Should Your Community Manager be a Leader?

Photo cred: Steve Jurvetson

Does a Community Manager need to be a leader?

I asked this question and god a lot of different views after a really insightful conversation with Teresa Basich on twitter.  I think that leadership CAN play a role in community management in a number of ways, but it is not a pre-requisite.

When talking about something as broad and undefined as “Community Management”, you’re going to get a lot of varied angles.

The Community Manager can be a leader in the space.

When I think about this, I think about people like DJ Waldow, the Community Manager for Blue Sky Factory.  People view DJ as a leader in the email marketing space and so his participation in the “email marketing community” will drive potential customers to their service.

I think about people like Andrew Hyde who until recently was the Community Director for TechStars.  Andrew has become a leader in the startup space, starting projects like Startup Weekend (which is so awesome), and so by participating in the start-up space, he drives more recognition and credibility to TechStars.

This obviously isn’t all they do, but I see it as a big part.

If your Community Manager is a recognized leader in the space, their influence can really help your brand.  Imagine if Seth Godin emailed you, personally asking you to write about his project on your blog.  Chances are, you’ll give that email some real consideration.

The Community Manager can be a leader for the brand’s community.

When I think about this role, I think about Ryan Paugh, the Director of Community for Brazen Careerist.  Ryan is extremely active within the Brazen community.  He drives conversations, acknowledges loyal users and is constantly interacting.  He is the leader of the Brazen community in my eyes.

I think about Erin Bury, the Community Manager for Sprouter.  Erin hosts events for entrepreneurs, interacts and drives the community within Sprouter.  She too is a leader for her brand’s community.

This gives the community a central person to turn to with their feedback, and questions.  It gives a face to the brand.

The Community Manager should be a leader within the company.

See Andreana Drencheva’s post that reminded me of this one.

This is an important one. I think that whoever is driving your company’s community efforts should be a leader within your company.

They should be someone who has the authority to make decisions and influence other decision makers.

They should be someone who can take the needs of the community and implement them quickly.

They should be a leader in the company because when they interact, it makes the customer and community feel more entitled.  It lets the community know that you care about them.  If your intern is talking to me on twitter, I feel a lot less connected to your brand than if I’m talking to the CEO.

With that said…

I don’t think that the community manager absolutely has to be a leader.  Or at least, there are different ways to look at it.  I think one great method is the “Lead from behind” method (Thanks Alexa).  It’s about understanding what drives a community and providing the resources for it do grow.  It’s about identifying the natural leaders in your community and letting them lead.

A Community Manager might have more “behind the scenes” responsibilities, depending on their goals.  If they’re more strategy focused, they may just need to be savvy in putting the pieces in place.  They may have more of a marketing focus, working more on campaigns.

What’s your take?  Does a Community Manager need to be a leader?

Stop Begging for Favors

Photo cred: GreyBlueSkies

If you find yourself constantly asking for favors in business, you’re doing something wrong.

This spark came  when I was watching Alpha Dog the other day.  Yes, my inspiration for posts come from some really weird places…

The one guy was pitching a drug deal to Emile Hirsch’s character.  When Emile started questioning him, the guy said “I’m not looking for any favors… if it makes sense, then do it.  If not, fuck it.”

Whether you’re pitching bloggers, seeking partnerships, looking for funding or seeking any other kind of business arrangement, you can’t go into it with the mentality that you need them, and that they’d be doing you a favor by helping you.

I see it all the time.  I’ve even done it myself.  You reach out to others to see if they’ll be kind enough to promote your blog post, or your projects.  You want them to help you.  You need them to help you.  How else can you succeed?  This causes a few problems:

  • You come across as needy. It makes you look bad and degrades your image as a confident professional.
  • You become reliant on others. Always relying on others to help you succeed, you’ll quickly fail as soon as that option is no longer there.
  • You use up your resources.  People aren’t going to help you all the time.  You cash in on a favor, and you may not get many more.  In fact…
  • You’re indebted. Asking everyone else for help means that you would now be expected to help them whenever they call.

Instead of looking for favors, look for opportunities to help them.  If you can propose a deal that benefits both parties, you’re not doing each other favors, you’re doing business.

When reaching out to bloggers, don’t ask them to review your website.  Explain to them exactly why your website will be valuable to their readers, how else you can provide value to them and explain what you would expect in return.

When you’re creating partnerships, make sure you’re identifying value for both parties.  They need you just as much as you need them.

I’m not saying you should never turn to others for help.  It’s important to know when you can use someone else’s help and be big enough to ask for it.  Business can be personal, but it’s still business.  It’s exchanging value for value.

Are you focused on asking for favors or doing business?

The Long Tail Approach to Blog Outreach

Photo cred: Rob!

Photo cred: Rob!

The Long Tail is a concept that is used for a number of business practices.  In sales, wikipedia defines it as “selling small volumes of hard-to-find items to many customers, instead of only selling large volumes of a reduced number of popular items.”

When you have to reach out to bloggers, your first thought might be to search for the top bloggers in the category, and reach out to the “A-list”, hoping to hit it big.

The problem with this method is that so many other think the same thing.  This means that the bloggers you’re reaching out to have been contacted by countless others looking for the same thing and you get lost in the noise.

Instead of reaching out to a few of the “A-listers”, try reaching out to more bloggers that aren’t considered the top of their class, but have still built up a strong community of readers.  Look for the bloggers that will have the time to read your email, and write a post about your cause or message.

  1. You’ll get more content written about you.
  2. The content might be of better quality, as they’ll have more time to commit.
  3. If enough “B-list” bloggers write about you, an “A-lister” may find out about you anyway.
  4. A smaller blog might have a much tighter community, with more trust… which translates to more trust in your brand since they’re writing about you.
  5. You’ll be able to target niche audiences.

That’s not to say you should completely ignore any mainstream publications/”A-list” bloggers however it certainly shouldn’t be your only focus.

Hat tip to Arik Hanson for inspiring this post.