Is a Community Manager a Community Member?

Community Managers have the interesting and unique position in a company of straddling a very thin line that most employees never cross.  Customer Support works with customers, but it’s a very clear line.  Usually the flow of communication is very simple – a customer contacts customer support with an issue.  Then customer support helps that customer with said issue.  It’s very 1 to 1 and reactive.  However, a community manager inserts themselves into the daily lives of their customers/users/members and becomes proactive.  They get out in front of the eight ball.  They get to know their members whether they are actively engaging them, or whether they’re just listening to conversation.  They’re entire job is to have their finger on the pulse of that community.


So then the question becomes, how actively involved should a community manager be IN the actual community?  Should you be 100% all in and a true member even though you are being paid and have to be upfront about your loyalty to the brand?  Or should you take a back seat and be a casual observer, a trusted resource?    The answer is Yes.


But see for yourself how nuanced this can get…

How involved should a CM be *IN* the community? Do you set things up/actively participate/ or both?

Historian: You should be in and participating to some extent. It builds rapport and trust.

Jmodio  There are times to be involved and times to step back and observe.

clareyt: Be unflappable ambassador, warm concierge, conversation starter, peace keeper.

CBergshoeff: Could be like asking Is the teacher part of the class I think yes AND no.

MattHirschfelt: I participate daily. Playing our games side by side with users and discussing their feedback on the forum.

MattHirschfelt: If I’m not in ‘their space’ on a regular basis. I get nasty messages asking why I’m ignoring them.

QuirkyBean:  I do both to a degree – but from behind the scenes. I think I’ll get to explain that in a different question! 75% ninja

vargasl:  There is no question of not being involved. Level of action depends on maturity of your cmty…and topic-“it depends” answer

djfanco: A great #CMgr not only knows how the Community works, but also works the Community. Do people recognize you because you are there?

_Danicia_: *blink* If you’re not, you aren’t a Community Manager. If you don’t participate with your community, how can you manage them?

MaddieRuud: I was hired from within the community, and continue that participation.

debng: CM’s are there to guide the community. Whether or not that means heavy participation or stepping back depends on the community.

DrunkyMonken: Very involved. CMGRs need to be a part of the community in order to be able to understand issues/needs from the user’s perspective

AshleyRMooney:  I think it’s truly important for a CM to be not only delegate tasks, but to take am active role in types of community growth.

jamioetting:  CMs should facilitate the conversation, not dictate it. Having an opinion may sway members from communicating theirs

NeilSareen: It’s also important to highlight ‘community builder’ vs ‘manager’.When you’re starting an online presence u need heavy involvement

How much training do you do at ur company regarding community & best practices? Can anyone in the company be in the community?

QuirkyBean:  We’re a social business, all staff members are involved in the community. The comm team flags up threads relevant to them.

debng: Everyone in the company are already part of the community. They just have different levels of participation

Brendan_Charles:  Wouldn’t say anyone, certain skills, sensitivities, training, patience are needed. But others in the company can take part.

MaddieRuud:  We have weekly “community meetings” with mod, marketing, and education teams (plus CEO) to stay on the same page.

Historian:  I’ve got a “Hootsuite how to” scheduled for next week. I’m always encouraging them to jump in if they want.

BeckyBol: Lack of training 🙁 If they don’t understand the community culture, they shouldn’t participate

JugnooMe: A strong social media guideline is necessary for employees to participate, though

radugenske: We are rolling out a training to all of our employees to empower our experts (not mkgt ppl)

If communities are started by members, do you request to join? How do you handle not being an admin when issues come up?

mbhahn:  you politely ask to join, they ask you why, your give a valid reason, then hope your get accepted

Historian: I always join external communities, let them know I’m there and willing to talk to them at any time.

BeckyBol: Request to join & have a presence. Be transparent about who you are and the brand you represent

Solice:  Find out who the community wants to hear from, identify the community ‘naturals’ on the team, give guidelines.

MaddieRuud: Some users form their own chats/groups/forums offsite, and we do not join or attempt to control them.

MaddieRuud: To clarify, we don’t join because we’re not asked/invited/allowed much of the time. I do stop by public forums/blogs to engage.

debng:  Our community members are welcome to socialize wherever they like. I enjoy stopping by their communities and saying hello.

vargasl: You join. Participate. Build trust…relationships. Invite the organizer into the fold.

shawnhawaii:  Kick down the door, help yourself to the vegetables and dip, and share, share, share err, well maybe not exactly like that

KellyLux: I’m a fan of monitoring the discussion rather than becoming pt of it, especially because I’m dealing with a student population

ashtonphil89:  It’s nice to engage, be exposed, and learn new tactics and best practices via other communities.

What advice do you have for new CMGRs about how to gauge what their level of involvement should be in their community?

rhogroupee: Consider the tradition of the community, and ask the members what they want!

vargasl: Always take time to observe…put on hat of anthropologist. Take notes of how people interact amongst themselves. Then act.

Brendan_Charles:  Listen, analyze, react. If it seems quiet, get something rolling- otherwise let the conversation continue by itself

DavidYarus:  Sit tight, learn & observe. Introduce yourself. Make friends. It’s like your 1st day @ college, step 1 = orientation

ilovegarick: A brand new #cmgr should introduce themselves, respond to issues & simply get to know their audience first. LISTEN b4 action

hillaryboucher: Talk to community members one on one. Ask them about the culture. Be uber respectful of the culture in place.

debng: Don’t enter into an existing community and immediately make sweeping changes. Instead take time to learn about your members.

Solice: Start by listening and answering questions. Support what is already there, do not dominate.

vargasl: CM’s have to be really good at making judgment calls. And this takes time, patience, empathy.

debng:  Always be respectful. Yes you’re in charge, but don’t treat your community like they’re minions.

JPedde: Read books. Seriously. (And not so shameless plug for when you ask, “What Books, Jenn?”)


*This is the #cmgrchat digest from April 4th, 2012

Enjoy this article?

Enter your email to receive free community management advice in your inbox:
About the author

Jenn Pedde

Jenn is a Co-Founder of The Community Manager and the Editor-In-Chief. She’s also an adjunct professor at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. You can find her almost anywhere online, but specifically on #CmgrChat every Wednesday from 2-3pm ET.


I remember this #Cmgrchat! It was so lively and thought-provoking. Thanks for the summary!

Eric Suesz
Eric Suesz

Good stuff. My favorite is "If I’m not in ‘their space’ on a regular basis. I get nasty messages asking why I’m ignoring them." Totally. E 


Thanks for the post @JPedde ! Definitely great to look back on all of these responses again. I'm still of the belief that you have to be actively participating in the community to best understand the community. This, I believe, allows you to have more positive interactions with the community which ultimately facilitates more positive brand interaction.


  1. […] 3. Is a Community Manager a Community Member? […]