Posted on : 20-12-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Social Media
Many think of social Customer Service as starting with Twitter, but that is far from the start. In the early days of the net, news groups started as a place for like minded people to discuss products, technology, or other items they were passionate about. Over time these gave way to forums and email groups. As companies started to embrace these new forms of communication, a new role emerged, the Community Manager. Today this person may have many more hats, including social strategist, Customer advocate, PR person, marketer, punching bag and a few other names used internally and externally. The role does not always have a place to reside, or sometimes it is not even recognized at all, yet it is one of the most important roles in the company.
Today in social media we hear about influencers, advocates and other terms to recognize people who are important to the brand. These advocates are usually built not by connection to the brand, but rather a crusader who took on this role of community manager. I am proud to be a community manager and a team at Citi as well as my former team at Comcast who each day strive to live up to the expectations the community they serve. One of the most well loved community managers is Jeremiah Owyang. The community has shifted from newsgroups, and in some cases forums, to new places like Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare, blogs, etc. These are all places where the community manager thrives to learn and engage their Customer. Although Jeremiah likes to say social service does not scale, he is one of the people who proved how important it is to a company through his prior work as a Community Manager. We tease each other back and forth about the scale issue, but ultimately we both agree it is imperative for organizations to improve service through all communications channels to help build these Customer advocates. We know, just like all community managers, it is extraordinarily tough to be a good community manager when a company is not living up to expectations of the Customer.
As a community manager, if you are doing your job well, you are not always the most like internally because you are bringing the community view to the people who make the decisions. You are servicing as their advocate. Externally you are striving to keep the peace between top people in the social space you are serving. Sometimes you are trying to explain the company line even when it is not the popular choice. There are days you have PR teams and other business leaders against you because you spoke honestly about a situation that was happening live. The community was thrilled with your performance but others could not understand you were only acknowledging what was already well known. The trouble is product owners are very proud of their product and they never want to see any bad light shed upon it. They do not always view things with a Customer lens, as a community manager must do.
In January, 2010 Jeremiah started the annual Community Manager Appreciation Day. You can read his original post here or the announcement of the 2011 recognition day here. This year the celebration will be January 24, 2011. Please use the day to recognize community managers who build your company’s strongest advocates or recognize community managers who have served you. For me, I plan to recognize my Citi and Comcast teams, Becky Carroll from Verizon’s forums, the Consumerist team, broadband reports forum leaders, Mac Rumors forum leaders, the HP community leaders and of course my friends at RIM (Blackberry). Who do you plan to recognize?