By Charlie Balk
"The best online communities start with a good plan."
If you're wondering how your brand can provide round-the-clock community management without exhausting too many of your internal resources, you're in the right place. When it comes to staffing a CM team, there are a few approaches: 1) Entrust one individual to work more than from just 9 to 5 (and hope they don't go crazy); 2) Avoid posting outside of normal working hours (and hope that something doesn't happen during off-hours); or 3) Build a team of full-time and part-time, fully trained CMs to serve the community at all times of day. I'm here to tell you how to do the last one. Here are the three keys of staffing a 24/7 CM team.
1. Hire full-time CMs with management experience.
If your company is committed to serving its customers, finding new customers through social, and preventing potential social and PR crises, then you already know how important it is to hire rock star CMs. There are countless important characteristics that are essential to CMs, but one quality that is necessary to building your round-the-clock team is being able to manage others. Management experience is very important and should be a factor in your hiring and recruiting efforts.
While you'll need to spread out the burden of managing the page among at least two to four individuals, the most effective and efficient model for this is to chose one "lead" CM who will be doing the majority of the day-to-day work. He or she will also be responsible and accountable to ensure that all shifts are scheduled and that everyone is up-to-date on the brand. If you think of the CM team as a wheel, one full-time CM needs to be the hub and then you can add other part-time CMs or interns serve as the spokes who all report back to the main CM.
2. Clearly define roles and expectations.
As I mentioned, defining roles begins with with your full-time "lead" CM. Management experience is a big part of that, as well as the ability to work with a team.
Next, you're going to need a team of part-time CMs or interns who will be there to support the main CM during off-hours. At Likeable, we have what are known as associate community managers (ACMs) who work 15 hours a week: eight from the office and the other seven from home monitoring pages during off-hours. The one day a week in the office allows us to train them and keep them up-to-date on all of their brands.
I'm responsible for hiring and training all of our ACMs, and the most important qualities I look for are dependability and interest/fluency in social media, in that order. I can train just about anyone who has those two qualities to reliably monitor our pages on nights and weekends and respond on behalf of multiple brands. When it comes to hiring part-timers and interns, it's unrealistic to expect the world from them. Clearly define the role, hire based on that definition, and if you wind up hiring people who are able to go above and beyond that, hire them full-time!
3. Establish processes and consistent schedules.
This may seem obvious, but the more consistency you can achieve in the scheduling of your shifts, the easier it's going to make things for everyone. Not only will the individuals who are working the shifts appreciate the consistency (and be less likely to mix them up), but everyone who touches the account will appreciate the consistency of scheduling. Essentially, you want your CM team to work as a well-oiled machine, so the smoother and more reliable you can make every piece in the process, the better everything will run.
To make another industrial era comparison, think of community management as an assembly line, with each shift being a worker within the assembly line. The hand-off is also very important, so make sure there's good communication between your team. Everyone should feel comfortable communicating with one another via phone, text, email, or in person.