Tag Archives: community manager

Online Community Manager: Yes, it's really a job

This afternoon, I’ll be spending some time at Portland State University talking about what it’s like to work as a community manager. I’ve done this presentation a few times before, but I completely overhauled the materials this week with new data on community manager salaries, job satisfaction and more. I also added some updated slides with best practices and information about the skills required for community managers. I thought that other people might be interested in seeing the materials, so here they are!

If you are interested in becoming a community manager, I’ve written many other articles on the topic that you might also find helpful:

The Role of Listening as a Community Manager

Last week, I wrote a blog post about finding the right mix of listening and creating content for online communities or social media programs, and this week, I wanted to talk more specifically about the role of listening as a community manager. This post comes from my experience as a community manager and describes what has worked well for me over the years; however, there are many different types of communities and what works for one community doesn’t necessarily work for another.

There are also plenty of differing opinions about the role of community manager and how the job is defined. Here’s my take on the community manager role (related to the topic of this post – listening):

  • The community manager should not be the person  answering all of the questions or responding to almost every post; however, the community manager needs to make sure that someone is responding with good, solid information.
  • A community manager needs to spend a lot of time listening to all of the various opinions from the community. It will never be possible to please everyone with every decision, but knowing what people think can help you make the right decisions.
  • Corporate community managers (those being paid by a company) need to walk a delicate line between doing the right things for the community and their employer at the same time while acting as a communications conduit to make sure that the community has what they need from the company and to communicate community issues and trends back into the organization.

I generally take a listen first, talk later approach to community management for most things, especially initially. I’ve been managing the MeeGo community for a little more than a month, and I spent a lot of time listening in that first month to give myself time to understand the community dynamics, the people and the project. I spend a lot of time on IRC; I read every post on every mailing list and forum; I watch the recent changes on the wiki; and I try to spend some time listening to what people say about MeeGo outside of the community. I respond to only a small fraction of these discussions, but I try to make sure that someone responds. There are plenty of cases  where I could respond, but I like to give other people a chance to contribute. A healthy community has many people who will respond to questions or provide input, and an overly aggressive community manager who responds to everything can shut down the conversation.

This doesn’t mean that the community manager can just sit back and read all day. At some point, you need to take action by summarizing what has been said, making decisions or providing direction. The community manager can help set the tone for the community, and your interactions in the community will often be seen as a model for how you want people to behave. A community manager should be role modeling the type of behaviors that you want to see other community members display.

The community manager job is even more interesting for those of us who are being paid by a company to provide this service because of the delicate balance between providing information, maintaining company confidentiality and serving the interests of the community and the company at the same time. I spend a lot of my time working with people inside of my company to make sure that they know what is happening in the community and preparing them to interact with the community. This only works if I spend a lot of time listening to the community. As the community manager, I have a broad picture of what goes on across the entire community, and part of my job is to educate our employees to make sure that they have the information they need to have positive, productive conversations in the community. This involves a certain amount of nagging and arm twisting of everyone from developers to executives, but that is just part of the glamorous life of a community manager.

Photo by Aaron Hockley of Hockley Photography.

Learn More About Online Communities: My Favorite Community Resources

People often ask me for a list of my favorite blogs, books or other resources to help them learn more about online communities. I’ve mostly been providing this list to people on an ad hoc basis, so I thought that it was time to create the list here and keep it updated!

There are many great blogs, books and other resources for people who want to learn more about online communities, but I’ve limited this list to just a few of my favorites. I will be keeping this list updated on the Learn More About Online Communities page. I hope you enjoy it!

Online community thought leader blogs:

Good books about online communities

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?

Community Managers and Bloggers: The Face of Your Company

When you are talking about online communities or social media efforts for a company, you need to think very carefully about who you put in charge. In particular, this applies to community managers, bloggers, and the people running your social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) The people in these positions become the face of your company. You want someone who will do a great job of representing your company and who fits well within your corporate culture. In short, an actual full-time employee of your company.

Earlier this week, I ran across a blog post by Jackie Huba about The Intern Trap where she says:

“Would you let a company intern:

  • Man your customer service line?
  • Be your receptionist?
  • Be your spokesperson to the Wall Street Journal?
  • Be the main contact for your most talkative customers?

If not, then why do companies put, or think of putting, interns in charge of their social media presence?”

Quoted from Church of the Customer Blog

This doesn’t just apply to interns, either. I often see companies put consultants, public relations firms, and other outsiders in these key positions. As a result, the face of the company is someone who isn’t even a company employee.

These conversations come up frequently with clients. In general, I encourage clients to put employees in these key positions rather than putting someone from the outside into a role that has so much visibility. This doesn’t mean that your interns, public relations firms, and consultants can’t be involved, but I prefer to see them helping out behind the scenes rather than being front and center. Have them work on your content roadmap for your social media efforts, find data or quotes for a blog post, or provide feedback and suggestions for making a blog post better. Consultants can provide advice and mentoring for your community manager rather than managing the community themselves.

I also think that there are a few exceptions to this rule, especially when you are dealing with very large companies. In those cases, having someone on a contract basis or as an intern step up to help with some minor community moderation can help during times where you need a little help, but not enough for a full-time employee. Likewise, big companies with dozens of bloggers can bring in someone to write a few posts in their area of expertise as a way to add some additional content under the direction of company employees. In these cases, you are bringing someone in as a supporting role, rather than putting them in a position where they become the face of the company.

I’d love to hear some examples if your company has tried this (successfully or unsuccessfully).

ReadWriteWeb Guide to Online Community Management

I was lucky to get a review copy of the new ReadWriteWeb Guide to Online Community Management, which was just released this morning. I was also interviewed for the report, so you can find tidbits from my experience sprinkled throughout the report.

My favorite thing about this report is that it isn’t just a PDF document, it comes with a companion site, the Community Management Aggregator, which provides great ongoing resources for people interested in community management. It has a custom search engine for the best community management content along with 3-10 new community management articles per day from some of the leading community management practitioners. I’m already finding great content that I hadn’t yet discovered on my own throughout this companion site. It also has other useful tidbits including OPML files with lists of great blogs, links to Twitter accounts for the top community management thought leaders, and more.

The report is also really interesting. It contains basic information, discussions about whether you really need a community manager, return on investment for your community, job descriptions, dealing with difficult members, interviews and more. The report also has plenty of links to other content, links to reference materials, and other pointers to great content. You can also download a free sample section of the report to get a better feel for the type of content being included.

The whole package is priced at $299. You can learn more about the report on the ReadWriteWeb Guide to Online Community Management page.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Online Community Training

I haven’t been blogging much here this week, but I have been busy. I’ve been spending this week in New Jersey at a client site providing them with training on online communities and social media in addition to helping them plan for several upcoming online communities. I thought that some of you might also be interested in seeing a scrubbed version of the online community training that I delivered.

This online community training covers these topics:

  • Introduction and Guiding Principles for Participation
  • Planning and Getting Started
  • Content Roadmaps
  • Online Community Management

Contact me if you would like to have me train your company on online communities.

Related Fast Wonder blog posts:

Online Community Manager: Yes, It's Really A Job (Slideshare)

Earlier this week, I did a blog post with this name on WebWorkerDaily talking about community management as a profession in preparation for my presentation at Oregon State University this afternoon.

The presentation covers several topics related to community management careers:

  • Defining Community
  • Community Manager Jobs (examples, job description and skills required, salaries)
  • Guiding Principles and Best Practices

Several people have asked for the slides, so here are the ones I’m bringing with me to the presentation. As always, I may take it in a different direction depending on the questions from the attendees, but at least this gives me something to deviate from.

Community Manager / Social Media Jobs are Still Hot

ReadWriteWeb’s Jobwire site has been keeping up with who is being hired, while many other sites are focused on layoffs and the downturn. It’s exciting to see them publish their numbers showing that people are still hiring community managers and social media specialists.

I’ve been seeing a similar trend anecdotaly, and so far at least, I’m still getting clients who want me to consult with them to help build online communities, new blogs, or improve their social media presence.

They have some other data available in their full post, which you should take the time to read. It’s just nice to see a little good news about people getting jobs now and then.

Community 2.0

I’ll be the guest blogger this week on the Community 2.0 blog with a three part series on corporate communities. Community 2.0 is an annual conference that was held in Las Vegas last year, but will be moving to San Francisco this year from May 11-13. I also wanted to let you know that they will be accepting submissions for case studies and panels until this Thursday, November 21, so you should get off your rear and propose something if you haven’t already!

There were some really outstanding presentations last year at the conference. I covered a few of my favorites here on this blog:

It’s a great conference for community managers to attend. I had the opportunity to meet some really outstanding community managers at this event last year, and I am looking forward to attending again this year!