Question of the Week: Do We Still Need Community Managers?

by Susan Murphy

This week’s question of the week comes from John Carson. John lives in Toronto, and he’s the co-founder of a really cool site called Greenscroll, which helps people make their web sites more environmentally friendly. Follow John and ask him about it!

John asked us a pretty interesting question last week about community managers and social media in general:

@jestercreative @suzemuse Do we still need community managers? Or, the word "social media" in someone's job title? Thank you ...

I know there are many schools of thought on this, but here’s my take.

“Social media” as a form of media is evolving at a rapid pace. Just 7 or 8 years ago, not many people even knew about it. Now it’s a global phenomenon and has literally changed the way people connect, interact and do business. Social media is not rocket science, but it does have its share of intricacies. There are some people who understand it well, some people who don’t.

Is social media in and of itself a skill? Well, sure. There are things to learn about how to communicate effectively using these newer platforms. There are many jobs that have been created just to manage social media for organizations. Often these people are called “community managers” or “social media coordinators”. They are valid positions that require experienced people.

However, I think the nature of that experience is where some of the issues lie. The people I think are the best at managing communities are people who have much more broad ranging experience than just being proficient at tools like Facebook and Twitter. Because just being able to use the tools well doesn’t mean you can communicate effectively with them.

Community managers and positions like it require people who have experience with marketing, communications and PR. They need to be good great writers, and must be able to think on their feet. They need to know how to research their audience and how to develop a voice that can speak well to that audience. And, perhaps, most importantly, they need to know how to listen. There’s a lot more to being a social media coordinator than just scheduling a bunch of tweets.

So, to answer your question, John, do I think we need community managers? Yes, but I think that the role of the community manager is evolving. Over time that role, and social media in general, is going to merge into the marketing, communications and PR function of organizations (where it belongs!). As my friend Ian Gordon says, “there’s no such thing as a telephone consultant.”. Likewise, I don’t think that down the road, “social media consultants” and “community managers” will thrive if that’s the only thing they know how to do.

I hope that answers your question!

Do you have a question for us? Drop us a line and let us know, and we’ll answer it here on the blog.

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