If you ask the average community manager how they got their current job, you will likely get a wide variety of answers. A rapidly emerging field without traditional training paths, those looking to hire are often at the mercy of their resourcefulness when it comes to locating and hiring talent to fill this important role.
That said, there are many established industries and complementary skill sets that offer a natural bridge to being a top-notch community manager. Let's look at a few areas that might help you with that frantic talent search:
Marketing. It's hard to deny that a good marketing professional probably knows their specific industry deeper and in a more holistic fashion than anyone in the organization. Most marketing folks spend their day writing content and thinking about the world through the eyes of their target audience or customer, which is by definition a community. Furthermore, they understand that consistency in reinforcing their brand message and the cadence for delivering that message are just as important as what it is that you're trying to communicate.
Corporate communications. Corporate communications professionals are well-trained in the subtle nuances of what to say, what not to say, and when to say it. Most of the large corporations we work with purposely place their community management team within the communications team and for very good reason. Issues often arise first and are discussed among the community, so by having integrated community and communications teams, important issues can quickly be uncovered by the community manager and then weighed and addressed by corporate communications. An additional benefit is that the communications team is typically trained on knowing when to bring in legal or other support teams as necessary to fine-tune a specific message.
Customer service representative. The skills learned and perfected in customer service call centers or by serving as in-person, customer service reps are a wonderfully natural fit for the type of work a community manager does. Customer service reps must rely on many skills to successfully do their jobs including the ability to deliver thorough talking points, having a sense of responsiveness, and being empathetic to a customer's issues.
Non-profit worker. Those who have worked in the non-profit field, particularly around volunteer recruitment and management, are used to creatively motivating groups of people to act using little to no resources. Creating a dynamic community environment requires a similar kind of scrappy resourcefulness; so don't overlook candidates with non-profit backgrounds.
Current community member. While likely the largest and most diverse pool to pull from, the active members of the community are a great resource. Odds are extremely high that they're both passionate and knowledgeable about the topic and that is a huge head start. If you were looking for a community manager to work with a group of foodies, being able to "talk the talk" when it comes to the latest food trends is likely the most important skill they could possess.
Finding the right manager for your community can be a difficult process, but focusing on the above talents can help expedite your search. You never know; that next great community manager could be sitting a few offices away and may already possess many of the skills required to engage and manage your community with incredible results.
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Laney Whitcanack is Federated Media Publishing's chief community officer. Prior to joining FM, Laney co-founded BigTent in 2006 and focused on innovating online and offline ways to connect people with communities they care about. She spent the decade previous to BigTent coaching and training hundreds of community leaders, in the U.S. and Mexico, most recently as the director of community programs for the Coro Center for Civic Leadership.
A published author and speaker on entrepreneurship and community organizing, Laney received the Jefferson Award for Public Service in 2008. She is currently a board member of Zeum: San Francisco's Children's Museum and The Princess Project and is involved in even more community groups after the birth of her daughter, Campbell, last year. Laney has a B.A. from UCLA, and MBA from the Simmons School of Management, and an Ed.M from Harvard University.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT