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Out-of-Work? Reinvent Yourself as a Community Manager!

Out-of-Work? Reinvent Yourself as a Community Manager!

Traci Armstrong / AdAge

Out-of-work copywriters and journalists can reinvent themselves as social-media brand advocates!!

In advertising, there is a widely known but rarely discussed career path for the wise: Approach your career like any smart professional athlete or super model might – have a career back-up plan arranged for after you “peak.”

Second careers for ad professionals are so common, there is actually a documentary movie being made about it: “Lemonade.” Touting an inspiring tagline, “It’s not a pink slip. It’s a blank page,” “Lemonade” is about what happens when people who were once paid to be creative in advertising are forced to be creative with their own lives.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are plenty of people being forced to get creative with their careers. At least 163,400 advertising jobs have been lost since the beginning of the recession. Our sibling industries, media and journalism, are trending on a similar path. Papercuts, a blog following journalism jobs cut for the year, estimates that 14,713 jobs have been lost at U.S. newspapers in 2009. Where will all of these unemployed people find work?

Many like to blame ad-industry job losses on the digital shift. As marketers continue to steer their dollars toward a digital approach, traditional workers are left scrambling to transition their skills. And, the truth is, the digital era is creating new jobs that recruiters are having difficulty finding talent for. One such area of job growth is social media and the evolving role of a “community manager.” This role may be an ideal career move for out-of-work copywriters or journalists.

So, what exactly is a community manager? Some describe the role as: “an externally facing advocate for a brand within the social-media space.” Web strategist Jeremiah Owyang outlines the four tenets of a community manager:

1. Community advocate. Actively monitors and listens to customers in addition to engaging with them by responding to their requests and needs.

2. Brand evangelist. Promotes events, products and upgrades. As a respected member of the community, the individual has a higher degree of trust.

3. Savvy communication skills, shapes editorial. Very familiar with the tools of communication, from forums to blogs to podcasts to Twitter, and understands the language and jargon that is used in the community. Importantly, the role is responsible for the editorial strategy and planning within the community, and will work with many internal stakeholders to identify content, plan, publish and follow up.

4. Gathers community input for future product and services. Responsible for gathering the requirements of the community in a responsible way and presenting it to product teams. The opportunity to build better products and services through this real-time live focus group is ripe; in many cases, customer communities have been waiting for a chance to provide feedback.

Are there enough community-manager jobs to employ the thousands of out-of-work copywriter and journalist refugees? With the evolution of community-manager jobs still in its infancy, it is unclear exactly how many jobs are currently available. Not even the naming protocol for this position has been decided upon. Other sample titles for community managers include: web-communities manager, conversation manager, social-media communications specialist or community evangelist. A recent search on Simply Hired turns up more than 700 openings for “online community jobs.”

What is clear, however, is that any brand taking online community and communication seriously may have a need for a community manager. Judging by the number of brands jumping on the Facebook fan page and Twitter bandwagon, that could translate to a lot of jobs. And, in a recent community-manager salary report by strategist Connie Bensen, the average community manager salary was $81,000 with a median of $72,500.

Many copywriters already possess the key components of being a community manager: excellent writing skills, an understanding of marketing and strong research experience. But where most traditional copywriters fall short is in having a solid understanding of online cultures and trends.

Keep reading for ways to build your Community Management expertise! >>