There are several key things employers need to know when hiring for an offline Community Manger. The following are most relevant to coworking space employers, but could be applied to any business that needs to nurture or grow a community offline.
There are 6 things employers need to know when hiring Community Managers offline, as learned over years of working as a Community Manager myself for one of Australia’s largest coworking chains at the time. Here they are:
- 1) The Definition of A Community Manager (CM) vs Social Media Manager (SMM)
- 2) Personality Differences
- 3) The difference between an offline CM vs online CM
- 4) An offline CM is most effective when focused on community, not just sales
- 5) Don’t fit 3 roles into 1
- 6) Not all Community Managers are created equal
1) The Definition of A Community Manager (CM) vs Social Media Manager (SMM)
It’s crazy how often I see job descriptions confuse CM’s with SMM’s. Although I can’t blame the market, it’s something that still needs to be addressed.
A CM is someone who helps grow, nurture and retain community members, typically post-sale (e.g. Salesforce, Slack, etc.). SMM’s, on the other hand, deal with online communities that are more public or dispersed (e.g. Reddit, Twitter, etc.). They’re typically audiences or fans, as opposed to paying customers or members. Casual fans can, of course, become paying members, but there’s a different focus and energy that comes with a human being that has become a member to something.
I’d also suggest you have a read of this article by Envato’s Global Communications & PR Manager, Venessa Paeche, when you get a chance.
2) Personality Differences
The natural traits that make for a great SMM, might not necessarily directly translate over for a CM (especially offline). Let me explain.
Offline CM’s typically require being customer-facing or front-of-house. As a result, the best types of personalities for these roles are those who get their energy by being directly infront of people (e.g. extroverted). Whereas an SMM is typically someone who is more behind-the-screen, but gets their energy by being away from people physically (e.g. introverted). Both extroverts and introverts can be loud and social – a distinction most people confuse when trying to identify between the two – but introverts will typically want less direct face-time than their extroverted counterparts.
The ideal SMM may be quite serene or quiet in person, but a superhuman gun when it comes to replying to emails, social media messages, etc. I’ve seen this time and time again in between various jobs and companies.
Therefore, if you’re looking to hire an offline CM, I suggest you pay very close attention to how candidates feel at the end of a long day with constant face-time. The ones with more stamina are typically the extroverts, since they get their energy by being around more people.
Why does this matter?
Because, over time, the offline CM is going to need to be able to juggle a lot of different people (and their energies) daily, weekly, monthly, and maybe even yearly.
NOTE: This does NOT mean you should exclude those who don’t show this sort of resilience, but it’s important to pay attention to in your decision-making.
3) The difference between an offline CM vs online CM
Now, since you’re going to find “Community Manager” thrown around a lot over the web, especially in Australia (which is still a bit behind the United States when it comes to understanding the subtleties), it’s important to know what the market is doing.
If you’re an employer for a coworking space, the type of Community Manager you’re looking for is primarily offline.
Yes, they should have online community management skills too (e.g. tech savvy, understand social media, etc.), but their primary strengths should be in the offline domain.
This means that your offline CM should have most or all of the following traits:
- Experience in sales, customer service or retail
- Passionate about people and your product
- Be a quick connector
- Make people feel welcome or at ease when around
- Basic negotiation or mediation skills (for in-person dispute resolution)
- Quick learner
- Basic digital literacy (to be able to pick up new technologies)
You’ll notice that most of these traits are not dependent on qualifications or experience. Why is that? Because what makes for a good CM is there emotional intelligence – yes, emotional, because the role has everything to do with people. So even if you had someone who studied psychology, they’re going to actually do really well if they can keep up with constant demand for attention in the early growth stages of the community. Over time, the member demands should ease out (but we’ll leave discussion of community growth stages for another day).
4) An offline CM is most effective when focused on community, not just sales
In the coworking industry, it’s a reality that most CM’s have to be part salespeople, part CM’s. However, there are some (who have the cash to back) who have the ideal scenario – where the CM’s sole focus is on creating an awesome vibe, connecting people and cross-selling or up-selling members. There’s no desperate sales push, which cultivates a community of trust, safety and belonging.
And with all communities, it’s really just about that sense of belonging.
During my last job, I got lots of feedback about our tours. Those who joined, said they did so because there was no hard sales push. Whereas, when they went to other spaces, they felt that desperation right off the bat, which makes sense if you think about it.
If you’ve ever been in the dating game, you may have experienced what it’s like when someone is desperate for your attention or love. This type of behaviour usually repels people, but it’s the type of approach that many traditional employers still teach their sales force in the Age of Millennials (yep, I’m going to call it that). However, new research shows that social selling is far more effective than traditional methods.
And being a Millennial myself (cross Gen Y), new data shows (thanks to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook & Harvard Business Review) that if you want to retain employees and customers, you have to look at providing: meaning/purpose, authenticity and opportunities for growth. It’s that simple!
So although sales may be a very real need for you from a business perspective, consider whether that needs to come from the CM, or if it would be better suited split into another role (e.g. a BDM or sales rep).
Finally, the best way to measure the success of your offline CM is through metrics such as: member satisfaction, lifetime value, and churn rate . Their true value will be shown through these type of metrics, otherwise, the sales numbers (alone) will not reflect their true value.
I mean, there’s a reason why you’re hiring a Community Manager and not a Salesperson, right? But highly engaged members of a community will, in the long run, become your best repeat customers and referrers. You simply need to have the stomach for playing the long game.
5) Don’t fit 3 roles into 1
Having worked intensely at a coworking space for 2 years (felt like 5) during their growth stage, I learned first hand what happens when you don’t understand the real purpose of the CM function.
Fitting multiple roles into one, over time, eventually spells disaster. Why? Because, as a community grows, the demand for one’s time across various functions become more and more. Focus gets scattered, burnout becomes very real, and employers may start to wonder why things aren’t getting done (if not asking the right questions).
This is something not unique to many CM’s (either online or offline).
As a result, it’s important you look at your Job Description (JD) when hiring, and make sure you do either one of the following:
- If strapped for cash, and you need a jack-of-all-trades, make this clear in the JD. Set one primary metric (for focus) that the candidate can be clear on, with 1 or 2 other secondary metrics. Anything more will become unmanageable as you grow.
- If cash is not an issue, consider splitting some of the overloaded functions in the one role out into 1 or 2 other positions (and adjust salaries accordingly). I’ve often seen an offline CM JD include a salesperson, personal assistant, and social media manager rolled into one. If this is what you want, just remember what I talked about previously in regards to personalities that make for good SMM’s may not necessarily be great for offline CM’s/salespeople/etc. (and vice versa). Overtime, this individual will burn out without the right support and understanding from you (the employer).
6) Not all Community Managers are created equal
Another thing that you need to be highly aware of, is bringing in a Community Manager, but not knowing what level they’re at.
I love my number four, so was really happy to read this article about how career progression as a community professional maps over to the traditional career ladder (at four different levels):
1. Apprentice (entry-level): meet-and-greet new members, moderate conversations, approve membership requests, facilitate networking, manage SPAM, monitor site activity, enforce policies
2. Journeyman (specialist): create content, measure and report metrics, build relationships with advocates, reward positive behaviors, recruit members, research trends
3. Grandmaster (expert): optimize platforms, manage place owners, create internal trainings, host community events and programs, develop policies
4. Promethean (master): integrate community cross-functionally, provide strategic direction, manage resources and budget, represent the community internally, coach executives, determine road-map
What this could possible look like at your own company is: Junior Community Manager > Community Manager > Senior Community Manager > Director/Head/VP of Community.
A lot of education and awareness is still required in the market, which means it’s an even greater time to be a community professional (as we’re at the forefront).
So there you have it, 6 things to look out for when hiring an offline CM as an employer. And just so you know what to expect from your CM after all their hard work, if done right, see below:
Have other questions around Offline Community Managers? Just comment below! I promise to reply 🙂