Hannah Montana is a rockstar in my house. Well, she is an actual rockstar, so that statement is likely true in every house… but that’s not the point.

I have two young daughters, and they love her. So I am more than familiar with Miley Cyrus and her hit show, which also stars her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus. With such die-hard fans under my roof I knew what I had to do once Hannah Montana: The Movie hit the theaters.

But, while watching the Hannah Montana movie on the big screen with my girls, the theme resonated with me on a different level. There was a lesson there and it was one that I needed as a community manager and blogger who believes in sharing any valuable insight I manage to gain.

As Hannah Montana’s hometown of Crowley Corners was coming together to thwart the efforts of a big time developer who wanted to level their quaint space and build a mega mall, I began to think about online communities and how the same dynamics exist, particularly as the community grows or becomes more mainstream.

There are many members who want to keep newcomers to a minimum. They like the fact that they were there at the beginning and feel comfortable with the original members and the current rapport. They form a real bond in some cases and can become pretty territorial. They value their status in the community and don’t want to see it threatened.

This is an issue that community managers have to be ready to deal with. When that loyalty is extreme, it can become a real problem, and in some cases thwart your much needed growth. As community managers and practitioners, we want growth and new members, but we also want our loyal members who have been with us from day one to feel special and vested in the community. It’s a delicate balance and quite honestly a tough gig at times.

In one confrontation during the movie, Hannah Montana’s grandmother said to the mean old developer in a haughty, accusatory tone: “Community? You don’t know nothing about community!”

It made me laugh because she was so sure that this man who wanted to bring something new to the area had no idea what it meant to belong to a community and that by adding something that maybe even the natives could enjoy and perhaps even grow to love, he was compromising what she held so dear.

What I learned is, community is different things to different people. Not everyone will want the same thing even if it is what’s best.

What that movie needed was a real live community manager, to speak to both sides and find a way to put them both at peace and move forward. This is a testament to the importance of the community manager. Sometimes there is a need for a person who has no allegiance to any side and will put the community first.

If the town of Crowley Corners had a community manager, things may have gone a little smoother. Perhaps I’ll send them my resume.

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