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

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.

11 Comments on Community Management: Not An Entry-Level Gig

  1. Zach Cole
    December 22, 2010 at 4:09 am (6 years ago)

    Janet – this is a fantastic post. Beyond the actual main point here (the whole question of is Community Manager entry level or not), the point that I’d like to focus on quickly is this: “You aren’t going to learn this stuff in school.”

    I’ve been fortunate enough to go to a school (Emerson College) that does offer one course in social media marketing. It is hands-on, and encompasses almost everything on a basic level that there is. It’s definitely a step in the right direction.

    That said, the social media course barely skims the surface of what’s out here. I wholeheartedly agree that you have to love this space enough to put in the extra hours, and in essence school yourself, because no one else will do it for you. But that’s a big part of what I love about this; I can be my own professor. I decide what I will and won’t learn, and in turn that dictates what future opportunities I am prepared for.

    Great read! Keep up the good work and happy holidays. – Zach

    Reply
    • Anonymous
      December 22, 2010 at 4:39 am (6 years ago)

      Totally agree, Zach! You’re very smart that you chose such a progressive program like Emerson’s that offers the social media classes. Even if it just skims the surface of what’s out there, at the very least an intro class will spark that interest and motivation in you so you’ll go on beyond that course and continue to learn *on your own.* Stuff changes every day, so college students and marketing managers alike all need to be committed to staying on the bleeding edge of what’s going on if they want to be effective and competitive with their organizations.

      Great job w/ #megatweetup by the way! Happy Holidays 🙂

      Reply
  2. Elisabeth Michaud
    December 22, 2010 at 3:36 pm (6 years ago)

    Thanks for including “general grammatical aptitude”. Personally, I think this should be a requirement for any job that is remotely communications-related, whether entry-level or not. Good writing/spelling/grammar skills may not seem important when people do them well, but when they are done poorly it becomes SO MUCH harder to get a message across. People underestimate how distracting those grammar errors can be to someone reading your tweets, blog posts, et al. /endgrammarrant

    This also brings up a point that you touch on a bit here which is that for any gig, you need to be able to talk the talk AND walk the walk–the style of discourse is so so important. If you are b.s.-ing your way through talk about ROI for your internal tasks or ESPECIALLY your client services, people are going to notice and call you out on it. Tres embarrassing. Know your stuff, but most of all, don’t be afraid to ask intelligent questions. This is how you learn and move forward in your career–not by knowing everything right from the beginning!

    As you said, Janet, you need to pursue learning opportunities outside of class or outside of your entry-level work (if you are already in the workforce), whether it’s reading blogs, talking to professionals more experienced than you are, volunteering for projects outside of your job description, and generally paying more attention to the world around you. Not only will it keep things interesting, but eventually you will actually sound like you know what you’re talking in those big meetings. Whoop!

    Reply
    • Anonymous
      December 22, 2010 at 3:43 pm (6 years ago)

      Yes, to everything you said, yes!

      1. Grammar – Learn to write. Not just for communications fields. In fact, if you’re an engineer I want you to be able to write. Good writers are good communicators. Email, text messaging, instant messaging, Twitter etc. are all ways we communicate in our society now and in the office. Writing is hugely important no matter what department you work in. It makes you a better team member.

      2. Take the account coordinator, marketing coordinator… whatever it is entry-level job and make the most of it. Absorb everything you can and remember the big picture. (Then, if something like a CM role is what you want to apply for – carpe diem!)

      Reply
  3. Stuart Dessler
    January 6, 2011 at 11:19 am (6 years ago)

    I recently likened Social Media to a formula one car – fast, and constantly adapting to remain competitive.

    All it needs is a good driver – be that a Michael Schumacher who has been driving for 20 years or a Lewis Hamilton who drives just as well on his debut.

    It’s not as specialist as requiring years and years of experience like other traditional marketing roles, it just needs someone who has the aptitude to perform. 🙂

    Reply
    • Anonymous
      January 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm (6 years ago)

      I agree with you that someone who is adaptable to change will be particularly successful in a social media role. This stuff changes literally every day. There is always a new tool out there to consider, a new integration that changes the current tool, etc etc. However, a community management position is more than just running a Twitter account. It has elements of public relations, customer service, marketing and so much more. I think people are well-served to get some type of professional experience in one of those areas prior to taking on a CM gig.

      Reply
  4. Irene Cristina Haiek
    June 8, 2011 at 2:56 pm (6 years ago)

    Hi! Thank you very much for this post. I’m from Venezuela and I’m starting on this 2.0 world. =)

    Reply
    • Janet Aronica
      June 8, 2011 at 3:38 pm (6 years ago)

      Aw that’s so exciting that I got a reader from Venezuela! 🙂 Thank you for stopping by!

      Reply
    • Janet Aronica
      June 8, 2011 at 3:38 pm (6 years ago)

      Aw that’s so exciting that I got a reader from Venezuela! 🙂 Thank you for stopping by!

      Reply
    • Janet Aronica
      June 8, 2011 at 3:38 pm (6 years ago)

      Aw that’s so exciting that I got a reader from Venezuela! 🙂 Thank you for stopping by!

      Reply

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