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Summary:

Community management is one of those careers that I think of as a quintessential web worker position. In my first full-time community manager position, I worked from my home in Portland for a company based in the Bay Area. Now, I work from home as a freelance online community consultant. Even when I was working in a more traditional company with a local office, I tended to behave a little more like a web worker, since almost all of my work was online.

Photo By Sam Grover

Photo By Sam Grover

Later this week, I will be taking a road trip from Portland, Ore., to Oregon State University in Corvallis to give a talk entitled, “Online Community Manager: Yes, It’s Really A Job.” As a result, I have spent quite a bit of time over the past few days thinking about online community management as a profession. I have been working in various community management roles over the past several years, sometimes managing online communities directly and more recently consulting with companies to help them build new communities or improve existing ones.

Community management is one of those careers that I think of as a quintessential web worker position. In my first full-time community manager position, I worked from my home in Portland for a company based in the Bay Area. Now, I work from home as a freelance online community consultant. Even when I was working in a more traditional company with a local office, I tended to behave a little more like a web worker, since almost all of my work was online.

I have also noticed that online community management positions tend to be weathering the current economic downturn better than some other jobs. Community managers are still being hired on a regular basis, and I’m still seeing openings on various job boards for companies looking to hire community managers. Here are just a couple of examples of companies who are currently looking for or have recently hired a community manager: Current TV, Sega, a record label, Rosetta Stone, QT Software, reddit, and more. Community management continues to be a hot job despite the state of the economy.

While online community management isn’t a new job, it is still a career that tends to evolve out of other positions instead of a career where people have formal degrees in the field. I happen to have a computer science degree and an MBA, but I know other community managers with formal training in marketing, library science, communications, criminal justice, product design, and more. Some of the best community managers I know have a broad background with a diverse job history, which seems to give them a variety of experiences to draw from when managing communities filled with people from diverse backgrounds and experiences.

What are your experiences with community management as a profession? What would you tell a room full of college students about community management? What trends have you noticed during the economic downturn?

By Dawn Foster

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  1. It makes complete sense that community management is becoming a vital role in a downturn – with companies doing all they can to build customer loyalty, reduce support costs, and leverage the innovative talents of their customers.

    Online community managers are an essential ingredient for successful communities, and I’ve seen a noticable uptick in the amount of community manager training requests coming through my department even this first month of 09.

    It’s going to be a busy year for online communities :-)

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  2. I don’t have any experience doing the work of community manager, but I’ve worked in two organizations with community managers: one great one and one not so great. A good community manager can make a huge difference in whether or not a site lives and grows. It’s nice to find there’s a bright spot somewhere in this economy.

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  3. Rick, It’s good to hear from you! It sounds like things are going well, and I’m happy to hear that you are seeing more requests for community manager training.

    Virginia, a great community manager can make a big difference (and there are some not so great ones out there). Having a community manager that is a good fit with the type of community they are managing is also critical.

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  4. [...] Online Community Manager: Yes, It’s Really A Job Dawn Foster writes “I have also noticed that online community management positions tend to be weathering the current economic downturn better than some other jobs. Community managers are still being hired on a regular basis, and I’m still seeing openings on various job boards for companies looking to hire community managers. Here are just a couple of examples of companies who are currently looking for or have recently hired a community manager….” [...]

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  5. [...] WebWorkerDaily » Archive Online Community Manager: Yes, It’s Really A Job « Interesting and informative post on the function of a community manager and its worth as a job. (tags: business web2.0) [...]

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  6. Hi Dawn,

    I’ve recently taken a post as a community director, and what I’m so glad you said: “It’s Really a Job”. :) While social media and online work sometimes has that perception of being a slick, cool post, it’s not a 9 to 5 gig, and it’s a hybrid of so many disciplines – communication, business development, online knowledge, customer or client service. I learn something EVERY day.

    I’m so excited to see that more companies are thinking outside the boundaries of more traditional roles and tapping diverse people for these positions. As the pace of business and communication continues at unprecedented levels, I cannot wait to see how our roles as community professionals develop and how businesses embrace the importance of having conduits like us for their communities.

    Thanks for posting on this; I’ll look forward to reading more on the topic right here!

    Best,
    Amber Naslund
    Director of Community | Radian6
    @AmberCadabra

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  7. You would need training or experience in Abnormal Psychology to manage the online community I’m doing web development for. Most of the users share their mental health history with the world and they delete all their content every now and then because they are mentally unstable. And you would not believe the drama that takes place. Fortunately, the site is owned by a professional psychologist but it isn’t meant to deal with those issues.

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  8. I find that the most successful community managers are those that come from a strong customer service background. These types of community mangers are better equipped to empathize and address the needs of upset customers and anticipate the needs of the company whenever new products plan to hit the market.

    One thing a community manager needs beyond time and money … they need to be listened to and pulled in as relevant stakeholders before a product or a service goes live. They need to be present in business meetings so they are aware of the direction of the company and will be able to anticipate the needs of the customer along the way.

    ~Joe Manna
    Community Manager for Infusionsoft – http://www.infusionsoft.com/

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  9. @Robert S. Robbins —

    I’m well aware of the community needs of mentally impaired people. I used to manage a health community on AOL a short while ago and I had the most dramatic, interesting most complex community situations that you can imagine.

    I recommend to take it in stride and remind users that they are in control of their online experience. :)

    ~Joe

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  10. @Amber Naslund —

    Glad to hear of your new position. Radian6 is pretty sweet software for companies and brands to gain awareness. I’m curious though, where is Radian6’s community?

    ~Joe
    (@JoeManna on Twitter if you want)

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