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Why Newspapers Need Community Managers

Photo credit: Alana Fisher

The term “community manager” has been around for a while. However with the growth of social media in business, it’s turned into more of a buzz term. Do a search online for “Community Manager Job” and you’ll get hundreds, if not thousands, of results.

In an insightful post on the Econsultancy blog, they make an effort to clear up some of the smoke about what exactly a community manager is, and what they job really entails.

The author summed up the job title and purpose nicely:

Community managers are trained specialists, who guide and engage with the members of a community. They may get involved with setting the overall strategy for the community, working closely with the brands.

For our purposes, the “brand” is the newspaper. If the newspaper is smart and up with the times, then at the very least they are active in three areas: Story commenting on the website, a Facebook Fan Page, and a Twitter Page.

The strategy development, launching and day-to-day maintenance would all fall to a community manager employed by the newspaper.

Econsutlancy breaks down the job this way, which I think is pretty accurate:

  • Setting the goals for the community
  • Encouraging members to participate
  • Giving information around a specialized subject
  • Feeding back to the brand the community’s concerns and activities
  • Keeping the community fresh
  • Writing community guidelines

When looked at this way, a community manager should seem like a must-have position for a news organization. The comments, your Facebook page and your Twitter page are all public-facing, and they deal directly with your readers on a daily basis.

When developing a strategy for dealing with comments on your newspaper’s website, the conversation should happen with a community manager, because they are the people who will be implementing the new strategy. Additionally, they bring to the table an outlook and individual experiences that reporters and editors often do not have. Having a good community manager on staff becomes more valuable each day, because the news organization has someone “on the front lines”, so to speak.

The duties that a community manager would have, cannot and should not be delegated to others in the newsroom who otherwise lack the background and professional experience that a professional community manager would have. It’s very tempting, especially in the current economic climate. But doing so would ultimately do more harm than good.

If your newspaper or news organization hasn’t hired a community manager to develop and maintain your organization’s communities online, you should do sooner rather than later.

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