Community Managers Anticipate Needs: Why You Must Develop your Company Radar

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Community managers fulfill a very important niche in the work place, not unlike the company clerk Radar O’Reilley in M*A*S*H. The company clerk’s real name was Walter, but he earned the nickname Radar for his sixth sense which allowed him to anticipate the needs of his commanding officer before he was asked. His other talent was the ability to warn the doctors and nurses of incoming wounded by sensing approaching helicopters. In a similar fashion, your community manager is on the front lines of your business vigilantly attending to the needs of the customer and company.

 “All community managers manage some form of digital/social community, but the best ones inspire those communities to take action, and they take proactive steps to become better representatives for their brands.” – Six Tips for Better Community Management on #CMAD 2013, Esteban Contreras

The term Community Manager means different things to different organizations, especially if they are not clear on what managing a community is all about. Here it is plain and simple:

Community managers anticipate needs by listening to customers, acting as customer advocates, and expressing the values of their company culture.

Community managers create behavioral models based on community chatter and data

At the heart of it, a  community manager’s role is that of active listener.

They monitor conversations about their company wherever they occur and are usually the first to respond. These conversations make us aware of the Zeitgeist of our communities. Simply put, the Zeitgeist is the spirit of your community and includes the attitudes, beliefs, culture, and prevailing opinions contained within them.

I will admit that I am using the definition of Zeitgeist loosely here because it actually refers to a period of time or an age. But there are moments in time that community managers note. We pay attention to the milestones and points of growth of our communities. We can look back and analyze what methods lead to success in those moments, which allows us to create a model of community behavior.

“You can target specific interventions at specific people to achieve the desired result of more activity from your existing audience. You can diagnose exactly what is going wrong. But you can only do this if you have a behavior model you can work from.” – Applying Behavioral Models to Online Communities, Richard Millington

Community managers advocate the needs of customers before it is required

A good community manager will not only be available for crisis communications, but will act before one starts.

I found the following presentation on slide share fascinating. On slide 15, Jenise Fryatt identifies an important requirement for a community manager.

“It is essential that your community manager be hypersensitive to the ‘energy in the room,’ so to speak.” – 7 Traits of Highly Effective Community Managers, Jenise Fryatt


It sometimes only takes a simple comment to stop a flow of negative commentary from customers. Only someone embedded in the community can do this because they understand the nuances of the culture within. They understand the history of that community and can appropriately gauge its reactions to incoming messages.

Community managers express company culture and create social norms that represent those values

I was lucky to get a ticket to the first CMX summit. It was a historic even as the largest gathering of community managers from around the world and across different markets. One presentation stood out to me in what it had to say about creating rituals in communities that bond members. That talk was given by Emily Castor of Lyft.  She explained how every Lyft ride ends in a fist bump.

Not only did this make me smile, but I am also reminded about the importance of human touch in psychology. Lyft has tapped into that deep reservoir of the ways humans make social connections and integrated that into their brand.

What makes rituals important is that they are passed down through generations. The rituals you start with your customers today will most likely continue to exist after you leave the company. In that regard they are self-perpetuating becoming the foundation for your future interactions with the community.

Watch Emily Castor’s full presentation..

Community managers are a pivotal member of your team

Here is a fact about M*A*S*H you may not know; Gary Burghoff is the only actor that played the same character (Walter “Radar” O’Reilley) in both the film and TV show. Radar was the pillar and heart of that story. The farm boy form Iowa that kept everything together when the rest of the characters were falling apart.

In the same way your community manager is building the foundation for your future business. They hold up the brand reputation through their interactions with the community every day. Most importantly, they are taking what they learn from these conversations and converting them into actionable decisions to accelerate the growth of their companies.

2 thoughts on “Community Managers Anticipate Needs: Why You Must Develop your Company Radar

  1. AmyMccTobin says:

    I just love the ’embedded in the community’ point. Having managed community for a wide variety of companies, with varying levels of commitment, I know how true your point is. If a business isn’t dedicated enough to social to PAY a community manager to spend the time to be embedded, just don’t bother.
    You can’t fake understanding the community.

  2. susansilver says:

    AmyMccTobin  Thank you Amy. I think that is the biggest mistake I see from people and brands. They think that it is just about updates, but it has much more to do with how well you know your community. What they want to see and how it helps them achieve their goals. That is where things get really interesting.

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