What is the Most Important Role of a Community Manager?
Understanding the most important role means seeing all the hats we wear. I’ve been a Community Manager for over a decade but don’t believe I have seen a better outline of our roles and sub-roles than this graphic –
I have been in all of these roles, at one time or another.
Because I am a volunteer and Able2Know is a large generalized Q & A website, some of my experience has been slightly different.
Is Piñata the Most Important Role?
A lot of community members might not realize when they do this. Sometimes it can feel as if you’re the punching bag.
But you can’t punch back. Whenever I’ve been involved in an altercation online (usually by being dragged into one; I tend not to instigate), I inevitably recuse myself.
And I ask that other Moderators and Administrators to handle what is to be done.
I’ve never been more in tune with this role than after a member’s death. I’ve written maybe a dozen online obituaries.
It’s an odd thing to put together something of the life of a person who used a screen name and an avatar.
Those moments require taking the temperature of a community, and understanding whether the remembrance should be a rollicking, funny wake, or posted music and poetry, or something else.
Is Gardener the Most Important Role?
I haven’t been a gardener since the site was rather young. When there are few members and topics, the Community Manager is often the one creating content. That has to stop at some point, as the community needs to take over and make a far larger percentage of the content. With a brand-related community, it is different. The brand will likely retain far more of the content creation role.
These days, I prune or shape a lot more than I create. That leads me to the Cheerleader role.
There’s nothing like being enthusiastic about a new feature and having the membership scream bloody murder because they don’t like the change. And then, a year later, seeing the community embrace that very same change. Cheerleaders, at times, get the Piñata treatment.
We have a Help Desk, and I regularly route more of the developmental work elsewhere. Still, this is a role that others could conceivably do.
While I am a Mediavore as a matter of personal characteristics and behaviors, this role hasn’t exactly been necessary at Able2Know. I have used this knowledge and familiarity, though, to bring interesting social media information to the site. Plus I answer a lot of the Facebook and Twitter questions.
This is another area less important for a volunteer position at a shoestring site. More likely, I am checking Facebook, etc. to see if users are disgruntled, or leaving entirely. For me, this role has a lot in common with the Sponge.
Oh, how I despise this role. But we must do it every single day. These tasks often go to newer volunteer Community Managers and Moderators, mainly because it’s a large and daunting task. It’s also to get their feet wet and give them an idea of how we do things.
I keep some rough stats, as the site is on a shoestring budget. My background is in data analysis; I know the value of objective, measurable, quantitative information. In particular, objective data is usually important at budget time. Management needs to know the community is working, and is more than a few people chatting.
Data and its analysis can sometimes mean the difference between a project with a budget that goes on, and one which loses its budget and dies on the vine.
For this role (again, keep in mind, I’m a volunteer, and the site has a rather low budget), it’s more of the times when I’ve answered questions at in-person gatherings or helped someone get back onto the site when their only means of communicating with me is via Facebook wall posts or Twitter or the like. But this doesn’t happen too often.
The Most Important Role of a Community Manager is …
Empathetic Sponge, with a dash of Sculptor.
The Most Important Role for Me
The role of a Community Manager, I believe, is mainly as a listener, and all three of these sub-roles mainly center around listening. What are people saying? How can we understand the community? And how does what we’re hearing convert into metrics?
Allow me to add a new role, perhaps one that melds these three – the Windmill. That is, a means of harnessing the wind. The Community Manager needs to know which way the wind blows, and how to measure it, and how to use it to power the community.