Paparzzi Free Zone Sign
Creative Commons License photo credit: John Drake Flickr

A few nights ago, as I was trying to get over some post-SXSW illness, I stayed up until about 2 AM reading a single forum thread.

It was 22 or so pages in length, but there were many guideline violations and troublesome posts in it and I had to read the thread to clean it up properly and to make sure that I understood the context. After this, I needed to document all violations and contact the members affected.

It took about 4 hours, maybe a little more. That’s what it took to do the job right.

If you think that community manager is a glamour role, where you are a “rock star” and you spend all of your time cheerfully chatting with people on Twitter and Facebook, I am here to tell you that it is not.

Community management is far more than just chatting with people, it’s far more than being a smiling face. Community managers live in the trenches, often doing tedious things behind the scenes. These tedious things are the investment one makes into the community that allows it to really flourish.

When you visit a community and you admire the atmosphere of it and how people treat one another – those tedious things are usually the reason for it. Someone behind the scenes is keeping it on track, perhaps with a great team, and is ensuring the community continues to meet the goals set out for it and that it continues to aspire to higher levels of greatness.

Very rarely does anyone notice this. There are no gold stars given out for it. But, the work that the average member of a community doesn’t see, that a community manager does, is perhaps the strongest determining factor in the long term success of that community.

While many decisions can be made quickly, some have to be made after much thought and, in the case of this thread, after reading it thoroughly. I could have skimmed through it, knocked off some of the violations, put in a half effort and been done 2 hours earlier. But, if you want to have a great community, it’s important to have attention to detail and a desire to get things right when no one is watching.

It’s important to me that I stay grounded in this profession. Whatever you think of me, whether you think that I know what I am talking about, or I don’t, this is why I am who I am. Not because I consult with people who manage communities, not because I bought into a community that was well established and not because a brand with an established fan base hired me for 3 months to help them grow their Facebook page. No, it is because I am hands on, in the trenches, managing a real, deeply engaged community. I still do this – because that is what a community manager does.