What Is The Difference Between A “Community Manager” And A “Forum Manager”?

Last week we said a dedicated community manager is not necessary to run a successful forum. That statement raised some eyebrows. Let me elaborate.

These days, the term “community manager” is most commonly associated with managing social media accounts. Forums do not fit this mold because they are unlike typical social media. You might say “social media managers” have commandeered the job title “community manager” away from forum owners (who run real communities), but I digress.

The standard job description for a “community manager” is likely to cover a wide variety of activities that involve social media. Typically those activities involve things like:

  • Generate buzz for the company via Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Devise strategies to gain more “followers”
  • Post fresh content to all social media accounts
  • Build relationships with customers

However, the tasks for managing a forum require a different skill set. These tasks include:

  • Respond to user help requests
  • Resolve user disputes in a constructive fashion
  • Manage relationships with sponsors/advertisers
  • Facilitate conversations between users
  • Highlight the best content
  • Study forum analytics to identify trends

Community managers—more accurately described as “social media managers”—spend more time cultivating content and working to generate “buzz” for their brand while forum managers are more like chaperones who do a lot of work behind the scenes but usually stay out of the way unless there is a problem.

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Does My Forum Need A Community Manager? (Hint: Nope!)

Many people ask us if they need a dedicated community manager to run their forum. While it certainly helps to have buy-in from people within the organization, the answer to this question is almost always the same: No.

I can hear you now. You’re probably saying that some large companies that have someone (or a team of someones) in place to manage all their social media accounts. Why would a community forum be an exception to this rule?

Well, even in cases where companies have a person or team in place to manage Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, etc. we have found that after critical mass is achieved and community norms are established, forums become autonomous, self-propelling machines.

This is a welcome relief because content generation is demanding and unglamorous work. But it becomes easy and fun when you “outsource” it to your users. As long as there are mechanisms in place to deal with basic help requests from users, the need for a dedicated person to manage your forum drops significantly.

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