Community Managers fly the coup!


So I’ve noticed a few of my fellow association community managers are flying the coup lately. Both that I know personally are moving to work with consulting companies. I don’t know the full details of their positions, but is this mass exodus a sign of something? (I say mass exodus, because that’s around 1% of the known social media specialist workforce in association land)

I also know that there is an article coming out in the November Associations Now which features 3 community managers & their first six months on the job. Well two of those three have left (I believe they are the same two that I know directly). Having a little bit of inside info on the situations I wasn’t shocked when I heard the news, but I think these happenings say something about the way community specialists are treated within associations.

In general, social media specialists aren’t fully understood. Why should they be, they are specialists in what they do, meaning not everyone is as versed in what they do as they are. At the same time though, I don’t think they are as respected as other specialists, partly because social media/networking really does cross that personal-professional boundary a lot of the times. A social media specialist spends their time on websites that most of us use for fun.

But social media specialists are more than that. In essence, they are community builders and have learned how to use specific online tools to do just that. They’ve crafted their listening skills and learned how to respond to situations when appropriate. A social media specialist or community manager (I’ve been using these terms interchangeably in this post) is someone who has taken the time to learn social media tools inside & out. They understand content, how to inspire it as well as find it. They understand the language of the web. I just wish they were given a little more freedom to do what they do best.

P.S. Yes, I am a community manager/social media person at an association (obviously), sometimes I feel the way I’m talking about and sometimes I don’t. There are common themes in the complaints though that social media specialists talk about, mainly the focus on trying to control, lack of understanding, funding support, etc. These may be things that affect a lot of individuals in the association world at large. I’d just like to open the dialog a bit about the role social media specialists play in the big picture, b/c I feel social media specialists have the opportunity to break down the silos that we all try to operate around.

Update 3:15pm: The fabulous Maddie Grant has a post relating to her article called “3 Examples of Initial Steps taken by New Association Community Managers” over on her SocialFish blog, you can also read the AssociationsNow article as well.


4 Responses to “Community Managers fly the coup!”

  1. You beat me to it! I interviewed the three social media managers for the Associations Now article (just online today – back July. Three months later – 2 out of the 3 have left for greener pastures. What does that tell us? That these positions are not being respected or supported fully by their associations? (and that the 3 month lag time between writing something for a print magazine and having it appear on doorsteps basically defeats the purpose of providing useful information?) I think the things the three managers can teach us in the interview are still really interesting and important, but needless to say this issue has just taken quite an unexpected turn. I’d love others to weigh in.

  2. It is a little scary but also an indication that associations are still trying to find their way in the social media world. Most associations are not early adopters so end up with a community manager by accident not design. There is often someone in the association with a passion for social media and recognizes its value to the organization. Until the C-Suites get on board and make social media participation a part of their strategic plan, the community managers will continue to fight for respect and the commitment of organizational resources. But I am preaching to the choir here – need to get the message to the C’s.

  3. What Leslie said.

    ; )

  4. I do know that both people who are flying the coup had their positions grow from something else. Maggie was a Web Content Editor (I believe) and then KiKi did Component Relations I believe. Maybe the fact that it grew out of other positions is a sign that those orgs were trying to take a safer route & therefore probably control what happened more. My position is a new position, they started social media before I got there, but it was all transferred to me when I came on board. I feel like I’m trusted for the most part, there are incidents when I feel like I could be trusted more, but maybe that’s because my org saw the need to create a position to handle all of this.

    That may be a sign of how the C Suites feel about it, but who knows. Just an observation I wanted to throw out.

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