Jeremiah Owyang -- one of the biggest movers and shakers in web strategy, whom I sometimes refer to as Jeremiah to appear important myself, culled together 16 actual job descriptions for an online community manager.
He distilled the job down to four essential tenets:
1) Community Advocate -- "the community managers’ primary role is to represent the customer"
2) Brand Evangelist -- "the community manager will promote events, products and upgrades to customers by using traditional marketing tactics and conversational discussions"
3) Savvy Communication Skills, Shapes Editorial -- "The community manager should first be very familiar with the tools of communication, from forums, to blogs, to podcasts, to twitter, and then understand the language and jargon that is used in the community"
4) Gathers Community Input for Future Products and Services -- "Perhaps the most strategic of all tenets, community managers are responsible for gathering the requirements of the community in a responsible way and presenting it to product teams."
Now before I give my input, I'll point out that the second way you can appear more important than you may actually be (remember, the first one was to name drop) is to find some way to disagree with a talking head.
But I do disagree with Jeremiah, even for reasons beyond growing my own self importance. I think Jeremiah is putting too much on the shoulders of a community manager -- in fact, these four tenets could really be called the four essential tenets of a customer facing company.
I think a community manager should subscribe to one and only one essential tenet -- increasing customer efficacy.
I don't think a community manager should be a brand evangelist or a marketing mouth piece. At the start, the community manager should be product agnostic until that community has been able to shape that product. I know, that sounds dangerous -- but a community manager should never tell a lie, even a lie well disguised -- and no company recruiting a community manager that I've seen has that kind of unbeatable product. The goal of an organization should be to plug their customers into the production process as early as conceivable -- through the work of the community manager.
But I don't think that editorial shaping and requirements gathering alone creates the kind of relationship we want from our customers -- and I'm certain it doesn't offer the type of relationship our customers will come to expect.
When I say customer efficacy, what I mean, at the very core of it, is that every customer should feel that their patronage changes the business, that they're uniqueness contributes to the uniqueness of the brand, that every thing that emerges from the assembly line (literal or figurative) was crafted with them in mind. The star of the show isn't the community manager -- its the customer. In turn, the customer becomes the marketing mouthpiece, the customer starts to help shape the editorial, and the customer gathers the requirements. Companies are looking to hire someone they have the control over -- but if you're looking for a fruitful relationship, you'll hire someone that the community will control.
It's a great article, and a fantastic resource -- go read Jeremiah's full post.