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The Complete Guide to Hiring a Community Manager

Hiring a community manager can be overwhleming -- this comprehensive guide comes with strategies, sample questions, and avenues to promote the job opening.
Written by
Last updated
October 23, 2023

Recently one of our clients asked a very pertinent question - "how do we go about hiring a community manager?"

This sparked our conversation with other community owners and experienced community managers working on various projects. We could see that generally when companies started posting the opportunities for community managers, many candidates applied by perceiving them as openings for social media management. However, community management for a branded online community is completely different from social media management.

Considering that a large number of companies are building their branded communities to collect and engage their audiences in a single space, the demand for community managers is increasing considerably. Also, community management is generally considered as a job profile that much more exciting (and enjoyable) than other traditional roles.

This again fuels lots of interest from professionals as well as fresh graduates to make a foray into this career.

From the perspective of a brand looking to build an online community, we must understand that the software platform for the online community can contribute to engagement or any other goal up to a certain extent.

The success of the online community largely depends on the people managing the community and how they are executing the plans. This essentially means a business must not simply rely on the basics (organizational skills, good communication, solid online presence, data-driven, etc.) to recruit community managers.

Community managers are going to craft strategies and execute the same to ensure that people are actually glued to the community and engaged.

Here is how David Spinks puts it:

Community doesn't just happen as organically for humans as it used to, so we need professionals to actually facilitate it for us. — David Spinks (@DavidSpinks) June 18, 2020

So, how do you actually move beyond the generic requirements for the community manager profile? What type of answers you must seek from the candidates? How successful you will be in hiring A+ community manager depends on the amount of thought you'd be putting into writing the job description, creating the selection criteria, the interview questions, and assessing the personality.

This is a challenging task since community management as a career is relatively new. And how the new hire would fit into the way community management should happen internally is yet another complexity.

In this post, we'll discuss some of the critical and generally omitted characteristics that you must have in your community manager.

What does an online community manager do?

An online community manager is effectively the brand’s ambassador. Since the manager is always engaging with potential and existing customers, they must be the consistent voice of the brand.

The day-to-day responsibilities of the community manager may vary depending on the size of the company. For example, at a smaller company, the community manager may build the community, decide on and implement a community strategy, and analyze customer engagement. However, at a larger company, the manager might only manage the community programming. Community managers may also train and manage the community administrators and moderators.

An online community manager should focus on engagement within the community. They should always have their finger on the pulse of the community and be aware of what’s happening at all times. They should strategize and implement engagement tactics and ignite and facilitate discussions. In addition, they should monitor community feedback and review their community metrics and data.

What makes a good online community manager?

An online community manager should be able to create long-lasting connections within their community. Ideally, community managers should have a background of both soft and hard skills that indicate their ability to manage the technical and human side of an online community.

Community managers don’t usually have one set background. Typically, they’ll have customer support or customer service-based background, but they may also have a background in engineering, IT, or recruiting.

Online community managers should have a mixture of the following qualifications:

  • A background in customer support
  • A deep understanding or connection to the brand or company
  • A content creator
  • Social media savvy
  • Flexibility and adaptability

Community managers should have a range of soft skills like good listening and communication, empathy, and the ability to be adaptable or think on their feet.

An online community manager is a customer service-based role. So they must be able to address any problems and go above and beyond to ensure their members are satisfied.

They must act professionally and understand the legal ramifications of inappropriate behavior on their part and that of their members.

Online community managers set the tone for their communities. They should be engaging and excited when they post and interact with their community. Moreover, a good manager doesn’t just lead discussions but also knows how to facilitate them and connect different members. They also know how to take a step back and let highly engaged members take on leadership roles within the community.

The community managers should understand the organization quite well, so they can move and communicate across different organizational structures. If needed, community managers should be able to utilize their organization’s internal resources to address any community issues.

Since the community manager is the liaison between the community and the brand, they should be able to analyze community and customer data efficiently. They should be able to implement new strategies based on member feedback and be flexible overall. They should also know how to provide data to the company if the customers have feedback about the brand’s product or services.

Lastly, the best online community managers should understand the latest industry trends and hot topics to leverage them for their community. In addition, they should always provide updated industry information and resources to their members.  

Crafting community manage job description

Based on this it would be easier to craft the right job description and the shortlisting process. To attract and hire really talented community managers for your organization, here are the key tips one must consider:

1. Setting the goal

You should already have an organization goal for your community, i.e., how the online community would contribute to your company. It could be anything from delivering peer-to-peer support to unlocking tribal knowledge base and improving new business development via user-generated content.

Bring that into the forefront when hiring a community manager. Clearly mention that the community manager would be primarily responsible for this goal.

2. Craft the ideal persona for the community manager

Think of the person who would eventually end up working with you. Now note down the persona: Will the community manager be a high-energy promoter who would be evangelizing your solution wherever they get a chance? Maverick in creating and optimizing operations? How much of independence would they enjoy? What would be the written and spoken communication style? What would be the personality to ensure the internally they can onboard different teams into the community initiative?

Now use these pointers to further narrow down the candidate profile.

3. Ensure transparency

Ensure that the job description clearly mentions your company's values, mission, the perks, and organizational structure for the community manager. For example, the community manager would be reporting to the VP of Marketing and Partnership and 2 community moderators and associates would be reporting to the community manager.

4. Create an activity for the online community manager

Adding a task for the prospective community manager during the interview process is a great way to gauge the passion a person has. This means you would have to ask the applicants to highlight their approach by creating something.

It could be anything from a 90-day action plan for a short project to a video presentation.

Note that this should be done when you are almost at the last leg of the interview process, i.e., you have a couple of candidates to select for the community manager position. That will give a clear picture of how they approach problem solving and comfort level with using various tools.

Sample activity:

Because of the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 the community members are in an agitated state. Record a video to address the members and explain what you are planning to help the community. Also, introduce an upcoming online event that would be held to address the concerns of the community members in a much more interactive manner.

Here are key pointers to grade the video recording:

  • Simple, confident and concise messaging
  • Empathy and passion to deliver help
  • Salient elements covered in the video to show how the community would get the benefit

If you have another idea, post it in the comments -- I'd love to know!

5. Ask about the most prominent project

Your goal is to find out the project that the candidate considers as the major highlight of the career. Why they consider the project important and what can they teach from that project. Look for enthusiasm, passion, and the way they can teach the way they succeeded.

6. Give a case study

Narrate a hypothetical situation to the candidate and mention the goal. Then, you need to ask them how they would go about achieving the goal within a 90-day frame.

This can be intimidating, but this gives a glimpse of how the person works under pressure. If they can create a game plan to achieve the goals right away, they would be most likely independent in decision-making. You won't have to invest time in managing the community manager.

7. Hire an analytical mind

In general, it is difficult to find people who are highly analytical, data-driven, and at the same time extremely affable when it comes to connecting with people. You are essentially looking for someone who has the right balance between the left and right brain.

We have seen in a large enterprise set up, the community manager gets help from the dedicated analytics team in measuring key metrics and generating insights from the user-generated content.

That said, the community manager must be able to zero-in on what they would measure and what data points they would need. However, the community manager should be comfortable with basic analytics techniques as well as data manipulation tools to perform analysis without always depending on other teams.

8. Look for a community manager with complementary skill sets

It is always recommended that you hire someone who has skills that complements the existing skills in your team or company. Hiring someone who exactly thinks like you or has the right same experience won't add diversity to your company.

Expertise in community management tools

In addition to having the skills in community management, the candidate must have a working knowledge of digital tools. This further validates that they have indeed worked on community management at a scale that they were using such tools.

For example, they would be proficient in using CRM solutions (e.g., Hubspot), messaging software (Intercom, Customer.io, MailChimp), analytics tools (Google Analytics, Amplitude), an office suite (Presentation, Document) and automation tools such as Zapier.

They should also be proficient with basic image and video editing software along with sites to source pictures and videos.

After this step, you should be able to devise the perfect job description and move to create an interview process.

Questions to ask when interviewing an online community manager

After creating the job description and advertising the opportunity, you should see applications rolling in. Most likely you would scan through the resume and move to different stages of the interview such as phone and video calls.In any case, you will have some people for face to face interview. At this stage, you should consider asking the following sample questions to your prospective community manager:

  • How have you connected people based on a common cause or shared passion? What did you learn from this?
  • How to make a community successful? What are the key metrics to measure community success?
  • Which is your favorite community and what do you like the most about it?
  • Tell me one key change that you would implement in your favorite community?
  • How would you handle disputes in a community? Give me one example from a real-life experience.
  • If you come across a member who contributes quality content, but at the same time indulges in rude comments, how would you handle that?
  • If community engagement techniques don't produce the desired results, what would you do?
  • What are your favorite tools for community management? What would you improve in one of those tools?
  • How would you explain brand community management to a 5-year-old kid?

These questions can highlight the community manager's approach and their plans on growing and engaging a brand community. Also, pay close attention to the way they handle disputes and controversial issues.

Warning signs

The above-mentioned sample questions are great for getting an understanding of the skills and the way the candidate approaches community management, there are some signs that you should be wary of.

Questionable social media activity

A great place to do due diligence is to look into the social media profiles since that reveals a lot about the person and how they conduct themselves online. This is all the more relevant since a large chunk of the work will be around online interaction.

The first step is to ensure that they are active on social media. A dormant social account would suggest that the candidate might not a good fit.

Now you need to go through the content that the candidate is sharing on the social profile.

Do you see something that does not resonate with what your brand stands for? Perhaps there is some inappropriate content that might tarnish your brand because of association.

That said it's okay if someone's view doesn't match your view. We all have our own notions, personal issues, and political views. What you should critically check is cyberbullying, racist remarks, harassment, doxing, hate speech, etc. Give a bonus point if they already have a large number of genuine followers.

Apprehension to use video

These days video is literally taking the digital world by storm. Videos allow us to connect with our audience at a much more personal level and engagingly convey our message. If the candidate is not referring to the usage of videos or perhaps reluctant to use video in a remote interview, it is definitely not a good sign.

Promoting the job opportunity

Writing the perfect job description is half the battle won, the other half is about distributing and reaching the community managers. So, consider posting the job opening on the following channels:

Find your rockstar community manager

Based on this article and considering your specific business case, if you're able to create a job posting with thoughtful description and interview process, you would be able to attract the right type of candidate. Finally, your company would benefit from the rockstar community manager!

The key point to note here is that the past experiences, knowledge of tools, and the skills will not have a complete impact on the success of the community manager.

Since the online community is essentially a natural addition to the brand, it is critical to hire who is culturally fit to work at your company.

There will be a variety of tricky situations when the community manager will be representing your brand when engaging with your customers, prospects, and partners. You should be fully confident that the community manager would be cognizant enough to represent your brand to the best of their ability while ensuring that the values of your company stay intact.

Now that you have completely read all the factors to consider when creating a job description and establishing the process for hiring a community manager, it's time for you to hire the flag bearer of your brand in your online community.

Director of Marketing, Bettermode

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