Social media is an effective tool to engage your target audience, drive website traffic and, ultimately, boost sales; so why do so few companies employ a social media community manager? You know, the person that manages the whole thing?
It seems crazy, in the midst of a global financial crisis, to suggest that companies should go to the expense of hiring a community manager to oversee their social media presences. But at our company, Tomorrow People , we've been developing our community management team and processes to real effect over the past 16 months. I also know that HubSpot invests in employees dedicated solely to managing their social media presence, as well as many other companies we work with -- and they're all seeing great results from it. So how do you make the leap? This post will tell you everything you need to know about integrating a community manager into your marketing department.
First, what are the benefits of having a community manager?
By employing a team of full-time and part-time community managers, we’ve cut down on the number of sales people we need to employ because the inbound leads we’re producing are highly qualified. We’re doing the same for our clients, such as LinuxIT and Workbooks; by engaging effectively with communities online, their sales teams are more efficient because they're receiving far more qualified leads .
We've also noticed that employing a community manager drives approximately 30% more traffic to our website every month . Additionally, our average visitor-to-lead conversion rate for our B2B clients is 8% . Some of our clients even have no sales people, as they sell online: so the community managers are driving their sales directly!
For us, it has made sense to hire a community management team, but it may make sense for other companies to retain these skills -- it’s all about finding people with the right skills and enabling them to develop a community for you in the long-term.
Where does the community manager role fit?
Building efficiency into our process to generate more leads , we apply the lean manufacturing continuous improvement methodology Six Sigma to our internal processes, assuming the leads are the final output. We use HubSpot to measure our traffic and social media engagement.
We have packaged the model into a 5-step methodology we call Zoober: listen, create, engage, transform, grow. This is a process of continuous improvement, where we constantly measure and amend our approach. Our community management team delivers the 'Engage' stage of this model -- telling people what we’re doing and bringing them to our website.
What are a community manager’s roles and responsibilities?
1) Sets Up and Manages Profiles
Nothing makes your company look like it doesn’t care like half-filled in, out of date employee and company pages on LinkedIn or Facebook. Our community management team sets up and manages our company and employee social media profiles and groups. This involves setting up the content within our social media publishing tool -- we use HubSpot , but just transfer this step to whatever tool you use -- and ensuring profiles are standardized and present the company in a professional light.
2) Listens to the Buzz
A good community manager should listen to the buzz already online -- finding out what groups your target audience is joining on LinkedIn, for example, and who they’re following on Twitter. What are they talking about? Who are your rivals? What are they interested in? When are they most likely to read a tweet, or an update? Are they aware of your brand? Who are the key influencers within your industry who you should develop a long lasting relationship with?
Community managers should also investigate the various social media automation tools available, and stay up to date with technology, marketing, and industry news.
3) Grows the Network
A good community manager should then grow your networks by engaging every day online (via forums and owned communities) and offline (via events, conferences, and meet ups). They should also, of course, craft status updates, posts, and tweets -- because like most of your other marketing channels, social media also depends on sharing excellent content.
They should also increase your Facebook fans and quality Twitter and LinkedIn contacts. Quantity is important to establish reach , but your community manager should also focus on creating a larger base of high quality social media fans and followers. A thousand Facebook friends from the wrong industry may not be as valuable as 20 very influential friends with the right connections.
4) Distributes Content
Your community manager should promote your blog and website content to your network. They should help your company foster meaningful business discussions that will allow you to reach your target audience and gain more clients. It’s about dialogues, not monologues.
This should include blogger outreach, too -- finding the right person to get to know and ask for guest blogging opportunities. You could also consider reaching out to the publications, forums, and Q&A sites your target audience uses.
5) Joins the Conversation
This involves replying to online questions and comments immediately, giving your brand a face, and creating a relationship with prospects. The community manager should represent the client's voice, but should also be able to get their individual personality across. Especially in blogger outreach, conversation should come naturally to them -- they shouldn't be struggling to find a voice when contacting strangers.
What does the community manager not do?
A community manager isn’t responsible for:
- Marketing strategy
- Content creation
- Email marketing
- Lead nurturing
These tasks detract from the central role, but are all too often lumbered on community managers.
Is it worth it?
It’s definitely worth the effort for us -- and we’re sure it could be worth it for you, too! Too many companies don’t bother with social media engagement, or engage with it in an ad hoc fashion. Simply asking your copywriter to tweet every now and again, or getting the intern to update your company LinkedIn profile, won’t cut it; you need people who can focus on this role strategically and consistently to engage your online audience effectively. The benefits are clear -- but the process requires a professional.
You should also remember that while hiring a community manager is certainly an expense, you could save money hiring sales people or in other marketing hires. Develop a process or methodology to ensure you continually improve your social media results each month, and document & review those processes every month. Give your community management team great tools & remarkable content to get the best results. Managing social media communities is a highly skilled, challenging role -- which is why we’re amazed how many companies think they can get their intern to do it in their spare time.
Alistair Norman is the Marketing Director of HubSpot’s International Partner Agency of the Year 2012, the UK inbound marketing agency Tomorrow People. Alistair is also an auditor of the MA/MSc programme at Birmingham City University’s New Technology Institute. Follow Alistair on Twitter and Google+ .