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Are you heading up a creek without a community manager?

3 min read


This poll analysis was written by Jeremy Victor, president of Make Good Media and editor-in-chief of For more of his writing, visit and follow him on Twitter and Google+.

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.

In this week’s poll, we asked: Do you have a succession plan in case your community manager suddenly leaves the company? The results:

  • No: 72.16%
  • Yes: 27.84%

“I’m resigning.”

No matter how many times you hear that statement as a manager, with a few rare exceptions, it almost always sucks. Even when you suspect it might be coming, until the words are actually spoken, you don’t have a hole to fill, a burden to deal with or a problem to solve.

But once you do, if you haven’t planned for it, the consequences are always difficult to deal with, and, depending on the position, you can be in for a long, bumpy ride until that position is filled again.

This week’s results are about what you would suspect, though, right? While succession planning is an important management best practice, time allotted to it in most organizations is minimal. It’s not for a lack of belief in its value; it ultimately comes down to decision making focused on the highest and best use of time. We tend to the short term versus long term when time is available.

For instance, when faced with the decision to focus on succession planning (strategic long term) or generating more leads (tactical short term), we’ll almost always choose to generate more leads, or the tactical short-term activity. The problem with that mindset, though — and I am as guilty as the 72% — is if you don’t set aside time for strategic long-term activities, you will almost always find yourself poorly executing on tactical short-term activities.

I know you are not interested in a management lesson on strategic planning; all I am trying to emphasize, especially with a position such as community manager, is that you need to make the time, create a back-fill plan and get prepared for the day your community manager decides to up and leave. The threat is real. There are 750 community-manager jobs listed on Simply Hired, ranging from agencies the likes of Porter Novelli to international brands such as Campbell Soup. The position from a corporate standpoint is only growing in popularity, and with the openness of the social Web, it is easy to know whom to cherry pick should you need a good one — think Scott Monty, Frank Eliason, Julia Roy and Joe Chernov.

How prepared are you to lose your always-on, real-time communicator and person who represents your company and brand on the social Web? It’s a question you should probably be able to answer and one your CEO might be asking any day.