10 Reasons You Should Be Paying your Community Manager More

Give them a hug and a raise

Beautiful Rainbow Alpaca Unicorn Community Manager courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Lift your eyes from the screen and ask yourself: who is the most valuable person on your team? Not, “whose salary is the highest due to the market & subsequent supply & demand,” but “when shit hits the fan, who is the first person working to identify the source with one hand and clean it up with the other?” Who supports the community of individuals that use or buy your product? Who herds your cats? Chances are, this person is on your Community team, or a team you’ve yet to rename community but looks like, and smells like, one.

If you do nothing else after reading these 100 words, go hug that person now. I’m serious. They deserve it and 100 other hugs throughout 2015. If you’re concerned that might make them uncomfortable, it won’t. All community managers are huggers. It’s what we do online and IRL all day, every day. Digitally hug those in need, or those celebrating victories great and small. It’s not frequent enough that our employers open their arms and return the sentiment.

Hugs are cool and so is appreciation, but what is the real value of community?

Your community is your IP. It’s the one defensible asset you have from day one. Each person who chooses to be loyal to you and your brand is priceless and it is imperative you don’t financially compromise when it comes to protecting this asset. Your community managers are the inventors listed on your brand’s culture patent.

“You have to pay your community like you pay your developers,” — Anil Dash recently said to me while we were at dinner with some fellow community cultivators. I turned about-face and said “can we shout that from the rooftops, please?” Consider this my first attempt, because he is spot on. What people often forget is that without a community, there’s no audience to develop or build for. Just because you built it does not mean they will come.

“Customer” and “User” are dead, having given birth to the much more empowering “community member.” You don’t have a community until you’ve stopped seeing purchasers and their purchases as “average orders” and start seeing them as “ the fiscal value of real humans interacting with your brand.” People powered metrics are a part of any organization, but I can all but guarantee the longer someone is with you, the more value they have both qualitatively and quantitatively. Make your product/place somewhere people want to hang out, not just shop.

$50,000 is not enough to live in a major metropolis, let alone rationalize giving your soul to two-dimensional friends for. Glassdoor and Indeed both put the average CM salary around $50k. This is not what you’re paying you’re developers, and it’s half of what you should be paying your CMs. Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, y’all might be exceptions, but in NYC, SF, LA, Chicago, etc. the juice here is not worth the squeeze.

Community Managers bring their soul to work everyday. In another moment of daydreaming, ask yourself, who do your VIP community members and sacred cows call when they have an issue? Likely your CM. Do those issues normally happen M-F between 9–5? Doubtful. There is no other function within an office that is more emotionally taxing than that of Community Management (save for any in-house therapy your swanky corporation or fun startup may be nice enough to provide). Yes, the CFO may have a more stressful March/April and the CEO may feel the heat raising the next round, but day to day, no one tops the feels of a community manager.

Feeling the feels is hard. I’ve had designers call me bawling, vomiting, screaming, in complete speechless shock and dripping in joy. I’ve shared the excitement of the birth of their children, the deaths of their loved ones and the launches of their collections. I know more about people I’ve never met than many members of my own family (don’t judge). I have done happy dances via skype and sobbed tears of sadness alongside them through twitter. I’ve celebrated their brilliant achievements, thrust them in the media spotlight, and felt like I had the greatest value, the greatest impact, when they’ve visibly grown. This means we feel the growing pains with all of them, too, and it’s not easy.

Community Management is really fucking personal, and often on “personal” time. Of the best CM work I’ve done, easily 80% of it has been during “nights and weekends” because that’s when most humans need help. I’ve taken their frantic 2am calls (sometimes less sober than I care to admit) and woken up at 3am to share in moments “live” halfway around the globe. I do this because I give many fucks, and because I know the difference that one person can make for another just by being there. Don’t ever judge a groggy CM in the morning. Odds are it wasn’t the after party that kept her out last night, but the community stirring her from slumber.

Community Managers are the Antidote to crisis. Our server at Shapeways (an ecommerce platform) was once taken out by a backhoe days before Christmas. Offline for 19 hours, the longest in our seven year history save for Hurricane Sandy, I resorted to the only thing guaranteed to solve any internet crisis: cute animals. #SWPaws (get it?) was born, and 100's of animals later, we managed to not only have a great time (literally zero complaints about the downtime) but also to coordinate the visit of a special reindeer and Santa Claus to our factory in Holland on Christmas eve. All because the site failed. Go figure.

Community Managers don’t have personal opinions, they have highly informed community-driven perspectives & requests. Community managers are the liaisons between the outside world and the inside of your organization. They have to approach everyone from a fair, nonjudgmental, unbiased point of view, aggregate information thrust upon them, and report back with the status of the community. This is something CMs take very seriously. That remark they just made about the feature they think you need is one you should listen to. The opinion of the community manager matters most when building product and features intended to serve the community. They understand their needs better than anyone. Even you. Full stop.

Community Managers never say no. It’s likely to our collective fault as a whole, but I bet the classic “what’s the worst thing about you” question answer for all CMs is “I don’t know how to say no.” Translation: they’ll do anything for you and your community. Don’t take that for granted. I’ll never forget my eyes burning as my phone rang at 4:15am one morning. In a deep-sleep rasp I answered, only to hear the sounds of vomiting. After a few moments and the sound of chain smoking, I figured out who it was. “oh hey *censored* what’s up?” I then spent the next two hours talking someone through their business related nausea and axiety before showering and going in for my standard day. Didn’t say no then, wouldn’t now.

If you’re still not convinced community matters, adds value, and should be taken seriously, just remember: It’s the reason Instagram beat Hipstamatic, the reason iPhone beat Android, and the reason you call tissues Kleenex. The true power lies within your community and the loyalty they are kind enough to bring to your dinner table.

Now go hug that CM of yours and give them a raise if you haven’t already.