The Heartbeat of the Community: Unveiling the Community Manager Role

In today’s dynamic landscape, communities have become a powerful tool for fostering collaboration, knowledge sharing, and innovation. Whether internal (employees, alumni) or external (ambassadors, customers), thriving communities require dedicated leadership to nurture engagement and achieve desired outcomes. This is where the community manager steps in, playing a crucial role in driving the community’s success.

In this blog post you'll find:

Thriving communities require dedicated leadership to nurture engagement and achieve desired outcomes | Photo: Kadir Altıntaş

Wait, what is the difference between a community leader, community manager, and community admin?

In the past, I wrote why I prefer the term “community leader” over “community manager,” since I believe that it’s a two-sided relationship.
However, subtle differences exist between the terms “community leader,” “community manager,” and “community admin”:
Community leaders typically set the vision, define the community’s purpose, and inspire its members.
Community managers execute the strategy, fostering engagement, managing day-to-day operations, and building relationships.
Community admins are often seen in virtual platforms. They handle technical aspects, maintain the platform, and ensure smooth functionality.

Often, one individual may wear multiple hats depending on the community’s size and complexity. Regardless of the specific title, all three roles play a vital role in creating a vibrant and successful community.

In this blog post, I’ll refer to the term community manager.

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What are the common community managers’ responsibilities?

While the specific responsibilities may vary depending on the size, purpose, and nature of the community, here are common community managers’ responsibilities:

Designing strategy:

Design a strategy that aligns with the community’s mission and goals by understanding members’ needs.

Building relationships:

Execute the community strategy to connect individual members, identify key influencers, and cultivate strong relationships to promote a sense of belonging.

Creating & curating content:

Develop engaging content, spark discussions in digital and in-person environments, and curate valuable resources to keep members informed and active.

Analyze data to drive community growth:

Implement strategies to attract and retain members, analyze community data to understand member needs, and measure progress.

Plan & facilitate events:

Organize engaging events, workshops, and meetups to facilitate interaction and collaboration.

In in-person or hybrid communities, the event planning and facilitation process is often more complex. Finding the right location, attracting members to dedicate their time to attend events, and moderate face-to-face engagement is part of the community manager’s role.

Moderate discussions & foster engagement:

Foster a safe and respectful space, address conflicts, and encourage meaningful interactions between members to enable self-development and achieve mutual goals.

Encourage networking & relationship building:

Foster connections between members, create opportunities for knowledge sharing, and build a strong community spirit.

Serve as a community advocate:

Promote the community’s value proposition within the organization and champion its benefits to stakeholders.

Which skills are required to manage a community?

Community leaders and managers navigate diverse landscapes, from online product management forums to in-person neighborhood groups. My experience in training these individuals, representing backgrounds as varied as marketers (obviously), software engineers, lawyers, educators, and climate-change activists, has revealed a core set of essential skills.
Here are the common skills that successful community leaders and managers share:

Excellent communication:

Strong written and verbal communication skills are essential for clear messaging, active listening, assisting members, and creating a sense of belonging. It’s also crucial if you work as a community manager in an organization and need to gather feedback or report multiple stakeholders.

Relationship & collaboration building:

Ability to foster connections, build trust, and encourage effective engagement within the community, between the community team and the community members.

Content creation & curation:

Develop engaging content, identify relevant resources, and curate information to meet the needs of the community. Community managers often use multiple content abilities such as writing, editing, and video making to engage members.

Problem-solving & conflict resolution:

Navigate challenging situations, address concerns effectively, and maintain a positive and productive environment.

Order and attention to detail:

Creating strategies and executing them, building and maintaining relationships with community members and stakeholders, creating content, and tracking the community’s success are demanding high-organizational skills, analytical ability, and attention to detail.

Digital & social media savvy:

Familiarity with online platforms, social media tools, and best practices for effective community management.

What else is characterizing community managers?

Community managers often have versatile responsibilities, requiring them to be adaptable, resourceful, and possess a strong sense of initiative.
They have to stay flexible to manage their community in a rapidly changing world, where information is spreading fast, new technologies emerge and change industries and jobs, and more. That’s why continuous learning and staying updated on the latest trends in community building are crucial for success in this dynamic field.

Do you need to be an expert in your field to lead your community? | Photo: Artem Podrez

Do community managers have to be experts in their community’s field?

That’s a great question.

Leading a community is about deeply understanding the pains and needs of your target audience. Sometimes it’s familiar to you because you’ve been there and experienced the challenges. You might even have created your community initially to be THE expert who helps the members navigate their challenges, share knowledge, and advise them. After all, if you won’t be able to advise your members, who will?

However, you don’t have to be an expert in your community’s field, but rather curate the information and gather the professional experts that are necessary for your community.

Here’s an example. In the past I led She Code’s cross-organization project for community members’ retention, to support the organization’s goal of reaching 50% women software developers in Israel. This organization offers online coding courses while offering numerous community activities including online and in-person weekly meetings, webinars, workshops, and more. I had zero background in coding but I learned what the students’ challenges are, what they can benefit from the community, and which practices and procedures we can execute to help them succeed and advance in their coding and hi-tech careers. How? I researched the field, interviewed community members, talked with external software engineers, worked closely with dozens of colleagues and volunteers, and also learned from other initiatives that promote coding skills for women.

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How does a community manager role look within an organization?

The placement of a community manager role within an organization can vary depending on the company structure and the community’s purpose.

They often find themselves nested within the marketing team, leveraging their skills to build brand awareness and foster customer engagement. Alternatively, they might reside under customer success, focusing on building relationships and addressing member needs to improve user experience and retention. Moreover, organizations often establish exclusive communities for their employees to accelerate their employees’ development, address challenges in working in a changing environment, offer creative approaches to employees’ retention, and create a fertile environment for personal growth, while developing innovative products and services. A supportive community and culture in the workplace are fundamental to the physical and mental well-being of a workforce and contribute directly to achieving business goals.

In some cases, larger organizations may even establish a dedicated community management department, highlighting the strategic importance of fostering vibrant communities.

Regardless of their placement, community managers often operate with an intrapreneurial spirit. They are tasked with independently developing and executing strategies to cultivate their communities, requiring them to be resourceful, adaptable, and possess a strong sense of initiative. This allows them to tailor their actions to the specific needs of their community and drive impactful results within the broader organizational goals.

Community managers often operate within their organization as intrapreneurs | Photo: Cottonbro studio

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Community managers in communities of practice

Within the realm of communities, a unique space exists for communities of practice (CoPs). These groups gather around shared expertise and passion for a specific domain, fostering collaborative learning and knowledge exchange.

Examples of CoPs include:

  • A network of medical practitioners sharing best practices for patient care and discussing new medical advancements.
  • A forum of tech entrepreneurs exchanging knowledge on emerging technologies, solving complex technical challenges, and running tech companies.
  • A local club where members exchange tips on plant care, share gardening experiences and participate in communal gardening projects.

In communities of practice, community managers play a crucial role in guiding and supporting members. Their responsibilities involve:

Facilitating knowledge sharing:

Encouraging discussions, organizing workshops, and curating resources to enable members to learn from each other’s experiences and expertise, in digital and in-person platforms.

Promoting collaboration:

Fostering teamwork on projects, problem-solving, and innovation within the CoP.

Building a sense of community:

Cultivating a welcoming and inclusive environment where members feel comfortable contributing and forging meaningful connections.

Connecting the CoP to the organization:

Bridging the gap between the community and the broader organization, ensuring its value is recognized and its insights are effectively utilized.

Community managers in CoPs act as catalysts for collective learning and growth, ultimately contributing to the advancement of the shared domain and the success of the organization.

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Unlock community success

By understanding the multifaceted role of community leaders and managers, organizations can empower individuals with the necessary skills and resources to cultivate thriving communities. These empowered individuals then drive engagement, collaboration, and achieve desired outcomes.

If you’re interested in learning more about building thriving communities or developing your community leadership skills, I’m here to help. Let’s talk to discuss your community goals and start your journey toward success.



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