The Community Manager role is still relatively new and somewhat hard to pin down:
- Does it fall under marketing communications, PR, brand management, HR, internal communications, or IT?
- Is it an operational, tactical, or strategic role?
- Should the person be a junior, middle, or senior level employee?
- Will the role be managed by one person or by a team (e.g. manager, moderator, tech person)?
Because of its newness, the confusion surrounding its place in the organizational hierarchy, and the many different ways in which companies are engaging their customers and employees, this role is handled in different ways by different companies.
However, increasingly, the Community Manager role is becoming an entirely separate job position. That is, as social media has increased in usage, importance, relevance, and impact, community management tasks can no longer be simply added-on to a communications person or marketer's job description.
Okay, Now What?
But now that companies are creating these roles, they want to know how much they should pay Community Managers and, more fundamentally, what the job position's ROI is.
The latter question is harder to answer and, even if you work through the numbers, sometimes the best answer is "If you don't have someone dedicated to engaging your customers or employees, you will get left behind." Which is much like the answer to a question that a lot of companies were asking themselves in the 90's: "But why should we have a website?" :)
Of course, all this depends on how strategically important customer interaction is to your company. Theoretically, the more important customer interaction is -- and assuming your customers are increasing their social media usage -- the more you should be investing in a social media manager.
Theories aside, however, Connie Benson recently conducted a social media-based survey on what Community Managers are being paid these days and how companies are arriving at that figure. She wrote that all up in a blog post which concludes that, in the US, Community Managers are paid anything from US$60,000 to $110,000 (about AU$64-117k). Presumably this variation represents the amount of strategic importance placed by companies on customer engagement and the social media usage of customers.
What About Australia?
However, based on the few (and far between) community management-type job openings I've come across over the last few months, I can safely say that the Australian salary range for Community Managers is significantly lower. That's mainly because social media still doesn't figure in most Australia companies' strategies. Oh well.