Community Managers have always been experts at wearing many hats. You could ask 10 different individuals what they think ‘community’ is and receive 10 completely different answers, which is why it’s not unusual to find a Community Manager (CM) involved in everything from marketing, support, customer success, social media, and a number of other random duties.
Because the community industry has largely gone undefined and touches so many different channels, the roles within it can be confusing. Companies conflate community with audience, confuse assisting customers as interacting with community members, or sometimes even assume anyone who is a CM is a social media expert. While some of these assumption aren’t necessarily wildly off from the reality of the role, there are important nuances that get lost and continue to add to the confusion about what a CM is (and does).
The most recent Community Roundtable SOCM Report indicates that 49% of community teams have one or fewer full-time CMs. Many companies try to get by with managing their communities with a bare-bones team for as long as possible, since there is a lack of understanding in the importance and ROI a community truly brings to the table. As a result, communities are often viewed as “cost centers” and are therefore not given adequate resources.
The blurred lines between community and other internal channels, in combination with the confusion as to what exactly a CM does, has led to many “hybrid” roles that tend to be placed under the community umbrella. However, as more and more companies learn how to define community and understand its value, it will become commonplace for community to be its own department, similar to Sales or Marketing or Customer Success, and the team will ladder up to a Chief Community Officer. Specializations like Community Success Managers, Community Marketers, Community Operations, good old Community Managers (the OGs!), and a number of other unique titles will eventually make up this department. Of course, not every company will have a need or want for all of these different roles, and there will always be some overlap of responsibilities because of that. But most importantly, community will finally have a seat at the table.
Some of these roles already exist today but are in their infancy, but what might some of these specialized roles look like? For the sake of simplicity, we're only taking a look at general community management, and not delving into other areas such as Developer Relations. That's a whole other post in itself!
CSMs will likely look different at almost every company because, like community, success has so many different meanings. The core function, however, will likely tie back to whatever is necessary for a community to succeed. For example, at Commsor we expect a Community Success Manager to be a multifaceted role, consisting of something similar to account management, in tandem with light community marketing and community management.
This role will be responsible for on-boarding new customers, help customers understand community and how to measure it at their company (almost like a consultant), and be their key point of contact once they're up and running.
This is where the social media and event experts fall. Rather than being focused on building an audience, they'll be tasked with making community initiatives seen and heard, while interacting with community members across various social channels. They'll be able to gather valuable insights from community members who are utilizing different social channels to connect with the company and other community members. Newsletters and blog posts will likely fall under this role, along with organizing community-centric events (or providing the tools for members of the community to create their own events).
These are the folks behind the scenes, ensuring that the team and community have processes in place and tools that they need for success. They will build escalation procedures, figure out the best rules/guidelines, train new CMs, and have a stronger focus on development and strategy rather than tactical tasks.
CM work is often thought of as being a representative between the company and users, and vice versa. For internal CM work, this is complicated given that the "users" are also part of the company, but external best practices still apply. Internal CM requires not only a large company, but one with a rich culture of openness and discussion. The Internal CM's responsibilities could involve setting high-level communication standards across these workplace communities, sharing community achievements or successes, and being the voice of internal community with executives and relevant stakeholders. They'll help set the tone for internal communication, ensure that employees are abiding by company values, and form connections across teams and functions.
The CM role will likely wind up looking more like a moderation role, where they are responsible for enforcing rules/guidelines, identifying and working with super-users, and helping the community grow. They'll be responsible for enacting and managing the plans for meeting business goals, and will work closely with Community Marketers and Product teams since they are on the front lines day in and day out.
The CCO will be part of the executive team, and will be responsible for ensuring that the rest of the leadership team understands the importance and true value that community brings to their company. The CCO will need to determine which of the community roles outlined above make sense for their team, work with the leadership team to set the vision and goals for the business, stay on top of industry trends and maintain a roadmap of community projects and initiatives, and be a champion for community both within the company and externally.
Do you have any of these roles at your current company? Are the division of responsibilities similar or significantly different from what we've outlined? What role do you have? If you want to contribute to SCIENCE! you should think about filling out our survey about the state of community jobs and compensation.