Community Roles: Manager, Moderator, and Administrator

I was asked an interesting question last week about the best ways to divide the community manager role into separate manager, moderator, and administrator roles. In my role as community manager at Jive, I act in all three roles under the broader title of community manager with plenty of help from the web development team on the administrative side and participation from development and product management with answers to questions.

In small to medium sized communities, I suspect that a single person typically performs all three roles. In most cases, and in my case, the community manager also performs the moderation functions. If the community gets enough traffic, it would probably make sense to have a separate moderator role to handle the load. This question got me thinking about how the roles might be divided for very large communities.

If you were going to break them out into separate positions, I have two scenarios (although there are probably many more):

Scenario 1: The Enormous Community

In reality, I suspect that these would only be full time jobs for 3+ people in a large community.

  • Community Moderator: The moderator or moderators would focus on day to day responsibilities for the community. Reading the threads, making sure that the right people are answering questions, moving threads when posted in the wrong place, dealing with spammers, and other day to day maintenance in the community.
  • Community Manager: This person would be responsible for the overall direction of the community. They would be responsible for content plans, content creation, determining new functionality, and evolving the community.
  • Community Administrator: This person (or team) would be responsible for the software and other technical aspects on the community (maintenance, upgrades, implementing new features, etc.)

Scenario 2: The Medium to Large Community

For most medium sized communities and for new communities, I would start with this approach and then further separate the roles as community growth required more focused time commitments.

  • Community Moderators: Subject matter experts responsible for a specific area within the community as part of their regular job. For example, the product manager might be responsible for the feature requests area within the community. Moderation would be a small part of several people’s jobs. In this role of community moderator as expert, they would stimulate discussion by responding thoughtfully to posts and starting new discussions to get feedback on ideas or get the community thinking about a specific topic. It would also be good to have them blogging in the community within their areas of expertise.
  • Community Manager: This person would be responsible for the overall direction of the community – probably a full-time job. They would be responsible for content plans, content creation, determining new functionality, and evolving the community, but would also be focused on day to day responsibilities for the community. Reading the threads, making sure that the right people are answering questions, moving threads when posted in the wrong place, dealing with spammers, and other day to day maintenance in the community. The community manager would make sure that the community moderators are keeping up with their assigned areas.
  • Web developer / administrator: Unless your software is an extremely complex or custom solution, it probably makes sense to have one of your web developers or admins also administer the community software.

I think that what I have said above is probably more applicable to corporate communities; however, I think that these roles are similar in other types of communities. For example, in open source communities, community members typically pick up most of the moderation role in an informal capacity. This is certainly the case with the Ignite Realtime community – most of the moderation is really done by the community, and I usually only step in for any larger issues. I suspect that this is also true for social communities as well.

In general, there is probably quite a bit of overlap between community administrator, manager, and moderator. I would be curious to hear about how other people have successfully (or not so successfully) broken out the role of community manager.

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