The Role of the Online Community Manager

The Role of the Online Community Manager

Over the last couple of months, I have seen more and more job postings from innovative nonprofits that are hiring for online community manager positions. This is a welcome sign that we are fast reaching an inflection point in the adoption of 2.0 technologies. Whether creating new positions or adjusting current positions, nonprofits are adjusting their human resources to meet the growing demands of building online community.

There a number of skill sets that one ought to look for when hiring the online community manager:

1. Strategic thinking - Before establishing an online community, a lot of planning work is required to determine what your constituency wants in their online community, what tools you will deploy to meet those needs, and what financial and human resources you will deploy to activate the online community.

2. Flexibility- For as much planning as you do, adjustments will need to be made on the fly. I tell folks that you must do a lot of testing in order to see what works with your community and what doesn't. For example, some online communities prefer blogging, while others are much more into discussion forums.

3. Quality writing and content - While limited numbers of organizations have moved into podcasting and video, most organizations will be involved in the written word. An online community manager will inevitably need to post interesting blogs, queue discussions, and reach out to community members with email.

4. Personality - Online community building general takes someone with a lot of online spunk. Energy online is not always equal to good networkers offline. Some folks are great in person networkers, but have no time for the online world. Others are much better about being consistent on the online world. As counterintuitive as it sounds, I would take someone who is consistent and planful over someone who is naturally a good social networker.

5. Ability to do or manage grunt work - A lot of this online community building is just plain ole grunt work. It takes a lot of time to set up a good discussion on your site, or to manage user profiles when they've forgotten their password, or to connect with new people on a social networking site like myspace. In many cases, there are no shortcuts. Some organizations and political campaigns are managing the grunt work with an intern or group of interns, but the community manager will inevitable be stuck with some of this work.

As our networked nonprofit initiative has seen such a change in the sector, we've thought about ways that we can support online managers or in fact allow organizations to outsource the capability so they can build online community without the expense of hiring someone. Let us know if you are interested.

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