A few weeks back I asked the people who follow me on Twitter why they did so. It’s a question that was prompted by a new title recently added to my duties at work – community manager.
It’s not something I’ve updated my LinkedIn profile with or even added to my bio here yet, as I’m still coming to terms with what it really means. Managing community just seems counterintuitive to me. To manage implies to control or as Merriam-Webster says “to work upon or try to alter for a purpose.” And, how can one really control an online community?
Community manager is not a new position (Jeremiah Owyang was outlining what one does back in November 2006) but it is a position that seems to be much more common than it used to be. And, it did seem to make a difference to people within my company when they heard I was officially being dubbed that for our small and medium business group.
So, I was pondering if I needed to act any differently than I do now. I’ve always blended my work and personal life online, as I do offline. It’s something I talked about last year when I explained why I’m not “LauraatDell” on Twitter. At that time, I considered myself more of an ambassador than an official spokesperson for my employer.
Would this new title change that?
I talked to another community manager at Dell to get her opinion and she discussed the role as being a liaison between customers and subject matter experts within the company. I can do that, and sometimes already do it, because I like being a “connector” as Malcolm Gladwell would call it. And, when I spoke to the Austin Technology Incubator as part of a panel last week with Deidre Walsh from National Instruments, she defined her community manager role as “ultimate geek matchmaker,” which continued the theme.
But, did the 3,000+ people who followed me on Twitter now do so with the expectation that I would be their liaison to Dell? If I brought that role to the forefront of my tweets would they choose to unfollow? I decided to ask – why did they follow me?
The answer was not clear cut. You can see from the image here that the option “other” was the most popular answer. The write-in comments revealed that most had multiple reasons for following me, and I must admit to being rather happy that I’m viewed as a multi-dimensional person.
So will I begin to act differently online? I hope not. It just means that beyond developing strategy and launching sites, I’ll also be the voice of Dell online on a new B2B page in Facebook, some coming innovations on LinkedIn and a new YouTube channel. I’ve been wanting to get beyond just building the tools to actually using them (careful what you wish for). But, my main goal will be to keep being real in all those new dimensions.
Maybe I could feel more comfortable saying what I will be doing is social media relations as Nathan Gilliatt described it. Or is that too public relations-y?
I really like the way Erin Bury, community manager at Sprouter, described the community manager role in a VentureBeat column: “These next-generation communications persons blend social media savvy with an up-to-the-minute knowledge of online trends and master networking skills. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all role.”
So if not one-size-fits-all, how can one title fit all? And why am I getting hung up on title at all? Maybe I’ll just stick with one of the ones I made up for myself very tongue-in-cheek when writing my Twitter bio three years ago – online goddess. 🙂