “ads” and suggesting that all ads be some form of valuable and relevant content. It is not just a semantic distinction. As ads can now be delivered to the Facebook wall vs. just the ad “gutter,’ it is critical that this content live up the same demands we put on our best Facebook wall content. It must genuinely earn people’s attention and action. You can browse through Facebook’s new ad “Offers” here and it will paint a clear picture.
“Community Manager” is a title that comes with too much baggage. The job is important enough that we ought to at least amp it up to “Community Business Director.” Here are the key responsibilities and skills:
- Define a strategy that connects business objectives to community and business outcomes
- Create content of all sorts from hands-on responsibilities to the capacity to direct a network of content specialists (e.g. spec the right video by the right production company)
- Plan, create and deploy advertising as part of a paid, owned, earned strategy
- Manage customer, fan, stakeholder dialogue
- Connect across the business with experts who can answer community members and solve issues
- Have strong technical and tools expertise (get the most out of systems like Buddy Media, SpredFast and more)
- Analyze data to find insight and define business performance
- Apply an understanding of key public affairs issues and legal positions to sensitive conversations online
The job requires new skills. Just adding the advertising or media planning and buying integration requires a new set of skills that used to be outsourced to a media planning function. Add on top of that the business maturity to get the most out of the community investment and you have a more important job.
It may require more than tuning up the right individual. It will likely require an organizational solution like a “director” who directs the activities of many managers towards a business outcome. I feel lucky in that our organization already has these skills integrated. What will happen to the PR firms out there who have no integrated media planning function or the small social media boutiques who cannot leverage buying power or are missing some other critical element.
No doubt that the image of the community manager spawned from Facebook’s announcement may be a bit aspirational. Still, we are heading to a much more sophisticated model and the time to put that person or team in place is now. We have.
(thanks to insites consulting for the image of their great cake)