Do something nice for your community manager on Monday. Yes, it's Community Manager Appreciation Day (CMAD) again.

Granted, everyone plays an important role in today's digital workplace. As legendary word-of-mouth marketer Saul Colt said, "Everyone deserves a day of appreciation. Appreciation and admiration is what sets us apart from computers.”

But kidding aside, community managers seem to have especially thankless jobs. And good ones can make a big difference in the way your clients and customers perceive your company or brand.

A Long List of Responsibilities

"Great community managers look after people all day. Solve issues, make people happy, and make everything they do about someone else and not about himself," says Colt, who first learned the skills needed as a community manager in 2001, while he ran a comic book publishing business and took to bulletin boards filled with fans to build relationships.

Colt went on to translate his bulletin board skills to tech, then into his own marketing and branding consultancy.

"If you read between the lines, I pretty much invented community management as we know it today," he says (over email, so straight face or not, we’ll let you guess).

Ben Martin, who also got into community management through a cultural/artistic tangent — in the late ’90s, he was into music, had a band and learned his skills through the early band listservs — believes community managers deserve respect and recognition ... but from an audience besides the community members they serve and interact with daily. They deserve appreciation from within their own organizations.

Their community members say, "Community managers, you're doing a kickass job. So we just need to say thanks," as Martin puts it. Why can't the product managers, customer service execs, marketers and other colleagues say the same, too?

Community Management Evolves

Martin, who is three years into a consulting career at Online Community Results, which he provides community management services to association groups, is part of the 2016 Community Manager Appreciation Day organizing team.

And as a leader in the field over two decades, Martin has seen two big changes in community management. One is data. The other is ROI. Both are tied to the evolving view of community management's benefit — from something touchy-feely and measured by likes and shares, to unparalleled levels of data and analytics power driving demand for bottom-line proof of value.

For instance, in Martin's niche — the likes of professional and nonprofit associations — he's able to point to recent research showing how organizations with online communities have membership retention rates 5 to 9 percent higher than organizations that don't.

Such data can give him ammo to prove to the numbers guys what they already know in their hearts: "Community is the bedrock of any membership organization."

No doubt, showing such quantitative value to corporate brands is essential for community manager as well. Though one cannot discount the touch-feely benefits that make the CMAD all the more a warm and fuzzy get-together.

Says Colt, "Brands aren't allowed to make mistakes, but humans are. Giving a face to your company can make it human, and people forgive humans when there is an accident."

How It Started

Jeremiah Owyang, founder of Crowd Companies, launched the international CMAD in 2010. It took hold as people tweeted notes of thanks to their community managers using the hashtags #CMAD or #CMGR. Techie centers of power like San Francisco, Boston and Austin held in-person CMAD meetups. By 2013, My Community Manager and Hootsuite partnered to host a CMAD 12-hour hangout, featuring 86 speakers across seven countries. The following year, the Community Manager Appreciation Day Hangout was extended to 24 hours, the duration it will be this year.

Come back next week for a recap of the highlights, lessons learned, wrongs forgiven and big hugs given.

And brave the weather this weekend to get a little something for the community manager in your life.

Title image by Daria Sukhorukova