So, You Want to Hire a Community Manager

31 01 2011

You have the beginnings of your social media marketing strategy going for your business and now it is time to hire a Community Manager to run it all.  That all sounds pretty straightforward.

The problem is, most of the job postings I see for these positions say something like: “We are looking for a social media God who knows all about Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, etc., etc.,”  The more advanced postings say something like; “Proven track record of delivering measureable marketing results through social media-driven campaigns.”

Being a good Community Manager is far more than having 500 Twitter followers, a deep knowledge of the latest “bright, shiny thing” in Social Media, or even a track record of running some successful campaigns.  This is a good start but not nearly enough to ensure long term success.

Your Community Manager is an extension of your company brand. This person is the human face that will interact with your customers, probably more than anybody else in your company.  Think of them as your company’s Colonel Sanders, only one that actually talks to your customers on a daily basis.

Sticking with the Colonel Sanders / fried chicken business analogy for a minute, picture what happens to your business in these scenarios:

  • Your Community Manager decides to leave for another more interesting (to them) job at another company.  It is their identity that your customers associate with your brand.
  • It becomes obvious over time that your Community Manager, while good at social media marketing, never had any real passion for the fried chicken business and doesn’t actually know much about fried chicken
  • Or, worst of all, your community manager likes your fried chicken ok, but has no empathy for your customers, their issues, or their concerns.

It’s time to stop thinking of Community Managers as social media Gods and think hard about them as extensions of your brand.  Sure, you want your Community Manager to know social media marketing, to know how to run campaigns that deliver measurable results, but there is more.  It is time to start thinking of Community Managers in terms of:

  • How long are they likely to stay in the job?  Or, with the company?
  • Do they really have a passion for your product or service?
  • Are they effective evangelists for your product or service? (Or, do they just pass product questions off to other people?)
  • Do they have a deep and genuine connection with your customers?
  • Do they provide read value to your customers in their interactions?
  • Are they going to stay around long enough to be measured on the effectiveness of the campaigns they are proposing or are they going to be off to the next cool thing?

There is always a lot of hype around any new technology and social media is no exception.  For serious business users of social media marketing and campaigns, the core values still apply.  Social Media gives us great new tools for creating genuine two-way relationships with our communities, but we still have to do the hard work of building and growing the relationships.

Social Media Strategy: Collaborate Internally Before You Attempt to Collaborate Externally

28 01 2011

Last night, I attended a talk/interview with Brian Solis at Clearvale Second Floor.  It turns out that Brian is a very good speaker and quite interesting.  He touched on a wide variety of social media topics, but I wanted to zero in on one.

Everybody in the social media world says that you have to be sure to have a clear strategy and objectives before you dive into social media (and make a fool of yourself).  Yet, when I look around I see companies everywhere that have Twitter and Facebook presences for no apparent reason.  The Big Question is: WHY should I Friend/Follow you?  What are you doing that is interesting or relevant to me?  It is unclear in many cases.

Or worse, I see companies with fundamentally horrible customer service trying to put a social media veneer on the problem.  Comcast Cares is a good example.  Mention the name “Comcast” in any group gathering and everybody will groan.  The good-intentioned people at Comcast Cares are doing their best, but until Comcast fixes their internal problems, starting with their culture, nothing will really improve.

So, where do you start to build your Social Media strategy?

Brian made the excellent point last night that it should start within.  You can’t collaborate with your customer, prospective customers, partners, friends, etc. until you have strong, constructive, two-way engagement with your own employees.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are all of your employees passionate about your product or service?
  • Are all of your employees passionate about making your customers successful?
  • Are all of your employees capable of evangelizing your product or service?  (Think Norstrom or
  • Do your employees know how to listen?  Do they have the skills to engage in a two-way relationship?
  • Does your Marketing Department know how to bring a customer issue to Customer Service and follow it through to complete customer satisfaction?

The point is that if you do not have the internal engagement with your employees and if they are not empowered to collaborate creatively with each other to solve problems, then you are probably not ready to go out and engage with your customers via social media.

A key thing to remember when you are setting up your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media presences is that no matter what strategy and goals you have (and you should have them) you also need to be ready to get customer feedback.  …and you will get it. I promise.

The point is not to avoid negative customer feedback.  The point is to show the community that you are listening and responsive.  Dealing with a negative situation in a constructive way can be a powerful relationship-builder.  Does your social media team know how to do this?





Brian Solis recently published the book Engage! The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success on the New Web.  I am currently reading this and recommend it.  It is fairly B2B focused and highly practical in its approach.

Clearvale Second Floor runs an excellent speaker series, with a focus on B2B social media. It is free of charge and if you are in the San Francisco Bay area, I recommend it.  For more information.



Social Media and Customer Service

30 12 2010

Talking to people at holiday parties, this subject keeps coming up: Why would anybody use social media for a customer service issue?  Doesn’t it make more sense to contact customer service directly?

Not in my experience.  Have you ever had one of these situations happen to you?

  • Called a computer manufacturer’s support line because of networking problems only to have the customer support representative tell me with great solemnity that “Your computer is not compatible with the Internet.”  I got the rep’s name and told him that I was going to quote him on this and he still insisted that my PC was not compatible with the Internet.  (What training do they give these people???)
  • Called a different manufacturer about problems with another PC.  I had run diagnostics that showed that my PC was not booting because of memory hardware problems.  The service rep insisted that he could not authorize replacing my memory unless I first wiped and re-installed my operating system — and everything else on the computer.  I argued with him for hours and could not get him to budge on this issue.  (I resolved this one by writing a letter directly to the CEO of the company, which by the way, became famous for its poor customer service.)
  • Another time, I was having trouble with email.  The customer service rep for my service provider told me that the problem was that I was sending attachments too big for their email server to handle.  I went so non-linear that my family is still laughing about it.  It turns out that I was the Product Manager for that particular email server and I knew it’s exact specifications.  I had worked for the company that sold them the email server and had been personally and directly involved in the sale and installation of the software.
  • Most recently, changes at my service provider caused my email client to stop working.  When I asked them to fix it (and it took hours to get to the right person) he told me that he knew what the fix was but would not fix my problem because they did not support email clients, only Web clients.  I argued that they had caused the problem, but it was to no avail.  He was prepared to argue with me for hours when it would have cost his company far less money to just give me the fix.

Believe me, I am not making this stuff up.  I could never imagine this level of insanity going on in any professionally-run organization.  When a customer service organization reaches a certain size, Dilbertian behavior somehow becomes the norm.  There is something about the goal-setting process and poor training that results in this type of behavior.

So, why do people take their customer service problems to Twitter and Facebook?  On the surface, it does not seem to make sense.  Why blast your problem out in a broadcast to thousands of people when it would seem to be more efficient to handle it one-on-one with a trained customer service agent.  Here is why people use social media for service issues:

  1. Customer Service agents behave differently when the eyes of the world are on them. One-on-one they can and do say the most outrageous things to you. Before the eyes of the social media community, they need to be much more careful.  A mistake like any of the ones above could cause a viral firestorm on social media and severely damage the reputation of the company.  The stakes for the company are much higher on a stage that big.
  2. Customer Service agents on Social Media appear to be better trained. In my experience, customer service agents who handle social media are much more thoroughly trained, not just on technical issues, but in common sense and on social interaction skills.  Dealing with one giant telco who has a deep and well-earned reputation for poor customer service, I found the telephone support people to be worthless.  On the other hand, the Twitter support people were helpful, knew their stuff, and quite willing to fix the problem.  The telephone support was so bad,that I documented the entire experience, tracked down the VP of WorldWide Customer Support, and sent her a letter detailing the situation.  It took a month to get a response from her.  In the meantime, their Twitter support team had solved my problem cheerfully within 48 hours.

Culturally, I see some people struggling with these issues.  For some it seems like “bad manners” or something to broadcast a product issue out in a one-to-many fashion.  At the end of the day, you have to use what works and my experience is that social medial support channels just plain work better.  Why wast literally hours arguing on the phone when you can get a quick fix on Social Media?

The worldwide transparency of Social Media makes customer service organizations bring their A-Games. No enterprise wants to attract the Roving Eye of Sauron.


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