When the term Community Manager is tossed around today, most people think of the person behind the Facebook page or company Twitter handle engaging fans and followers. And they're right. Hanging out online talking to customers is a large component of that job. Looking ahead, I see the role of the community manager hitting closer to home. Internal Social Networking

Within the last couple of weeks at Hinda, I've launched Chatter, a free internal social network from Salesforce.com, to help consolidate the communication efforts of our outside sales pros and in-house program managers. So much communication about certain programs has potential to get lost within email archives. Chatter provides an easy way to attach files, presentations, tasks and conversations about specific programs in one, real-time spot.

In addition to conversation about programs, it's a great way to build morale within our own team. You have the ability to set up groups for different things along with programs. We have a social media group, a marketing group and a Help Center group for everyone to communicate beyond just everyday tasks. Chatter users also can post messages on others' profiles, tag other users and even comment on certain updates to initiate even more conversation.

We use Chatter at my office but there are several other companies using multiple styles of internal networks (like Rypple, Yammer etc) to communicate within the team. For Hinda, in addition to monitoring and managing the outside company social networks like Facebook, Twitter and our blog, I also am moderating conversation within our own group on Chatter. It's becoming more of a multi-front position. (Seesmic has a great tool for moderating both outside and Chatter conversation on their desktop app by the way...)

Branding From the Inside Out

As engagement expectations increase between consumers and brands continue to rise, your employees will become even bigger brand ambassadors than before. How engagement between employees inside the company develops will have a direct effect on how they engage your customers. I've mentioned on @jeffhilimire's Quora question that marketing departments will turn more focus to internal branding as the years progress. I feel this holds true and we're seeing some of this today.

An older article from Advertising Age does a great job talking about how brands are tapping into their employees as assets and uses Southwest Airlines as a textbook example. The airlines heavily taps into its intranet, pre-screening and receiving feedback for marketing promotions and television commercials. In addition, they also generate advertising ideas by engaging in conversation with employees, asking questions like "Tell one of the biggest complaints you've ever had" or "What do your customers love about Southwest?" Conversation starts within the company and eventually spreads outward, not only how marketing handles the company online presence but even as far as how front-line staff engages with customers face-to-face.

Two Sides to the Conversation

So much emphasis of the community manager role is on outside communication. It's very true for the most part, most focus will be turned toward interaction with customers, helping transform them to brand enthusiasts. Over time, I think we'll start seeing more focus on moderating conversations both internally and externally. For Community Managers, mainly ones that are in-house/client-side, they're job role will continue to help steer and engage people on both sides of the consumer/company fence. Internal branding and marketing strategy should reflect what shows up on the outside.

I predict more companies following a similar lead to Southwest, tapping internal communication for marketing almost as much as externally. The external conversations around a brand will increasingly depend on what's going on behind the scenes.

What do you all think?

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