Giving Customer Service a Pink Slip: Community Management and the New User Experience

(Kelly McDonald is the Director of Charity Partnerships at Fashion Project and graduate of Startup Institute Boston.

Community management is a versatile and evolving role within a company. As community managers, we manage social media, create content, and are often the first point of customer service for the business. As the voice of the brand, we give off a Wizard of Oz mystique - just who IS the person behind the curtain?

Being a community manager is a unique opportunity within a company. Not only are you interacting with users and building brand loyalty, but you have the wonderful job of meeting new people to create meaningful relationships. As Community Manager for TechStars, Clare Tischer values the opportunity to foster these valuable two-way relationships. The opportunities to grow the connections between the company and outside community, introduce users to other users, and team members to customers are plenty. We are driven by interacting with our users and ensuring that they have a positive experience with our company.


It’s critical to remember that community management takes place both online and offline. Getting out into the community is both exciting and reaffirming. As the Startup Institute’s Community Manager, I love seeing people get excited about my brand and ask me questions. Sara Sigel, Community Manager of GrabCAD, says that “feeling the impact of your work with each community member” is the best part of her job. It can be hard to feel this through a Facebook post. That’s why you need to get out of the building and into the wild. It’s fun to put a face to the twitter handle. What other job has it’s own blog? Image from the #CMGR behind “What Should We Call Social Media

Since community management is still a relatively new position, confusion is to be expected. “So…your job is to be on Facebook and that Twitter thing all day?” No, not really. But in the ever increasing digital world, customers aren’t reaching out via phone or even email anymore. Questions and discourse happen mostly via social media. With this shift from traditional forms of communication comes both opportunity and obligation. You can’t exactly say “Twitter is closed for the day, check back tomorrow!” Social media is not a call center with 9AM-8PM hours of service; it is a 24/7 open line between you and your customers; it opens up a door for you to reach out to users and followers. In a traditional call center or e-mail setting, service is a one way street where you have to wait for users to contact you with a problem. Utilizing social media channels, community managers have the ability to reach out to someone and share a positive experience or mitigate a negative instance which is a huge asset to a brand.

Because of this, successful community management is a combination of being both proactive (by scheduling tweets and blog posts and reaching out to users) and being reactive so you can promptly respond to users. Trish Fontanilla, Community Manager for Vsnap, says that “We wear so many hats as community managers and don’t always have the focus that other jobs have on just one thing.” I couldn’t agree more. It can seem like a big job for one just person, but there are tons of tools out there that can help you.

  • Tweetdeck is my preferred Twitter management platform, but others prefer HootSuite.
  • I use Crowdbooster for social media analytics on Facebook and Twitter - simple interface and great Key Performance Indicator data at a glance.
  • In order to make sure my tweets are being sent at the best time I use Buffer; Clare told me about this tool and I love it. It’s one of those “set it and forget it” tools where you load tweets and Buffer sends them out at the best time.

As with any job, there are tradeoffs. Community managers are often the lone wolves of marketing; as a company rarely has more than one. As a remote worker for Eventbrite, Boston Evangelist Sara Steele Rogers misses being part of a team at headquarters and company holiday parties this time of year. Luckily for Sara, events like the Holiday Tech Co-Party are recognizing this gap and creating a shared social culture for small companies and remote workers. It can be lonely work at times, but so rewarding.

The perks of being a community manager far outweigh any of the frustrations we may have. Steele Rogers works from home in yoga pants. Sigel traveled to Estonia with her company and loved connecting with users there. We all agree that the best part of our jobs is the people we meet and the energy they bring to us. I love interacting with our students, alumni, partners, and friends at the Startup Institute Boston. It’s what gets me out of bed with a smile everyday. We may be biased, but if you’re looking for the best startup job out there, then consider community management. All the cool kids are doing it.

Apply to Startup Institute in New York and Boston. Summer session starts in June. The sooner you apply the better your chances of getting in.