How to hire a great community manager

There are a number of eloquent blogs and posts dedicated to community management). I think we’ve reached a point where most companies understand the importance of community management. Unfortunately, understanding the importance and understanding the role and how to hire for it are two different things. The traditional way of hiring new employees is proving difficult when looking for a community manager or any other position involving community and social media engagement. How do you figure out who is good at what they do and will help your company engage others?

Jake McKee suggests hire young, then teach. This is a great approach if you have a community team already in place, but I suspect, if you already have a community team in place, you’ll know what you are looking for to fill the community manager role. Here are some other tips if you don’t quite know what to look for:

Understand the space. To perform well, a community manager needs you to give them clear goals and the resources to attain those goals. “Go build a community” isn’t giving anyone a fair chance. What will this community do? How will they stay engaged? The more you understand, the more your community manager will be empowered to make decisions that will nurture the community in the right direction. If you’re overwhelmed, learn a little (enough to know the good from the snake oil salesmen) and work with your freshly hired community manager to develop a strategy together.

Make a commitment. Dipping a toe into the waters of community engagement is tricky. You don’t want to spend too much money, so you let the summer intern handle it. The summer intern doesn’t have any experience, so you don’t see desired results. If you’ve been lucky enough to have had one of those rare summer intern gems, what will you do when the end of summer comes around? The only thing worse than wasting a small amount of money on a poorly planned community is to kill an engaged community because your community manager has to go back to school!

Be wary of someone who only sees black/white.  A good community manager loves hanging out in the grey area. Resolving disputes usually involves spending a fair amount of time listening before acting. When you’re looking to hire someone, ask how they resolve disputes. You’ll notice the good ones take time to listen to both sides, no matter how cut and dry a situation appears. If someone is quick to remove posts, or ban community members, they probably aren’t doing their job. Usually, community disputes are best resolved so that everyone continues to contribute in the future.

Take the time to look at their online persona more than one layer deep. Big numbers look impressive, but look for quality, not quantity. Some community managers legitimately have a large following because of the quality of things they have to say.  Others don’t, but are just as smart and just as valued. On the flip side, some community managers have a large network because they are power networkers, but are akin to door-to-door salespeople – no one really listens to what they have to say. Taking a few minutes to investigate how they interact with the people in their network can save a number of headaches down the road.

Eat/Drink with potential hires. If you can’t stand interacting with them, don’t hire them. This person often ends up being the face of your company and brand. This means not every great community manager will be a great fit for your company. They’ll need to have industry knowledge, be interested in the subject matter and be someone that community members are comfortable dealing with. For example, a partying teenager might not be a good fit for a financial services community, but might be perfect for a community of music festival attendees.