Community Managers: How much money should they make?

About a year ago, the Online Community Research Network took an in-depth look at compensation for community managers finding that online community manager salaries are all over the board. A lot can happen in a year, so they are repeating the study again this year. If you are an online community manager, I strongly recommend taking the survey.

To recap last year’s results, you can read my take on why the data looks nothing like a typical salary bell curve.

Kommein released the results from a more recent survey of community managers, and their survey had very different compensation results.

Data from Kommein
Data from Kommein

The Kommein results don’t have the big hockey stick on either side of the chart. I suspect that the demographics were very different between the Kommein survey and the OCRN survey, and I can almost account for the difference by looking at some of the salary influences (technical vs. non-technical, people in junior or mid-level positions vs. executives, etc.), but this is highly speculative. It could also be a factor of the economy, maturation of the community manager as a job, etc.

This is why I am very eager to get the results from the new OCRN survey to see if community manager compensation really has changed significantly over the past year or whether there were enough differences in demographics and methodology to explain the differences in the results.

What should community managers make?

In general, community managers for technical communities (developers, etc.) tend to make more than end user, social communities. Salary also changes significantly depending on whether the role is really more low-end, tactical moderation or something more strategic, like building a new community or revitalizing a troubled community site. Job experience, scope, management responsibilities, location and how well known the person is can also make a big difference in the salary range as mentioned above.

My advice to people about community manager salaries is that community managers should make $50,000 to $150,000 per year depending on the situation. The low end is mostly for people managing smaller online social communities where relatively little subject matter expertise is required and for people doing tactical work (moderation, etc.) The top range tends to include people in higher level strategic positions in corporate environments who head a large organization responsible for the growth and management of multiple communities, or community managers with name recognition or internet celebrity status working in high profile positions as community evangelists.

What do you think online community managers should make?

4 thoughts on “Community Managers: How much money should they make?”

  1. Maybe we need a clearer grasp of what a “Community Manager” is, maybe that would make the surveys make more sense? You reach for something like that, when you talk about “tactical work or something more strategic,” but that doesn’t feel like it’s reached a “survey demographicable” state 😉 Not sure I have the answer, either, but some thoughts expressed as distinctions:

    Some community managers are “community site managers,” focused on managing the mechanics of the site (website management, membership, announcements, moderation). Others are “community dynamics managers,” focused on managing the relationships among the community members.

    Some community managers represent a sponsoring company to the community, manage a site structured as an arm of the support team. Others represent the community itself, both within the community and back to a sponsoring company.

    Many (probably most), of course, do some mix of the above, but might these distinctions, or something like them, reveal better result clustering?

  2. Actually, upon closer inspection, I think the two surveys are pretty similar–if you ignore the two hockey sticks in the first one. Both are kinda-sorta bell-ish, with a mode somewhere in the 40k-60k range. You already guessed at why the hockey sticks are present in the one survey (and my guesses are much the same); if we assume Kommein only surveyed “people whose job title is community manager,” that would implicitly eliminate the volunteers (left-end stick), and possibly even the celebrities (right-end).

  3. jrep,

    I absolutely agree. While a few people have had community manager titles for a long time, the job role has been changing quite a bit in the past couple of years to the point of being something of a fad. It seems like everyone calls themselves a community manager without a lot of definition about what it really means and what kind of community management they do. I suspect that it will take a couple of years before we start to get more clarity for the role and what it really means to be a community manager vs. moderator vs. relationship managers, etc. Unfortunately, it takes some time before people start to agree on a common set of well defined job titles for any new or changing industry.

  4. CM Salaries can also be affected by geographic location and whether on-site or remote. I’ve seen a couple of remote positions that whilst having similar responsibilities to an on-site employee the salary range was lower.

    I agree with Dawn in that the role still seems to be shifting and evolving and that too would account for the differences in the two survey’s.

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