[Review] Eloqua's Grande Guide to Community Management

Eloqua has published another of their Grande Guides, this one devoted to Community Management. I was able to get a copy on Thursday and wanted to share my review with all of you, now that it’s available for all. The ebook is written by some well-loved folks in the community management and content strategy sphere, Brett Petersel (Co-Founder of The Community Manager) and Jesse Noyes (Managing Editor at Eloqua) wrote the bulk of the document with contributions from Nate McGee, Alan Belniak and Lauren Harper.

The guide starts with some basic territory, explaining what a community manager is and the different roles community managers play on a regular basis. Anyone who has done community management for a few years can tell you that it’s one of the weirdest jobs out there. On any given day, depending on your company’s unique requirements, you may be settling community disputes, approving a set of wireframes for the new community area, ordering lunch for 500 people and queuing up hundreds of social updates for 10 different channels.

The work is uniquely variable, meaning that you have to be a self-starter and willing to work very odd hours. The work is fast paced and exciting, and though it may have a few drawbacks, is very rewarding. In every meeting, there are a dozen people who advocate for the company’s needs. The only role that is specifically designed to advocate for the community is that of the community manager.

Crisis Management

An explanation of why the discipline matters to a company follows this role introduction, followed by an excellent overview of a crisis situation. If you are unable with what a crisis situation is, count yourself fortunate. In a heartbeat, you can go through a product or service catastrophe, a PR snafu, a legal misstep or even an outside attack, and if you aren’t ready with a plan in place, you can muck it up quite easily. Companies that handle crises well, do so because they are able to respond proactively, with a pre-written plan, rather than reactively, often with negative consequences.

Any community manager who has not yet written a crisis plan should be able to take this overview and easily craft her own plan, without missing any major areas. This was probably my favorite part of the ebook.

Measurement

Defining success in any job is crucial to your job security, but that’s even more important in a discipline that is relatively new and largely undefined. To determine how you’re doing, you have to know where you’ve been, where you appear to be going and where you’d like to go. That means defining your overall goals that map to set company goals, understanding, through benchmarks, where’re you’re starting and drafting a set of tactics to achieve those goals.

Just as important, it means aligning measurement with those tactics to see if you’re actually meeting goals. It’s extremely important that you understand what you’re measuring and why you are measuring, else the goals you achieve may not be ones that really matter to your company.

Landing a Job in Community Management

The guide continues with the expected salary of a community manager, which as you might expect is largely dependent on their demand and their years of experience. One of the most frequent questions I hear from budding community managers is how to land the first gig. The answer, like many other answers you learn in life, is hard work and fierce determination. It’s a popular job and for every open role you may have a hundred people or more interested.

Many of us got started by volunteering, and I think that’s a healthy way to get your foot in the door. Many businesses just can’t afford a community manager, but they understand the need and are willing to take on an unpaid intern for a season. The result is often a mutually beneficial relationship.

Resources

The ebook is not intended to give you everything you need to know about the subject. Eloqua publishes these Grande Guides to give you a basic overview of a discipline and whet your appetite for further study. This 10 page ebook will give you enough information to know if you want to further study community management. If you do, there are several options for intensive study, including at least 3 certification programs (here are links to GetSatisfaction’s, Online Community Roundtable’s and Pillar Summit’s), and at least a few  college programs (here is a link to USC Annenberg's program) and dozens of books. Disclosure: I wrote and teach the certification program for GetSatisfaction. 

Overall, the guide is a great first step to understand community management and I recommend you go out there and snag a copy tout de suite.