What Exactly is an Online Community Manager?


bow to the community manager

You’ve been to communities, you may have even created them, but what roles are evolving within them? Online community management by no means is a standard job, so I decided to seek out what other online community managers are currently doing. Like the start of all things we are curious about now, I began this fact finding mission by doing a basic Google search to see what exactly an online community manager looks like.

A Dictator?

According to the top ranking images on Google several alarming images are presented that shows a community manager on a pedestal above members, leading a pack, or holding a magnifying glass (can’t find his users?). There was also this random image displaying what appears to be a community manager hugging an 8-bit version of himself too, but that is an entirely different article.

bad community management

Or a Role Model?

The other side of the spectrum was also present on Google, as there are images of community managers leading users, helping them to connect or create a circle (community). Essentially becoming part of the community, acting as their voice, and being a role model to their members.

good community management

Cheesy visual graphics aside, it would appear at least for now that there is still a solid balance between a community manager being a role model and a dictator. Google wasn’t being particularly helpful, so the next best thing to do is select a few community manager job opportunities at random to see what employers are looking for. Surely an employer would know what a community manager is if they are hiring one, right?

Community Manager Job Opportunity Comparisons

After looking through a few dozen job opportunity postings (80 or so) seeking community managers, the following appear to be common requirements and qualifications:

  • Create original content with SEO value (boost brand awareness, and generate leads)
  • Generate Buzz (undefined)
  • Generate social campaigns with ROI in mind
  • Grow membership, traffic and engagement
  • Interact with community members
  • Generate the webinars or informative content for sharing socially
  • Advise the development team of possible improvements to the sites and bugs
  • Use social media to drive traffic/sales/goals/etc.
  • Identify relevant trends and steer content creators towards it
  • ROI, ROI, ROI, and don’t forget ROI

Average Qualified Candidate will have:

  • Education – Bachelors degree in a marketing, communications or business. Positions geared towards a marketing goal appear to want MBAs or those with masters degrees.
  • Experience – Anywhere from 2 to 10 years of related experience.
  • Strong writing and editing skills
  • Knowledge of basic HTML
  • Knowledge of CMS clients like WordPress or Drupal
  • Be team players
  • Be able to work alone

Some additional, but irregular tasks and skills listed for community managers would be to set up events (not online), create press releases, develop websites, generate online ads, Web traffic analysis, and my personal favorite viral planners.  Sadly some people still think content should be designed to go viral, rather than making awesome content that naturally spreads well. Hey, it worked for Old Spice. TheCHIVE on the other hand, not so much.

According to the current job listings community managers appear to be content wranglers who support the community by generating new content or features, and mans the social media warships that increase brand awareness with a human touch. To further reinforce this idea I asked the Community Manager, Advocate, and Evangelist Facebook group how they would define their job in seven words or less.

Listening with the goal to delight customers – Greg Meyer (@grmeyer) The moderator and voice of the community – Louise Griffiths (@LouiseGriffiths) Translator between different constituencies – Rachel Happe (@rhappe)

So What is an Online Community Manager?

In the past community managers evolved from forum moderators and developers. They would enforce their community’s policy, social norms, and retain order. While there are some similar requirements and educational backgrounds that companies are seeking in community managers, the only general theme between them is that they are seeking brand evangelists. These brand evangelists will shout from rooftops (blogs), converse with friends and connections (social media), and occasionally toast to it as well (tweetups and meetups).

Unfortunately communities who are oppressed by dictator figures don’t last for long periods of time, and at the very least reduces the quality of discussions being created. Reddit is a prime example of a thriving community with a broad base of users, and this is partially due to the community deciding upon what comments should stay or go (by voting up or down).

Community managers are no longer simple forum moderators, but role models that listen to the community and relay that information to the those who can improve it. While some may also take on the role of social media managers they may not place emphasis on marketing content and tactics, which is ideally what users want anyway. A friendly voice who will listen when they have a complaint, and fast response with solutions to their problems.

This article is part of a series on community management. I am currently working on a graduate thesis, and will be polling for data on what motivates an online community. Findings and results will be presented after the data analysis. Questions? Email or tweet me @thejournalizer.

TL;DR – Community managers are no longer forum moderators or community dictators, they are brand evangelists who acts as the community’s voice.

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