Hello

I'm Jake McKee

People call me The Community Guy

ASK: How do I hire a community manager?

Posted on 13 Jan 2008 | 25 comments

(This is part of Ask the Community Guy, an ongoing series of questions posed by readers for Jake, the Community Guy)

If you’re interested in more information about hiring or becoming a community manager, check out this collection of entries where I cover the topic in further detail.


Questionvia …well… many people over the years How do I hire a community manager? Where do I post job openings?

Answer:
These days, that’s the 10 million dollar question! The reason I created the Community Guy Jobs Board is that I had regular requests from people for help finding community minds.

The problem with filling community positions at the moment is that there’s not a huge talent pool to pick from. That’s not to say that there’s not people smart enough to do the work, just that there’s not enough of them to go around. There’s not the same level of “open” talent swirling around the industry that many other positions/roles might have. Looking for a project manager? Lots of those. Community managers, not so much.

Here’s a few ideas on how to address this issue.

Hire young then teach
This is pretty standard stuff – find someone hungry to learn and teach the hell out of them. Look for someone with bad ass communication skills, a crazy hunger to learn, and an existing knowledge of online community activities.

With community work, this is tough unless there’s an existing community team that they can learn from. Otherwise, I’d strong suggest that you hire a consultant (me or someone like me) to act as a “trainer”. Even then, it’s going to be tough, and you’ll have to cut them some slack while they learn.

Hit the circuit
Community people like to well… commune. Between Twitter, Social Media Club, LinkedIn, blogs, podcasts, and conferences, there’s tons of opportunity to meet community people. When a talent pool is small and the demand is high, poaching is in order. Get out of the office, skip the job boards, get out into the world and start meeting people. Use community to find community people.

Pull a member of the existing community
Often the best talent pool is not with “community experts”, it’s within the existing community. Reaching out to existing community members and community leaders can help you find quality candidates. (Or through those folks, at least introductions to other members within the community) Even if the candidate lacks various business skills you might be looking for, this is very often a better choice than the other choices. Because they come from the community, the community often cuts them more slack through the learning process.

Hire a recruiter
I know a lot of companies don’t like to hire recruiters thinking they’re too expensive, but again, small talent pool and tons of demand. You’re going to have to spend the money somewhere!

Look outside your industry
Smart community people should, theoretically, be able learn an industry relatively quickly. Sure, if you can find a talented community person within your industry, great! But if it were that easy, you wouldn’t be reading this.

Understanding community is understanding human nature, sociology, and group dynamics. How specialized is your industry, really? Chances are, if you find the right profile, industry knowledge is less important. Certainly a stay-at-home moms community may benefit from a mother, or at least a woman as the community manager. But does she need to have professional experience in your industry? Not if she’s a sharp community mind.

Want to know more about what’s involved in the community manager role? Check out Jeremiah’s Four Tenets of the Community Manager.

UPDATE: The discussion continues!

UPDATE 2: Great article about 12 tips for hiring a community manager.


If you’d like to submit a question to the Community Guy, check out the submission details.

  • http://www.communityguy.com Jake McKee

    Great case study, Dave!

    Yeah, you can do it fast, cheap, or good. You can only have two, right? :)

  • http://geekmommy.wordpress.com yndygo

    Next can you do a “How do I become a Community Manager”?

    Honestly, there are many of us “not so young” folk who are completely enamoured of the Social Media and Online Community development, but without the entre to break into this field even though we would, given the opportunity.

    Just a thought!

    But with regard to this piece? Excellent points. I can only hope that those looking to acquire CMs read it and understand why it is so on target.

  • http://lalunablanca.wordpress.com Dave Barger

    Jake,
    We’re starting out small and wanted to find a local digital native person familiar with Social Networking, Marketing, Facebook and at least a little “real world” post-college experience.

    Like you mention, a recruiter was beyond the budget for us. As well as a even a mildly seasoned “social networking” professional.

    Some leg work on Facebook surfaced 4 candidates to interview. Our new person starts in two weeks. Her profile was open and I was able to look back at old wall posts, her comments on friends’, etc… The personality she presents online was in-line with the personality of our company. The personality/chemistry mix being paramount, we figure her natural personality is the intrinsic un-trainable aspect and the rest is trainable items she can learn.

    I’m hearing the phrase “Poaching” more. I like it! Means we need to be working hard to “get the right people on the bus and in the right seats” and giving ‘em lots of love in all the right places.
    All the best,
    Dave

  • http://lalunablanca.wordpress.com Dave Barger

    Jake,
    We’re starting out small and wanted to find a local digital native person familiar with Social Networking, Marketing, Facebook and at least a little “real world” post-college experience.

    Like you mention, a recruiter was beyond the budget for us. As well as a even a mildly seasoned “social networking” professional.

    Some leg work on Facebook surfaced 4 candidates to interview. Our new person starts in two weeks. Her profile was open and I was able to look back at old wall posts, her comments on friends’, etc… The personality she presents online was in-line with the personality of our company. The personality/chemistry mix being paramount, we figure her natural personality is the intrinsic un-trainable aspect and the rest is trainable items she can learn.

    I’m hearing the phrase “Poaching” more. I like it! Means we need to be working hard to “get the right people on the bus and in the right seats” and giving ‘em lots of love in all the right places.
    All the best,
    Dave

  • http://www.communityguy.com Jake McKee

    Great case study, Dave!

    Yeah, you can do it fast, cheap, or good. You can only have two, right? :)

  • http://geekmommy.wordpress.com yndygo

    Next can you do a “How do I become a Community Manager”?

    Honestly, there are many of us “not so young” folk who are completely enamoured of the Social Media and Online Community development, but without the entre to break into this field even though we would, given the opportunity.

    Just a thought!

    But with regard to this piece? Excellent points. I can only hope that those looking to acquire CMs read it and understand why it is so on target.

  • http://tomaltman.com Tom Altman

    It seems like we just need to give the new hire flexibility to become part of the community. It appears like the lines between work and home are getting harder to see.

  • http://tomaltman.com Tom Altman

    It seems like we just need to give the new hire flexibility to become part of the community. It appears like the lines between work and home are getting harder to see.

  • http://www.izzyneis.com Izzy Neis

    (And from the peanut gallery:)

    If you hire a CM for youth, make sure they have great instincts & opinions regarding kids & online safety/play patterns.

    From my tender experience, it’s all been about strong gut instincts, internal yellow flags, and keeping up to date with the best practices of the big sites & the small sites, the quality sites and the sketchy sites.

    Your CM should arm himself/herself with information, and build a strong core of objectives and understandings, and they should be on a good path. From there, it’s all about project & people management.
    :)

  • http://www.izzyneis.com Izzy Neis

    (And from the peanut gallery:)

    If you hire a CM for youth, make sure they have great instincts & opinions regarding kids & online safety/play patterns.

    From my tender experience, it’s all been about strong gut instincts, internal yellow flags, and keeping up to date with the best practices of the big sites & the small sites, the quality sites and the sketchy sites.

    Your CM should arm himself/herself with information, and build a strong core of objectives and understandings, and they should be on a good path. From there, it’s all about project & people management.
    :)

  • http://www.communityguy.com Jake McKee

    Great stuff, Izzy, thanks so much.

    One thing that I think gets overlooked, or perhaps under appreciated is knowing what your competition does… ALL of your competition. This can include, as you say, the sketchy sites. It’s surprising how many people think “oh, they’re sketchy so they’re not worth my time to keep tabs on, they won’t amount to anything anyway”. Truth is, you’re influenced by anything around you, good and especially bad.

    You may be a great, upstanding email marketer, but knowing how the spammers do things helps you to actually understand what you’re dealing and how to ensure that your messages aren’t seen as spam.

  • http://www.communityguy.com Jake McKee

    Great stuff, Izzy, thanks so much.

    One thing that I think gets overlooked, or perhaps under appreciated is knowing what your competition does… ALL of your competition. This can include, as you say, the sketchy sites. It’s surprising how many people think “oh, they’re sketchy so they’re not worth my time to keep tabs on, they won’t amount to anything anyway”. Truth is, you’re influenced by anything around you, good and especially bad.

    You may be a great, upstanding email marketer, but knowing how the spammers do things helps you to actually understand what you’re dealing and how to ensure that your messages aren’t seen as spam.

  • http://www.moshimonsters.com Rebecca Newton

    I’ve hired 50+ Community Managers since 1994 and some of the best CMs I hired were great multi-taskers who had people management skill sets. I hired a TV producer who had been in Television for 10 years for Habbo Australia and he was an ace CM. And I hired a Marketing Professional for Habbo Brazil and she’s now working for Sulake HQs. Sometimes you know when people get it. Also, I didn’t meet 75% of the Community Managers I’ve hired over the years, in person. I hired them based on phone conversations and emails.

    So, as Jake mentioned, it’s not always about their Online Community savvy-ness but it sure does help if they’re netheads and understand the online culture. The learning curve can be several months otherwise and you can end up with someone not suited for the job.

    I’d be very cautious about hiring from within the Community. My experience is that a great volunteer/active Community member is not alway happy getting paid for their interest and passion, skill set or not. However, I have hired fabulous people from within a Community and it’s worked out quite well. But over the years, those folks have been the exception and not the norm.

    Also, people management skills can’t be hurried and are rarely intuitive or innate. They come with time on the job (more than 6 months, and usually more than 2 years, imo). Everyone needs someone to whom they are accountable, even CEOs have a Board of Directors for that very reason. So, don’t drop someone in a Management job and assume they can manage people just because they managed 3 part-time Mods or managed a forum online. And I have found that using an ‘open door policy’ allows me to get the whole story on how things are going for all Community staff. Use discretion and respect confidentiality and you’ll get good information. Foster good relations within your team the way you foster good relations within your Community. Lead by example. Simple and old school but has worked for me since 1982 in various management positions.

  • http://www.moshimonsters.com Rebecca Newton

    I’ve hired 50+ Community Managers since 1994 and some of the best CMs I hired were great multi-taskers who had people management skill sets. I hired a TV producer who had been in Television for 10 years for Habbo Australia and he was an ace CM. And I hired a Marketing Professional for Habbo Brazil and she’s now working for Sulake HQs. Sometimes you know when people get it. Also, I didn’t meet 75% of the Community Managers I’ve hired over the years, in person. I hired them based on phone conversations and emails.

    So, as Jake mentioned, it’s not always about their Online Community savvy-ness but it sure does help if they’re netheads and understand the online culture. The learning curve can be several months otherwise and you can end up with someone not suited for the job.

    I’d be very cautious about hiring from within the Community. My experience is that a great volunteer/active Community member is not alway happy getting paid for their interest and passion, skill set or not. However, I have hired fabulous people from within a Community and it’s worked out quite well. But over the years, those folks have been the exception and not the norm.

    Also, people management skills can’t be hurried and are rarely intuitive or innate. They come with time on the job (more than 6 months, and usually more than 2 years, imo). Everyone needs someone to whom they are accountable, even CEOs have a Board of Directors for that very reason. So, don’t drop someone in a Management job and assume they can manage people just because they managed 3 part-time Mods or managed a forum online. And I have found that using an ‘open door policy’ allows me to get the whole story on how things are going for all Community staff. Use discretion and respect confidentiality and you’ll get good information. Foster good relations within your team the way you foster good relations within your Community. Lead by example. Simple and old school but has worked for me since 1982 in various management positions.

  • http://www.impactinteractions.com Mike Rowland

    Rebecca’s comments are very, very accurate about not hiring from inside the community and about the people management skills required.

    We’ve hired over 30 community managers for our clients’ sites. But we are a little different in that we don’t use virtual moderation, we have everyone together in a single location.

    What we’ve found is that there is a HUGE untapped market in people who have left the workforce for one reason or another and want to return. We usually pair up teams from multiple groups (former stay at home moms with early retired folks) to job share. The idea that you need a single person isn’t always the best way to approach the market. Job sharing is a very effective way to meet your community needs while also meeting your community’s needs.

    And more importantly, don’t write off older candidates. These folks bring life experience and domain experience in some cases that can be invaluable when issues arise in the community.

    Good topic… and like Rebecca, I’m old school too having managed people since 1985… gee seems like just yesterday that I was in college and having fun…

    Mike

  • http://www.impactinteractions.com Mike Rowland

    Rebecca’s comments are very, very accurate about not hiring from inside the community and about the people management skills required.

    We’ve hired over 30 community managers for our clients’ sites. But we are a little different in that we don’t use virtual moderation, we have everyone together in a single location.

    What we’ve found is that there is a HUGE untapped market in people who have left the workforce for one reason or another and want to return. We usually pair up teams from multiple groups (former stay at home moms with early retired folks) to job share. The idea that you need a single person isn’t always the best way to approach the market. Job sharing is a very effective way to meet your community needs while also meeting your community’s needs.

    And more importantly, don’t write off older candidates. These folks bring life experience and domain experience in some cases that can be invaluable when issues arise in the community.

    Good topic… and like Rebecca, I’m old school too having managed people since 1985… gee seems like just yesterday that I was in college and having fun…

    Mike

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  • Jez

    Just discovered your website from a link from ChrisBrogan.com … some great ideas! My company is looking at increasing our social media.. so I am going to point some other people here!

    Some great ideas… liked the idea from someone else. “how do I become a Community Manager?” …

    One final thing is…. if I search on wikipedia for a Community Manager. I get a housing manager. Whats another term?

  • Jez

    Just discovered your website from a link from ChrisBrogan.com … some great ideas! My company is looking at increasing our social media.. so I am going to point some other people here!

    Some great ideas… liked the idea from someone else. “how do I become a Community Manager?” …

    One final thing is…. if I search on wikipedia for a Community Manager. I get a housing manager. Whats another term?

  • http://www.21onlinecasinos.com 21onlinecasinos.com

    For businesses I’d also add that making sure the community management team has a way to deliver community ‘wins’ back to the overall team. As social media and social networking become more ingrained in how marketing or IT operates its important to share the value that the community is driving for the company and showcase the new ways customers might be working with the brand, product, etc.

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  • briceroyer

    Hey,
    Great discussion! I'm the founder of a non-profit for third culture kids and a community manager of several communities.

    In my experience, the #1 most important skill in managing a community is Compassion.

    A community is made of people. Without a deep understanding of group psychology, conflict-resolution skills, empathy, compassion, and social emotional learning, you won't have an engaged community.

    It's a bit like being a coach, a facilitator and a friend all at the same time.

    A community is the operating mind of the community manager. If the community organizer is overwhelmed, disorganized, and lacks conflict-resolution skills, then that will reflect in the community.

    Anyway, great discussion!

    Brice

    P.S: You can learn more about me here: http://briceroyer.com

  • briceroyer

    Hey,
    Great discussion! I'm the founder of a non-profit for third culture kids and a community manager of several communities.

    In my experience, the #1 most important skill in managing a community is Compassion.

    A community is made of people. Without a deep understanding of group psychology, conflict-resolution skills, empathy, compassion, and social emotional learning, you won't have an engaged community.

    It's a bit like being a coach, a facilitator and a friend all at the same time.

    A community is the operating mind of the community manager. If the community organizer is overwhelmed, disorganized, and lacks conflict-resolution skills, then that will reflect in the community.

    Anyway, great discussion!

    Brice

    P.S: You can learn more about me here: http://briceroyer.com