Why community manager is not an entry-level role

Community manager is an ever-more important role. It’s the person or team that keeps an eye on what people are saying about the brand. It’s a mix of social media and online reputation management. But how much experience do community managers need? Is it an entry-level job or more advanced?

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What’s a community manager anyway? Often these roles take care of the social media accounts of one or more organizations. They post updates, respond to people quickly and keep an ear to the ground on trending topics that might impact the organization-as well as mentions of the brand by others out in the social media wild.

Why would I even think to discuss this? Some people think that everyone in younger generations can be a community manager – you know because they’ve grown up with social media. They are digital natives, and because of that, they know how to run an organization’s social media.

Sometimes I joke on Twitter that all of my Tweets are now approved by my seven-year-old since she’s a digital native and has grown up with social media. But while she has always known about social media, that obviously doesn’t make her a social media expert.

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It’s kind of like saying that because I grew up around cars, I automatically knew how to drive one when I got my license. You know, my Mom, Dad and the parents of friends all drove cars and sometimes I was a passenger even.

See, it’s similar. Just because you grew up around one thing or another more than a previous generation doesn’t necessarily make you more or less qualified for a position.

The role

Don’t get me wrong. I know great younger (and older) community managers, but they all have some – if not all – of the following in common. They:

  • have organizational knowledge and can find answers to questions by social media users quickly. They are actually helpful!
  • have authority to respond without having their responses approved by four vice presidents.
  • know when they should draw on the four vice presidents.
  • can explain their actions to those vice presidents and the VPs buy the explanations.
  • are trusted internally.
  • have canned responses at their disposal, but are empowered and able to personalize responses.
  • write like people talk, not like organizations – even when they Tweet for an organization.
  • know when to take discussions off public channels and do so successfully.
  • respond quickly
  • know when to hit the pause button and when to respond

There certainly are entry-level type roles in the area of community management, but the actual role of community manager needs a certain level of experience that takes a bit of work to acquire. Maybe not 15 years, but community management is not something we can just turn over to the unpaid summer intern.

Community managers, after all, can help an organization’s brand reputation online. As you may imagine, that influence can be positive and negative. It all depends on the skills of the community manager.


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