Director of Community: Not Just Tweeting All Day Long

Posted by DJ Waldow on Tue, Jan 19, 2010
Tweetdeck screenshot
"It must be nice. You play around on Twitter all day long."

I can't tell you how often I hear some derivation of that phrase. When I first started working in the email industry nearly 5 years ago, people used to say, "Oh. You're the guys who send spam, right?" While joking around, many used to - and still do - believe that email marketers (& Email Service Providers) are really just a bunch of spammers. The good news for the email industry is that I've heard this less often over the past few years. Email marketers are no longer seen as "the bad guys." Those who are doing it right are realizing a huge ROI. Perceptions are changing.

Similar to misperceptions in email, I believe that many are beginning to recognize the importance of the Community Manager (Director of Community) role in organizations. While some still think about those responsible for social media as people who "play around on Twitter all day long," I believe this flippant description is quickly on the way out.

Note: I use the titles, Director of Community, Community Manager, and Social Media Manager interchangeably. While there are certainly some differences between them, in essence the roles are quite similar.

So, what does a Director of Community really do?

Anyone who is involved with or in charge of social media within their organization must:

  • Listen & Monitor
  • Benchmark & Measure
  • Respond & Engage
  • Advocate & Evangelize
  • Encourage & Cheerlead
  • Innovate & Lead

Listen & Monitor
One of the first steps in any social media program is listening. Start with a simple Google search for your company name and/or brand as well as several of your employees. Chances are that people are talking. The chatter can fall into several buckets - praise (We love you), criticism (We hate you), or just noise (We are talking about you). No matter what the topic is, if it's related to your company, it's a potential opportunity to engage. There are several monitoring tools out there. Blue Sky Factory uses Radian6 as our main listening outpost. However, if you are just getting started and are a smaller organization, you may be okay with Google, Twitter Search, Blog Search, and a few other simple (free) tools. So, yes, I do listen and engage (and play?) on Twitter.

Benchmark & Measure
Beth Harte, Community Manager at MarketingProfs, talks a ton about the importance of setting goals and mapping your social media strategy to those goals. Yes - You can in fact measure the ROI on your community efforts. However, like any program, you first need to set some goals. Why are you getting started with social media? (See Jason Falls' post, "The Most Important Question is Why") What resources are necessary to build out a viable team? What does your social media program look like today (benchmarking)? What does success look like? Create these goals. Measure towards them. Review several times per year.

Respond & Engage
You are listening. You are measuring. Now it's time to engage with those who are talking. If a person mentions your company in a blog post, forum, tweet or any other online discussion, respond. However, it's critical here to respond like a human being. Yes - you want to be professional. Yes - you want to be a good steward of your organization. You can do both of these and still be human. As Jay Baer said in "How to Balance Your Personal and Professional Lives in Social Media" , "The fundamental truth is that your personal life is almost undoubtedly more interesting than your business life." Also worth reading on this topic is another Jay Baer gem, "Your Customers Don't Want to be Your Friend" . Bottom line is this: wherever people are talking about you, there is an opportunity to engage in the discussion - show you care, prove that you are knowledgeable about your product & your industry, and be helpful without selling.

Advocate & Evangelize
This is a big one. To be a Director of Community, it is imperative that you are an advocate for your company as well as your industry. When your name is mentioned, it should be synonymous with your business. In other words, if I am doing my job correctly, when people think about email, I want "DJ Waldow" and/or "Blue Sky Factory" to be top of mind. This only happens if you are engaging in the community - talking, writing, and evangelizing where your customers, prospects and peers are. Sometimes this means defending your industry - "Not all email marketers are spammers!". Other times it requires you to promote your industry (without the hard sell) - "Email marketing is not dead!" Either way, this role provides a unique opportunity to be the voice and face of your company and the industry. Take advantage of it!

Encourage & Cheerlead
Not everyone loves their job. Not everyone wakes up at 4AM inspired to write about their industry. Some people are 9-5ers. That is fine. In fact, it's great as it creates some balance and diversity. However, one of the major responsibilities of a Community Manager is to create positive energy within an organization. Internal education and encouragement is critical. Celebrate the successes. Showcase individuals and teams that are doing it right. Be sure your fellow co-workers know when people are saying good things about their work. If someone tweets, "I love [product ABC]!" let the the engineers and people who support it know. Cheerleading, motivating, encouraging, and "rallying the troops" should be part of your day-to-day.

Innovate & Lead
As Director of Community, you are often at the forefront of the latest and greatest technology. Your are "in the field" and "in the trenches" on a daily basis. You are seeing what is making other companies successful, learning what works and doesn't work for your organization. Take advantage of that knowledge. Innovate. Lead. Try. Fail. Risk. Learn. Adapt. One of the keys to the Community Manager role is to be on the cutting edge and communicate that knowledge internally.

In Closing...
I certainly do not have all of the answers. The role of Director of Community is a new one. I continue to see more and more job descriptions popping up every day. However, as a formal title, it's still very green. We are all learning together. If you want to read a very detailed description of the role from one of the first Director's of Community, I'd encourage you to check out "Being a Director of Community" by Amber Naslund of Radian6. Amber has also written an excellent Ebook titled, "The Social Media Team". Amber also happens to be an incredible friend and colleague as do others mentioned above (Jay Baer and Beth Harte).

Your turn. What do you think? Did I hit on the key aspects of this role? Did I answer some questions? Did I create some new questions? Do tell. See you on Twitter...

DJ Waldow
Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory

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DJ is one of our guest bloggers, if you, or someone you know would like to join our blog team, contact jessica@mitx.org, and let us know who you like.