Last week I was talking with a client about a new community they will be rolling out and their need for a community manager. The conversation went like so many do: “Does this really need to be a full-time person? Can’t someone already on our team take this over?” And, as usual I answered “yes!” because saying “duh!” is really unprofessional.
It got me thinking that we talk a lot about the role of the community manager. It might be time to stop thinking about them as another FTE and start thinking about them as investments. The world of finance tells us that a good investment is one that results in a yield greater than the initial investment and continues to do so over time. Using this standard, community managers really are a good investment. Their “yield” can be seen when you take a strategic approach to community management.
Your community management strategy should take into consideration your strategic business goals and how the community can advance them. Two of the many areas where community managers make a measurable difference are service and sales.
Your community manager can focus on reducing the number of service or support calls by monitoring common questions and developing content to address these. Also, the community manager can develop and support members within the community to provide peer counsel and resolution of issues. No matter the size of your organization, the ability to reduce the time and personnel spent on support is a great yield. In addition, a fast response from the community is a great boost to customer/member satisfaction.
Your community manager can also monitor community dialogue and activity to generate sales leads via online touch points like blog posts, eBooks and webinars. This strategic approach involves asking questions, listening effectively to needs and concerns and helping to position products and services as a solution. They can also feed this intelligence to other parts of your organization and engage them in responsive action. While you want the sales support aspects of your community manager to be subtle, the ability to monitor community activity and dialogue from a sales perspective and act on the resulting insights is a great community management yield.
When you consider other areas where your community manager and community management strategy can deliver results, like product creation, brand advocacy and customer recruitment, then the ROI is clear. And, if you have a community manager but are not getting the ROI you need, perhaps they just need some training. Check out the great on-demand education that WOMMA offers on community management. I may be biased because our team helped create this with the great folks at The Community Roundtable, but these community management training sessions cover both contextual topics like market trends, strategy, metrics, measurement and culture, as well as specific business use cases like social customer support, internal community building, community in government and more.
I believe that a great community strategy and a well-trained community manager can deliver measurable and lasting results for an organization. But like any investment, you have to nurture your community manager and have a responsive and scalable strategy in order to get the “yield” you need.