I'm not a community manager -- officially. But I am the resident social media nerd who spends far too many hours in front of the laptop reading FriendFeed and watching Twitter and posting on my friends' Facebook walls. While some folks might claim this is a time waster I have found the benefits of being a cyber slacker far outweigh the downfalls. And this benefit extends to my company.
Earlier today I was reading my Twitter feed and minding everyone else's business when I spotted a tweet from one of my microblogging pals who had a question about one of my company's products. It wasn't necessarily negative but it wasn't a discussion I wanted to have in public. I immediately swooped in, started a conversation in private and contacted the appropriate parties on my internal team. Both my Twitter pal and my internal teams found this to be very helpful.
I told a teammate, "I feel like the Internet police." In some ways, at least for myself and my company, I am:
I have RSS feeds set up through Twitter Search for me and for my company and its products.
I go beyond Google alerts and do my own manual digging on multiple social networks.
I read competitor blogs and blog comments religiously.
If there's something negative, I engage.
If there's something positive, I engage.
I don't try to control the message or conversation. I merely try to participate so that people know we are listening. Every time I do, whether its an upset partner or a frustrated blogger or a happy customer, they seem to appreciate the fact that I am listening.
More fodder for the "marketing should stop trying to control the message" file. Community managers are critical for protecting a company's reputation online and for knowing how to embrace those conversations happening about the company. Don't control. Don't manipulate. Join the conversation -- and you'll be surprised at how liberating and beneficial it is across the board.