It’s 2011 and online community management is no longer optional. Those that are playing it safe will miss out on opportunities.
Translation: it’s time to get serious!
January 24th marked the 2nd annual Community Manager Appreciation Day and one of the biggest takeaways was the realization that organizations are investing in community management and are starting to see the value. It is without question that every single Fortune 500 company has implemented some type of online communications strategy or are currently working up something behind closed doors.
Fortunately for smaller companies, bootstrapped startups, and brick and mortar operations, community management doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg or take up all of the marketing/ad budget. Allocate resources appropriately, but make sure there is a reasonable sized chunk puts towards online community efforts. The goal of this article is to shine some light on how big that chunk should be.
Some snake oil salesmen will try and sell the idea of quick $200 solutions that usually involve an increase in friends/followers and not much else. Avoid these people like the plague. The last thing anyone needs is a self claimed social media expert getting in the way of real progress. They’re out to make a quick buck at the expense of the innocent small business owner.
Depending on budget you may opt to go with the do it yourself, hiring a community manager, or the agency option. I’ve worn all three of those hats and from experience can run off a list of pros and cons with each. The DIY option can work if you’re A. really conservative with your budget B. actually know what you’re doing (a rare occurrence) C. truly have 0 dollars to work with (which most of the time means there are major deficiencies in how the business is being operated anyways). It’s a difficult undertaking. Don’t believe any of the hype that it’s easy. Only those who are prepared for the task at hand and properly educate themselves will find success.
Hiring a full time community manager could be a wise choice contingent on if the person being hired is qualified and if the business is truly committed to achieving results. Those two requirements are an absolute must for success and if both are present it could end up being a prosperous relationship.
These figures look to be fairly accurate, however after speaking with a handful of community managers it’s my belief that generally these numbers lean towards larger organizations. It’s reasonable to find a respectable CM around the $30k – $40k salary range and not impossible to grab a true professional for less, however it’s strongly advised to avoid hiring someone at or near minimum wage or delegating responsibilities to an unsuspecting receptionist. The importance of the position is growing and it needs to be staffed for appropriately.
The third option of going with an agency may be a wise choice to consider. Depending on your needs an agency can work with PR, marketing, and or customer service objectives. With an agency you tend to get what you pay for, but there are always options available and most are willing to work within an allocated budget. Mark Collier, an incredibley smart individual in the online space, recently updated the numbers on his perspective of social media costs. Collier states that strategy implementation with content creation amongst at least two channels would cost an average of $4000 to $7000 per month. These estimates appear to be spot on, although there is a flux in examples ranging from over $15000 per month to around $1000 month. Again a lot of the time you truly get what you pay for. A reputable agency should be able to track results and execute while keeping real world objectives in mind.
Update: an additional resource: The Real Cost of Social Media via Danny Brown
Before pulling the trigger, know the options and weigh the advantages and costs. You’ll be thankful you did.