Online Community Manager: Yes, It’s Really A Job

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?

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