The 13 hats of an internal community manager

The job requires a lot more than just tweeting all day. Here’s a list of responsibilities you’ll be taking on.

When people in the communications industry refer to a “community manager,” they are usually talking about someone who can manage the online relationships for a particular brand using tools such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

However, over the last few years a new community manager role has emerged—the internal community manager. This person increases and maintains user adoption for social media tools behind the organizational firewall.

With the proliferation of Enterprise 2.0 software, vendors and clients alike have come to realize that these communities don’t just magically appear. Along with this realization has come greater demand for people to handle things like user adoption, marketing and community management.

We are witnessing the rise of the internal community manager.

This position may sound like the perfect job for the social media evangelist in your organization, as some responsibilities are to:

· Moderate forums

· Write blog posts

· Garden the wiki

· Give briefings about social media

· Develop user adoption strategies

· Answer user questions

· Monitor and analyze user activity

But the internal community manager actually wears many other hats, some of which aren’t nearly as enjoyable and exciting, and many of which aren’t going to be high on the wish list of potential candidates.

Let’s take a look at the many hats of the internal community manager.

1. Referee

When someone posts a link to a political article and the conversation starts to devolve into partisan name-calling and vitriol, guess who gets to be the one to steer the conversation back toward professionalism and healthy debate?

Oh, yeah, and you can’t use your admin privileges (the nuclear option) to just “lock” or delete the conversation, because then you’re not a community manager, you’re Big Brother.

2. Ombudsman

When the community starts complaining about the speed, reliability or accessibility of the platform, you need to be the one to bring up those concerns with the developers and push to get these issues fixed.

If a new feature is riddled with bugs, you can’t just toe the company line and say it’s great—you have to be able to offer your honest, unbiased opinion.

After all, you’re the advocate for the community, not a mouthpiece for the development team.

3. Party promoter

Know that guy passing out flyers outside the club you walked past earlier today?

Yeah, that’s going to be you.

You’ll be handing out flyers, sending emails, giving briefings—anything you can do to get people to come by and check out your community.

4. Comedian

You can’t take the “social” out of social media. There has to be someone there to show the rest of the community how to have a little fun, and the community manager has to be comfortable using humor in a professional environment. (No, those are not mutually exclusive.)

5. Teacher

Ever try to teach someone to change their golf swing after they’ve been doing it the same way for 20 years? Get ready for a lot more of that feeling.

It’s very much like trying to teach someone to use a wiki for collaboration instead of using email. Get used to people copying and pasting the content off the wiki and into a Word document, turning on track changes, and then sending you the marked-up Word document for you to “take a look at” before uploading to the wiki.

6. Inspirational leader

You will not have enough hours in the day to do everything you want.

You cannot possibly garden the wiki, write your blog posts, moderate all the forums, stay active on Yammer, run your metrics reports, and do everything else a community manager is asked to do by yourself.

You’ll need to identify others in the community to help you and—oh, by the way—you’ll need to get them to buy into your approach and do the work, but you won’t have any actual authority and they’ll all have other jobs, too. Good luck!

7. Help desk

When the WYSIWYG editor on the blogs isn’t working right, guess whom the users are going to call? The answer isn’t the help desk. It’s you.

You’re going to receive emails, Yammer messages, phone calls and IMs from everyone asking for your help, because you’re the person they see most often using the platform. Whom are they going to trust to get them an answer—the person they see using the platform every day or some faceless/nameless guy behind a distribution list email?

8. Psychiatrist

When that executive starts a blog and no one reads it or comments on it, you have to be ready to go into full touchy/feely mode and help reassure him or her, manage expectations, offer tips and tricks, and rebuild the exec’s self-esteem so the blog will continue to be active.

9. Troublemaker

Work conversations can get pretty boring—a community filled with blog posts about your revisions to the TPS reports aren’t exactly going to elicit a lot of conversation.

You will have to be the one who can start and manage difficult conversations with the community. Guess who gets to write the blog post criticizing the new expense-reporting policy?

10. Cheerleader

When community members use the platform in the right way and/or contribute something really valuable, you need to be the first one to share it—as far and wide as possible.

You need to be the person putting that community member’s face on the front page and telling everyone else what he did and how others can be like him. You need to be the one cheering people on to give them the positive reinforcement they need.

11. Project manager

These communities don’t build themselves. You’re going to be responsible for creating and delivering all kinds of reports, briefings, fact sheets and metrics, and you’re going to need a plan for how to meet those deadlines while engaging with the community itself.

12. Writer

Every community platform has some sort of front page along with some static “About this community” type of content. You need to be able to write that content in a way that’s professional yet informal enough that people will still read it.

13. Janitor

When you open up your local shared drive, you’re likely to see 47 different versions of the same document, hopefully with one of those containing a big “FINAL” in the filename. The old versions are good to keep around just in case, but all they’re really doing is cluttering up the folder and making it difficult to find anything.

The same thing happens in an online community. People post things in the wrong forums, they accidentally publish half-written blog posts, they upload documents without tagging them, etc.

You get to go in and clean up these messes.

When you spell it all out like that, maybe being an internal community manager isn’t such a great position after all. It’s a lot more difficult than simply blogging, managing user accounts, and coordinating change requests.

Before you grab that one guy on your team who has some extra time on his hands and volunteer him for your new community management role, you might want to think about these other hats he’s going to have to wear.

Is Johnny, your social media intern, really the right guy for the job? You might have to hire an experienced community manager.

Steve Radick is a Lead Associate with Booz Allen Hamilton, where he founded and currently leads their Digital Strategy & Social Media capability. He serves on the advisory boards for SmartBrief on Social Media, Governingpeople.com , and SMCEDU. You can catch up with him on his blog Social Media Strategery.

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