What Is An Online Community Manager?

Learn how to foster a loyal online community from industry leader Deb Ng - Book review and recommendationOnline Community Managers are brand evangelists, leaders, content developers, advocates, analysts, and mediators rolled into one. In what may be my favorite description ever, Deb Ng says that online community managers are similar to moderators in televised debates, “but with more cowbell.” Deb recently wrote Online Community Management For Dummies, and, since I know many of you are already managing your own communities or are interested in doing so, I asked if I could review her book and she agreed.

Spoiler Alert: You’re going to want to buy this book because it’s chock full of information.

If you’re thinking you want to become an online community manager (CM) so you can hang out on Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, and Twitter all day, think again. Community managers aren’t just tasked with broadcasting the company’s latest news, they have to create meaningful discussions around topics that are important to the overall community. Community managers also have to

  • Keep things positive. Avoiding drama and negativity is one of the core responsibilities of a CM. It can be a fine line to walk when you’re trying to be an advocate for both the community members and your employer (pages 19 & 20).
  • Be a brand evangelist. Inspiring confidence in customers is part of your job. If you can’t “drink the Kool-Aid” as Deb says, then maybe this brand isn’t for you. Your community expects you to use the product and stand behind it. “No one likes to feel as if they’ve been duped, and you don’t want to risk your reputation working for someone who is looked at as a rip-off. Be truthful with your campaigns, be open and honest about what your brand can do, and don’t promote a product you wouldn’t use yourself” (pages 67-68).
  • Attract new community members. Part of creating an interesting and lively community is finding new people to add to the mix. To do that, you can’t just fish in your own pond; you’ll need to join additional groups to help raise awareness about your own group and brand. You’ll definitely need to use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but don’t forget about the extras like attending conferences, hosting meet-ups, and offering value-adds like discounts (page 20).
  • Meet goals and objectives. As an online community manager you could be responsible for “anything from achieving a dollar amount in sales, a percentage of community growth, a positive word-of-mouth marketing campaign, or higher rankings on the search engines” (page 20). It’s tough to pitch your brand without being spammy, but that’s exactly what you have to do because part of your job is selling. You can avoid being spammy by understanding that people join your community with the expectation that they’ll hear about your company, services, and products — they just don’t want to hear it every time you post. Being subtle goes a long way (pages 59-60).
  • Analyze what’s working and what’s not working. If you want to meet your goals and objectives, you’ll need to know what your community wants from you so you can give it to them. A few things you may want to look at are sales you can attribute to your online community, traffic to your main website from your social platforms (as well as the traffic and interaction on those platforms), buzz about your brand online, increased subscriptions to your content, and, of course, comments and feedback from your community (page 220). You should be familiar with basic analytic applications like Google Analytics, Google Alerts, Site Meter, Facebook Insights, etc. (Chapters 12 & 13 delve into analytics community managers should keep tabs on.)

If you’re part of a larger company, you may find there’s confusion about where you belong, what you can or should post, and what administrative tasks you’re responsible for. Deb has lived that life and her book provides some ideas for how you can be taken seriously as a community manager and avoid being the catch-all gal who ends up with the tasks no one else wants. Online Community Management For Dummies provides lots of ideas for

  • building engaging, and growing a community
  • creating policies and guidelines for your community
  • convincing your boss (and your boss’s boss) that community is an important part of the overall marketing plan

In addition, Deb provides specific advice on how to handle delicate issues like negative feedback, scandal, and even arguments among community members. And if you’re not just working with adults, you’ll be pleased to find that Chapter 8 is about handling and building online community for kids. I was excited to see this chapter myself because it’s becoming harder to keep kids away from online groups. In fact, both of my kids enjoy being in certain groups to share their passions about books, games, and other things. I’ve actually often wondered what the differences are for handling online communities for various age groups.

Whether you’re a new or seasoned online community manager, if you’re looking for an excellent resource, I highly recommend buying a copy of Online Community Management For Dummies today. I keep a handful of books on my desk for easy reference and I’m adding this one to those select few.

11 Responses

  1. Samar | The Writing Base May 21, 2012 / 9:00 am

    Having been a Community Manager for a Start up in Dubai (a place where Community Managers are still trying to figure it all out), I’ve been recommending the book left, right and centre.

    Having known Deb through twitter back when she was running Freelance Writing Gigs and later managing BlogTalkRadio’s community, I know that community managers world over can learn from her book.

    • Melanie Nelson May 21, 2012 / 5:30 pm

      Agreed, Samar! Deb is a wealth of knowledge. One of my favorite things about her is that she’s accessible and shares information. I think she was the ideal author for this book.

  2. Kate, aka guavalicious May 21, 2012 / 9:54 am

    Great review Melanie. I have been intrigued by this book but I am not currently working as a community manager so I have held off on buying it. But after reading this, I think I am going to pick up a copy. It looks like great insight into what the community manager role is and I think I can use some of the advice in my brand ambassador job.

    • Melanie Nelson May 21, 2012 / 5:33 pm

      Thanks, Kate. I think many people don’t consider themselves community managers, but they are. Bloggers are definitely community managers because they continually foster their own communities. Just because you’re not working for a brand or big business doesn’t mean your aren’t a CM. 🙂 This book is particularly great for those just entering the field (or realizing their role as a CM). Deb does an excellent job of covering beginner, intermediate, and advanced CM. Definitely buy the book! You won’t regret it.

  3. Danielle May 21, 2012 / 11:05 am

    This is such an awesome post. I definitely need a copy of this after reading your review. I need to read this!

    • Melanie Nelson May 21, 2012 / 5:33 pm

      Thanks, Danielle! This was such an easy post to write because Deb’s information was excellent.

  4. Mary Tessler May 22, 2012 / 6:14 am

    Really inspiring post. I have bookmarked it so that I can be reading through it daily for inspiration. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Graham June 1, 2012 / 5:20 am

    Does the book talk about how the perceived value of Community Managers inside organisations in the last 12 months has taken a definite uplift particularly with the advent of more sites being built with streaming live data?

    • Melanie Nelson June 4, 2012 / 3:12 pm

      Thanks for commenting, Graham. That’s a pretty specific topic and I don’t think Deb addresses it exactly, but she does address the role of CMs within organizations and how to keep up with industry changes as well as set boundaries for how the organization uses your skills.

  6. Noufal Binu February 10, 2014 / 10:28 am

    Hi Melanie, You’re Right 🙂 I have also Read a new Article of Deb “Why Your Brand Needs to Hire a Community Manager Now” I think This Deb’s book “Online Community Management For Dummies” will be help Get Hire us.

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