“So, what do you do for a living?”

The perfectly innocuous question that follows almost every social interaction once you’re above the age of 23.

“I’m a Community Manager.”

I would often reply, prefacing it with a hesitant smile, as I brace myself for the barrage of questions that would follow in this next moment.

“So, what do you do, exactly?”

“Are you actually paid to surf Facebook? Wow.”

Responses like the latter are always partnered with an expression that is a mix between awe and envy.

And given the added pain of a recent LinkedIn Survey suggesting Community Manager is one of the most misunderstood jobs, perhaps it is finally time to clarify what exactly it is that we do, once and for all?

Let’s begin with the start of the day, shall we? It begins with my usual cup of iced Americano from the neighbourhood cafe. With the bittersweet aroma of caffeine, I get into the thick of things right away. First up would be a glance at the pages I manage on the various social platforms. It helps me plan my day to see the amount of time I would have to allocate to responding the fan comments and questions for these pages. Whenever there is a campaign or new product launch, the volume of interactions would be significantly increased.

Community Management We Are Social Brands

I then go through the responses to any posts published over the previous day on all the social channels -- Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Instagram, among others -- and start replying to them.

This usually takes up the bulk of my mornings and afternoons. Be it answering questions about the client’s products/services or handling feedback, my fellow community managers and I make sure that the community is heard and taken care of. Our main focus, aside from reactive responses, is to extend the conversation with the fans.

While the fans on our pages get the latest information from us and the brand, we also acquire valuable insights from the communities we serve, whether it is about the communications they would like to receive or the value they get from the content we post. For example, we have found that our fans love content that allows them to showcase their creativity - be it sharing with us favourite photos of their pets, or ideas of their own about possible content in future. It is truly a two-way interaction.

At the same time, within the agency, as a Community Manager, I am expected to play a collaborative role with the creative and accounts teams, providing insight on what is observed across the specific social channels and the types of content that the communities respond best to. For example, the fans on Twitter tend to react the best to the latest news or references as it is a platform that is focused on the nowness of events.

What a brand hears from their community matters just as much if not more than what they say themselves in social media. By listening, a brand is able to understand what matters most to the people who share on social media. We can then use this knowledge to build content that adds value to the lives of the brand's audience. That is the ultimate difference between making people want things and making things that people want.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we do as community managers.