When I first joined Samsung USA as a Social Media Manager, my role was both strategic and tactical in nature. While my mind was constantly concerned with how to scale efforts and enhance engagement, growth, sentiment, impressions, etc., community management was very much a part of my day-to-day job. I lived in constant hybrid mode; consistently thinking about the future of Samsung's approach to social media while also being concerned with how Samsung should "behave" and "speak" online each day. The job had its perks and its exciting and nervewracking moments, few moments were as rewarding as some of the interactions I had with Samsung fans (and former critics!).

As a Samsung Social Media Manager, I communicated with the brand's customers and potential customers on a daily basis. Back in 2010, jobs like "social media manager" and "community manager" were still somewhat new and many people seemed shocked to learn that companies actually paid employees to tweet and respond to messages on Facebook. I must say that it was a privilege to be in a role that allowed me to act as a synapse between people in the outside world and people within Samsung's internal walls. It was truly an honor to be the first (or one of the first) to be 100% dedicated to Samsung's growing presence in the increasingly social web. 

My role at Samsung evolved over the years to become something much more strategically aligned with driving towards broader marketing and digital goals, but I continued to interact with social media users who were passionate about Samsung, and even now, months after leaving Samsung, I still enjoy having conversations online with Samsung fans. I am one of them and it's amazing to think that former customers are now part of my life, even if just through 140 character messages, Facebook status updates, and Google+ comments.

There is something about community management that is special and those who have done it likely have likely benefited greatly from it, sometimes without even realizing this. Community managers are learning to master a collection of valuable skills that would've traditionally been associated with marketing, customer service, IT, PR and corporate communications professionals. The best community managers are gifted with unique abilities that can make a meaningful difference in building a brand and satisfying customers in a way that advertising, sales and traditional customer care efforts often cannot, and I believe that community managers will become increasingly important as the world realizes the value of lightweight interactions with consumers on social networks. Reach, frequency, and creative work may not mean as much to a customer as interactions that solve problems, show attentiveness, acknowledge issues, and create an emotional connection beyond a temporary 30 second spot or YouTube video. Social networks are in many ways an informal setting and that is not the kind of setting that businesses have ever been a part of in the past.

Community managers can make things more personal. When someone wants to reach out to Samsung on Twitter, they don't just reach out to @SamsungTweets - they can also reach out to @SamsungJessica or @SamsungCarla. Sure, many community manager interactions with consumers consist of one single exchange of messages, similar to "single-serving friends" as described in the movie Fight Club, but such short interactions may make a big difference. Some social conversations can lead to a permanent shift in how a consumer views a company, and believe it or not, sometimes these interactions can result in new friendships (I say this speaking from experience). While there are many customer-facing jobs out there, community managers can build relationships with customers, both as individuals and on behalf of their brands, and they can also enable relationships among members of online communities.

Social media's benefit for companies is becoming evident. There are still skeptics out there, and that's a good thing, but the fact is that some of the world's leading companies are not only getting a return on their investments, but also increasingly investing in all things social. More companies than ever before are active in social networks and many of them have become experts in listening to consumers and interacting with them in real-time. Many are now accustomed to responding within minutes - 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and they are consistently optimizing the way they create and curate content, the way they filter, moderate, collaborate, and respond to incoming messages, and the way they measure and report on all this.

As companies evolve their social media efforts, they must not forget about the importance of the role of the community manager. Community managers are the voice of the company and they are attuned to consumer sentiment in a way that deserves not only appreciation, but also respect and celebration.

On January 28th, 2013, I will join others all over the world to celebrate Community Manager Appreciation Day. My gift to community managers is that on CMAD I will make my book SOCIAL STATE available at no cost to anyone who wants to read it. My hope is that the book will help and inspire community managers and aspiring community managers.

For the 24 hours of CMAD, SOCIAL STATE will be available for *FREE* in the following digital storefronts:

In closing, I'm excited to see the role of community managers grow in scope, maturity, creativity, and overall value. Some of today's community managers will become tomorrow's business leaders, and they will play an essential role in how companies of all sizes think about and interact with consumers.

Join the #CMAD movement as we thank community managers for the role they play online and offline.


Copyright © Esteban Contreras. All rights reserved.