Monthly Archives: October 2012

Community Manager: The online party host – Week 6

Photo courtesy of

With the rise in social media use amongst organizations, has come an influx of exciting new positions in social media web communications, community management (CM) being one of them. According to our text, “Whereas this term was probably unheard of just a few years ago, now it’s uncommon now to have a social media program in place without some form of CM activity.” To further demonstrate this point, @boydneil revealed that our course was created by Ryerson with the intent that graduates would be entering management positions in this field.

We had the privilege of getting an insider’s view of what CM is all about the other week when Mary Pretotto presented her experience as Social Media CM at Rogers. Being a Rogers customer myself I could only fathom the social media challenges that come her way. Anxious to learn about the role, after hearing her presentation, I launched a mini investigation into what CM is all about.

What does an online community manager do, exactly?

A ran a good old fashioned Google search and came across a great analogy of the CM as the party host mixed with a fine restaurant host. In his article, Essential Skills of a Community Manager, Chris Brogan states:

“The distinction is because a party is more personal and a restaurant requires their host to think with a business mind. CMs need both skillsets in equal space. A party host will connect people together, praise incoming guests appropriately, maintain conversations throughout the event, and see everyone safely off with a smile and a wave. A restaurant host must be certain the ambiance is just right, know that the kitchen is functioning appropriately, and help the rest of the staff pull off a flawless dining experience.”

Ryan Bauer at Ryanonics, states that a great CM has three main functions: “They engage fans, keep conversations flowing, and to act as the peacemaker when tough situations arise.” Another key function we must not forget according to the text is, “the CM helps manage the development, publishing and curation of online content. Most importantly, the they serve as the ‘voice of the customer’ online, within the community.”

What it takes to become a successful community manager

Ryan Bauer believes that, “customer service has in a way become the new marketing. If you think about it, it makes sense, existing customers happy, in a public way, then that can be the best kind of marketing for your business.” Mary Pretotto revealed that some of the best community managers hail from the customer service industry. Below are some additional traits that make a successful CM.

  • Good listeners – listen to what customers have to say
  • Active participators – in their communities, commit to improving the user experience
  • Helpful – solve problems before it becomes an issue
  • Good reporters –  what they learn from online sources internally, share the good stuff
  • Committed –  to building the community they interact with

To get a better idea of the skills employers are looking for, I sifted through a number of online community manager job postings (about a dozen or so) and compiled a list of top qualifications/skills, as well as main responsibilities.


Hard Skills Soft Skills
  • A min 2-4 yrs social media marketing experience
  • Active use of social media as well as an understanding of the social web
  • Demonstrated experience engaging users online
  • Serve as the ‘voice of the customer’ online, within the community
  • Written communication skills
  • Project management skills
  • Solid understanding web services, community software general technology/trends
  • Building, managing, engaging online communities
  • Developing/rolling out social media strategies
  • Ability to oversee complex social projects from beginning to end
  • Identify opportunities to enhance engagement and loyalty
  • Develop the online community against key user engagement metrics
  • Monitoring/responding to online metrics

Brainstorming/strategizing social media initiatives based on client goals

  • Passionate about social media
  • Active social media presence and on-screen personality
  • Organizational skills – to track many activities without dropping too many balls
  • Outgoing attitude, excellent interpersonal skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Ability to listen, empathize with and respond to the customer
  • Proactive attitude
  • Ability to multi-task
  • Detail oriented
  • Passionate about social media
  • Creativity
  • Ability to be flexible, work after hours, evening weekends – the community never sleeps
  • Patience to let others participate without dominating the conversation.
  • Marketing to make sure people know about your online community.
  • Self-motivation and the ability to work without much supervision.

Networking with a wide variety of people and being able to call on the right ones at the right time.

Via gigaom

Main Responsibilities

Some of the main responsibilities of a CM may include:

  • Serve as organizations’ spokesperson and voice within online communities
  • Implement, manage and moderate social communities
  • Develop and implement a content management strategy
  • Moderate comments and participate in discussions
  • Listen to users and solicit and interpret user feedback
  • Translate that feedback into actionable recommendations for audience and revenue growth
  • Curate and compose compelling content suitable for social channels to facilitate engagement
  • Measure, report and analyze on line community tools to identify trends, opportunities and behaviors
  • Attend events relevant to social media and online marketing
  • Liaise with creative, accounts and technical teams

How many jobs are out there?

The 2012 Community Manager Report

Info graphic courtesy of

Those of us wishing to pursue this as a career are probably interested in how many jobs are out there. I was disappointed to find that when I searched “online community” on and, it returned little results. The majority of postings were in the US. This is in-line with the info graphic to the left, which illustrates that the top cities for CMs are NYC, San Francisco, Boston and LA.

This tells us one of three things: 1) the function has not yet fully been recognized as a separate entity within Canada 2) The CM role is blurred with other social media functions 3) Other functions are unofficially performing the CM role.

Although the CM role is rising in popularity as organizations amplify their social media efforts, based on my research it’s still a maturing function within most organizations. It may be a few years or when more until we catch-up with the U.S. and see the CM as a specific role within most organizations involved in social media. It’s most likely to occur once organizations  enter the operational integration phase of their social media practice, meaning that “not only is the program tangible, it is delivering results, and more specialized roles begin to emerge.”  Until them, we will most likely see other functions absorbing the role, or it being blurred with other social media roles.

Please share perspective on where you think the CM role currently  fits into the Canadian job market.


What’s an info graphic worth? – Week 4

This week we covered content strategy. More specifically, visualization, creativity and creating engaging content on the social web. We took a closer look at info graphics and were asked to brainstorm what constitutes an effective one. The consensus amongst groups was that the best info graphics:

  • Summarize large amounts of data or displayed statistics
  • Present information clearly and concisely
  • Capture the readers’ or audiences’ attention, and provide visual breaks when reading through heavy text
  • Packaged lengthy and sometimes dry material in a visually appealing and easy to understand manner
  • Show a natural flow or progression of information, using elements and principles of design like movement and colour
  • Effectively use humour and/or symbolism
  • Show growth over time

As an extension of the class discussion, we were asked to find and analyze three info graphics that illustrated the different elements of a content strategy.

What is a content strategy?
In Kristina Halvorson’s and Melissa Rach’s book, “Content Strategy for the Web”, content strategy is summarized as, “what guides your plans for the curation, delivery and governance of content”.

The content strategy quad
Taken from the site Brain Traffic, the text utilizes the following diagram to illustrate the critical components that make up a content strategy.

Let’s take a look at some other examples that illustrate these components.

1.       Content Strategy Burger

This info graphic immediately caught my eye, and not just because I was hungry. Creaor Mark Smiciklas does an amazing job at illustrating the crucial components of a content strategy. This graphic conveys that when any one of these components is missing, the audience is going to be left unsatisfied.

Advantages or strengths:

  • Uses humour and symbolism that most of us can relate to
  • Minimal wording is needed to get the message across.
  • Creative use of symbols and effective use of colour
  • Easy to understand what the info-graphic is trying to convey at a glance.

Disadvantages or weaknesses:

  • Appeals to a North American audience, but would the same image be iconic across cultures?
  • It’s arguable whether this info graphic strikes the right balance between the amount of information presented and the amount of symbols used.
  • The graphics seem to overpower the information that is being presented.

2.       The 7 Elements of Smart Content

This second example from Patricia Redsicker, shows helpful hints on how to create meaningful content. It is arguably the weakest of the three.

Advantages and strengths

  • The subject matter is clear with a distinct title.
  • Tells a story through the use of a reoccurring character.
  • The eye is guided effectively through the use of numbered lists.
  • Key words are emphasized by highlighting and bold text.
  • Harmony is achieved through the use of an analogous colour scheme.

Disadvantages and weaknesses

  • There is not a whole lot of supporting information here. Where are the facts and figures?
  • Did this information really justify an info graphic, or would it have been just as effective as text?

3.       Content Storytelling for Businesses

Whereas, example one utilized mainly symbols and example two mainly text, this last info graphic, from Fathom Business Events strikes just the right balance between text and graphics.

The graphic uses the whimsical theme of campfires and storytelling to illustrate how compelling stories can be a powerful tool for influencing your target audience.

Advantages and Strengths

  • A clear theme has been developed with the use of iconic imagery one would associate with camp fires and storytelling.
  • There is a limited use of colours and a consistent colour theme.
  • There is a clear flow to the information. The eye is guided left to right and from the top downwards.
  • There is quite a bit of information here. What  may have taken up pages or a chapter, is well summarized using one graphic.
  • Key clusters of information are grouped together.
  • A natural grouping of information is established through the use of headings.
  • Images are not pointless and every illustration/symbol serves a specific purpose.
  • Strikes the right balance of text and imagery.

Disadvantages and weaknesses

  • Text is quite small and font may be hard for some to read.
  • Some images are also quite small – you really have to zoom in to make out what they are.
  • The colours may be hard to reproduce in black and white.

With the rise in popularity or solely visual social media applications like Pinterest and Instagram, there is clearly a demand for more visual content on the social web. With info graphics increasingly being used and becoming easier to produce, PR professionals need think about incorporating them into our content strategy.