I really do think that every company needs to have a community manager. Your CEO isn’t going to have the time always be the publicly accessible face of the company. You need a community manager.
There are certain qualities that I think are necessary for a good community manager…
You need to be visible. I just found out that two Web apps that I use on a daily basis have Community Managers. I had NO IDEA. What good is a community manager if no one knows them?!?!?
I remember in college we had computer labs that had grad assistants who were there to help you with your homework. There were posters up all over the department with a photo, name, contact information, and schedules for each of these grad assistants. The department wanted them to be visible so that a student would feel free to go up and ask them a question.
So… I apply the same principle to being a community manager. What good are you if no one knows who you are? I remember hearing the Flickr folks tell the story of how they started. They’d personally welcome every new users they got. There were that forward on making themselves visible and accessible.
You need to be accessible. People are going to have questions about how to use your product and as I established earlier no one likes corporate Web site contact forms. People want to talk to other people. I want to know when I ask for help that there is a real breating person on the other side.
Put your e-mail address everywhere. Yes you may get some spam but that’s what spam filters are for. If it’s a problem, get a better one.
Yes, you’re going to get more e-mail. Initially, it’ll be like “Holy Crap, this is A LOT of e-mail.” But isn’t this the whole frickin’ point? You’re the community manager because you want to form and nurture relationships within your community. You can only do that by talking to your users. E-mail is a BIG way you do this.
And… everyone of the e-mails that you get is GOLD. They’re people whose lives you can touch in a positive way. Gary Vayernchuk has a GREAT video on this.
You have to be able to listen. When you’re a community manager, you’re job is less about talking and more about engaging your users. You’re there to see where the pitfalls of your product are and figure out ways to make it better.
On this… you’re almost less responsible to the needs of your company and more responsible to the needs of your users. Yes, in an ideal world, this should be one in the same but it isn’t always. As a community manager, you’re there to be an advocate internally for what you’re users want.
When I find a company that is going to listen to what I say and then take action on my behalf, you’re going to endear me to that company.
These are just some initial thoughts. As I progress as a community manager and read of other’s adventure, this is surely something I’ll be writing about often.