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Show your community manager a little love today. After all, it takes a lot of dedication, good judgment, empathy, communication skills, organizational abilities and flexibility to effectively connect people with people — and besides, it's Community Manager Appreciation Day.

Just don't say, "Thanks for tweeting and posting to Facebook all day." The job goes way beyond posting updates, engaging with fans and handling customer service issues.

"A community manager is the person within an organization why knows how to get people to do stuff without telling them what to do," explained Rachel Happe, a principal and co-founder of The Community Roundtable. Think about that for even a moment, and you'll likely agree that a job as a community manager is complex indeed.

So Wait. What Do They Do?

A handful of years ago, few companies realized they even needed a community manager. Now companies are at a competitive disadvantage unless they have one, according to industry experts like Happe, who is also a CMSWire contributing author:

The perception even a few years ago was that community managers just sat around chatting on social media all day, offering little organizational value. Now the role — and its inherent complexity — is better understood. Community managers remove the barriers between the organization and its partners or customers. They manage relationships, change behaviors, create value. Community managers are the executives of tomorrow."

Happe and Jim Storer, a community manager and social media strategist, founded The Community Roundtable in 2009 with the broad goal of advancing the business of community. The organization doesn't push companies into adopting social approaches, Happe said. Rather, "we act like a coach, helping organizations sort through the realities of the process."

What roles do community managers play?

CMSWire asked David Spinks, a community builder and writer, as well as CEO of the CMXSummit, TheCommunityManager and Feast. "Community managers are responsible for bringing an audience together around a common interest, problem or belief. It's to make users feel special and give them a sense of belonging," he said.

Community managers are expected to:

  • Interact with communities of people — either internally (employees) or externally (customers/clients)
  • Connect people — through the use of everything from social media and blogs to live events.
  • Engage in conversations — through content shared on social media platforms, including tweets, posts and discussions
  • Cultivate relationships — that encourage brand loyalty and generate greater awareness and support of the company
  • Develop strategies — to increase engagement, interaction and authentic conversation
  • Use social media monitoring tools — to monitor, measure, analyze and report on metrics
  • Share best practices — about platforms, tools, social media networks and ways to optimize brand awareness, engagement and the company's reputation

It’s a job that takes a unique blend of passion and persuasion, insight and education — and the ability to dream without losing sight of data. Given its almost ephemeral and evolving nature, it's not surprising that the job is clouded with many misconceptions.

A Job in Search of Identity

Consider this: The US Dept. of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks hundreds of occupations in a massive database called the Occupational Outlook Handbook. But you won't find anything about online communities if you search "community managers." Instead, you'll get a listing for Social and Community Service Managers — people who coordinate and supervise social service programs and community organizations.

The closest thing you'll find is Advertising, Promotions and Marketing Managers, but that's not quite right, either. As Spinks explained:

The community manager role isn't easy. Today it's become a catch-all for pretty much everything related to communications like PR, marketing, customer service, content, social media, etc. Those things aren't inherently community roles, but community managers are expected to take them on anyway. As a result, community managers are almost guaranteed to have a lot on their plate and get stretched really thin. So it's a tough job."