Having been an online community manager for almost five years, I can say that there is really no standard definition as to what an online community manager is or does. It is possible however, to outline the role and personality of an OCM.
The Role of an Online Community Manager
1. The Relationship-builder / Matchmaker
They need to build relationships with members and potential members. They need to to encourage, facilitate and develop relationships.
2. The Spokesperson / Public Face
The OCM’s are often seen as the public face of an organization. During my time as a General Admin/OCM of one of the biggest online webmasters and freelancing forum, people come to me either by posting on my profile page or by sending private messages when they aren’t happy with our customer support. Sometimes they say that it is faster to get an issue resolved if directed to the marketing people and community leaders. If they have a question about the company’s product, they’ll often ask the community manager before they go through the regular contact forms or customer support.
Online Community Managers also deal with reputation management. If your business is in the news, whether for good reasons or bad, the community will look to the community manager to speak on behalf of the organization. OCMs don’t just encourage conversations between members, they also need to engage communication between the company and its customers.
3. A leader and a diplomat
Every community needs leadership. The online forum was newly-acquired by the company when I assumed my position. There were veteran-members that were against the acquisition and threatened to leave the community. As an Online Community Manager, there needs to be someone making the tough decisions – decisions that will often be made with a good amount of diplomacy. I am proud to say that I have earned the respect and trust of those skilled and experienced webmasters and developers within our community.
4. A multi-tasker
Much of OCMs time and focus will be spent on the organization’s ‘primary duties’ within the online community. However, they will also do a lot of monitoring and getting involved in conversations away from the community. They will be reading the blogs, tweets and online discussions of other forums, haters, competitors, influential internet people and potential members. An online community manager will be monitoring competing communities and getting involved in conversations wherever they may be happening.
5. A referee and a mediator
Peace needs to be kept. But, when there are a number of competing personalities, this can be difficult. Yes, it is true that some people just won’t fit in, however, different personalities are a good thing as they drive conversation, topic, activity and engagement. At the same time, you don’t want abuse to destroy the community.
As a mediator, an online community manager encourages parties to work things out for themselves. During my term as an OCM, I rarely have to edit or delete member contributions. I acted as mediator and helped prevent personality clashes or misunderstandings from escalating out of control.
As for the personality of an online community manager, it really depends on the nature of the community and the organization. On my next post , I will provide some generic qualities that will always apply.
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