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I’ve come across quite a few posts lately about the qualities one has to possess to be an effective community manager.

With all of the attention these types of positions are getting and the warp speed at which they are seemingly being created, it is certainly understandable why this is a popular discussion.

I’m seeing a lot of phrases like “love what you do,” “have a passion for people,” and “be fun and engaging.” While I absolutely agree with all three of those, in addition to the five “essential skills” outlined in this article on Mashable I feel strongly that a lot is being withheld.

I am a community manager. I love what I do, have a passion for people and I can be pretty doggone fun and engaging.

But that is not enough. None of that gets me through the day when I’m fighting off trolls, enforcing unpopular rules, settling disputes among members or working hard to diffuse tensions or postpone a major revolt.

My love for people is pretty much non-existent when I get an email filled with hate spewed by cyber-bigots hiding behind the cloak of anonymity. The personal attacks, name-calling, unfair accusations and overall pettiness cannot be successfully met with my engaging personality and sunny disposition.

Those types of situations require an entirely different skill set. I’m talking about razor-sharp interpersonal communication skills, the ability to exhibit an enormous amount of tact, an extremely thick skin and a boatload of compassion for people you would rather not give an ounce. Did I mention grace under presssure, courage under fire, openness to criticism and tolerance beyond belief?

It’s time to be open and honest about what it takes to manage and grow an online community. It’s not all roses, and it isn’t always fun. The general traits will only get you so far and if that’s all you’ve got you won’t know what to do when the storms arrive and believe me, they will.

So before you accept a job as a community manager, talk to people who are already doing the job, across a wide array of industries. No two jobs are the same because no two communities are the same, but the challenges do exist and it would be foolish not to learn more about them and seek out others who can help.

I’m always good for a story, or two. Maybe even three if you have the time. Don’t get me wrong…it’s a fun rewarding job. But there is no handbook and most of us are making up a lot of it along the way. So, move away from the theorists and seek out the practitioners.

That way, you’ll move beyond the general and into the specific.

Believe me, we’ll tell you everything you want to know, and then some.


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April 2009
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This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry.


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