So you’ve optimized your website for the new breed of B2B buyer, you’ve built your industry content site and you have the beginnings of a social network that will enable conversations among your prospective customers, customers and other industry. What’s more, you’re putting the finishing touches on a well thought-out content strategy. Congratulations – you’re well on the way to communicating the way today’s B2B buyers like it. If you’re not careful, however, now is when it can (almost) all fall apart.
A large Danish manufacturer with many business units knows just what I mean. Corporate communications set up ten separate online communities, one for each of the major business areas. The idea was, of course, that employees, in particular, would flock to the communities and their enthusiasm for the new means of knowledge-sharing would turn the communities into a thriving business enabler. But just the opposite happened. Within a short time, the company’s investment in social networking lay in ruins, each community akin to a classic ghost town, just without the tumbleweed (what would the digital equivalent of tumbleweed be?).
What they were missing, of course, was a ‘community manager’. This seemingly harmless job title is much more important than it sounds. And it is fast becoming one of the most sought after employee profiles in the marketing and communication business.
What does a community manager do exactly? At the risk of sounding like Peter Sellers, who played the simplistic Mr Chance in the 1979 movie Being There, I want you to think of your B2B marketing and communication platform as a newly planted garden. It needs regular care and attention, not too much and not too little watering, and the right type and amount of fertilizer at the right moments. So what you need is, in fact, an experienced gardener.
A word of warning, however. Don’t think that someone who has been writing code for social networks is able to fill the boots of a community manager. It’s much more important to find a person who knows the value of content (newsflash: content has recently moved up from being king to divine status) and who understands what gets people to join, use and stay loyal to online social networks. You need this person to help you get the strategy right first, then to assist with implementation afterward, preferably using external developers to get the drudge work done.
If that doesn’t sound like anyone you’ve met recently, you’re quite right – they don’t grow on trees. And right now, there aren’t any training courses available for such a role. Now there’s a problem someone needs to address and fast. In the meantime, while you are waiting to find a four-leaf clover, you may be able to strike a deal with a community-savvy communication agency, hiring its services on a retainer basis to help you get off on the right foot. Perhaps it could even help to train a staff member to the point where they could take over many of the community manager’s core tasks.