4 Traits of an Effective (or Obsessed) Community Manager

Last week one of my friends on Twitter, Brett Mickelson, tweeted at me in response to my blog post “Why Newspapers Need Community Managers.”

He asked me to talk about what news organizations should look for in someone that they’re considering hiring in a community management-type role. I told him that I would write about it soon.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that’s difficult to do, because every organization will need or want something different from someone for the role they’re trying to fill.

Instead, I’m going to write about the four traits that a effective (or obsessed) community manager should have, based primary on my own experiences managing online communities.

They believe in the brand/drink the company Kool-Aid. This should be a no-brainer, but it bears repeating. Hire someone who believes in what your news organization stands for. They’ll be interacting with your users/customers/readers every day. This will come through in the interview process moreso than through a rĂ©sumĂ©. They might even come to the interview with a list of recommendations for how to improve the Facebook or Twitter page, or suggestions for new platforms to venture into. Are they overeager? Probably. Do they believe in the company and the brand? Definitely.

They’re obsessed. When I was in journalism school, one of my professors said that you should always be thinking of a story. When you’re sitting in a restaurant, having dinner, make sure you’re alert. Something could happen, and a story could appear before your eyes. Well, it’s the same way with community management. An effective community manager should always be thinking about the community that they are overseeing. You read a sign, and the wheels start turning: “This could work in my community!” Or, “I wonder what the community would think of a partnership with this business?” Community management is not a 9-5 job, so don’t hire someone who talks like it is.

They’re antsy. It’s 15 minutes until the next post is meant to appear on the Facebook Fan community that you manage. You’ve got this link to a story, that appears on the news organization’s website. You know, given how the community has reacted in the past to content, that this could be a big story. But you’re also second-guessing yourself. What if the community actually doesn’t react? What if they aren’t as interested as you think they will be? After all, the community/Fan Page isn’t yours, it’s theirs. Your job is to supply content and discussion topics. An effective (or obsessed) community manager cares about the content that is presented to the community for discussion and reaction. The Facebook page shouldn’t be hooked up to the news fire-hose. Look for someone who understands that, and appreciates the art of content curation.

They’re competitive. Social media isn’t a race, or a competition. Nobody “wins”. But that shouldn’t matter to whoever is managing your news organization’s online communities. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of “friendly competition”, is there? The person (or people) who manage you communities, should be aware of what’s happening in the communities of competing news organizations. They will believe in the news organization and in the brand, and will want to see it come out ahead of everyone else. Their metrics of success may not be typical. Instead of having the biggest community, they might want the most active members, or the most response per item. Regardless of what it is, they will want to steer the community into the spotlight as a leader.

There are a lot more important traits to look for when hiring a community manager, but these four are pretty important. What have I missed? Feel free to fill in the blanks in the comments below.