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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."

But an important one, as Mike Guay, a senior community manager at Deloitte Digital Seattle’s Pioneer Square studio, explained in a blog post late last year. "Community managers have their finger on the pulse of your customer. Businesses can get a lot of value out of talking to them and hearing the insights they’re able to glean from brand advocates," Guay wrote.

No Wonder They Feel Unappreciated

Four years ago, Jeremiah Owyang, a former industry analyst and entrepreneur, initiated Community Manager Appreciation Day. As he explained on his blog, "Let's take time to pause, recognize, and celebrate the efforts community managers around the world to improve customer experiences."

Way back in 2007, Owyang identified four tenets or beliefs about community management. Community managers are:

  1. Community Advocates, whose primary role is to represent the customer by listening and engaging with their requests, needs and conversations.
  2. Brand Evangelists, who promote events, products and upgrades to customers through traditional marketing tactics and conversational discussions.
  3. Savvy Communicators, who shape editorial content and mediate disputes within the community.
  4. Collectors of Community Input who understands community wants and needs and shares it with the appropriate teams to drive the creation of better products and services.

It's a tough and often thankless job, Owyang conceded, with plenty of inherent challenges. Most companies want to hide customer issues, and shuffle them into existing support systems. Customers never stop having problems, and the questions, complaints and inquires never stop. It can be emotionally draining and stressful.

So can't someone just say "thank you" — at least on the fourth Monday of January?

Oh Happy Day

Community Manager Appreciation Day (#CMAD) is an opportunity to acknowledge your community manager's hard work and show your appreciation. "It's also a day for CM's everywhere to celebrate and be reminded that there are community professionals everywhere that are part of your tribe," Spinks said.

Right now, you can jump into a 24-hour Google Hangout that's looking at a variety of community management issues or track conversations on twitter #CMAD. And there are dozens of other events in cities worldwide. Here's a sampling:

  • Ally Greer, community manager at, and Carrie Jones, co-organizer of San Francisco Community Managers, are hosting a CMAD happy hour at the offices starting at 6 p.m.
  • In Morocco, the Social Media Club in Casablanca is collaborating with the New Work Lab to strengthen the links and relationships between Community Managers and celebrate the World Day around founding principles, innovative ideas and a hot chocolate.
  • Seattle area Community Managers are meeting at JJ Mahoney's in Redmond, Wash. starting at 6 p.m.
  • The Social Media Club Chicago is meeting at Rockit Bar & Grill for networking, learning and socializing.
  • HootSuite is bringing together Vancouver, British Columbia-based community builders, social practitioners and entrepreneurs at HootSuite HQ for the first ever #CMHootUp.
  • Team Social Media London is encouraging community managers to post selfies on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine or Google Plus using #CMADSelfie and #smlondon. All the photos will appear in the #CMADSelfie Hall of Fame.

Whether you take a selfie or not, you get the picture. Today's a big day for community managers, wherever they may be.

Spinks thinks that's a good thing, and a topic that will be explored further at the CMX Summit he's organizing next week in San Francisco. The event will bring together community managers, directors and executives worldwide from companies like Google, Buzzfeed, TED, Huffington Post, Salesforce, Amazon, Autodesk, Adobe, Lyft, Apple, Facebook, Eventbrite, Yelp, Soundcloud, Moz, 500 Startups, Flipboard, Zozi, Yahoo, oDesk, Atlassian, Spark Capital and Nestle.

Spinks told CMSWire:

As the field grows, and more businesses are becoming aware of the value of community, we're starting to see more community managers take on roles in unique fields at higher-level positions and on different teams. At CMX Summit, we're seeing people from non-profits and art centers, startups and large brands, tech companies, food companies and everything in between. We're also seeing more community managers taking interest in product development, when the product is itself a community system. Additionally, more community professionals are taking on executive roles, building out national or global teams and pioneering what it means to scale a community strategy."

Community management. It's a big, messy job. But somebody has to do it. Today, why don't you just say "Thank You?"

Title image by Ferbies (Shutterstock).