I was prompted to consider this earlier today, after I was asked by a friend to help him decipher several confusing job roles within social media that he wanted to apply for. Several of the roles were for a 'community manager' and we talked at length about how online communities needs can change and how you effectively remain agile enough to accommodate them. A community manager is usually responsible for overseeing the application of a brand or businesses' social media marketing and content strategy to their audience and followers. The role can require a varied but complete skillset to be competent and successful.
For this to move forward, I firmly believe that an understanding of communication and psychological behaviour is required to effectively deliver in ever-changing responsibilities of the role. Social media users are visibly changing their behaviour and the way they communicate, with recent swings towards conversation on traditionally visual platforms like Instagram or Snapchat, as well as moving toward more instant and private messaging functionality as evidenced by Whatsapp. It's more instant and simple to use, so brands need to realise this, adjust and research the new skills required for them to be able to evolve to meet the demands of their audience.
The best community managers out there will continue to work within the core goals of their brand, whilst at the same time working incredibly hard to improve the user experience and provide consistent value across their platforms. They are evolving from the simple customer service staff which made it easy to employ interns to fill the role, to driving forces and knowledgeable assets to the strategic future successes of their brands and businesses. Those managers who are truly embraced by their audiences and communities are already being seen using the latest functionality to remain 'in touch' with them; from curating and steering conversation to live video conversations.
As I have already mentioned, user experience is key to the success of any online community. So as we see audience needs and preferences change, we need to continue to not only meet their requirements, but to be actively seen to be exceeding them at all times. Again it's a reminder that we have to earn our audiences by delighting them at every turn, adding value often before they even realise that it's what they're looking for. How do the best do that? They listen to their audience. They treat it as a conversation in it's own right. We can't grow communities unless we can actively help the audiences within them grow themselves. It's important to realise that a brand or business' success hinges heavily on the successes of their community members.
I do believe that with increased opportunity for dynamic and improved brand value that most community managers requirements shift as the consumer market matures. The brand community will become more professional and within the particular brand and that includes facing the reality that skill sets are not always attainable in one individual. With the ever changing platforms available to the brand and untapped levels of competition that arise, remaining attuned to the consumer, in all aspects and in every role, becomes more important than ever to the evolution of communities and their managers.