in Marketing

Do Startups Need Community Managers?

Editor’s note: This is a cross post from Mark Evans Tech written by Mark Evans of ME Consulting. Follow him on Twitter @markevans or MarkEvansTech.com. This post was originally published in March 26, 2012 on MarkEvansTech.com.

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Do start-ups needs community managers to operate their social media activities…and a whole lot more?

It’s an interesting question. On one hand, social media is seen as a low-cost marketing and sales channel for lean and mean start-ups. On the other, every full-time hire is a major decision so start-ups need to decide whether having a community makes sense, or whether having another developer or salesman is a more pragmatic option.

If the right person is hired, a community manager can be a valuable asset for a start-up. There are, however, several important skills a community manager needs to possess. These include:

  1. Have in-depth knowledge of social media strategy and tactics. It’s more than knowing how to tweet or post an update. It means knowing how to execute, when to get involved in a situation and when to lie low, and how to build relationships and connections.
  2. Excellent communication and writing skills given so much of what a community manger does is engage and talk with a variety of people in a public forum. A good community manager has the ability to prepare blog posts, presentations, case studies, and speak at conferences.
  3. Understand and appreciate the business development process. In talking with lots of people and consuming tons of information, community managers have the ability to discover, identify and nurture prospects, which can then be passed along to the sales team.
  4. Provide top-notch customer service. It means having the knowledge and patience to deal with all kinds of issues and problems – big and small – that emerge. Some of them can be handled online, while some needs to be tactfully taken off-line.
  5. Sell and, even, close a deal: There are potential customers who make it clear about the products they need. A savvy community manager will be all over these opportunities with the goal to complete a sale.

Like a stellar five-tool baseball player, community managers require a variety of skills to not only be effective but provide startups with maximum bang for the buck. They need to multi-task AND be good at all of the tasks that pop up during the working day.

Community managers who have these skills can completely justify their hiring and, in the process, serve a startup in many ways to support its operations and growth.

What do you think? Is there a right time for a startup to hire a community manager?

Editor’s note: This is a cross post from Mark Evans Tech written by Mark Evans of ME Consulting. Follow him on Twitter @markevans or MarkEvansTech.com. This post was originally published in March 26, 2012 on MarkEvansTech.com.

  • seanrucker

    I totally believe in Community Managers. I’ve seen first hand the value they bring to the table. The trouble is finding a good one. Everyone claims to be a social media expert these days because they use Facebook and know how to tweet. Like you stated, a good community manager goes beyond that. 

    I think its also very important to find a community manger who has domain expertise. In our case we are a golf startup and hiring a community manager that can blog about the latest PGA tournaments would be incredibly valuable. Our founding team includes a developer, designer and sales/biz dev. We’re starting to look at our first hire and we’re trying to decide between a community manager or an online advertising specialist. We need someone to manage our social media presence, write on our blog, produce monthly e-newsletters, run online promotions/contests and manage our online advertising campaigns (Google, Facebook, BuySellAds etc.). Do think this can all be lumped together in one role is that wishful thinking?

  • http://whoyoucallingajesse.com/ Jesse Rodgers

    Community managers or inbound marketing folks, are they the same person? I think so. If that is true then every startup needs one.

  • http://ossingtonvillage.com Brian Sharwood

    I think the best point you make in the post is the last one. Community managers need to be able to close a deal. Most of the ones I know are good at the social side, but really lack in the ability to sell. They need to bring that sales skill with them, as it’s a combo role of broader marketing as well as sales. 

  • http://twitter.com/TechAlly Alexandra Reid

    Social media can help startups attract and
    nurture prospective customers, promote their companies and products/services,
    engage with like-minded people in their respective industries, court media
    attention and establish key business relationships. Some social media forums
    beyond the mainstream channels, like AngelSoft and AngelList, can even help
    startups court angel investors. But these relationships take time to develop
    and once a startup has established a presence on social media, its community
    expects it to be there to respond. Therefore, if a startup is going to create a
    business case for social media, it must have someone to run these accounts
    professionally and consistently.

     

    Too often have I seen new companies dive
    headfirst into social media without first developing a strategy to ensure
    consistent participation towards established goals. As startup employees
    are usually stretched between a number of tasks and bogged down by work as it
    is, hiring a community manager can help ensure consistent and goal-oriented
    participation on these channels. However, as Sean points out, the trouble is
    finding a good community manager – one that also understands strategy and has
    professional writing ability – on a startup budget.

     

    This post fails to mention a third option
    beyond hiring or not hiring a full-time community manager, which is to
    outsource these activities to a marketing agency or self-employed community
    manager. As an outsourced community manager myself, I am able to provide the
    same services as an internal community manager to our clients but at a
    relatively modest cost. This is the perfect solution for startups, in my
    opinion, especially if they can find someone with expertise specific to their
    respective fields.

     

    As for timeframe, startups should take on
    a community manager at the same time as they prepare their marketing programs,
    which ideally should be before the product has launched. They certainly
    shouldn’t wait until after they have created a Facebook page. 

     

    I’ve written a number of blog posts on the
    value of social media to startups that I suggest you check out for more
    information. My most recent post was actually on how to develop a
    communications strategy for outsourced community management: 

     

    http://francis-moran.com/index.php/marketing-strategy/outsourced-community-management-agency-to-b2b-social-media-communications-strategy/

     

    http://francis-moran.com/index.php/social-media/five-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-outsourcing-social-media/

     

    http://francis-moran.com/index.php/social-media/how-startups-can-use-social-media-to-court-angel-investors/

     

    http://francis-moran.com/index.php/social-media/how-to-determine-market-demand-on-a-startup-budget/

     

    http://francis-moran.com/index.php/social-media/how-to-track-social-media-efforts-and-reach-your-benchmarks-on-a-startup-budget/As