The Pros and Cons of Being an Online Community Manager


Yesterday I received a tweet from a member of the BlogTalkRadio community. “You know Deb,” it said.  “I’ve been thinking & you have made my BTR experience so much better.” I ask you, for an online community manager is there any better compliment? It’s my pleasure to serve my community (no, really) but a compliment like this is worth way more than a paycheck. It means I’m doing my job right and people are responding.

I was thinking the other day how if community manager jobs were available in the mid 80’s it would have saved me 20 years of trying to find my place. Being a community manager isn’t always Twitter and blogs, however. Most days are good, but we have our not so good days too. If you’re thinking of becoming a community manager, you should know that (like all jobs) there are pros and cons to consider.

Pros and Cons of Being an Online Community Manager

Pro: You get to talk to awesome, passionate people every single day. The people in your community are there because they believe in your product or service. In fact, they enjoy it so much they want to talk about it all the time with like-minded people. As community manager, you must be passionate about the same, because it’s up to you to lead and direct these conversations.

Con: Someone is always disgruntled. Someone always finds something to nitpick or complain about. You’ll have to be smiley and happy even when that’s not what you’re feeling at all. Someone in need of an anger management class is not cut out to be a community manager.

Pro: Social networking. What other job do you know of where you get to hang out on Twitter or FaceBook for the better part of the day? As community manager you get to talk with your community, and invite others to become part of it.You can also share links and product info and get customer feedback.

Con: Some folks may see you as being too spammy. You’ll need to find the balance between chit chat and promotion. If you do nothing than tweet links, folks probably won’t want to follow.

Pro: Online community never sleeps. When I wake up in the morning, my community is always there to welcome me – and vice versa. On weekends, during episodes of insomnia, and holidays, our community is still going strong. You are never alone if you’re a community manager.

Con: Online community never sleeps. Forums and chatrooms still need moderation. Folks are still looking for assistance. Just because it’s the weekend doesn’t mean the community is out having barbecues. If you’re not prepared to be a 24/7 presence for your community, you may as well find a new calling.

Pro: You get to attend cool conferences and meetups. Community managers are often stars of  community meetups and conferences are a terrific way to interact as well.  This is my favorite part of the job. Working the booth and working the room gives me the opportunity to shake hands, get feedback and convince others to drink our Kool Aid.

Cons: You’re traveling to work. When you attend conferences as a representative of a business, you’re not necessarily there for fun. You’re working a booth and hanging out on the trade floor. You don’t always get to attend learning sessions and many times at the end of the day, you’re just too darned tired for parties.

Pros: You’re a reflection of your community. If you have a happy, lively community, you’ll be hailed as a terrific community manager. If you rock the customer service and put out fires in a timely manner, you’ll be seen as one of the best in the business. Your company will be known for having a great community and this will only put them in a more positive light.

Cons: You represent your company. As community manager you’re front and center. You are the first impression many people get of your business and its community. If you do a poor job, it will not only reflect on your community, but your company as a whole. Make decisions wisely and take your role as community manager seriously.

Online community management doesn’t only mean hanging out on Twitter or updating FaceBook profiles. There’s a lot of responsibility there. You have to be a voice for your community. If someone is disgruntled, it’s your job to put out the fire.  You have to help solve the problem and then follow up to make sure there’s closure. You have to see all issues through to the end even if it means you’re staying up until 2:00 a.m. If your business is receiving bad press or publicity, it’s your job to make sure people see the positive and not the negative and if you see folks in need of help, it’s your job to reach out and make sure there’s no more confustion.

I think I have the perfect job, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. However, so many people see community managers as glorified social networkers and there’s much more to it than that. The positives outweigh the negatives, for sure, but only if you’re up to the true task.


  1. Alan Levy says:

    It’s pretty nice working from the comforts of your home as well. At least that’s one of the benefits I get from my job.

    Your post really does capture the pro’s and con’s. Working in a fast growing internet company is not for everyone. It is a 24/7 job, but as you know it’s gratifying when we get testimonials from hosts that are spreading their messages , growing their audience, meeting new people and learning tons of new things.

    Deb, keep up the great work.



  2. Deb Ng says:

    Thank you, Alan! That means so much.

  3. Thanks for this post, Deb! You’re honestly is always so helpful! Being a CM is something I’m VERY interested in and have been actively working on finding the right position. Your posts are a wealth of useful info… and always make me feeling like you’re a friend giving advice :)

  4. Whoops … I meant to say “make me feel”. Can you tell I haven’t had any caffeine yet?! 😉

  5. Lisa Barone says:

    This is an awesome post. Thank you.

    As someone tasked with the job of blogging and managing an online community, this post is incredible and is something I will continue to point people back to when they whine that my job is all sex and no work. The truth is, it’s not. The pressure to constantly produce, to be the calm within the storm and to manage the many different personalities (and personal drama fests) that reside in an online community is exhausting just to think about.

    Thanks again for capturing it so well.

  6. Great post Deb.

    My $0.02 is that things change a little when you’re not a small company community manager. At a certain point, the community itself steps in to fill many parts of the role that you described and your own job morphs into someone who manages the managers. it’s still community work, but not quite as customer facing.

    At least, that’s how it’s played out here. As always, YMMV. :)

  7. This is a great post. As a community manager you may be interested in the study that we are doing with Deloitte on communities. It’s called the Tribalization of Business Study. If interested you can take the quantitative survey for the study at Just as we did last year we will share the results of the study with anyone who participates.

    Cheers — Francois

  8. Oh great now your boss knows that Kudos is better than a paycheck. Now guess what you get for that raise you asked for?

    This is a good way to explain things Deb thanks.

  9. Deb: I am really working to curb some of my 24-hour around the clock response antics and I wrote about that in my book. I feel that I did not manage expectations in the beginning and I am paying for it now. We have to get some of that under control. I’m glad to know that there are others out there working like mad for the good of the community but possibly to our own detriment.