Today is the 3rd Annual Community Manager Appreciation day. Originally founded back in 2010 by Jeremiah Owyang, the 4th Monday of January has since become a day to both thank Community Managers and to enjoy some great community-themed content.

Community Managers are, on the whole, good people. They are slow to anger, and quick to give second (and tenth) chances. They cheer-lead awesome folks and great ideas, while quietly, but firmly, discouraging bad behavior. They're passionate about their product, protective of their site and fervently supportive of their community. And, despite working long and varied hours, they still will tell you that they have the coolest job in the world. Keep reading to hear my decidedly biased view of community managers, colored by my almost 16 years of managing communities.

Role Definition

What defines a community manager is up in the air, with some calling a purely social media role a community position and other balking if forums, blogs or some other more distinctly siloed community is not a part of the job description. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle in my own definition, drawing the line on a case by case basis, rather than pushing all folks who report to marketing out of our happy little group.

By my definition, the role is a healthy mix of support and marketing. It's letting folks know what is going on in your community while also listening to understand what they want from your community as well. Some community managers may be 90% support, but they'll also do some messaging that promotes their brand's message or upcoming sales/events. Others will spend most of their day promoting, but will also arrange meetups, host a Google Hangout, attend a Twitter chat and write a few blog posts spotlighting interesting community generated content.

Characteristics of a Community Manager

  • A well rounded community manager makes everyone feel welcome.
  • He doesn't judge a user based on his ability to communicate (or to type).
  • She always gives warnings and second chances, because her goal is a happy community, not vengeance.
  • He may not be an extrovert in real life, but online he's the life of the party, bringing a great deal of charisma, wit and wisdom to every encounter.
  • May start her career as an unpaid volunteer. Often brags that it's the best ROI of any career decision she's ever made.
  • She knows every meme and can work that knowledge into most conversations.
  • Doesn't mind long hours, because he knows that the work he is doing makes a difference in the lives of so many people across the world.
  • Smiles in real life every time she types a smiley emoticon.
  • Often is "discovered" based on his passionate voice within an exiting community.
  • Innately understands marketing, customer support, product strategy and user experience.
  • Enjoys learning new things, from honing a new skill to becoming fluent in a new language.
  • Devours analytics because it's the best way to truly understand his community.
  • Knows that first and foremost, she's the user's advocate, because in any meeting, everyone else is the company's advocate.
  • Defends his company fiercely, but is not afraid to admit when a mistake has been made.
  • Fights tooth and nail for the right outcome in a situation, even when it's not the easiest or most popular solution.
  • Enjoys the spotlight externally, but tends to be quietly efficient internally.
  • He doesn't toot his own horn, but it often gets tooted for him.
  • Is fascinated by how people think. He reads psychology texts and stats reports for fun.
  • Truly enjoys helping others.
  • Is empathetic to a fault.

Community Management is the hardest job you'll ever love. If you're at all interested in a career in community or social media, all you have to do is look up someone in a similar role and they'll almost always go out of their way to help you join their ranks. Over the years I've mentored dozens of budding community managers, and I have enjoyed every minute of it. Most of my community manager friends have done the same.