“The conducting or supervising of something” is how Merriam-Webster defines management.
Few of us would feel comfortable calling our efforts to meaningfully engage consumers across our owned channels as “supervision.” The instincts, judgment, and business sense that define successful communities and consumer relationships has greatly evolved and perhaps it’s time for the community manager name to as well.
Here’s why it might be time to update the term “manager” because of what it implies:
- Out-of-Touch vs. In the Know: Ask any frontline worker from retail to marketing and you’ll inevitably hear about a consumer trend they are personally seeing over and over again that “management” won’t listen to or act on. So, the opposite of what we do.
- Removed vs. Hands-On: Managers are rarely viewed as being involved in details and real-time events. Instead, this responsibility falls on the front line workers. In many instances, we would even negatively define that as micromanagement in our own jobs.
- Passive vs. Action-Oriented: Quickly identifying and acting on emerging trends and opportunities are the hallmarks of strong community engagement, which directly contradicts the slow moving process many associate with the term management.
Most importantly, consumers in today’s environment with a myriad choices, channels, and ways to express themselves, don’t want to be managed. In fact, most consumers now expect brands to work with them to create value or risk them finding another brand that will.
Which of course begs the question of what word should replace manager. It’s a complicated answer because of the many and varied components as outlined above, but here’s a first take just to get the discussion going.
- Catalyst: Activating a community requires a fire-starter mentality to move a community to desired action whether around a general update or a specific revenue-generating effort.
- Agent: Good descriptor for learning about an audience’s needs and how the organization might satisfy them in a mutually beneficial way.
- Producer: A nice nod to the organic element of community engagement throughout all stages and that the value taken is directly proportional to the quality of the effort put into it.
- Ninja: No, just kidding.
I can’t help but feel we’re doing ourselves a disservice by using a term that doesn’t reflect the vast skillset, proactivity, and flexibility that successful community management, er… engagement requires.
What term do you think fits best?