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Last Updated on 2023-04-12 by Kassandra
Knowing how to be a community manager is just as important (if not more so) than how NOT to be a community manager. Being great at listening, taking actionable steps for the community to support them, project management and the like?
Those are hard skills. But soft skills can make or break the community’s trust.
And without trust, it can make it much more difficult to work with the community. Especially when they are frustrated with any number of things.
What Is Community Management?
Community management is “the work of recruiting, nurturing, and growing a community online … to improve engagement and retention of users or subscribers”. It is a process for building authenticity and awareness through various types of interactions while creating a network for members to connect, share, and grow together.
The Purpose of Community Management
This role is increasing in popularity while being recognized by all types of businesses. Since community management is such a broad industry and is still such a newer role, a single defined job description is still largely undefined. However – in general, there are several commonalities that spread across industries.
Community management allows your business to:
- Obtain feedback and ideas from community members
- Provide more personalized support when they need it (and not meant to replace customer support)
- Increase company (brand) and product awareness, interactions, conversions, and sales
- Learn about customer wants, expectations, and needs – giving way to creative content & opening discussions for improvement with internal teams
- Build relationships between community members and your business
- Provide value beyond a product or service
Life As A Community Manager
What Is A Community Manager?
Essentially, your community managers are the liaisons between customers and companies. The “face” of the company (as it were) who handles communications, public relations, and marketing – at least to the extent of the community. (In some roles, this may be expanded – be sure you get paid for it!)
They run your community management efforts. And there are several factors (community platform, size, etc) that would require the assistance of several community managers. Should this occur, it is likely that they will have entirely different priorities.
But just like any role, there are some universal traits shared by community managers across the globe. Traits where the professional field (e.g. web3, telephony, oil, etc) is irrelevant.
I’ll share more on that in the Requirements for a Great Community Manger section. (below)
What Does A Community Manager DO Exactly?
As a community manager, you are maintaining the voice of the brand in all interactions. So you must consider this in your responses and created materials (e.g.: trainings, images) before posting.
In some roles, you may even have an approval chain. In most of mine? It was just me — unless it was in conjunction with a bigger initiative or event I was not already leading.
Ultimately, you are providing content that has a purpose. This content should strive to meet the expectations and needs of your target audience and followers.
Be mindful that you may never meet all expectations. Just do your best to be empathetic, hear out concerns, and strive to create an incredible experience for the community. If they feel supported, they will show love & understanding in return.
In a smaller company (or one that can’t / won’t hire more people) you may be:
- communicating with internal (company) stakeholders across different teams or organizations
- the unofficial interim support team (e.g.: responding to complaints, issues, etc)
- creating milestones for success you want to see in the community (e.g.: reaching X total members by Y date) and providing analytics supporting your goals & progress
- completing user feedback surveys regarding their experience with the community and creating actionable items to support them while resolving issues
- creating images and other digital content to engage with the community and across different social media platforms (i.e. acting as a social media manager)
- crafting marketing plans on what and when you will be hosting events for the community
- planning for consistent educational opportunities
- creating blog content or sharing helpful articles from other companies (i.e. providing relevant and engaging content)
- running major webinar or in person events
- engaging with current & future customers within the community or on social media profiles
- follow up with winners of contests, giveaways, promotions, etc
- ensures community rules are followed – either through taking action or having a team (paid or volunteer army) to complete this
- analyzing social media metrics and marketing data
- creating effective strategies (or refine old ones) based on data analysis
In my experience, I’ve had to touch most if not all of the above in different capacities. So while it’s nice to have other team members to shoulder the burden – be mindful that these are all skills you may need to become familiar with.
Just be sure your number 1 focus is always the community.
I’ve always focused on how I can support them. With this as the guide, things seemed to just fall into place. Either I would learn a new skill, find volunteers eager to help with the efforts, or new team members were hired.
But whatever it is you do, and no matter how much you focus on the community?
Be sure to set your own boundaries. Ensure your management knows expectations and potential timelines so they can either drop projects or hire new people.
It doesn’t matter if you are salary.
Do not overwork yourself if your employer did not or would not get the support you need for supporting the community – let alone company initiatives. You are a human being and need rest.
And that’s all I say on that matter for now.
Who Do Community Managers Work With?
Typically members of the marketing team, community managers can also be found under the customer support umbrella. Because of what they do, they generally possess a vast knowledge of the entire organization. (Sometimes may even complete short shadow programs to learn more about different areas of the business.)
The reason a community manager is likely to interact with so many different organizations is because as they work with the community, they can give direct feedback and insight to the product development team, share main competitors the community discusses (because they will), long-term strategies, the primary interests of consumers and so much more.
You may also work with the sales team, but I personally have not had that experience to date.
How To Be A Community Manager
First off – there is no perfect match or set of requirements for this role. (And most skills can be taught!)
But as long as you are always about the customers first & willing to grow or invest in yourself, the rest should fall into alignment.
As new strategies and tools for reaching customers develop, so much the community manager.
Traits Of An Effective Community Manager
Generally speaking, a community manager:
- demonstrates high empathy and a customer service first mindset
- leads community development and growth efforts
- shows compassion, empathy, and authenticity in their interactions (and apologizes when wrong)
- is highly customer-focused and creates a safe space for followers and members to provide feedback, ask questions, feel supported, share ideas, and solve problems.
- displays high attention to detail
- cultivates data and creates a story for leadership in order to work collaboratively with other teams
- actively works on their interpersonal skills (e.g.: communication) as well as technical (e.g.: technology required for community event)
- relies on their experience with both the organization as well as the community in order to appropriately handle issues and prepare for community events
- effective time management (not just project management) – because it is way to easy to get overwhelmed and overworked in this role
I would highly suggest joining groups on Facebook and LinkedIn related to social media management, community advocates, community managers, and the like. You’ll learn a lot by seeing what other people are struggling with, overcoming, and finding shortcuts for.
Just as in every career, there is no one right way to get to where you want to be.
While some people say a bachelor’s degree in communication, journalism, marketing, or public relations is required – it’s not. Does it help? Sure! But your ability to solve problems, support the community, and empower the company to increase sales while reducing attrition is what is most important.
But you still need to demonstrated your skills. This can be done through certifications (FYI LinkedIn Learning is free for Americans with a public library card), creating content about what you know, and growing your own personal brand.
Your experience is what matters here.
Have a nonprofit you want to help? Learn digital marketing strategies & tactics (e.g.: copywriting, how to use social media platforms, etc) then implement what you learn for them on a volunteer basis.
Suggested “technical” skillsets:
- social media marketing (especially for your own profiles!)
- webinars and live streams
- video marketing (when repurposing your webinars and lives)
- image creation (e.g.: Canva)
- copywriting (e.g.: blog posts, email campaigns, etc)
Additional “nontechnical” skillsets:
- workshop (I personally use Pip Decks in a lot of the ones I host via Miro)
- ability to juggle multiple priorities (i.e. project management)
- sales (we are all in sales – not everyone does a good job though so set yourself apart in this)
How To Present Yourself As A Community Manager
Do Your Research
First off, I would do some research.
Without this, you have no idea if you’re being underpaid or what skills to work on next.
Create Your Salary Baseline
Know your worth.
While what you make does not determine what you’re worth, knowing the average allows you to gain confidence in asking for the higher end of the spectrum.
Because I can promise you, you’re worth it when you’re working this kind of role. (And then some!)
To start, those reporting to GlassDoor said a Community Manager salary ranges from $52K – $84K in America.
Keep in mind that just because you see a range on GlassDoor or Salary.com? It does not mean that’s the average or expected range. You may find more or less, and this is dependent on:
- a company’s ability to pay you
- what the hiring personnel think the role may be worth (and sometimes they really have no clue)
The lowest I’ve been paid for this type of role was $90k – and it wasn’t “Community Manager” as the title.
So here are some titles you can search for to see what ranges you can expect as well as skillsets people are currently looking for (so you can update your resume to match):
- community manager
- community advocate (developer advocate if you’re supporting developers)
- community evangelist (or technical evangelist)
- community relationship manager (or developer relations for developers)
Bottom line? Don’t sell yourself short and settle for a role that isn’t in alignment with your goals and research. (Something I thankfully learned from Lauren Hasson with DevelopHer.)
Review Current Job Opening Descriptions
Look at the titles that pay the most, and search for roles with those titles.
You’ll want to:
- Review compensation being offered. If it’s not on there, I would highly suggest moving on.
- If a job is offering pay below what you feel comfortable, consider moving on. The only things I would say that might override that? Is either it’s a company you REALLY want to work for, or you will be stretched by learning new skills or technology.
- Take note of the words and phrases – use this when crafting your resume.
Review Employee Reviews
When you read the reviews of current and former employees for a company, you can get a sense of the culture. Are there a lot of negative reviews? Why? What was the experience?
And if there’s a lot of turnover (meaning people leaving) then that may also be a red flag.
Create Relevant Resume
I personally have a single resume I update constantly. When I’m ready to look for a new role, I create a copy of the long one and tweak as needed for the job I want. A lot of it is cut out, and that’s fine. But you never know when that random project you did might be something you can leverage in getting your next position.
You can find inspiration in so many different roles you’ve had over the years – even if not in the “professional world”! Parents are likely to have great project management skills. Students can highlight their ability to work across organizations to accomplish core initiatives. Whatever the case, leverage what you found in research to use the same language as hiring managers to ethically express your own experiences.
Your resume should obviously highlight your experiences and ability to creatively solve problems. So it is essential to craft it in such a way that it emphasizes:
- experience building community & refining branding
- customer service
- project management & communication skills
The list could likely go on – but again, this is why your research is important.
Be sure to use the same language from job descriptions. You are less likely to be excluded by automation programs.
How To NOT Be A Good Community Manager
Being a community manager isn’t for everyone. And that’s ok!
Life is too short not to LOVE what you do for most of your waking hours.
Common Mistakes To Avoid
While you can find content out there like CMX’s 10 Common Community Manager Mistakes To Avoid, here’s a few key ones to keep in mind:
- being impersonal (or unapproachable)
- being too emotionally invested
- waiting until things blow up before responding (sometimes this is due to restrictions from the business, but do you best to avoid this)
- focusing on “value metrics” (e.g.: community size) vs being valuable for your community
- being reactive to negativity or engative feedback
- not tracking your success (this includes for your own personal records)
- doing too much
Make Members Feel Unwelcome
You would think this would be the #1 rule when it comes to community management.
But some people just have bad days – or any number of reasons to treat a new member badly.
This happened to me recently. I shared a bit about it here on LinkedIn, and once I’ve had time to be able to organize my thoughts? I will create a video about it and post below.
No shade thrown. Just what happened and lessons learned from it.
Being a community manager can be tough. There’s a lot of moving parts, a lot of people you will be working with, and no matter how much passion you have or confidence that your plans will support your community … Sometimes things happen and you are not able to go through with them.
That’s ok. Learn from things that don’t work. Create templates for yourself.
And above all – record it! When you create a brag book for yourself it helps you in so many ways – from preparing for an interview, adding projects to your digital resume, improving your own confidence when you forget about the amazing things you’ve done, you name it.
And if you would like to receive more directed guidance from me on your journey through my mentorship program, please send me a message on LinkedIn.