Reflections on Community Management: AKA “What Do You Do”

With the launch of Jivespace, I have been thinking more about what it really means to be an online community manager. With the launch of any new product, it always feels like time to step back and enjoy the lull before starting the next new project; however, this is the time when the community manager role accelerates rather than slowing.

Seth Godin recently called the Online Community Organizer role a Job of the Future. This brings me to the most common question: “What exactly do you do?” I see the online community manager role as having several key elements: ongoing facilitation, content creation, evangelism, and community evolution. There are certainly many more tasks, but I suspect that 90% of the work falls into one of these four very broad categories.

  • Ongoing Facilitation: This is probably the activity that most people think of first. A community manager is an active participant within the community to answer questions, deal with trolls or other abuses, explain how things work, monitor the content closely, and much more. It also involves a lot of cat herding. On Jivespace, I frequently pull Jive engineers into the discussion to answer questions in an area where additional technical expertise is needed. It can also mean walking a very fine line between the community and the company by representing the company in community discussions and representing the needs of the community when working inside the company.
  • Content Creation: In any community, content needs to stay fresh and current regardless of whether you are talking about code releases or other content. People will wander away from a community that looks stale or inactive. I have been focused on recording new podcasts (which are now in iTunes) and blogging regularly in addition to making sure that questions get answered (also part of facilitation). This also involves working with others to create content by encouraging them to blog about their areas of expertise relevant to the developer community.
  • Evangelism: Getting the word out about your community can take a number of forms depending on the type of community. In general this can be served by talking to people (customers and other interested parties), blogging, speaking at conferences, and being actively involved in related communities.
  • Community Evolution: This may be the most overlooked area for many communities. It is important to continue to keep the community engaged by evolving along with the technology. New features, contests, group activities and more should be planned from the beginning. With Jivespace, I plan to implement improvements about every 3 weeks including upgrades to the latest Clearspace X release, which come out every 3 weeks. For example, a few things in the works include some bug fixes, improvements to the developer beta program, and a developer event of some type.

As a community manager, you should be thinking about how to make sure that all four of these items get an appropriate amount of attention. Responding to questions and writing an occasional blog may by not enough if you want your community to flourish. Community management can be a tough job, but I am enjoying it more than any other job so far.

The next logical discussion is about the skills required to be a community manager, but this post is already pretty long, so … this will be part one in a series of posts. The next one will be about the skills required to do this job.

3 Responses to “Reflections on Community Management: AKA “What Do You Do””


  • Good info, Dawn. I’ll look forward to the series!

  • hee hee mom’s reading your blog

  • Wonderful role descriptions. I also find it critical that the manager model the behavior you want in the community. An effective community manager understands the boundaries of that specific community and will take fire to defend those boundaries.

    And a piece of evangelism and facilitation is letting people know where opportunities for connection are–which I think you are calling cat herding. Good “Network Weaving” is helpful to tighten the space between nodes/participants. It also helps so people don’t miss content that interests them (lower threshold to participation).

    You speak of content creation and evolution, and this to me is part of the flow of community. Creating flow to encourage participation, uplift visibility, and encourage activity whether through conversations, practices, or tools. What flows do you want to enable and what, as community manager, can you do to encourage them. (And conversely what flows do you want to discourage too.)

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