What does a community manager actually do?

Mumbrella is providing a look inside the working lives of people whose job titles often warrant the question: 'but what do you actually do?' This week, we speak to Lauren Piro, community manager at Quiip.

For many people, the title of community manager and social media manager are interchangeable. It’s true that a lot of my work involves social media, but not every social media page is a community and vice versa.

I do believe that if your brand is using social media as a broadcast rather than a conversation, you’re missing a huge opportunity, and it’s my mission to turn organisations on to that opportunity.

At the heart of my role is facilitating human connection, via the myriad digital platforms on which communities can be borne. I aspire to be a sort-of online Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec. Actually, I aspire to be Leslie Knope in just about every area of my life, but it’s that enthusiasm and dedication to community that fuels me.

I can’t speak to a universal community manager experience, if such a thing exists, but I can shed light on my working life.

I work solely from my home office, or wherever I can find a solid wifi connection.

I collaborate with several diverse clients, ranging from financial services to mental health organisations, and each has its own set of requirements, challenges and points of measurement.

In my role, I’ve spent time encouraging women to hit their local hiking trails, answering questions about cruise holidays, moderating discussions on family violence, seeking out complaints for faulty goods and empowering volunteers to start a sexual health dialogue, to name just a few.

While this role incorporates skills from a lot of disciplines – marketing, project management, content creation, psychology, customer service; it always boils down to what helps us create room for conversation and build healthy online communities.

There is no typical structure to my day, and it’s this wealth of variety that keeps me hooked. I’d love to say I start each working day having showered, dressed and eaten a wholesome breakfast, but more often than not it’s tea and toast at my desk whilst clad in pyjamas.

There are huge benefits to working from home including the total absence of a commute, flexible hours and the ability to work in said pyjamas. However I can go days without having a face-to-face conversation with another living being besides my cat – and honestly, she’s pretty rubbish at office banter.

Since our entire team is distributed, keeping the lines of communication open is crucial. We use email, collaborative Google Docs, conferencing software and Facebook’s Workplace platform.

Then twice a year, just to make sure we haven’t gone Full Hermit, we all gather for a week and catch up in person. (You don’t want to take us on at pub trivia during this week, we are fearsome competitors).

Having a workplace culture that reflects our company values is very important to us, and I build time into my day to work on it. We apply community management techniques to our company community the same as we would any other, we’re just a bit more aware of when it’s happening!

A chunk of my week is squirreled away for admin: fortnightly WIP meetings with our clients and team groups, sifting through data for reports, putting my childhood Tetris skills to use with our internal roster, working on strategy projects and answering emails. A LOT of emails.

Occasionally I will craft a proposal for a potential new client, write a piece for our company blog or head out to facilitate a workshop. Quiip has a relatively flat structure, so I still get in plenty of hands-on community time. I can’t see a point in my future where I’d want to step back from the coalface. Getting in and having these conversations is what drives my passion for community and keeps me connected to the industry. It also means I understand my team better, and helps me identify areas that need a little TLC.

There are challenges, as with any job. To work from home you need to be incredibly self-motivated and adapt to different communication styles. There are definitely days where Netflix is beckoning, or a misunderstanding leads to errors. We feel a lot of pressure to be ‘always on’ and while the internet might never sleep, we certainly need to!

Whilst I value flexibility, the expectation that a single community manager can jump online or be available to answer emails 24/7 brings with it a high risk of burnout. I’ve been perilously close myself, and now vehemently advocate for boundary setting and self-care, a stance I’m grateful is shared by my employer.

I love being a community manager, and I’m excited to see where the industry is headed. It’s easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of platforms and metrics and whatever capabilities Zuckerberg has decreed next – but the truth is, it doesn’t matter.

Whatever the technology, communication always finds a way and the instinct to form communities is encoded in our DNA.

Lauren Piro is a community manager at Quiip.


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