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The position of “community manager” is relatively new. It’s also increasingly important.

The person in charge of tending to your online tribe needs to possess certain skills. Obviously writing, the ability to produce multimedia content, comfort with tech, experience, work ethic and intellect matter – as they do for any modern day comms position.

But managing a community takes more. It actually requires a very particular set of human personality traits.

Below, I list 8 of these. If you have others, please add them in comments.

  1. Humour and the ability to communitain. The online space is all about being noticed. Some brands don’t have – or cannot have – a funny brand persona. However, in the social space, a sense of humour goes a LONG, LONG way. Community managers that don’t take themselves too seriously and can take/make a joke have a leg up. The online world and social media rewards quipsterism – look for it when hiring.
  2. Tact. If your firm dives into social media it will encounter angry people and criticism. Being tactful is critical to putting out fires.
  3. The ability to empathize. For many of the same reasons your community manager must be tactful, they must also be empathetic. The online space is the most personal in marketing. Understanding how an issue looks from someone else’s perspecitve is essential. Absent empathy, how can a firm believe a community manager is adequately responding to the needs of its community?
  4. Concision. People read things differently on the internet. In this space,  short, punchy thought wins. Your community manager better be able to spit it out quick. Snack sized content is the way of the here, now and future.
  5. Adaptability. In the digital space,  shiny new objects appear every day. Your community manager must be ready to move and change with the times. Rigidity kills. Imagine if you hired someone in 2005 who believed Friendster was the be all and end all of social networks. Your firm might still be playing there.
  6. Quickness and decisiveness. Bottom line, you need to be quick in PR and comms in general. However your community manager better not be the kind of person who requires two days of thought to respond to an angry tweet. Speed is of the utmost importance in a crisis. It is equally essential for responding to questions, because the modern internet user EXPECTS an answer NOW – even to mundane questions. Wafflers and slowpokes need not apply!
  7. Chutzpah. My PR Daily colleague Sue Young had a great post on this. Your community manager should have it (see her post and you’ll get why).
  8. Persuasiveness. Your community manager must be able to build a case (which means they must be able to see both sides of an argument). This is a requirement for both external audiences (who he/she might need to persuade that your firm is not the devil) and internal audiences (who he/she might need to convince of the benefits of social media).

What personality traits do you look for in a community manager?

Join the discussion 15 Comments

  • Sue says:

    A really great post. The only thing I would disagree with is the part about the Community Manager role being fairly new … I’ve been in that role for 10 years, and I know that there are countless others that have also been doing this job for many years too.

    Rather than it being a role that is fairly new, I would counter that the position of Community Manager has only recently become more recognized and prominent, hence why some are just stumbling across it, and incorrectly assuming that it’s a “new” role.

  • Jackson, I would also include ‘precision’ with ‘concision.’ Messages not only have to be short, but their meanings precise. It’s so easy for people to misinterpret a 140 character message … which will lead to the need for #2 ‘tact’ 🙂 Great post!


  • Interesting. Thanks Sue. I do, however, think that for many firms the position is a relatively new one that has risen with the rise of digital channels. My firm, for instance, has only had someone in the role for 4 years. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Nice add on Victoria. You’re right about the need for precision. It is, in fact, a precursor to concision. Thanks!

  • Great post! Love the phrases “Communitain” and Chutzpah:)

  • Thanks Kathlene! Communitain is one I heard Mark Ragan use in webinar we did for PR Daily. I think it perfectly encapsulates what a biz or person must aim to do on the web. I would highly recommend reading Sue Young’s post on Chutzpah that I linked to.

  • Silver says:

    Word of the year: “quipsterism” — great read. Spot on.

  • Hi Jackson,

    Perhaps this goes along with your decisiveness bit and the Chutzpah post, but I’d also add conviction to your list. A really strong community manager needs to own their role and be passionate and driven about pursuing it with gusto, not just based on instructions that are handed to them.

    And while the idea of community management isn’t necessarily new, the application of it is changing and maturing inside the business world, bridging online and off. The significance of these roles is changing, and it takes a confident, motivated person to help shape the future of our profession and its importance in the business world.

    Amber Naslund

  • Creativity is another one. You said it above – things change quickly, and rigidity kills. Look for someone who can put a new twist on old ideas . . . someone who can create something new in a way that engages people and fits within your operating environment.

  • Hi Amber,

    Totally agree with you about the need for community managers to possess a certain degree of self-direction. I think it’s especially true when you factor in the changing nature of the role that you allude to. People, like you, who can blaze their own trail are going to reap rewards.

    Thanks for stopping by the blog.

  • Katie says:

    Great post! Strongly agree with all traits, #6 in particular.

  • Larimie says:

    I agree, great post! I would love to be a Community Manager. Know of any openings? 🙂

  • First there were “5”

    Then my “7” created by talking with a number of Gaming Community Managers

    And now your “8”. The beauty is that all of us are right and that all of these aspects and traits should be considered when choosing a CM for your company and product(s).

    As for the CM jobs, I’ve been looking since Feb., when I was laid off. There are positions, but it is very competitive, particularly in the Gaming industry.
    I personally believe that while this isn’t a “new” position (there are a lot of us that have been doing this for at least 10 years), it still lacks a “perfect” definition, just like “webmaster” does. Each company has their own take on what a CM should be and what they are expected to do; so these kinds of posts help unify and define at least what a CM should “be like”.

    Well met Jackson.

  • Ed says:

    I really liked the article and the responses but I would also add one to the list “team player”. The key word in Community Manager is after all community and you really must play well with others to be successful.

    Thanks again for some great insight,

  • Debi Davis says:

    At the risk of sounding cliche, I’d like to add the personality trait, “passionate.” Staying current with social media techniques and technology means staying immersed in the subject. And a community manager must stay current.

    Anyone who is less than passionate about social media can easily become discouraged or disinterested. The required time commitment and learning curve become too demanding, or the fascination wanes, or both. The high number of abandoned blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook profiles is proof of this.

    There are those of us, however, who literally dream about social media. We wake up every morning excited about trying new strategies and discovering new tools. We fall asleep at night, usually with hands poised over keyboards.

    Any community manager worth his or her weight, should be passionate about social media. . . genuinely obsessed.

    Debi Davis

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