It’s possible to successfully manage your online social channels and communities without a dedicated resource (here are some tips and tools to do it). But a dedicated online community manager is a smart investment for  organizations who want to more completely tap into and leverage the social Web’s potential to cost-effectively and sustainably drive awareness, thought leadership and direct lead generation for your sales team.

Below are 10 keys to success for anyone starting or already engaged in an online community manager role.

1. Clear objectives & measurable goals
What does success look like? What are you hoping to achieve? What does success look like in 30 days, six months, 12 months? Establish a crisp set of short-term and long-term, measurable goals, both tactical and strategic.

2. Executive buy-in
Your manager, their manager, and the top people in your organization need to buy into your program. They need to believe in what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how it fits into the broader business objectives. You need to help them see this – connecting the online and social world they may not yet fully understand with the market growth, awareness and margin challenges/objectives they stare at every day.

3. Tools
Once you establish the specific tactics you’ll employ on a daily and weekly basis, identify the tools that will help you execute more consistently and efficiently. Many of these tools are free, but even those that are paid can be leveraged at a fraction of the cost of having to execute manually, again and again.

4. Reporting & dashboards
You can use the amazing tools from providers such as Radian6 or a simple spreadsheet. Either way, take the crisp set of metrics you defined in the beginning and communicate those back to your team, your manager and your executive team on a regular basis. This will reinforce the growing value of the business assets you’re building.

5. Editorial calendar
Know what you want to say, and to whom. Put it on paper in advance, and use this calendar as a loose guide for what you want to publish. New ideas will come up on a regular basis, and that’s fine, but if you start with a plan you’re far more likely to create content and propagate a consistent brand presence across your own and third-party channels and communities. Here’s a template to get you started.

6. Clear content/format standards
What formats are you most comfortable with? Which formats will your customers most likely use? Focus on these channels and formats first, and create some templates and prototypes for how your content will look, will be created and be published. Start with some experimentation, but settle on some consistent execution methods that make it faster and easier to execute moving forward with consistent results, and in formats that your customers are comfortable with.

7. Pre-determined escalation paths
Inevitably, the customers and prospects you engage online will have questions you can’t answer. Who in your organization can answer? Do you know who you’d want to use in what context, and with what content areas? Identify your experts, train them on how to be socially-savvy, and create clear escalation paths to help them respond quickly.

8. Customer “assistant managers”
You will also begin to identify customer and members of your social community who want to help you manage conversations, solicit feedback from other members, and more. Think of these members as your assistant managers. Create some clear roles and responsibilities, guidelines and incentives to participate at a leadership level.

9. A network of writers
Employees, peers, customers, partners, industry influencers, other industry community managers. The potential sources of content and writers go on and on. You’re not in this alone. You simply run the show. Empower, encourage and invite everyone else to join with you. They are your team.

10. Patience
This will take time. Your efforts won’t generate revenue in the first week (at least not in any sustainable way, not yet). If you set your goals up front, have executive support, and have a clear set of measurements to demonstrate growth, trust your plan and your focus and your execution to deliver results.