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Who is Your Community Manager?

Duo on July 29, 2013

Chances are there is no one in your organization who wears the title “Community Manager”. And almost certainly if this role exists it is probably not a full time equivalent position.  The emerging social business may be one of the most exciting business developments of the early 21st century. Yet it is no surprise that the business structures to support the social enterprise remain in infancy.

Community Manager Trainees

In early 2011 I attended a social media Meet-up group where I listened to several presenters from well-known brands discuss their experience as online community managers. The job title intrigued me.  As I was managing Duo’s social presence and contributing a lot of blog content, the role and title made sense to me but I wasn’t that familiar with the term “community manager”.

What’s a Community Manager

So definitions first. The community manager is not the same as the social media manager.  Same church but different pew. An online community manager builds, grows, and manages communities for a brand, cause, or topic. This may include social media tactics but is certainly more than that.

Online Community Management is New

Google Trends confirmed the relative newness of the term showing barely a blip of interest in “online community manager” until late 2010:

Interest trend of phrase "community manager"


Almost uniformly the online community managers I encountered in 2011 included recent college graduates raised on Facebook and Twitter but otherwise new to the workforce. They spoke with gum in their mouth and ended every sentence with a question-mark lilt. They had little authority to do much more than advance the brand message and respond pleasantly to comments by others. Things have changed.

The Maturing Online Community Management Landscape

I was mining the 2013 State of Community Management report from The Community Roundtable for some nuggets to illustrate the importance and significance of the emerging online community management business discipline. The report acknowledges drawing from a business sample that has community programs more mature than the market average. As such it represents a remarkable bellwether of what to anticipate for social business.

However, even the report acknowledges surprise at some of the findings.  In their words, “This research revealed a picture of community management that is more complex and more strategically valuable than is commonly understood or appreciated.” And unlike the early-career practitioners I encountered at my Meet-up, the job is generally performed by more experienced mid-career professionals with less technical background. Engagement and people skills ranked high followed by content development, strategic and business skills. Their average salary is just over $65,000.

The online community management space is truly the Wild West inhabited by a lot of cowboys. There is little formal training and fewer certifications.  Few of the company’s surveyed had a community management program before 2008. Therefore one of the appealing key findings of the report is the emergence of standardized processes for some community management practices while others, like performance measurement are still emerging. Standard practices, of course, helps to on-board new community managers faster and aids in managing and measuring the return on investment for these initiatives.

Who’s Your Community Manager Daddy?

As your business inevitably migrates to a more social model the importance of a community manager will become more evident. Based on early indications, you’ll want to assign this strategic role to an experienced and business savvy professional.

What’s your experience with community management? Are you on board with my conclusions? Let me know.

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