How Credible is Your Community Manager?

The overwhelming majority of community managers out there are self taught and have been teaching themselves for the past 20 years.  There are some rockstar pros out there, but as online communities continue to thrive in places like social media we’ve gotten to the point where “community” needs to be taught just like we teach marketing, communications, and finance in business schools across the country.

While the top universities start to prepare themselves for online communications degrees, in the interim how do you qualify a credible community manager?  What makes a great CM credible to their community?  How do their industry peers view them?  Are they hacks, virtuosos, self-promoters, unsung hereos, or quiet geniuses?

Whether you’re a hiring manager not sure what to look for, or a brand new community manager just starting out, I think you’ll find quite a few great pieces of advice here.

Q1) When just starting out, what can you do to build your “cred” in your community?

newsle Be there. In the beginning more than ever, have a presence.

annedreshfield  Make sure I’m seen on as many blogs as possible, help wherever I can, be polite, a good person people notice.

vargasl You build cred through setting expectations and participation. Sounds simple enough, but a lot of hard work and consistency.

DavidYarus Participate in all opportunities to connect. Authentically highlight your involvement / experience. Be real.

ahicklin Listen, listen & listen some more. No one wants to hear from you if you don’t know what you’re talking about.

apdolan  Listen first. Ask questions. Read, research, tread lightly, be curious & courteous. Share what you’re reading/liking/learning

Lhriangel Try to be transparent with your communications. Respond to as many things as possible.

corecorina  Building credibility comes with being involved, engaging, educating, participating and learning. Be Humble, cred will come.

viveledimanche Get involved with fans. Ask them questions. Find out their interests

apdolan  Make smart first conversations. Don’t be too bold but make sure you’re saying something valuable, succinct, & alluring.

jimstorer Get to know some of your active members and make them look good/knowledgeable. Spend time with them vs. promoting you.

SueOnTheWeb  Do not talk to members in corporate speak. Keep it personable.

Q2) How do you track your personal progress as a Community Manager? What’s important to tell in your story?

DrunkyMonken Keep track of interactions, events, announcements, etc. This also helps to know what has been successful in the past.

raquel_gonzalez Diversity in communities. And results! What’s the benefit? What’s the community’s attitude toward marketed material.

vargasl Personal progress? Seems anti-cmty. If the communities I manage / participate are healthy & engaged, that is progress.

MassMarotta Much like a sales position…a proven track record. Have metrics to back up your story.

debng  I think personal progress is in how the community reacts in a variety of ways – depending on what the goal may be

KellyLux For me, progress has been made in building community when members are helping each other, answering Qs and sharing w/out me.

TheMiddle But engagement and sentiment levels are very important. If you see an decrease in neutral/negative and more positive, +1

KellyLux  I always point to transitions of ‘trolls into community cheerleaders’ as REAL progress 🙂

apdolan  When your members evangelize for you – and bring their members/friends to you – that’s a huge success. WOM/social referals.

JPedde It’s easy to get caught up in data porn. Look at your progress over time. What was it like on day one vs 6 months or a year.

Q3) What are the truly impressive accomplishments you can share when you look back at your time as a CM? (Think big, beyond numbers)

Jmodio  Launching a new community from scratch, and watching it thrive and grow and be successful.

MaddieRuud  I am most proud of getting us through the Google Panda updates, retaining & helping users despite widespread panic

RickyDricky  Transforming “trolls” into your supporters or brand advocates! Especially with personal engagement.

annabelleblue  Being a CM taught me how to delicately navigate difficult situations w/poise & grace. It helped launch my career.

DrunkyMonken Open letters with the community, unique events, and being able to redirect a horrible flamefest into a quality convo.

KellyLux  I point to #CMGRchat and the community we’ve built as one of my biggest accomplishments. And it does matter to my brand.

ATT_Jam Having execs say “wow – ALL these people are talking about our stuff & we get to see everything?” Seeing it click made my day.

viveledimanche  Creating a community on minimal budget & personal- picking up photog stills on the way

apdolan The goal is to not be so impressed with yourself that you don’t ache to keep growing/creating/doing more.

Q4) What is your leadership style? How do you inspire?

debng Is winging it a leadership style?

vargasl By DOING. I get my hands dirty.

annabelleblue  It’s not how you fall, but how you dust yourself off that counts. Explore, play, care, and dive in.

pushingvision Model behavior, be engaged but not overwhelming, encourage conversation, say please and thank you

georgiasap  Leadership style: Be an example by doing what you love. Empower, enable & inspire leaders.

apdolan  Cheerleader, virtual-hug-giver, compliment-doler, thanks-offerer, poetry-pusher, comfort-zone-crosser

raquel_gonzalez Teach! Most of us just want to learn. So I describe SM in a way my peers can process.

ahicklin My leadership style? Serenity now 🙂

 Q5) Do Community Manager training programs help with the credibility of a new CM?

debng  I don’t know. I’m old school, self taught. I don’t know if a program helps newer CMs get a foot in the door or not.

debng . I’d rather see field experience than a certificate.

ATT_Jam I think training/certifications are very helpful but Joe Blow off of the street doesn’t care that you’ve got a plaque.

rhogroupee They might help with cred to the big bosses, but not with the community, IMO

KellyLux  I think it all depends on who teaches, what they’re teaching and how much hands-on, real-life experience is included

JPedde: We don’t require CEOs to take a course.  Why should we look for this stuff in a CM?

ilovegarick Credibility comes with how you present yourself, what you say & what you can accomplish. Certs are just pieces of paper.

mattcassinelli I wrote a whole document explaining how I did my job to give to the next person, but it’s still probably not enough

Lhriangel  Haven’t been to any. However… Customer Service/People training is a MUST if it is a consumer product/brand/etc.

DanKlamm  I think a new CM can gain cred by asking smart questions, listening, being perceptive. Not sure a training program is needed.

annabelleblue Community Mgmt. is both quantitative and qualitative. Some things can’t be taught. Networking & conferences will teach a lot.

sarahbeewashere You really need the instincts and aptitude for this work – training may hone your skills but you can’t teach the basic stuff.

DrunkyMonken CMGR isn’t a job taught in school, its taught on the mean streets of the internet. It is about knowing both the product and…

DrunkyMonken demographics of the community, and their background. That, and knowing that CMGRs are there for the community as a whole.

adamyoung42 Yes and no. Education can only take you so far, but can be essential for concepts. Experience is crucial and a must!

apdolan  I find that perceptive folk who naturally study communication & relationships do well with this role + hard-working & adaptive


This digest is taken from the #cmgrchat Twitter Chat Topic “Community Management Credibility transcript that took place on Wednesday June 13th, 2012. 

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About the author

Jenn Pedde

Jenn is a Co-Founder of The Community Manager and the Editor-In-Chief. She’s also an adjunct professor at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. You can find her almost anywhere online, but specifically on #CmgrChat every Wednesday from 2-3pm ET.