Did you know that the modern role of the modern-day Community Manager is about to turn 10 years old? And oh boy, has the role of a Community Manager (#CMGR) changed over the last 10 years!
It all started around 2005, brands began to see the power of conversations already taking place by their customers in these topic-based communities (forums).
Also known as a Community Engagement Specialist, Lisa Braziel was the epitome of transparency. She created a plethora of social profiles on sites like Cafe Mom, FitSugar, even Facebook and Twitter (no brand pages allowed back then...) where she served as the online representative for NatureMade vitamins. She shared tips and details about her personal life in short blog-like updates and engaged in comment threads and one-to-one conversations that supported NatureMade's brand positioning as a way to connect in a very real way with their target audience online.
Brands realized real people with real social profiles had more influence than they ever could online, and they used those people to "humanize" their brands, putting a well-known name and face in front of their audiences.
Facebook converted their profile-like "fan pages" to "brand pages" that people could "Like". All of a sudden the brand presence on Facebook went from something brands sometimes managed to a check box required in every marketers' annual plan.
Community Managers were plucked from their silos and even traditional marketers who had been fighting the fad were forced to incorporate social communities into their more traditional marketing campaigns.
Community Managers now had to be able to make a strong case for how their communities should fit into TV spots, brand websites, and even your digital media buying strategy. CEOs were even starting to ask about the ROI of Community Management.
Once Facebook got serious about their Insights tool and business execs realized we could prove whether our community efforts were improving or not the days of feel good, anecdotal stories about an angry customer turned happy fan were over and the battle for Likes and People Talking About This were on.
Every brand wanted on the real-time marketing brand wagon and was desperately searching for their own "Oreo Superbowl" moment.
Thankfully brands are finally getting over their obsessions with real-time marketing and many are starting to understand the power of what we call "Right-time Community Management".
But not all is good in the world of Community Management as 2014 comes to close. Despite pleas from their super-smart Community Managers, brands are being swayed by social network reps with sales agendas disguised as strategists who are blurring the lines between social media marketing and social media advertising.
As we look ahead to what Community Management will become in 2015, I hope brands don't lose sight of the power of organic social media marketing and engagement.