Social Media Consulting Vs. Community Management

originally posted on Concept Hub

Since 2005 I have had the privileged to provide consultation, training and project management to several clients in the Metro Atlanta area. One of those clients, eRollover, has provided me with the opportunity to round out my experience by serving as their Community Director.

I  have always believed that social media needs to be integrated with various in-house job functions. As a consultant, my role has often been to guide my clients to adopt social media in the various ways that the organization felt ready. For some clients, it was as basic as getting their employees set up on Linkedin, for others it is was launching a branded niche community. As a community manager on staff with eRollover my role has been to continue to push the organization to be a social company from inside out.

Although my responsibilities include driving traffic to the website, getting followers on Twitter and Facebook and encouraging engagement on the various sites, I also need to ensure that each team member is also part of the community, not just on our site, but throughout the web. I have had the opportunity to sit in the strategy meetings for every aspect of the company to ensure that we are leveraging social software for everything from raising money to generating revenue.

What I have learned in the past year is:

Consulting is a lot easier than managing! As a consultant, I am still very hands-on with all the tools and personally apply the best practices. But when I apply my theories to my personal brand or even the Concept Hub brand, I am personally involved and the positive results have often been a result of the fact that I am aligned with people of like minds. As a manager of a brand, I am trying to align the brand (a start-up brand at that) with a community of people who are already involved with other similar brands. I need to do this in such a way that I am not the center of attention, but the brand is, as well as the various team members. What has worked for me personally is not always working out for the brand.

Community Management cannot be a silo-ed position! This is not a surprise to me, it is what I have believed all along. Social Media touches every aspect of the business. Any effort in the business can be enhanced by social media. A community manager not only needs to be in the boardroom and at various team and strategy meetings, but they need to also be meeting one on one with all the decision managers helping them understand the impact that social media can have on the direction of the business. I am very fortunate that I am working with a team that believes this as well.

You need more than one voice on the web. Although ultimately I am responsible for the direction and the success (or failures) of our social media program, I cannot be the only voice on the web. I am representing only one perspective. In the case of eRollover, I can align with Gen Xers who have realized they need to do more to save for their future. Others on the team are active investors and can align with like minds. Although it is the eRollover brand that needs to be the center of the conversation, conversations happen between people and the more voices we have on the web from the team the more people we can align with.

Guidelines evolve! For many people who have managed a brand for a long time, social media continues to present some mind-boggling challenges. Especially now that brands can be involved in the conversations in the case of a branded twitter campaign or the new roll out of Facebook Pages that enable brands to comment on other brand pages. As social media continues to evolve your guidelines need to evolve. For example, if your community is gathering on a particular political site, should your brand be there?  If yes what will others who are from the other political spectrum think of your brand?

Social Media roles are here to stay! at least for a while. I have read many opinions that social media is going to be swallowed by existing roles such as PR or Marketing. What I believed long ago when I started this agency and what I have found to be true in my role as Community Director is that there is a need for a new role focused solely on social media. We need PR to focus on PR while integrating social media into their role. We need marketing to focus on marketing while integrating social media into their role. But organizations will also continue to need an agency or person who can continue to find new ways to push the company to be more innovative and to include new markets which will be the role of the savvy Community Director and Social Media consultants.

Perhaps the titles will change as more people try to differentiate their offerings. Perhaps the roles will vary based on the needs and culture of each organization, but I do believe the need for expertise in social media will be needed for a good long time.