5 trends community managers should expect this year

Community manager salaries will go up, but work/life balance will not improve, this PR pro predicts.

In January, Social Fresh surveyed more than 1,000 partners for its annual community manager report. It’s the third year Social Fresh has compiled the report.

Some of the findings were interesting—community managers tend to be female in a male-dominated industry—while others weren’t all that surprising—only one in five community managers works on the agency side. Shelly Kramer shared her two cents on the report here.

As I thought about the data, a number of trends and predictions started to surface.

Here are five community management trends I predict will play out this year:

1. More brands will understand they shouldn’t outsource community management.

Brands’ early strategy seemed to be to outsource community management to agencies. This is what we saw in the “early years” (2008 to 2011 or so). We saw a lot of agencies swoop in to take over community management of brand pages. It was an easy sell (it freed up brands to work on more strategic work), and it was lucrative (billable hours, remember?).

But brands are wising up, as evidenced by the fact that only one in five community managers sit on the agency side of the table. Brands are starting to understand it makes more sense to bring it in-house. That was always the case, but brands wanted to take things slowly. Now they better understand the benefits of having a community manager in-house—more control, better understanding of the brand voice, and faster access to resources and answers.

2. Niche platforms will gain traction.

It’s not surprising that 54 percent of community managers use Facebook as their primary platform, or that Twitter comes in second at 20 percent.

What is surprising is how far back niche platforms like LinkedIn (8 percent), Pinterest (4 percent) and blogs (4 percent) are. Instagram and Google+ aren’t even on the list!

This tells me brands are focusing their time and energy on the “big two”—Facebook and Twitter. As brands become more sophisticated, they’ll siphon off resources to manage other platforms, like Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ and others. After all, Pinterest is a traffic-driving machine, right? But, it also requires active management.

As brands start to better understand these platforms, they’ll devote resources to them. Remember, it took them quite a while to take Facebook seriously, and now they’re caught up. It’s going to take them a while to jump in and put more resources toward these other niche platforms, but I think 2013 is the year they do it.

3. Work/life balance will not improve.

According to the report, 64 percent of community managers work more than 40 hours a week. That actually seems a bit low, as I’m guessing most people who work in social media in general work far more than 40 hours a week. It’s just the nature of the business.

I don’t see that number improving. In fact, I think it swings further the other way.

Companies will ask community managers to do more this year—not less. See the point above about niche networks. I don’t see brands adding a lot of social media/community management staff just yet. They want to see how their investments in social media-specific staffing pan out first. Most brands are just a couple years into this whole community management thing-they want to see if they’re really getting a return on their staffing investments.

The result?

Brands will add tasks to the community managers’ lists. Sorry, community managers. Your job isn’t going to get easier anytime soon.

4. A talent shortage will drive up community manager salaries.

As the market matures (remember, the social media industry has only been around for a handful of years), community managers will command higher salaries. This is already happening. I have many friends in Minneapolis who want to hire social media talent, and it’s simply not there right now.

It’s a huge hole, and brands are forced to pay a premium for top talent. That will definitely result in higher community management salaries in 2013 and beyond. Plus, as community managers start to prove their worth, raises will soon follow.

Also, as the economy grows and solidifies (fingers crossed), brands may loosen the purse strings a bit. All signs point to increasing salaries in the year ahead.

5. Senior community manager titles will show up more often.

Jason Keath, author the Social Fresh report, alludes to this in the report. As the average age of community managers has increased from 29 in 2011 to 32 in 2013, new senior titles should follow.

As this role matures and brands start to see real value in it, they will start to add levels and titles. We will see more junior and senior community managers soon. That just comes with the maturation of the social media industry.

Arik Hanson is principal of ACH Communications. A version of this article originally ran on his blog, Communications Conversations.


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