You need to be able to do everything: skills of a Community Manager
What is an IT community? What does a community manager do? How do you become one and what skills do you need to have? Especially for the Anywhere Club blog, Daryna Kucher, a global community specialist in the EngX team, explained what we need to know.
In this article
What is the IT community
— A community in IT is a group of people united by one goal, idea, or problem, on which they want or agree to work with the help of group activity. I mean activity in that the sense of what the community can offer and for which there is enough energy and content resources. If we talk about IT, we are focusing on technical communities, for which the main drivers are business goals. These communities are interested in the quantitative and qualitative indicators of business development, such as:
- Competence growth. The community features expertise in a specialized area or areas;
- Training. The community is interesting for novice specialists or juniors, because it is a great place to quickly and simply get some kind of training and improve their knowledge and expertise for free; and
- Exchange of experience and knowledge. In the community, you can meet different kinds of specialists at all different levels of experience. It is an environment where it is easy to exchange experiences, life hacks, and even just energy.
It is important to note that a community can be focused on topics and goals that are not related to business. Even so, they will still influence the improvement of something. If people are going to talk about cinema, for example, then the goals may include: meet new people, discuss what interests them outside of work, cope with loneliness, and distract themselves from the usual routine or external dramas. All of this can be useful in the fight against professional burnout. Therefore, a community can be a type of recreation in addition to a career asset.
Who are community managers
— Community managers are the coordinators of organized communities. They are people who know how to create and develop a community. They design strategies and plan work. They research the audience and trends, bring ideas to the group, and produce a content plan and frameworks. In addition, community managers: explain instructions and the mechanics of the group, advise on various issues, moderate meetings, organize events, engage in member recognition, coordinate contributions and volunteering, share knowledge and experience, and inspire and guide. They have unique knowledge of how the community works, and what practices and tools are available to keep it flourishing.
For example, I am developing a global community at EPAM in the EngX team. My role is quite diverse: I am engaged in global community-building, communications, marketing, and brand promotion through a cultural product. I do many different things, so my position long ago went beyond the community manager role.
Why do we need community managers?
— IT recognized some time ago that a community is a super tool; a resource through which you can solve business problems. In large companies, several communities with similar ideas on the same topic may be formed at the same time. Community specialists are needed to manage the interactions between these communities. They have unique knowledge and experience working with groups, and can become a "bridge" between several communities focusing in similar areas. If we have 5 different Java communities, community specialists can coordinate them and establish processes to facilitate interactions between them.
Sometimes, unrealistic goals may be set in the process of forming a community. Community experts, with their experience and knowledge, can suggest which development plan is more realistic and clearer.
Since community specialists usually have a wealth of experience in coordinating and completing diverse tasks, they can advise on various operational issues, ranging from budget planning to ordering eco-mugs.
In fact, a community manager is a person with diverse skills, knowledge, and experience. For example, I know how to organize a live broadcast, deliver an Xbox to a participant in Poland, build a marketing strategy, and physically register thousands of people for a conference. The list of skills and tasks that need to be done is huge; and sometimes they can be the most unexpected things. This is because each community is a unique organism, and depending on the community (size, goals, customers, teams, and so on), different kinds of help and support are needed.
What do community managers do?
— For a community manager, one day is not like another. It is impossible to predict what you will do, what you will need, what new thing you will learn, and what kind of work you will be doing. In the community, the environment is as diverse as possible. So, you need to be able to do everything.
Community specialists often perform the tasks of SMM and content management — especially considering that today, all communities have social networks and produce different kinds of content. In addition, you can expect to handle communications, analytics, and business analysis.
How to become a community manager
— How do you get to the position of community manager? It varies; everything is very individual. In my opinion, there is only one mandatory requirement — you need to want to do it. As a rule, specialists come to the community who want to fill this exact role and who are fired up by something in this profession. They begin to focus on this opportunity, they become interested in it, and they are already studying for it.
There is a lot of opportunity and prospects for learning in IT now; it has a highly developed culture of mentoring and knowledge sharing. In general, it's not scary for IT professionals to join a new place. They have confidence that they will discuss, share, and will not leave without some valuable information.
Community management is a relatively new opportunity, but there are materials to study on this topic. I would recommend turning not only to sources about communities, but also about communications, branding, marketing, content, planning, and fostering creativity. The community is a very diverse thing, so you need a diversity of knowledge and skills.
I recommend the following literature in English:
- An Introduction to Community Development by Rhonda Phillips and Robert Pittman;
- The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker;
- Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block;
- A Strategic Guide to Community Gamification from Customer Contact Central;
- The Art of Community: Building the New Age of Participation by Jono Bacon;
- Building Brand Communities: How Organizations Succeed by Creating Belonging by Carrie Melissa Jones and Charles Vogl.
Community Manager skills
— I have long been convinced that you can become anything you want if you have intelligence and competence, but there are skills that will help you become a good community manager even faster:
- A lot of strength and energy. This is what will help energize everyone around you. In addition, community management is a very dynamic area — tasks change so quickly that you don't know how or when a day may end.
- Ability to maintain personal boundaries. We must not forget that community management involves intensively working with people. Often, they try to blame community specialists when something goes wrong, so you need to be able to manage that.
- A genuine love of communication and "chat."
- Courage. You must not be afraid to voice your ideas, thoughts, and positions; not be afraid to make mistakes or look stupid.
- The ability to acknowledge successes and praise yourself.
- Honesty and openness.
- Patience and accuracy.
- Attentiveness to the environment and the people you work with (a lot depends on their participation).
- An analytical mind. This will greatly help in building processes, of which there are many.
- Ability to plan. Structure is important for the community. If you decide to run a channel with the team, it is important to make a schedule and proceed regularly.
The concept of community has been transformed compared to what it was 4 years ago when I came into this field. Now, it can help both business and users (community members). For this reason, there has been a huge growth of the community as a phenomenon.
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