What runs for 24 consecutive hours in late January?

No, it’s not the Super Bowl pre-game show -- although that certainly comes close. It's Community Manager Appreciation Day (CMAD), which will take place Jan. 26, 2015.

In a blog post that established the first CMAD in 2010, industry analyst and founder of CrowdCompanies Jeremiah Owyang called for the event to take place on the fourth Monday of January. The purpose, according to Owyang’s post, is “to pause, recognize and celebrate the efforts [of] community managers around the world to improve customer experiences.”

Run by an army of volunteers, CMAD grows each year in size, scope and ambition. In 2013, the event saw 12 consecutive hours of live video hangouts. Eighty-six panelists from seven countries participated that year. In 2014, volunteer organizers upped the ante to 24 consecutive hours of hangouts, with 147 panelists from 17 countries.

Let’s take a quick look back at the past two CMAD celebrations.

12 Hours of Video Hangouts (2013)

#CMGRHangout is the name of a weekly video chat hosted by community managers. You can see the schedule of upcoming chats, as well as archives of past chats on the My Community Manager website.

In 2013, Tim McDonald decided it would be a great idea to apply our weekly #CMGRHangout model to Community Manager Appreciation Day in a 12 hour celebration with Hootsuite. It was such a blast, despite all the hard work and lack of sleep, to work with the Hootsuite team and everyone else involved,” noted Sherrie Rohde, a key organizer on the CMAD volunteer team and community and UX lead at Rebellion Media.

When a network like CNN broadcasts 12 hours of live news coverage, they have hundreds of producers, technicians and engineers working the show. When a volunteer group seeks to broadcast live for 12 straight hours, they’re bound to run into some hiccups here and there.

According to Jonathan Brewer, another key organizer of CMAD and Director of Awesome at BTC Revolutions,

As far as the community knows, we pulled off 12 great hours of panels. Behind the scenes it was a little hectic, but we got through it. There were a few hours that the questions were being written in real time while we were in the panel and we had plenty of guests go missing in action. It was the most beautifully orchestrated real time adjusting I've ever been a part of.”

Around the Clock: 24 Hours of Hangouts (2014)

Community managers are an enthusiastic and ambitious bunch. So the 12 hours of video hangouts in 2013 was not enough. In 2014, they decided to go around the clock.

According to Rohde,

In 2014, we ended up going from 12 to 24 hours so that we could get even more panelists, companies and countries involved. I ended up taking a last minute road trip to New York City to host CMAD out of a co-working space with Tim McDonald. It made the logistics of the day so much more manageable, as Tim and I were able to rotate laptops. I could prep the guests for the next hangout while he wrapped up the current one.”

All told, CMAD 2014 was a whirlwind of activity: 24 consecutive 1-hour panel discussions, mini-celebrations around the world and the first-ever CMAD Awards. With all of the exciting activity of 2013 and 2014, what’s in store for 2015?

Coming in January: CMAD 2015

I mentioned CNN earlier. For 2015, CMAD is getting closer to becoming a CNN production: it will be broadcast from a professional studio in Milwaukee. According to Rohde,

This year, Dominick Garrett and I are taking a road trip to Milwaukee to host the event out of Attention Era Media’s studio with Aaron Biebert and Jonathan Brewer. I'm really excited because it's going to make the day such an awesome celebration.”

In 2014, CMAD had a core planning team of 12 people. The 2015 volunteer team is nearly double that. If you’re interested in volunteering, sponsoring or blogging for CMAD, visit the CMAD website and fill out a request form. “If you want to see something happen in CMAD 2016, or even 2015, we truly, honestly, want to hear about it. This is your day,” says Rohde.

The Future of the Community Manager Role

For the past five Januarys, we’ve celebrated community managers. With CMAD 2015 fast approaching, it’s a good time to assess where the community management role is headed.

I first asked Connor Meakin, Community Manager, Americas at Hootsuite. According to Meakin,

We'll see more of a focus on social and behavioral psychology, and group dynamics, as the educational backgrounds and skill sets necessary to be a great community builder and manager. The good ones learn this on their own through experience or self-directed education.”

Rebellion Media’s Rohde shared similar thoughts

My hope is that we put more emphasis on skills like interpersonal communication, sociology and psychology than apps and software. My degree was in Interactive Authoring and had I only focused on the tools rather than the concepts, I'd be in trouble. Most of the tools are now obsolete.”

BTC Revolutions’ Brewer believes in the strategic importance of community management. According to Brewer,

We have to get past the idea that these are just the people that moderate our forums, tweet on our behalf, or write content for Facebook. Community managers are so much more. They are the conduit between your consumers and the brand. They hear everything, they have incredible knowledge inside and outside of your business, and they are your voice.”

See You at CMAD 2015

I’m part of the team of volunteer organizers for CMAD 2015, so I hope to “see you” there on January 26, 2015. CMAD takes place a week before the Super Bowl. Kickoff is fast approaching.

Title image by Elizabeth Albert (Flickr) via a CC BY 2.0 license