community manager – ethnographer – salesman

The social web is, well, all about relationships. The people “inside” the web know it, and the people trying to GET inside the web are discovering that truly online is no different from offline.

Except that it may not be so easy. There  are those that “get it”, and some that just don’t. The latter may pay lipservice to the fact that communities online revolve around relationships but for some reason have a difficult time truly understanding what this means.

So how can both groups understand who is influential? And how do they interact with them?

Just like “in real life” we have our own groups of friends and colleagues, people we trust, and places we go for information. There are certain codes like transparency, openness, and accessibility that is in our DNA.

People that have truly taken to the web have become its ethnographers. But they have their own name : community managers.

Community Managers are those funny little characters that are continually in contact with brands and agencies, as well as the communities that are important to the brand.When people ask me what I do I say,

“I’m online. An obscene amount of the time. And I love it.”

We like to talk about the company we work for – of course! – but that’s certainly not all we’re interested in.

We’re not salesmen. We’re not going to try and tell you that the sky is purple or what “our” company has to offer is the absolute bestest most wonderful thing in the entire wide world – because we care about our own online reputations, and we know that word of mouth is everything. I personally never approach anyone with the purpose of “selling” anything, but rather because they are looking for answers or with the intention of starting out on projects we can work on together.

We naturally look for who is influential in certain circles (depending on which circles we prefer) and who they are connected to.

We don’t sell, though. We facilitate. We answer questions. We provide roadmaps. And actually by doing just that we end up selling. Because “selling” in social media means showing you know how to actually talk with people and solve their problems rather than blindly trying to sell your bar of soap or whatever else it is you’re supposed to earn a commission on.

If you’re looking for a web agency to be in charge of your next social media campaign, for example, we may not know all of them but we’ll probably be able to point you in the right direction. Or at least put you in touch with someone that knows better than us. And we’ll do it without expecting anything in return.

OK, if you reaaaally want to write about our company, we won’t say no 😉

The information we collect – be it for internal or external purposes – are the traces of our comings and goings in different circles. They are the “field notes” that can be coded and earmarked afterwards via tags, bookmarks, and any number of social sharing tools.

Now don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to have “Community Manager” as your job title to be this kind of person – and there are certainly community managers out there that won’t agree with what I’m saying – but I’d say a “community manager” is the one you want to send people to when they’re just starting out on the web.

Which community manager is a different question, of course.

Here are just a couple of suggestions for finding one of these not-so-rare-anymore creatures (let me know what yours are, too):

Image credit : Flickr – Kelsau

What do you think ? Do community managers point you in the right direction ? Are you a community manager that tries to ?

4 responses to “community manager – ethnographer – salesman

  1. absolutely. it’s funny because qual vs quan has long been a debate in anthropology, and trying to prove that it is just as credible as “hard science”. now that social relationships are on the web the debate continues here

  2. Pingback: We’ve got a Community Manager – now what? | Yaelsworld

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