Blog | Feb 1, 2011 | 2 Comments

[my job is herding cats]

[being a community manager]

In the social media world, the new job called “community manager” is getting a lot of attention. Based on my own modest experience, I can say that this kind of work at the corporate level has got to be the professional equivalent of herding cats.

January 24 was the second annual “Community Manager Day.”

Social Media Club San Francisco/Silicon Valley just hosted this event, which I missed. But fortunately, I happened to come across a great blog about it by David Binkowski (Yesterday Was “Community Manager Day”. Now Where Are My Coupons???). He writes:

For those living in a cave, a Community Manger is a person that, on behalf of their company, spends time curating, creating, listening and strategizing where, who, what, when and how to talk to people online. Think about that last statement for a second: they are responsible, sometimes without agency or internal staff support, for looking at every single conversation online that mentions their company and its products in order to ensure that what’s being said is accurate and fair (in addition to many other things). On a daily basis these brave souls have to deal with disgruntled customers while balancing brand messaging, internal politics and procedures, legal, establishing credibility and having a personality – not to mention a life.

Sorry about the cave reference. People in social media–and other emerging fields, I imagine–can be pretty intense and focused. Anyway, David hits the nail on the head. Community management requires a lot of patience and dedication, and it definitely helps to be a workaholic.

Does this sound even do-able??

Since the fall, I’ve been acting as a community manager for The Working Chronicles project, along with Molly Rosen, the managing editor. Although each of us tries to get around to all the sites, we basically share responsibility this way: Molly manages the blog and the LinkedIn group, I manage the Twitter account, and both of us keep an eye on the Facebook page. Molly is also producing an email newsletter that will debut soon. This is obviously not the enormous responsibility David describes, but I’ve already seen some challenges.

It’s hard to schedule times for community management.

You never know when your followers or people you are following are going to say something relevant that you want to respond to or pass on. Stale retweets don’t make you look good. But I don’t have all day to do this.

It’s not always easy to find the right people to follow and retweet.

The Working Chronicles is serious about its subject matter and its integrity. I want to connect with thought leaders and excellent writers, not recruiters or leadership coaches who are just promoting their own businesses. Or whiners. For example, I used Twitter search for a number of work-related hashtags (think of them as discussion topics), and I kept coming up with people complaining about their jobs. I need more time to research, obviously.

I have sometimes forgotten who I am.

This would be funny except when it’s not. I have gotten mixed up between my personal Twitter profile and my Working Chronicles profile (which I share with Molly) more times than I’d like to admit. Fortunately, I don’t tweet ridiculous or compromising stuff, but sometimes I’ve muddied the Working Chronicles Twitter stream with more personal conversations.

It’s all about the tools.

If you are managing an online community, good tools are the only way to contain the insanity: a dashboard, a way to schedule tweets and posts ahead of time, search tools, bookmarking, and notification services that let you know when someone has commented on your blog or Facebook page. Maybe I’ll talk about these in a later post.

And here is “the secret sauce.”

I want to end with some inspirational advice. Gini Dietrich wrote a great blog post called The Online Community Secret Sauce. At least I think she wrote it. I’ve read the EXACT SAME BLOG attributed to another writer, so I’m confused. But anyway, here is the formula they gave:

Human beings + humility + sense of humor + feeding other’s egos + not expecting anything in return = the online community secret sauce.

Photo credit: Created by Meredith Atwater for This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
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Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.


Interesting post, Claire. I can appreciate the “forgetting who you are” part, that happened to me when I had to contribute to a client’s Twitter feed! I’d be interested in your thoughts on good Twitter tools, myself.


Claire Wagner Reply:

Glad I’m not alone, Anne! My primary tool is still HootSuite. I’ve recently read a lot about HootSuite vs. TweetDeck, and HS seems to be winning. I’ve got all of my business and client profiles there, though I’m still trying to learn the new features for my paid subscription. (No time last month.) I was relying on Twitter search to research followers/following, but I believe that straight-up Google search is the best route. I’m spending more time searching for reputable people blogging on our topics of interest, and then following them on Twitter. As you know, RTs are important to get your own profile noticed, but the links in them have also provided great material for posting on our FB page, too. Next up is Quora but I have a lot of other deadlines to worry about first…


Anne Janzer


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