Today I threw this question out there on Twitter for my personal community:
I got a lot of support on this front…
When I came into my community management gig I had about a year of agency PR experience. So, that’s not a ton of professional experience, right? That said, I did six internships throughout college that added up to some semi-professional experience that I think aided in my preparation for this role.
I say this because come the new year many college seniors will be looking for jobs post-graduation. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, just like I was, you are going to apply to many different job postings. I think you should focus on the ones along the lines of:
- Marketing coordinator
- Social media coordinator
- Account coordinator
- PR assistant
There may certainly be the occasional rockstar/prodigy out there that can step up and handle this amount of responsibility right out of college. If you know you are that, then ignore what I say and go get the community manager gig you know you want and deserve. But, I think for the most part, people are better off getting some actual on-the-job experience so that you can really kick butt in the CM role.
Not all CM roles are created equal. I happen to do a lot of extra marketing stuff because I work at a startup. But, here are some things I do in my job and the type of professional experience that will help you:
1. Content Creation – I direct the content for my company’s blog. In the new year we will expand this to ebooks and more offerings.
- Experience you should get: Knowledge of the industry you’re writing about, SEO, Google Analytics, journalism, general grammatical aptitude…
2. Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn Princess – I’m the internet voice of my company’s brand.
- Experience you should get: Run your own Twitter account, participate in Twitter chats to develop your own voice, write a blog to develop your own voice
3. Strategic Communications – When we screw up, I talk to people about it
- Experience you should get: Public relations, crisis communications. (Tip: Be an account coordinator at an agency and read the account emails you’re cc’d on, even if it doesn’t require action on your part.)
4. Social Media Strategist – I decide what we’ll Tweet, from what tool, and I measure it to see how effective it was
- Experience you should get: Absolutely immerse yourself in this space. Make a daily date with your RSS reader and learn from people like Jason Falls, Chris Brogan, Jeremiah Owyang, David Armano and Michael Brito. Read SocialFresh, HubSpot, Gigaom, Social Media Examiner… The list goes on. You get the point. You aren’t going to learn this stuff in school.
As you can see, this is a multi-faceted role. It varies at every organization. Personally, it was a role I had to grow into as an ’09 grad, and luckily I loved it enough to put in the hours and additional effort it took to step up to where I needed to be despite my lack of professional experience. What I’m trying to say is that there is a lot more that goes into fostering, establishing, managing and measuring successful community programs than may first appear. We don’t actually just Tweet for a living!
So, 2011 grads, get some work experience. Learn some marketing, customer service and social media. Become the best writer you can become. Learn about the industry in which you think you want to manage an online community. How much work experience do you need? I heard at a conference that five to seven years was the target. I don’t know about that. I think two years is fair. But that, my friends, is what I’m hoping you’ll comment on.