The One Question that Can Make or Break a Community Manager

300Hiring a Community Manager is tough.

Usually, there are a lot of tradeoffs when considering different candidates. I hear a lot of questions asked consistently of these people.  Questions like…

  • Can they build our community strategy?
  • Do they have experience in our specific industry/interest group?
  • Can they be remote?
  • Should they manage social media as well?
  • What characteristics should they have?
  • What skills should they have?

These are all good questions to ask. We’ve covered some of them here. Some of them may or may not be relevant as it depends on your company and existing resources. Do you need a strategy builder or can you do that? Does working remotely fit with your culture?

The rest of the questions can be boiled down to this one very important question:

Can they earn the respect of the community?

That’s it.

If they can earn the respect of the community most of the other things just start to fall into place.

People will want to spend time being active in the community because people want to spend time building relationships with people they respect.

Members will want to abide by the rules if they respect the person who created them.

The Community Manager will be a leader. They’ll be able to create energy and keep members excited. They can make people feel special. They can make them feel like they belong to something larger than themselves.

If they don’t have the ability to earn the respect of the community, then these things will prove very difficult. They’ll feel forced.

How do you know if someone can earn the respect of your community?

I’d look for a few things. Lets look at a real world example for context:

A company that I recently advised was looking for a Community Manager to build a community their community of bloggers.

Now if they brought in someone that wouldn’t be able to earn the respect of the bloggers in the community, even if they had a lot of “community building experience”, they would likely fail fast.

We discussed some questions they could use to predict if a person could earn the respect of this specific community:

  • Are they already a part of the blogging community?
  • Have they built any sort of influence within the blogging community?
  • Can they ask thoughtful questions that insight conversation?
  • Can they relate to the pains and hopes of the blogging community? Do they know what they are?
  • Can they maintain a level-head during times of controversy?
  • Do they possess other important leadership qualities?

Their Community Manager would need to be the leader of that community in order to do an extraordinary job.

In order to do that, they need to earn the respect of the community, which means they have to truly believe in the fundamental value that’s bringing the community together.

I learned this for myself the hard way. For a while, at Feast we were trying to build a foodie community.

I’m not a foodie and probably never will be.

So when I tried to build the community, I failed to earn the respect of the people in that audience and it never really got off the ground.

Then when we started focusing a community around what we really believed in, exploration and life experimentation, we started to get a much better response.

A person’s authority shouldn’t have to come from their title of “Community Manager”. That WILL help, but if they’re really going to thrive in the role, they should be someone who can become a leader and earn respect without your help.

That’s why a lot of companies look to their own communities to hire people that naturally grow to be leaders.

Has your Community Manager earned the respect of your community?


Photo Credit: Σταύρος via Compfight cc

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About the author

David Spinks, CMXSummit and Lifelong student, community builder and writer.


David you hit the nail on the head. I'm a firm believer of this and its been how I have approached community management from day one.


Wonderful post!!! And resonates with a belief system I have had for years regarding the industry I community manage in. 



Couldn't agree more. It's incredibly important to know how to do your job, like what metrics to report out, but that almost goes without saying. If you can't figure that out you shouldn't be a community manager. But the most important of all is connection with the community. If you don't connect with them, they'll go find someone who does.


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