Why Are Community Managers Terrible Community Members? Marketing

By Jasmine Jaume on November 29th 2012

Us community managers are, by our very nature, sociable beings.

It’s a fair assumption to make that anyone working in community management is ‘social media savvy’, likes engaging with others and, probably, enjoys writing.

So why is it that so many communities for community managers fail to ‘take off’?

So many Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups and so on dedicated to community management exist, and yet the majority seem to consist entirely of self-promotional links and spam, with little real engagement or value.

Why? What makes community managers so reluctant to participate in these groups?

Of course, firstly, it depends what you consider a ‘successful’ community. Is it based on the number of members? The percentage of lurkers? The number of discussions or threads? The number of views?

This was a topic recently discussed in one of the few community management groups that is successful, e-mint.

Many of the community’s answers mirrored my own opinion; that community managers spend so much time and effort managing their own communities, that they have little energy left to contribute to another.

As I said in a recent guest post for Yomego:

“Many community managers are themselves lurkers in the communities they manage – a sort of omnipresent entity, usually only dipping in when it is necessary to help, thank or advise members.”

Of course, it depends what type of community you are managing. The above does not apply to, say, Twitter, but might to a forum that you are moderating.

But, generally, whatever form their communities take, community managers are busy all day engaging with others, finding and sharing interesting content, and creating content themselves.

This means they are unlikely to have the time during the working day to participate in a CM-specific community, and when they get home, well, they might just want to ‘switch off’ from communities for a bit!

One of the e-mint members bemoaned the pervasive feeling that if you are not participating in communities or social media every waking hour, then you aren’t a ‘real’ or ‘good’ community manager.

Of course, this is not true; whilst most of us are passionate about what we do, everyone needs a break at times.

Plus, there’s always a feeling of ‘more can always be done’ when it comes to our own communities and content, so perhaps this is why we are lax at contributing to others – if we’re going to spend more time online, we might as well do it to benefit our own communities.

But, by not contributing and participating in other groups, we are missing a valuable opportunity to share our knowledge and experience, to help each other and those new to the profession.

But don’t despair, there are some good, and active, communities for CMs out there that can be a fountain of knowledge, as it were. Some ones worth taking a look at are:

  • e-mint – A group for all professionals involved in virtual communities. It also runs meetups and hosts the Virtual Community Summit, now in its second year. Once you get used to the slightly old-school format of the Yahoo! Group, you’ll find that the discussions are truly interesting and informative. No self-promoting spam, a la many LinkedIn Groups, here!
  • Thecommunitymanager.com – A great site with lots and lots of content about community management, by community managers. They also run the popular #cmgrchat on Twitter every Wednesday at 2pm EST time. You can see past chats here.
  • The WOMMA Community Management Council – A private Facebook group run by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, where best practices and resources are shared. It’s in its early stages, but looks to become a useful source of advice and information.

Do you run or belong to any communities for community managers? Are you active in them? If we’ve missed a community that you think is useful, please let us know in the comments!

  • Thanks for the shout out to TheCommunityManager Jasmine.

    I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of, and build successful community manager communities. I have also seen so many fail as a result of spam and self promotion, as you pointed out. I think much of that is a result of the way the community is built, the reason it was build, and the inclusion of the wrong kinds of people for the specific community.

    Where there is a group of people who share a common interest or belief, there’s an opportunity to build a community. Community managers certainly fit that bill. True they don’t have a great deal of time and may not want to spend time in another online community during their spare time. That’s just a question of value. The more value they’d get out of a community, the better the odds that participating there will be worth their time. How do you make a community valuable? With the right people and the right conversations.

  • Brandwatch

    Thanks for your comment David. I agree – I think if a community has the right content, and the right people as you say, then CMs (and anyone in general) will be more inclined to spend their time engaging with it, no matter how busy there are.

    Unfortunately, there are so many groups that don’t really offer any value, but at least there are a few good ones out there! I guess it’s a natural thing that good groups will naturally thrive, whilst those set up for the wrong reasons or who have the wrong people/community will fall by the wayside.

  • Alison Michalk

    Hi Jasmine! Whilst I can totally relate as I belong to far too many CM groups – for the last four years I’ve managed and actively participated in a facey group for Australian Community Managers. We’ve also put on swarm CM annual conference which has further strengthened our community of community managers and we had over 100 people attend this year :D We’d love to get a mention! https://www.facebook.com/groups/australiancommunitymanagers/

  • Brandwatch

    Hi Alison, thanks for the recommendation – I’ve added the group to the article. Good luck with the community :)

  • Hmmm, not sure I agree that community managers are any more terrible as community members than any other segment of the general population. There is always a spectrum of participation levels in any community. Perhaps the finger should be pointed at the community and those managing it, rather than at community managers as terrible members? Do we blame our community members when our communities struggle? I think we as community managers look in the mirror and recognize that it’s our responsibility to help members engage.

    As a founder of a group for community managers and other professionals involved with online communities, the Community BackChannel (@cmtybc on Twitter), I have seen our community go through active and inactive periods, as well as seen different people step up at different times. While I always wish for greater engagement, I am happy that we have a place where people share openly and honestly and learn from each other. It is strictly a no-sales zone and we have never had any trouble with anyone failing to understand that.

  • Brandwatch

    Hi Ted,

    Thanks for your comment. I agree, CMs aren’t any worse than any other segment. This is not what the post was saying, but rather that one might expect CMs to be more engaged than others, given that it is part of our job to engage and interact online, but this is not always the case! The title of the post may be a bit misleading… but hopefully gets people thinking ;)

    I don’t think that anyone is necessarily to ‘blame’ for a lack of participation – as you’ve described in your own community, most go through periods of inactivity and increased activity. Of course, there are badly run groups that are set up for the wrong reasons and are generally full of spam, but there are many that are well run and useful. I think it’s great to have a community where people can come for advice/resources when they need it, but is not necessarily a flurry of activity all the time (which would probably be a bit overwhelming).

    I’ll be sure to take a look at your group.