AOL Chatrooms, Newsrooms and Twitter: How I Became a Community Manager

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Be it luck or just at the right spot at the right time, I started my community management journey back in 2009 by accident.

Before that, my career path changed every few years – if not every year. When I was really little- about six and seven- I wanted to be an Olympic gymnast. That dream ended with my paralyzing fear of falling off the uneven bars. Then, I wanted to be a WNBA player. That ended when it quickly became evident that I was vertically challenged and would never be 6 foot tall. From there, I started to spend more and more of my time playing Oregon Trail and hanging out in AOL Chatrooms. Little did I know that this would be my first foray into my now-chosen career path. I also had bouts where I wanted to be a teacher, a scientist, an architect, a lawyer. and finally stumbled into journalism (what I ended up majoring in) in college.

In 2009 and 2010, I was still active in journalism, but I was slowly becoming much more active on a not-so-little site called Twitter.  I stumbled upon the first, official Twitter chat, #journchat. That was my introduction to the world of online journalism, digital PR and community management. I was hooked. I started participating in any Twitter chat that I could find about PR, marketing, social media, journalism as well as young professional groups. There was a point in late 2009/early 2010, where I would participate in 3+ chats per night and would routinely end up in Twitter Jail for exceeding the number of tweets per hour. While I don’t necessarily recommend “living on Twitter,” like I did, it was worth it as it helped me build intros and land those all important first couple of gigs.

The more community management experience I have, the more I realize how much my journalism training was a huge asset. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t use one of the skills I learned in j-school. These characteristics include:

  • A good listener
  • Great communication skills (verbal and written)
  • A team player
  • Creative
  • People person
  • Great storytelling

Looking back, while my journalism background definitely helped me greatly, it was far from the only education I pulled from. My stint working part-time in high school as a cashier in a mall food court actually proved invaluable when it comes to honing my community management and social customer service chops. While it was far from the most glamorous job and I  hated coming home smelling like chicken nuggets and grease, the lessons I learned dealing with picky and sometimes outrageous customers proved invaluable.

How did you get into community management? Share your story in the comment section below.

Jessica Malnik

By day, Jessica Malnik is a community manager. By night, she can be found writing on her own blog, which centers around her community management, social media, PR, and marketing ramblings. Her work has been featured in a variety of online publications, including Convince and Convert, PR Daily, Spin Sucks, SocialFresh, CMXHub and 12Most. Subscribe to her blog here.

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I am only now looking into community management, and finding your story and mention of AOL chatrooms stopped me in my tracks. Starting at a teen and for nearly 10 years I volunteered as a host of hour-long trivia games in AOL chat rooms. That's long gone, but now I see myself naturally nurturing community on Twitter for my current profession.


Love this! I started in AOL Chatrooms for kids in 5th grade. Not thinking anything of it, I created a newsletter "4 Girlz Only" and grew the list, had contributors, etc. and sent it out to thousands of girls. I never would have thought that was only the beginning!

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