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‘Content strategy’ is of growing importance, so you absolutely must have the right kind of person running it for you

Some will tell you it’s not until you need an operation that you realise it was a smart thing to have health insurance. I’ve heard the same analogy used to describe the value of Community Managers for Social Media Programs. Fortunately, most people who run serious Social Media Programs realise how silly that statement is. A good Community Manager is worth their weight in gold. There is certainly a lot to be said about handling crisis comms well online, but with referrals amongst peers within communities being five times more powerful than any other selling tool, organisations are clamouring to get on top of the situation. As a reflection, Community Manager roles are one of the fastest growing job categories in Australia. As I do a quick Seek.com.au search I see there are 623 jobs for Online Community Managers in Australia. This compared to 159 jobs for Journalists in Australia. In fact when I search for social media jobs, an incredible 1,622 jobs return. It paints a stark picture. But hey, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know – the world has changed and continues to and the media landscape is perhaps the most dramatic of illustrations.

According to Michael Page, a Social Media Manager with less than three years experience can expect a salary of anywhere between $75-85K. Payscale on the other hand says that Journalism graduates have a median starting salary of just $49K. Lots of questions arise out of this. Societal questions like, don’t we want our best and brightest communicators to be spread more evenly across the media and the corporate world? Does this pay disparity incentivise such an outcome? After all, journalists have always had a proud history of holding the public and private sectors accountable, so what happens if we lose this measure? It’s a contentious subject.

I’m not going to go down that path right now, but I want to use it as catalyst to point out some qualities you really should be looking for in your next Community Manager, because there is a gap here that has the potential to very quickly turn into a chasm!

Integrity: When you are tasked with looking after your organisation’s communities online, you have a huge responsibility. You are at the front line and you don’t always have time to go through a chain of approvals to handle situations. I’ve alluded to the power of policy in my previous post: Emancipating your team – unleashing their potential with clever policy, but this doesn’t mitigate the need for having a community manager with strong integrity. Knowing how to handle issues with sensitivity is key. Business isn’t black and white.

Maturity: Having a Community Manager with more than a few years under their belt is sound advice. Kids might know social media better than the older ones, but the thing is, they aren’t just responsible for their peers. They need to know how to relate to a wide cross section of society, including different age brackets. If social is really important to you, treat it that way. You wouldn’t let a kid get in the cockpit of a 747 to fly all those passengers, unless they were exceptional, in which case you’d still have a co-pilot.

Experience: All these qualities here are similar, but not the same. You might think if you have experience you have maturity and if you have maturity you have integrity. While they are complementary, they are different. You also need a community manager who has worked in different roles. Diversity is critical. They shouldn’t have had all their work experience online. Online is the means to an end, not the be all and end all.

Longing: I say for organisations engagement is born from a willingness to listen. This therefore needs to flow through the veins of your Community Manager. They must want to know and understand people. They should have a desire for insights and the confidence to ask the right questions. This longing for common understanding, mutual respect and appreciation, will make all the difference to your social media programs.

Community Managers play a pivotal role for all kinds of organisations today – you want to make sure you choose the right one! If you’re only thinking about Twitter Followers and Facebook Likes, you want to think again. With power comes responsibility. For Community Managers, one wonders whether they’d do well do have a similar code of ethics to Journalists who subscribe to the Media Alliance Code of Ethics. They might not be independent, but they certainly should be honest, fair, and respect the rights of others!

– My name is Aaron Crowther. Follow me on Twitter @ascommstweeter

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