Ditch the Community Manager. Hire the Community Analyst

Chuck Hemann HeadshotToday’s post is by Chuck Hemann, Director of Analytics at WCG, a global communications company with offices in San Francisco, New York, Austin, London, Washington and Chicago. Over the last seven years, he has provided strategic counsel to clients on a variety of topics including digital analytics, measurement, online reputation, social media, investor relations and crisis communications.


Ask people who only loosely pay attention to the social media echo chamber what their definition of “community management” is and you’re likely to receive several different versions. The most likely of which would include something about answering a customer’s complaint on Twitter. I’m not a community manager by any stretch of the imagination, but even I know that is a very narrow definition of what a community manager does. At a high level, they are your company’s first line of defense and often how a potential consumer knows about your company in the first place.

After you’ve asked that group of people for their definition of community management, ask them what their definition of “analytics” would be. Or, better yet, ask them to describe an “analyst.” You’ll probably get the same variation in responses, but you would likely be able to sum it up in two words: “data geek.” In the past that might have been seen as a pejorative label, but the explosion of social media has made those data geeks high-priced commodities. Social media has created so much data that brands and agencies alike are in a race to find people who can crunch numbers and create actionable insights.

You are probably wondering where I am going with this. Community manager and analyst probably both make sense to you. Chances are good you have one, if not both on your team already. The bigger questions, and really the crux of this post are:

1.    Are you bringing your community manager(s) and analyst(s) together?

OR, and even more important…

Are you looking to fill both roles with one person?

Lets discuss each of these individually.

Your community manager is likely on the front lines for your brand every day. He or she sees posts as they come in, routes them or responds appropriately and then catalogs them for eventual use in reporting. That’s the ideal scenario, right? Where does your analytics team come in? Are they involved in reporting? Do they do the listening and feed conversations to your community manager? Whatever the setup, are your analytics and community management teams talking to each other? There is a better than 50/50 shot, at least in my experience, that they are not. Why? You both have something of value to offer each other. Why not take advantage of that? At a minimum, you should be looking for ways to foster more collaborative work environments with these two people (or teams, if appropriate). The best-case scenario has you sitting and working in close proximity to expedite workflow and make your content smarter.

The second question posed above is really where I think social media needs to move. Even though I have made the first solution sound like an easy fix the reality is that working in teams is hard. We often have different goals, even though our goals should align with what the company is trying to achieve. Now, the right approach is finding a person who is comfortable with the numbers and able to be your company’s first line of defense in online communities. I realize this is a rare breed of person, but think about the efficiencies and value this person would lend to a brand or agency. A person like this would be able to gather data, crunch data, develop insights and create content all at a pace more in line with the pace at which social media moves. There’s a good chance you have hybrid people on your staff already, it’s a matter of deploying them in the right way. If you don’t have these hybrid people, start looking for them.

Companies need more people who know numbers, and they need people who know how to engage a community. Companies also need those two people (or teams) to work more closely together. I’m a believer in the saying that says “two heads are better than one,” but the blending of these two brains offers infinitely more value.

What do you think? Crazy concept?

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11 Responses to “Ditch the Community Manager. Hire the Community Analyst”

  1. Craig Daitch

    Nice post Chuck!. The concern I have with converging the roles:

    The role of Community Management is a specialist position. While measurement should certainly be a requirement for any community manager to understand in terms of how they benchmark against KPI’s, it could be considered self-defeating to also define that role as responsible for reporting the ebbs and flows of measurement success and failures.

    Simply put, this could result in a subjective report that favors the Community Manager more than the business objectives.

  2. David B. Thomas

    Hey, Chuck. I completely agree that a blended approach makes the most sense. Engagement without analytics is just shouting in the dark. At Radian6 we are combining the two, so that we get a very clear picture of how our engagement and our content is being received by our community, and are adjusting based on the data.

    I also think that our definition of community manager goes a bit farther than what you suggested in this post. Our community managers are the people whose job it is to understand what keeps our community members up at night, what they most enjoy learning and discussing, and making sure that we are filling that need. But again, all of that needs to be based on analytics.

  3. Christina Trapolino

    Couldn’t agree more. I think a social media management solution with smart reporting is even more essential — it’s important to have someone who can interpret the reports and strategize accordingly, of course, but a manual process in the social media space is not just cumbersome, it’s totally impossible to scale with. The capturing and analysis has to be even smarter than two brains! ;)

    Full disclosure: I work as the social media strategist AND community manager for Jason’s Deli. We’re looking into working with Spredfast for this very reason. Manual community management/analysis is NOT ideal, especially in an enterprise environment. Content production is difficult enough without having a reliable means of measuring success. I’m sure anyone who works in digital marketing can relate — impressions and clicks are simply not enough for fostering a deep understanding of the social web.

  4. Lauren Vargas

    I could not agree with you more, Chuck. In my world (the past seven or so years) I have tried to make sure the community manager was one and the same as the analyst. Data tells a story and the CMs need to understand how the job relates to the business and benchmark the impact…while telling the stories of the community they represent and participate. A good community manager is much more than a people person. They need to have a good head on shoulders and understand statistics and have a love for mapping the connections.

  5. Chuck Hemann

    Awesome comments, all. Thanks!

    Craig – Yeah, I actually agree with you on that, and I think I should’ve been a little more specific when I said “analytics.” I think I meant more about listening, and that kind of analytics.

  6. Justin Goldsborough

    Insights is the key term here. And it’s why I agree with your concept that the community manager and analyst can be one in the same. Even if the CM is working with a data analyst team to help crunch the numbers, he/she needs to be able to pull the insights and share them with the appropriate departments/decisions makers across the company to impact business decisions.

    The CM role absolutely has value in being the first line of defense. But it also should be the first line of information. Because your brand is what your customers say it is. And the CM has more insight into what the customer is saying than most others in the company. The question is can he/she analyze the data, identify trends and share that voice of the customer in a way that makes sense to leadership. Good stuff, Chuck.

  7. Kelly Rusk

    I think in the early days of community management reporting and analytics as part of the role was a no-brainer, but as it’s grown in popularity it’s been forgotten about. Maybe that was just my experience working in startups where a community managers job was more like 10 roles in one…

    I definitely think being able to understand and extract insight from online conversations is the next big priorities for businesses who really get social media and are getting more advance. Exciting times for data geeks!!!

  8. Chris

    Smart post. Given that your main audience is ‘Community Managers’ such as myself, who also do a LOT of analysis (on top of Social Helpdesking, Word of Mouth Marketing, Social Acquisition Campaigns, Community Engagement, Content Creation and Blogger Relations, posting this was probbaly not your best move. Of course, you probably consider this an ‘engagement’, but you’d be right and wrong all at the same time.


  9. Yves Salama

    Context is everything. If you are looking to build up a community you need a community manager who will define and build the community. And an analyst can help to segment your community to meaningful chunks. Building precedes analysis.

  10. Barry Fleming

    Hey Chuck -

    Back at your old haunt I see…

    Perhaps the hybridization of these specific roles is not the answer (or even the question). My thinking has always been that we need more-and-more “creative technologists.” I often talk about the “Chief Analytics Officer” or the “Chief Strategy Engineer” simply because we (you and I) are often trying to drive from the proverbial back-of-the-bus. Want to “embed” an analytics accumen in an organization? I say it has to come from the top-down. For example: Adventures in Big Data and the Analyst at OMMA Metrics & Research NYC 2012



    Barry on LinkedIN


  11. Chuck Hemann

    Wow. Great comments on this post. Really appreciate it. Plan to respond in greater detail, but Chris… the discussion is exactly what I wanted. Thanks.


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