Just as the popularity of private online communities is rapidly growing, so is the need for an effective online community manager. A position that barely registered as a Google search term just a few years ago has now become must-have role for many organizations. However, since online community management is a relatively new discipline, companies and organizations often aren't quite sure what they're looking for.
Interested candidates might be given a fairly broad job description before an interview, which can often make showcasing your skills and qualifications more difficult. I have even seen many situations where organization hire a community manager, only to have their talented new hire sit underutilized for years or morph into a website/social/community management.
Online customer and member communities can play a significant role in an organization's ability to reach critical business goals. However, the right online community manager must be in place. Both they and the company have to understand the importance and role of community management.
Do you think you might have what it takes to be an effective professional online community manager? If so, you're in luck. We've got a few tips for how you can ace your next job interview—but first, let's take a look at the ins and outs of the job.
Even though the role of online community manager is usually pretty broad, that doesn't mean you'll be constantly focused on putting out fires. Your main responsibilities will be tweaking the processes of the online community to try and increase participation and get more people through the onboarding process. You'll coordinate the content that will be added into the community to ensure your customers or members are getting the value and support they expect.
At their best, online community managers wear a lot of hats, but perhaps one of the biggest challenges of the position is continually educating the people around you about the purpose of your role. Since staffing an online community manager is a relatively new experience for most organizations, you will likely have the ability to shape your role, for better or for worse. Taking the time to educate those around you about what you bring to the table can help solidify your position as a necessity.
As an online community manager, you'll need to have a strong degree of initiative. It isn't the type of job where you'll wait for tasks to be assigned to you—more likely, you'll be determining the necessary actions required to achieve the goals of your new organization. Chances are, you'll probably have more experience with online communities than anyone else in your organization, so they'll be looking to you for answers.
In order to be an effective online community manager, you need to have a firm understanding of the pillars of online community management. You might find yourself in a situation where you need to call on that understanding to stand up for yourself and your job. Being prepared with a concrete plan for the future helps establish your purpose and relevance.
All of this starts during your job interview. Since online community managers are leaders before they are doers, it is more than likely that you'll be interviewed by someone looking for your guidance and initiative to meet the organization's goals. Here are effective ways to set yourself up for success both during the interview and once you have the job.
The single most important approach you can take in your online community manager interview is to demonstrate a clear worldview. This is the methodology or plan you have for ensuring your community delivers results to your organization. Your worldview is not just how you will promote growth, but how you will manage that growth and measure progress. Opening your interview with a firmly established worldview shows you are proactive, instead of reactive.
There's no need to sell your future employers on the magic of online community management. You don't have a mysterious touch that sets you apart from their other candidates—this is business. Taking a business approach means you're using real tangible, measureable business results that utilize data and metrics. This is not community for the sole purpose of community; it's community to serve your ecosystem and deliver tangible results to your organization.
Part of presenting your business approach to online community management is talking data (the right data points). It's one thing to say you'll deliver results, but if someone asks you how you'll achieve that, you need to be able to layout the online community metrics you would use. Even though the numbers look different for each community, analyzing data is a big part of professional online community management. Bear in mind that you might be speaking with non-data people, so talk in terms that allows them to understand what you bring to the table and the role of data in growing their online customer or member community.
You're going to interact with people who don't understand communities and your purpose, so demonstrate your ability to set expectations. Everyone wants results, but they may want them quicker than most online community strategies can deliver, so manage those expectations by being clear about your plans from the start.
As you're going over your plan and methodology, be clear that this isn't about a onetime campaign. In order for your online customer or member community to be successful, your processes need to be sustained and demonstrate a commitment to consistency. Discuss how you'll set up, test, measure and adjust repeatable processes that take customers or members through the engagement funnel.
The people hiring you might feel confident about their need at that moment in time, but be uncertain about your sustainability. By advocating for their community strategy and your role in developing and managing that community, you ensure your interviewers that you're going to make them look good for hiring you—both today and as the company, community, and strategies evolve.
One of the great—but perhaps most stressful—aspects of becoming an online community manager is having some level of control over your own fate. Since you're taking on a relatively new position, you'll have the power to develop your own plans and approach for success.
Demonstrating your ability to handle that responsibility and set the skeptics around you at ease will work toward solidifying the importance of your role. Though that might sound like a tall order, keep in mind that you're getting in on the ground floor of a growing career path and the possibilities for future growth are endless.
You already know why you would be valuable to a business or organization—now it's time to prove it.