I recently jumped in on a Twitter discussion between a few folks who were at odds about defining social media’s role in building and managing communities. Some felt that requiring social media as part of the job description for community managers was not right and might lead those interested in the role to overlook other skills important for the job. Others stated that they could not think of one community management role that could not benefit from the use of social media therefore it was a must have skill for those in the position. I tend to lean more towards the latter opinion. I posted a few messages from the Twitter exchange below.

A good example of a community offline would be an apartment complex. I have often thought about how much better my complex might be if our property managers leveraged a social platform that would allow them to not only communicate with tenants, but also enable tenants to communicate with each other on important community issues. How helpful could a service like Uservoice be for me to find out that 11 of my neighbors have already shared their disdain for the fact that our complex doesn’t have a community recycle bin like all the other properties in the area. How might these tools help property managers make residents happier and decrease turnover rates when leases come due for renewal?

This is just one example, but how could the same be said for a church group, the PTA, or your local chamber of commerce? However not required, I can’t think of one of these groups that could not greatly benefit by using social media to their advantage.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Are community management positions to heavily focused on social media skills or should social media be a requirement for any jobs that involve building and managing communities? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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About Adam Helweh

Adam Helweh

Adam is CEO of Secret Sushi Creative Inc, a strategic design, digital and social media marketing agency. He specializes in the convergence of design and technology to provide businesses with more intelligent and interactive ways to connect with customers and grow. His clients have included Edelman, Broadcom, Stanford Federal Credit Union, the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, Bunchball and others. He's also the co-host of the "SoLoMo Show", a weekly digital marketing podcast, and he has shared the stage with professionals from companies including Facebook, Virgin Airlines, Paypal, Dell and 24 Hour Fitness.

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • I-Lyte

    This is interesting…. I think that this is a great way to get involvement from the members of the community. It gives the community a chance to interact and voice their opinions quicker. whether it be in an Apartment complex, PTA, Or church group it gives the individual the access to information to keep them engaged.

  • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

    Whether or not community = “internet social media” depends on the audience. In my grandfather's retirement community, for example, he's one of the few residents on Facebook (at age 96) – so a new Facebook Group wouldn't do them any good, he'd be the only one there. But the bulletin board in their lobby gets lots of use, as does the daily activity list posted in the elevator. I would bet that the job posting for their community/activity manager did not say anything about social media, but that doesn't lessen the importance of that person's knowledge about how to engage and manage communities. The messages are the same, the mediums are different.

    • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

      Would you consider the families of the retirement home residents to be part of the community? If so, could they benefit from having a blog to communicate recent events, company news, or even state/county issues that might effect my parents/grandparents living on the property?

      Although your grandfather is Facebook savvy could the staff at the retirement community use social media in a way that does not require its residence to understand the medium.
      Facebook isn't the only medium.

      • http://twitter.com/TonjaC Tonja Conway

        I posted my reply before I saw yours – great minds think alike, no?

  • http://twitter.com/rhappe Rachel Happe

    It's an interesting discussion and for our members (community managers), most of them use social media as well as community channels but I also know some very successful online community managers that don't use social media channels very much at all. Like Stephanie mentions it depends a lot on the audience but it also depends a lot on what one is trying to accomplish. If the community is already aggregated in one location and you are trying to support them, there is no need to go elsewhere. If the community is fragmented across channels or you are looking to drive more awareness or interact in different ways, layering on social media is very effective.

    • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

      Great points Rachel. One thing you did mention is that there are online managers that are using social media much less than would be expected, but they are still using it nonetheless, correct? Would they be successful in their role if they did not use it at all?

  • http://twitter.com/TonjaC Tonja Conway

    My initial reaction on reading the headline was “Absolutely it should be a requirement. Who in their right mind these days would lead a group without using social media of some kind?” I will confess, however, that I was thinking mainly of online communities. I didn’t spend much time thinking of other types of groups. Stephanie’s example is excellent – that group has no use for social media right now, so to list that as a requirement be beneficial. The key, I think, is two fold: know your current group and pay attention to how your group might be changing. There will come a day when the 96-year-olds of the future have grown up using social media. It will make sense at some point to include it. There’s also another group connected to the retirement community to consider: the residents’ families. Might it be helpful to the children and grand-children to know what’s going on in the facility on a regular basis? Families might feel more connected to their relative, and more confident in a facility that is proactive about communicating with families. A smart organization would want to hire a community manager who is forward thinking enough to consider all the possibilities, not just manage the status quo. That’s what should be listed as a job requirement.

  • EricaGlasier

    Most (all?) communities, RL or virtual, can benefit from better communications.

    I'm still struggling with imagining a group that can't, 96+ year-olds notwithstanding (because indeed their boomer children ARE on Facebook & would no doubt love to feel they have the ear of the personal care home management. It would ease their anxiety by giving them a sense of control).

  • http://twitter.com/Bremmel Brian Remmel

    Any community needs to have methods to communicate and organize. More traditional methods include newsletters, flyers, emails, or the town crier.

    It seems to me that as more people join social networks, or are encouraged to by smart CM's (be they apartment managers, teachers, coaches, etc.), these groups will enjoy the added cohesion and 24/7 support of having their community online.

    So yes, SM knowledge is required of *good* Community Managers.

  • EricaGlasier

    I hope the real David Spinks will drop by & let us know what communities he was thinking of. Barring people that physically or mentally CAN'T use social media, I'm still stumped!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Holden/1433746871 Dan Holden

    Adam, your apartment manager and retirement home examples are perhaps two of the toughest places to successfully implement a social media community. Why? Because they're two places where management is almost continually bombarded by unhappy customers (renters and family members). That's hard enough to deal with one-on-one, but when everyone is aware of everyone else's gripes, then management will perceive that it really has a problem. Whether they choose to deal with it by shutting down the social media, or acting responsibly on behalf of their customers, only time would tell. But they should understand that things will likely hit the fan before they get better. If that's what they want to accomplish, my hat's off.

  • http://www.scribnia.com/author/show/473/david-spinks/ David Spinks

    Hey Adam,

    Thanks for continuing the conversation here. Sorry I didn't respond earlier. I did read it but was traveling all day.

    Just so you know, as I started writing out a comment here, it turned into a blog post so I'll post my full thoughts on my blog and link back here soon…but I'll still share some thoughts here.

    I think it's a really interesting discussion that's worth having. It's easy to get wound up in the excitement of the social media boom, so it's that much more important to once in a while take a step back and look at why we view things the way we do.

    I think part of the issue here, as is often the case in these discussions, is how we define the terms at hand. “Social Media” is about as broad as it gets these days. Almost all encompassing when discussing the web. For the purpose of this argument though, and correct me if I'm wrong, I think what we're discussing are the public social platforms like twitter, facebook, linkedin, etc…

    Equally broad in definition is “community management”. It's been applied to so many roles and responsibilities these days that the actual community manager position can really mean anything.

    My point in this discussion was not to refute that all businesses or communities could benefit from social media (which is a debate in itself). My point is that there are community manager positions that can effectively exist, without the inclusion of social media in their toolbox.

    I brought this point up after speaking with a community manager for a very large site who was tasked with turning an existing userbase into a community. This person has been a community manager for 7+ years and while they understand the value in social media, they haven't used it in their role.

    Community Management is different from social media management/marketing/whatever, no matter what the 100% of today's job descriptions tell you.

    I'll go further into detail in all of this in my post, and hopefully get more examples to give you a better idea of what I mean.

    David

    • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

      David I am purposefully leaving the definitions broad for the sake of discussion. I am also playing devil's advocate a bit. I know there are a lot of generalizations going on and finer details to be considered. I have thought about this more and more since writing this post and I still feel that although a community manager could do their job without social media, a forward thinking employer would behoove themselves to not require it (or the willingness to learn how to use it) as part of the position. I look forward to hearing more on your opinion about it. Thanks for sparking the conversation in the first place David!

  • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

    I don't know that I would spell out “Social Media” as a requirement — but rather phrase it as a “professional willingness to seek and use appropriate technologies to strengthen the community.”

    That way you can fire them for refusing to use door-hangers, if they're really stubborn about it. When you make it “Social Media,” you might end up attracting people who think Facebook Groups are the best thing since sliced bread, but won't consider a sandwich board where it's applicable.

    • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

      Good suggestion for those looking to drum up a job description for a community manager position. Thanks Ike.

    • http://www.scribnia.com/author/show/473/david-spinks/ David Spinks

      Well said…as far as job descriptions go.

      At the same time, for many communities and the community manager job descriptions, social media *should* be a requirement…just not for all of them.

  • http://www.prweb.com Stacey Acevero

    As social media community manager of PRWeb, my position is heavily focused on social media skills; and I also believe social media should be a requirement for any jobs that involve building and managing communities. Google searches have many different descriptions of the duties of a community manager–all which entail the facilitation of communication. What better way to facilitate communication than on one of the most popular communication channels available? Twitter, Facebook, etc are all booming and are proving to help individuals and businesses alike achieve their goals.

    • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

      Thanks for the comment Stacey. This goes back to the job description for community managers. As Ike Pigott states in the comments “professional willingness to seek and use appropriate technologies to strengthen the community.” Of course a willingness and competency are two different things.

    • http://www.scribnia.com/author/show/473/david-spinks/ David Spinks

      Of course for a community like PRWeb, there must be a social media component. For other communities, social media isn't always the best communication platform. Consider the difference between internal and external communities, and the tools that they'd need to thrive.

  • http://twitter.com/whofstetter Wendy Hofstetter

    Very interesting discussion and comments. While I agree that a community manager can do his/her job without using social media (depending on what industry we're discussing), it's important to recognize that social media has become ingrained in how we communicate. We use it to connect, we use it to complain, we use it to give feedback. This list goes on and on. At the very minimum, community managers should have the skills to listen to the social media conversation to better connect with members and understand their opinions around the service/product provided.

    • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

      It is interesting how you note the importance for community managers to at least listen. It would be safe to say that no matter what type of community you are currently managing, it is your responsibility (or the that of the marketing lead) to keep an ear to the ground. Not listening means not being able to anticipate new markets or be ready when your community becomes more active on the social web.

      Thanks Wendy.

    • http://www.scribnia.com/author/show/473/david-spinks/ David Spinks

      Is listening the responsibility of the community manager? In many cases yes. In all cases? No. This could be a customer service role or a business development role.

      Social media has become ingrained in how you and I communicate, sure. I'd argue however, that there are a lot of people who still don't consider social media “ingrained”.

  • http://www.wickedinnovations.com/ Jeorge Peter

    I think it is, if they want their businesses to be known more for online users.

    • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

      “to be known” = marketing, no? How about businesses that want to keep their current customers happy, engaged, communicating, excited about their product, etc?

      “online users” = a majority of folks in the US, no?

    • http://www.scribnia.com/author/show/473/david-spinks/ David Spinks

      Exactly as Adam said, this is dealing more in marketing/lead generation… not community.

  • http://twitter.com/KateDavids KatetheRunner

    I agree that social media is a great tool that could help apartment communities actually become communities. Do I think it is a requirement? No. But do I think it would be really useful if the management wants to see what their community actually wants? Yes. Not to mention if they are thinking about hosting a 4th of July BBQ or something. The reason most renters don't like their building and community managers is because the management doesn't seem to care. You're less likely to get irate with the people behind the desk if they seem to honestly want to help and fix your plumbing. I think social media could be a great tool to aid that endeavor.

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  • http://www.puredriven.com Patrick Garmoe

    Great article Adam,

    I think a community manager would benefit from using social media, and whether it should be a requirement would be completely up to the demographics of the group. An apartment complex with 20-somethings I could see it being a requirement for. An activities coordinator at a senior center? Of course not.

    • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

      Patrick you drilled down a bit to the demographic layer and it makes sense. That is directly tied to what your trying to achieve. If you are an activities coordinator at a senior center then social media is probably not going to do much for you at the moment (maybe in the future). Now if you are marketing a senior center to the families who place their parents/grandparents in these places it would be different. How could a senior center use social media as one of many channels to create awareness and trust before the “sale” and maintain it after someone places their loved ones into such a center?

      • http://www.puredriven.com Patrick Garmoe

        True. It's all about goals and demographics guiding strategies and tactics.

  • http://www.yuriartibise.com Yuri Artibise

    As a community manager, you have to be able to connect with all of your members… some will be on Social media, some won't, you can't ignore either. So yes, social media should be a required skill, but not the skill required. Managing a community without social media is like managing one with out newsletters or telephone lists. You need to employ multiple methods to reach multiple audience types.

    • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

      I like this Yuri “…social media should be a required skill, but not the skill required.”

      Thanks for the comment.

    • http://www.scribnia.com/author/show/473/david-spinks/ David Spinks

      No community manager can connect with ALL of the members in a large community. The role of the community manager usually isn't to personally connect with each member, but to connect the members with each other.

  • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

    Patrick you drilled down a bit to the demographic layer and it makes sense. That is directly tied to what your trying to achieve. If you are an activities coordinator at a senior center then social media is probably not going to do much for you at the moment (maybe in the future). Now if you are marketing a senior center to the families who place their parents/grandparents in these places it would be different. How could a senior center use social media as one of many channels to create awareness and trust before the “sale” and maintain it after someone places their loved ones into such a center?

  • http://PersonalSuccessMarketing.com CharlieSeymourJr

    I'll take this a step further than just managing a community: any marketer, PR person, advertising special must know Social Media Marketing these days.

    And more than that, they must know the “flow of the energy” that makes it all work. We call that the Universe Model of Social Media Marketing (as detailed in our best selling book, “Hey, You… Don't Stand Out – Get Out!).

    Social Media isn't a bunch of separate tools – it's a SYSTEM, a FLOW, a way of staying in touch with people wherever they congregate. And then it's managing that flow to be sure the your main website gets the benefit of all the energy you create.

    So… require it as part of the job description: I sure do when it's for MY businesses!

    Charlie Seymour Jr
    http://CreateYourOwnLegendNow.com

  • http://www.brosix.com/ Brosix

    I think it's important…isn't social media just one big online community?

  • http://www.scribnia.com/author/show/473/david-spinks/ David Spinks

    Here is my follow up post: http://davidspinks.com/2010/10/27/community-managers-dont-need-social-media/

    Sorry for the delay…

  • http://www.scribnia.com/author/show/473/david-spinks/ David Spinks

    Exactly as Adam said, this is dealing more in marketing/lead generation… not community.

  • http://www.scribnia.com/author/show/473/david-spinks/ David Spinks

    Is listening the responsibility of the community manager? In many cases yes. In all cases? No. This could be a customer service role or a business development role.

    Social media has become ingrained in how you and I communicate, sure. I'd argue however, that there are a lot of people who still don't consider social media “ingrained”.

  • http://www.scribnia.com/author/show/473/david-spinks/ David Spinks

    Of course for a community like PRWeb, there must be a social media component. For other communities, social media isn't always the best communication platform. Consider the difference between internal and external communities, and the tools that they'd need to thrive.

  • http://www.scribnia.com/author/show/473/david-spinks/ David Spinks

    Well said…as far as job descriptions go.

    At the same time, for many communities and the community manager job descriptions, social media *should* be a requirement…just not for all of them.

  • http://www.scribnia.com/author/show/473/david-spinks/ David Spinks

    No community manager can connect with ALL of the members in a large community. The role of the community manager usually isn't to personally connect with each member, but to connect the members with each other.

  • http://www.usainternetmarketing.com/social-media-optimization.php social media marketing agency

    yap, i think it should be :-)

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