Let me preface this post by explaining just a little of my background. I am not a snob – but I do have very set opinions of what a Community Manager is and does. I began my CM career as a volunteer moderator for a wedding website forum back in 1999. I quickly moved up to Administrator there, and helped manage a very robust site with more than 50,000 active women. From there, I branched out over the years into working as a volunteer moderator/administrator on many large computer help forums, sports-related forums and more. I even helped run a few IRC networks in my day. All of these things translated into a paying job in 2007 when I went to work as the Community Manager for Chris Pirillo. There again, I dealt with people – not products.
Earlier today, I happened across a job posting on Twitter for a Community Manager with a company I very much respect. I clicked through to the listing to check it out and was actually angry to see that they had listed the job under “Marketing” – two categories below the people they needed to hire in “Customer Service.” Wait, what? Since when did managing a community evolve from working with people into pushing a damn product or service? Say I’m behind the times all you want, but I think this is a travesty to the profession… not an evolution as some claim.
A Marketer deals with marketing products or services. A PR person deals with public relations. A Community Manager deals with people. Period. End of story. Managing a community isn’t supposed to be about trying to convince a group of people to buy whatever it is you’re selling. It’s about breathing life into them – connecting them to each other and giving them the platform and tools to change the world. Your company may be what brought them together, but do you really think they’re only going to stick around because you sell the best gadget for the lowest price? They want interaction. They want direction. They want to become a true community.
Many of you are going to argue that the role of the CM is changing to include marketing and brand evangelism. There again – I disagree. A Community Manager works with the people – talking to them, listening to them, interacting with them and helping to evolve and grow the hamlet. A Brand Evangelist is something completely different. These people are the cheerleaders for the company itself and the things being sold. They deal with customers, yes… in order to facilitate sales and keep them happy with product.
Can a single person do both things at once? Absolutely! However, slapping the title of Community Manager on a job description stating you want someone to help you sell yourself is just not cool. Call it what it is folks – a Marketer, a PR person or even a Brand Evangelist. If you want someone to work with people in order to help build a true COMMUNITY – then we can talk.