The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Community Managers

  |  July 19, 2012   |  Comments

What separates the superstars from the duds in community management?

Hiring and training social media summer interns has become a sort of tradition for me since 2009. Over the years I've had my share of both superstars and duds, and not surprisingly some of the superstars have gone on to hold some impressive positions managing big communities at several large brands. So what separates the stars from the duds? A few key habits - seven to be exact.

  1. Passionate. You can't fake passion. When reviewing résumés I always try to search for an expressed interest - be it sports, music, fashion, or travel. Matching the candidate's interest and passion to the appropriate brand with a focused community around the same topic is critical, and in many cases, half the battle. When combined, it's like a match made in heaven and these folks often have the habit of showing up early, staying late, and working weekends because they love what they do, not because it's a job.
  2. Personality. While it's essential to be a great communicator, you must have personality. The most successful social brands have that "something" that goes beyond the gift of gab and combines equal parts knowledge, confidence, and humor to create sizzle and buzz. These big personalities often fall into a rhythm, which often leads to signature posts tied to specific content or a day that often becomes core to the community.
  3. Organized and flexible. Managing a community is complex. The best community managers are great planners and keep detailed communication calendars. They plan around key events but are extremely adaptable and acutely aware of internal as well as external influences and their potential impact on a plan.
  4. Creative. Perhaps the most important yet difficult quality to find in a community manager is creativity. The best community managers challenge conventional thinking and are not afraid to think out of the box and try new things. Due to their passion and personality they often seek new perspectives and are adept at tapping into corporate-wide resources to seek new angles, content, and ideas in a collaborative way.
  5. Responsive and proactive. Community managers listen and respond quickly, but the best among them can move beyond that to almost sensing and then responding to their community's future needs. Because of their deep knowledge of the community and their reaction to content over an extended period of time, great community managers can anticipate their audience's needs and will proactively seek and coordinate "owned" and "paid" media, including sponsorships, to drive buzz and viral marketing - "earned" media.
  6. Collaborative. To build a highly engaged community "takes a village." Effective community managers are team players and work well with others. They often build cross-functional teams to help facilitate idea exchange that drives innovation.
  7. Analytical. The devil is in the details. Understanding who the community is and how they respond is critical. Great community managers leverage third-party listening, campaign management, and analytics tools to build measurement frameworks that not only help them understand who their fans and followers are, but what they respond to. These community managers also are more concerned about quality vs. quantity and set benchmarks for engagement metrics over growth and adapt accordingly. Finally, they leverage that knowledge to "sharpen the saw" - carefully and strategically optimizing interactions and trust over time.

In "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," Stephen R. Covey presented a framework for personal effectiveness that provided millions (25 million to be exact) a roadmap to success. It is my belief that the role of community manager is and will continue to be one of the most important hires a brand can make. As the impact of social media, and number of communities leading brands must manage, continue to grow, community managers are at the frontline for brands. As a result, it will be essential to ensure these key players form good habits that help assure success.

Stephen R. Covey passed away this past Monday, July 16 at age 79. A sad coincidence as I wrote this column prior to his passing, but I hope that it will now also be a fitting tribute to his legacy.

Till next time,



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Michael Della Penna

Michael Della Penna is a seasoned marketing professional with a long, proven track record of launching successful marketing, branding, and sales strategies for leading public and private companies. Most recently, Michael was the senior vice president of Emerging Channels at Responsys. His responsibilities included spearheading the overall strategic direction, partnerships, and solution offering across key emerging channels including social, mobile, and display for the company. Prior to Responsys, Michael founded SuiteDialog and Conversa Marketing, a full-service email and social CRM agency that helped brands ignite conversations and cultivate relationships with customers across the social web. Conversa Marketing, was acquired by StrongMail Systems in 2010. Before branching out on his own, Michael served as chief marketing officer for Epsilon, a leading provider of multichannel, data-driven marketing services. Michael's other key marketing leadership roles include CMO at Bigfoot Interactive, vice president of strategic development at CNET Networks, Inc., and vice president of marketing at ZDNet. Michael received a B.B.A. and an M.B.A. from Hofstra University.

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