The Man in the Middle

18 05 2010

Via Alaskan Eyes

In my recent post ’10 Promises from a Community Manager’, my third promise was “I promise to be on your corner of the ring – to act in your best interests, not the company’s”.

@blaisegv commented that point 3 was not straight forward, and it’s not. (Be sure to visit Blaise Grimes-Viort site for great information on community management and social media.)

Being a community manager means that you are the middle man, representing both the best interests of your members and of your company. This is the struggle that community managers will face daily – how do you balance the responsibility advocating the brand you represent and the members that make your community?

But whose interests do you prioritise? Who really has the final say?

For me, while your company’s positioning should never be far from mind, the customer’s best interests have to come first. The reason for a brand to start an online community should be based around building  relationships with your customers, and providing a platform in which they can be heard. If this is true, then customer’s opinions should always have some weighting within your company.

While company decisions may not / cannot always be in the company’s best interests, you have to be the customer’s representative for their concerns and worries. You have to fight their battles, be their voice, and as a community manager you have to be open and honest with them about the brand itself. Tell them what you’re doing, keep them up-to-date, admit mistakes, be as transparent as possible.

A successful community is one in which the community members have built trust and rapport with other members, and believe me if customer’s think that you aren’t taking them seriously – they’ll spot it a mile away!

How do other community members deal with being a spokesperson for both your brand and your members?

Do you think by building relationships with customers, you have successfully represented your brand?

Do others think the brand should take priority?