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Online Community Managers: What Do They Do?

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In my post from earlier this week, Online Community Manager: Yes, It’s Really A Job, I talked about how online community manager jobs continue to be a hot position for web workers despite the current economic conditions. The Monday post was in preparation for a talk that I gave at Oregon State University yesterday to a mix of students and other people from the business community in Corvallis who were interested in learning more about community management careers. I wanted to follow up on Monday’s post with a few more details about community manager positions along with a copy of the presentation that I used for my talk.

The day-to-day responsibilities of a community manager contain an interesting mix of tactical tasks and strategic planning for most community managers, and the work usually falls into four areas:

Facilitation. Community managers spend a large amount of time sifting through discussions in the community to make sure that people are getting answers to questions and helping to make sure that the right people are being pulled into conversations.

Content. As a community manager, I have created various types of content in the form of blog posts, new discussion topics, tweets, videos and more to help make sure that the community members have the information that they need to be productive members of the community.

Evangelism. Unless you want to have a community of one (or a very small number of people), getting out and talking about the community to get people interested is part of the role of community manager.

Evolution. Topics of conversation change, software changes, and people change, which all requires changes to your online community. This is the strategic piece where you get to think about what the community should look like in one year or five years and make changes to the community to make sure that you achieve your goals for the community.

It was also interesting to see which parts of the presentation people found most interesting during the discussion, and they tended to gravitate toward the data. The presentation had several slides from an August study conducted by Bill Johnson in Forum One’s Online Community Research Network focused on Online Community Compensation. The study showed that community managers tend to be very satisfied with their jobs with an average job satisfaction of 4.2 on a scale of one to five with five being the highest. Many community managers are also paid very well with a median salary of $72,500 per year; however, the salary data from the report looks a little like an inverted bell curve with many people making very little money or large salaries.

For people who are interested in community management careers, I also wrote two blog posts this summer from opposite perspectives on the community manager career: Hiring a Community Manager and How to Get a Community Manager Job.

What suggestions do you have for someone who wants to become a community manager? What skills do community managers need to be successful?

16 Responses to “Online Community Managers: What Do They Do?”

  1. Miles Coleman

    Thanks of the information. I found it helpful. Have you seen any kind of breakdown of those areas into specific tasks? Also, have you found that there is much difference in the responsibilities of a community manager based upon the type of community it is? e.g. a software user group versus a community around an issue (social, political, religious) versus a project?

    Thank you.

  2. Thanks for sharing these thoughts and slides, Dawn. One of the more interesting aspects of community management is that the definition of the role is constantly evolving. Sure, we create content–but what exactly? Blog posts? Twitter observations? Video conversations? I suppose it comes down to drilling down what content will be compelling for your community participants.

  3. Great deck Dawn. I love the emphasis placed on the skills needed to be a community manager. It certainly is not for the weak, unmotivated or those who get easily flustered. We all know very well what we do, and it is time the world knows as well.
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Martin – absolutely! People try to make it more complicated than it really is. Online communities are really just like having a conversation with people, and you promote them using your traditional marketing channels where your audience lives. The hard part for most people is figuring out which parts are different and which are the same.

    Matt – sorry you missed it, but glad you could catch up.

  5. Thanks for sharing these slides with us, Dawn. I love how you incorporated lessons for community management from children’s books.

    It’s easy to forget that community online is just the same as community offline. The only difference is in the use of technology. The fundamentals are the same.

    – Martin