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The Community Strategist Squeeze

It would be too hyperbolic to say there is a crisis in community and social business staffing, but there are definitely some big problems, particularly at the senior and strategic levels. Most people in the space know that experienced community managers are hard to come by generally and if you want to find someone with both community management and business leadership skills, you are in rarefied territory. As a result those people are in high demand. The story could end there, but it doesn’t.

The same group of senior community leaders is increasingly frustrated, over-worked and emotionally deflated in their current roles. They are being asked to rationalize enterprise wide engagement strategies and programs, but without the level of strategic support that would allow them to succeed. Often it feels like these individuals are being tasked with fixing the flaws of a highly fragmented and siloed organization with teams that fit in a small conference room. These strategists face the following pressures:

  • To assess, reconcile and coordinate the ‘social’ approach across a wide range of enterprise functions
  • To justify not just their progress but the ROI when many are still in a highly fluid and experimental state
  • To train the entire organization on social media, internal social software, social business, social processes and workflows and community management
  • To educate legal, HR and compliance groups about the dynamics and specifics of online social environments
  • To understand and report back what is going on – from a conversational perspective – in the online environment
  • To share their expertise both internally and externally with a wide variety of groups
  • To hire a set of individuals that are hard to find and which their HR departments don’t really understand and then mentor and educate those groups quickly
  • To coach executives individually
  • To keep up with the ever changing technologies and analytics options
  • To integrate internal social environments with closed communities with open communities and with public social channels and none-hosted communities in their markets
  • To set up enterprise-wide governance processes and regularly coordinate efforts and approaches globally
  • To help the entire organization see the opportunities that social approaches might bring to specific workflows and functions

Add to all of this the increasing awareness around social software and community management and these individuals are being pulled in a lot of different directions. And yet, most CEOs and executives probably would respond with a blank stare if you asked them about community management and/or social business. Executive sponsors of these programs are a bit ambivalent and waiting for ‘proof’ before increasing investment, but this is both a chicken and egg problem and a lack of understanding of the emerging social risks and how these programs help mitigate them.

To me, the limited investment in and strategic exposure of social and community teams is one of the biggest risks to progress in the social business and community space right now – both in making progress and in keeping staff. Those organizations that can give these senior strategists the support and authority they need to do what is asked of them (implicitly or explicitly) will ultimately attract and keep the talent that does exist.

One of the reasons we set up TheCR Network as a private peer group is because as a organizational spokesperson, community leaders cannot often talk openly about some of the very real challenges they are faced with – or find encouragement for the small, often imperceptible, but significant wins that represent progress.  And we are humbled by how thankful our members are to have that space to be comfortable, let their hair down a bit, relax their shoulders and get some pats on the back for successes that seem small to their companies but are very large efforts and feel more like pushing a boulder up hill, than traditional work some days.

We are very interested in the future of talent development in this industry which is one of the reasons we launched a series of training courses along with WOMMA & ComBlu.  While those training courses may not be the right fit for individuals with these skills already, they (hopefully) will bring their future colleagues into the market, relieving some of the pressure on experienced individuals to be the sole source of training.

Do you face these challenges?  What does your company do to support you?


TheCR Network is a membership network that provides strategic, tactical and professional development programming for community and social business leaders. The network enables members to connect and form lasting relationships with experts and peers as well as get access to vetted content.

TheCR Network is the place to learn from industry leaders.  Join today

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