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Creative Commons License photo credit: Ross Griff

In my last article, I talked about the Community Manager job title and how it can mean a lot of different things to different people. I’d like to continue that discussion today by reflecting on another trend that I have noticed.

I am hearing about companies that have training programs for community managers – and many of them. They hire people, put them through a training program and, bam, you have a community manager. This seems to be in contrast to how many other management type positions are handled.

For example, you don’t really hear of companies hiring dozens of marketing managers and running them through “marketing manager training.” There are basic skills and expertise that are expected to apply for the role – the companies don’t train them in those basic skills.

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The Confusion of the Community Manager Job Title

Posted by Patrick on October 24th, 2011 in Thinking

I have been managing online communities for more than 11 years. Given my experience, I am afforded a long range perspective on the profession of online community.

I have happily witnessed the popularization of the Community Manager job title and I am always meeting people that have it. I have loved watching the profession grow because online community is something that I am passionate about and something that I believe in.

The reality, however, is that the Community Manager job title means very little, in terms of understanding what someone actually does on a day to day basis. When someone says that they hold the title, it really doesn’t help you to learn what they are responsible for. The title itself has become a giant umbrella at many companies and one community manager at one company may have completely different responsibilities from a community manager at another company.

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e-mint is an association of online community professionals. But, if you say “e-mint” to any of the members, the first thing that will come to mind is the Yahoo! Group, the mailing list that all of the nearly 1,000 members are a part of.

The group was originally founded in 2000 by Rebecca Newton (longtime Program Manager on AOL’s community efforts, currently the Chief Community & Safety Officer at social game developer Mind Candy), Jen Riza, Lizzie Jackson (who launched and managed BBC’s online community and is now an Academic Development Manager at Ravensbourne) and Miranda Mowbry (a researcher in the Cloud and Security lab for Hewlett-Packard).

It is home to a wide selection of community professionals, as well as those who aspire to be one. You’ll find people who are brand new to the field and you’ll find veterans who have been in the space for a decade or, in some cases, much longer. And, of course, different people can have different methods for dealing with the same issue.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: katell717

Generally speaking, it is important for a community manager to be as unbiased as possible. They need to be able to make fair, consistent situations and not allow their affection (or lack of) for a particular person, group or object to sway them from that consistent decision making process.

But, to say that we are without bias at all is to say that we are not human. And that’s not true. We aren’t robots. However, if we are good at what we do, then we are capable of recognizing when our own bias might affect a decision and do our best to make sure that it doesn’t.

One way to do this is to ask other members of your team, if you have any, what they think, especially if they are unlikely to have the same bias. That’s a good thing to do.

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In May, KarateForums.com celebrated 10 years online. I launched the forums on May 21, 2001 and have managed them ever since. 10 years, 4 months, 3 weeks and 1 day.

It may surprise you to learn that I am not a martial artist. As you might expect, this question comes up once in a while. “What martial arts do you take? None? Wow. So, why did you launch KarateForums.com?”

I’ve always been very open about this. I’ve never pretended to be a martial artist and have never been anything other than honest when the question is asked.

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I wanted to take a moment and share some of my upcoming speaking engagements. I love to meet people in person and the main way that I do that is through the conferences and events that I speak at.

On November 5, I will be speaking at WordCamp Philly (November 5-6 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), a WordPress focused conference, on the topic of “Building Community Around Your WordPress Publication.”

If you are using WordPress to publish on the web, no matter the topic, no matter the amount of traffic you have – community is not a choice. Your community is the people who read your content and appreciate and share what you do. The only question you can answer is: how do I engage with them?

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What a great loss to humanity - breaks my heart.
Creative Commons License photo credit: !efatima

My mind is in a certain place today.

Communities are about people and people, unlike databases and forum posts, have a finite existence on Earth.

One of the hardest things we will deal with in our life is death. When a person dies, their death impacts everyone who cared for them, from family and close friends to admirers. So, it makes sense that one of the toughest things that a community manager will deal with is the death of a beloved member of your community.

It can be difficult to decide what to do when someone dies. We search for guidance and we ask for help. I suspect that, one day, a community manager looking for advice on this topic may run across this article. Who knows, it may even be me.

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Sooner or later, some sort of technical issue will affect your community over an extended period of time.

Your account will be suspended by your host, you will experience an impractically high level of load for the server you are on, a hard drive will crash or, perhaps, you’ll have some good old fashioned downtime.

It’ll happen. Don’t doubt me on this. Over the last 11 years of managing multiple online communities, I have seen numerous issues crop up that weren’t fixed in an hour or two. This experience has helped me to understand what a community manager can do to limit the impact of these issues and get things back on track.

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