Career paths in community


(Sarah Hawk) #1

Do you have a planned career path?

If you don’t work in an organisation with a community team, can you move upwards? If not, do you need to change organisations in order to advance? Or does it make more sense to use your range of skills to transition into another digital role with more capacity for promotion?

I’m interested to hear your different perspectives.


(Steve Bridger) #2

I’m reminded of @richard_millington’s December post…


(Sarah Hawk) #3

It’s something we’ve been thinking and talking about for a few months TBH. I’m curious as to whether it’s something that everyone else is giving consideration to also.

Because this is a ‘new’ profession, there isn’t a defined road map, but that’s not something that we take into account when we start out at the bottom of the ladder. We just kind of assume that by the time we get to the top, the top will exist. But what if it doesn’t?


(Kristen Gastaldo) #4

Oh, this is a sore spot for me! I’m in the same role, with the same title, going on 4 years now. My job has vastly changed in those years, but because I was the first (and only for a long time) Community Manager at my company - there’s no path. I had a boss who gave me the runaround about it for over a year, then I took maternity. I’m on a new team with a new boss now, and we’re discussing this next week.

I’m in a pretty big corporation, so the only way to make more money (ie progress) is with these superficial title bumps - analyst to specialist to senior specialist to level 2 senior specialist - you get the idea. None of that exists for community managers. We’ve got to build this out, hopefully soon. Without these, we’re all sitting with the same title for years on end - which shouldn’t matter, but somehow does - and are only getting those yearly “merit” raises which should just be called “cost of living” if we’re honest.

Right now, there are 4 of us and we’re all on the same title. I see an eventual need for a step between us and our boss - some sort of Head/Director of Community, but it doesn’t exist yet.


(Priscilla McClay) #5

I was just looking at the job titles in your other post about salaries, and titles like community strategist or director of community are pretty much unheard of in the charity sector (I’m in the UK, so I can’t speak for elsewhere). I know of very few charities that have more than one person working on the community (at smaller charities, it’s often not even a full-time role, but split with other duties). This does mean there isn’t really a clear path for progression.


(Kristen Gastaldo) #6

Our company works solely with nonprofits and I don’t see these titles there either. I would imagine they exist more for corporations serving nonprofits, which is where we fit (software).


(Richard Millington) #7

My theory here is that there are almost no VP, director or strategist roles available to 90% of the people that are doing online community jobs at the moment.

So what we’re seeing is a LOT of churn as people move on to broader digital or roles that combine social with something else. Very often that’s product management, digital engagement, or some form of marketing.


(Rob Bosch) #8

I don’t get it. How can you combine a ‘social’ function like community manager with a almost opposit, commercial function like marketing manager. Don’t these 2 bite?
I mean, should you be wanting this conflict of interests?


(Richard Millington) #9

I suspect a plurality of community pros work in marketing.

You could argue that marketing (the exchange of goods between people is the ultimate symbol of social trust), but I think it’s a little easier than that. A lot of marketers want a community because it helps them keep their customers and improves the perception of the brand.

And if marketing also subsumes customer service, customer loyalty, innovation etc as it does in medium-sized organisations, this is even more so.


(Sarah Hawk) #10

I don’t see it as a conflict. I see a HUGE part of my role as marketing. I spend time researching traffic stats and looking for ways to stimulate visits, conversions and engagement. Those are essentially marketing tasks. How you manage the existing community is a very small part of community management.


(Rob Bosch) #11

Personally I would see the community manager have a completely diffenrent function than a marketing manager. Sure you can use marketing techniques as a community manager, but first and maybe even only task of a community manager should be to build, extend and be of service to the community.

Maybe my knowledge of a commercial community is too limited since my only resource of experience comes from open source (support) communities.


(Sarah Hawk) #12

Absolutely agree. They are different roles but there is a cross-over in skills.
I think we’re saying the same thing. :slightly_smiling:


(Rob Bosch) #13

Sure, we probably say the same thing. There is nothing wrong with using marketing techniques as a community manager, but the goal is (should be?) completely different.


(Sarah Hawk) #14

What about in respect to marketing the community?


(Simona Ciampi) #15

I work for a membership organization, and community is pretty much a way of doing membership on a smaller scale. Since it is hard to create broader roles by bringing the Community role on a upper level, one way could be to broaden Membership by creating roles that include community: a Director of Community and Membership could take care of the engagement on a bigger scale, including the online community.


(Sarah Hawk) #16

Hi @Simona – I’m really interested in your response. [quote=“Simona, post:15, topic:1960”]
a Director of Community and Membership could take care of the engagement on a bigger scale
[/quote] Can you elaborate on what you mean by wider engagement?


(Simona Ciampi) #17

Sure! Here’s some activities that membership (as associate) and community have in common:

  • Outreach, promotions and referrals to recruit new members
  • On-boarding activities
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Meetings and Networking opportunities
  • Programs (reward programs, education, content)
  • Participation and influence, engagement, active vs inactive member
  • Sub-groups membership (could be geographical, special interest groups)
    Whatever works within the community on-line, can be transferred and adapted to the community off line, and vice-versa. I am thinking about the tactical psychology, but also about operations (like you have to have an on-boarding process, an engagement program or similar to ensure the member will renew, etc.).

(Suzi Nelson) #18

At Digital Marketer (where we are ALL marketers), community management falls under the content marketing umbrella, so I am positioned under the editorial team. I use my position to really get to know our community members and the kind of content that they want to see. So it all works hand in hand - it’s classified here at DM as “marketing” but really its product and content development :slightly_smiling:

It’s really about your skill set, not your job title - those come and go. Executives care about two things: cost and revenue. If you can show that your work in community can effect one or the other, you’re golden.


(Madalina Ana) #19

I think it widely depends on the industry. Non-profits, open source projects or organizations that produce video games are more likely to have a standalone community team therefore opportunities for growth within the CM role as they heavily depend on community participation. It gets more fuzzy when the org is focusing on community management as part of the digital marketing strategy/brand loyalty efforts. In this case I would say it’s quite natural for people to fall into some kind of digital marketing role, they will still be involved with a form of community management just not called as such.