There was an interesting article recently at Econsultancy on whether the role of community manager should be an in-house role or one that’s outsourced to an agency. The line taken was that it should be one that’s outsourced. A dedicated community manager would have more time to keep up with changes in the industry they reasoned, whilst being outside of the company also affords them a fresh perspective on things.
Now I’ve argued many times in the past that social media, and indeed community management, should not be purely about sales or (god forbid) such fuzzy things as ‘engagement’. Communities can do so much more than that by engaging stakeholders across the business in fundamentally improving how things are done.
What is even more important though is that community management should not be the preserve of one individual. Too often when companies hire a community manager, be they internal or external, they fall into the trap of thinking that they can then forget about community building, that they have someone who can take charge of all that.
It’s completely the wrong approach. Community management works best when it becomes central to the culture of an organisation, when it becomes a way of operating rather than just another channel to push content out on. In such an environment the community manager is crucial, but they’re crucial because they co-ordinate the social activities of a wide range of people both inside and outside of the organisation.
For me the best way to achieve that is to have a community manager as a key part of your staff. I’ve always believed that things should only be outsourced that do not play a key part in differentiating you from the competition. In our social world, the belief that engaging your community of customers, employees and other stakeholders does not set you apart from your rivals is not a smart one.
So the question shouldn’t be whether you should outsource community management, but how you can get as many of your staff engaging in community work as possible.