2010: year of the CM

Community Managers by Luc Legay

Community Managers by Luc Legay

I’ve watched the demand for online community managers (CM) build tempo this past year. Perhaps it follows last year’s frequent request from clients and others for “facebook in a box” for their organization. Now they need someone to make it work. I wonder if those 16,000 social media specialists on Twitter will re-brand as community management specialists?

Of course I’m not the only one to call 2010: The Year of the Community Manager. I have collated several community manager bookmarks over the year, based on client demand for examples and guidelines. I also summarized what I’ve learned about community management and work.

Traci Armstrong thinks that journalists and copywriters could make good community managers. While good writing skills are necessary, community managers need to be engaged, empathetic and willing to live in perpetual Beta. Online communities don’t seem to stabilize. These comments, given by active community managers, provide a good snapshot of what it’s really like:

  • CM is not a 9-5 job – Using twitter a lot, commenting on blogs, using back-channels for private communications takes a lot of time & the role changes as the needs of the community change.
  • CM is a very time-consuming job and the results are not always tangible and visible.
  • CM can bridge the gap between inside & outside the organization, such as explaining what is happening in online communities to other members of the organization. This type of communication is more often face-to-face.
  • Communities often don’t grow the way they are planned and may be taken over by a sub-group (hence the need for an active manager who can try to influence by example).
  • CM doesn’t fit into any single departmental silo and the role can be similar to an ombudsman.
  • A CM should not take oneself too seriously.
  • Communities don’t want to be “managed” – they want to be nurtured.
  • Building community means giving up control.
  • How do you get executive buy-in?
    • find someone with an existing community mindset
    • get executives into a real network experience in order to understand
  • The launch phase requires a small group that is passionate and “transacting” (communicating) a lot.
  • Building community is not about collecting as many people as possible.
  • There is a constant dynamic tension in communities over control versus member empowerment (experienced CM’s seem to be at ease with this loss of control).

8 Responses to “2010: year of the CM”

  1. Joe Deegan

    Great post Harold! I agree that the Community Manager is an increasing role in many organizations. As an Instructional Designer and LMS Admin I am finding that I am the one assuming the role of community manager. From the little experience I have, I can tell you that it’s very difficult to gain participation and engage an online community. I am looking forward to more posts on how to effectively manage communities especially when it comes to getting them off the ground.

    • Harold Jarche

      I’m not sure if it’s possible to “gain participation” unless the community is already there in some way. You need to start with the desire of individuals to form a community (community of interest; community of practice). Getting communities off the ground usually requires a core group of motivated individuals. Find and support these people.

  2. mollybob

    Great post harold! From my perspective (I am most interested in learning communities), community managers play such a valuable role in learning online. Your point about nurturing communities rings especially true in my context as a good community manager can help subtly create interaction and shape conversations toward deeper learning.

    Now if only more Australian organisations would read your post 😉


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