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Managing your Enterprise Social Network

At Beezy we love our role creating the next generation of SharePoint social software. The customers we speak to have a real desire to improve how their employees engage and interact. As well as our SharePoint On-Premises product, we are equally excited about our plans for future social products. But even though we spend a lot of our days thinking about the technology side of enterprise social networks, we are experienced enough to know there is more to success than installing a product and sitting back.

When we go out and talk to clients we hear loud and clear that managing an enterprise social network, over the long term, is where the real work happens. Beezy is actually extremely easy to get up and running, it is what you do with the tool after setup that really impacts the benefits. One approach to this challenge is to put in place a community manager. In this post we will look in a little bit more detail about this role, why it could be useful to your organisation and how to get started.

What is a community manager?

A community manager is, in essence, someone to look after your internal enterprise social network. This is a very broad definition, and we look at some specific roles and responsibilities a little later, but it is one that reflects the changing nature of the job.

The community manager should look after a few different areas:

  • The technology. Part of the role is ensuring the platform is managed properly and running correctly. Community managers we work with do things like following the company roadmap, ensuring they are running the latest version of the software, and helping users get the most out of our mobile apps.
  • The content. A big part of a community manager’s role, especially for networks that are just getting off the ground, is ensuring content is created and curated. This means helping to seed conversations and discussions, highlighting content added by others and generally stoking the fires of creativity in those early days. Curating is more about making sure people are adding the right content, editing and checking posts and keeping things on message.
  • The users. Most importantly community managers are there for the users. They get involved in user training, running ‘town halls’ and presentations, and answering ad hoc questions. They are in effect the ‘go to’ person for the network.

Above all though, a community manager is someone who drives the success of the enterprise social network. Just like an Intranet benefits from an ultimate owner, or websites have editorial teams, a social network needs a person to drive home the vision of the service. The Beezy technology makes social simple, elegant and intuitive. But technology on its own cannot totally solve all problems. The community manager is the glue between the product and the users.

Roles and responsibilities

As we saw above, the remit of a community manager can be very broad. Here are some sample roles and responsibilities to get you thinking about the day to day business of this role:

  • Liaise with IT team to ensure smooth running of the system
  • Liaise with senior managers and stakeholders to ensure good ROI
  • Help to train and educate users in the art of the possible
  • First point of contact for questions and help from users
  • Seeding content and conversations
  • Moderating existing content and conversations
  • Running and managing events on the network

An important question to ask is, if you didn’t have a community manager, who would tackle the above? If the answer is no one then you have a need to address.

What makes a good community manager?

The first thing to look for in a good community manager is a love of people. Enterprise social networks are all about connecting people, helping them communicate more effectively and work smarter. So you are looking for a real people person.

Secondly you want to find someone who is engaged in social networks already, is super passionate about the technology and will act as an advocate for what you are trying to achieve. Someone who is familiar with consumer social sites is a good start, but also someone who has perhaps been involved in enterprise comms activities of other types – like building user groups or managing internal newsletters.

The third really vital characteristic of a good community manager is someone who has a real ‘get up and go’ spirit and drive. The area of enterprise social networks is constantly evolving, there are new developments all the time (not least from us here at Beezy), new things to learn, and new approaches to involving users. A good community manager will embrace these changes and thrive on the challenge.

Getting started

So having looked at what the role is, what is the best way to get started? There are two really important things to consider here:

  • This doesn’t need to be a full time role

For many companies an enterprise social network is a new idea, a new system and one that will be rolled out slowly. Uptake will gather momentum over time. So, whilst useful from day one, a community manager doesn’t need to be full time. Depending on your specific needs, type of network and the makeup of users a few hours a week might suffice. Over time commitment will likely grow, but starting small is a great way to get started.

  • You probably already have the right person

Following on from the above point, the community manager doesn’t even need to be a new hire. This is especially true if the role is going to start off as part time. Do you have an existing comms team? Do you have some spare capacity in the marketing group? You might have someone who already looks after other systems, or who is particularly keen to expand their current role in this direction. Again the key to success to is starting small, and starting with someone you already know well is a great way to approach filling this role.

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Ritse Klink