How Community Management Revealed Itself to Me

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I originally thought of calling this how community management found me, but that’s not exactly true.

As I continue to evolve and share my story with others, I realize community management was instilled in me since I was in 4th grade. It wasn’t until just a few year ago that community management actually revealed itself to me and my life has not been the same since.

If I go back to 4th grade at Edgar Alan Poe School in Arlington Heights, IL, I was entering my first of three years of ‘World of Work’, an annual event where all classes and students transformed from classrooms to businesses and citizens. For the first two years, your business was set by the teacher. But in 6th grade, you could open your own business. I saved for those first two years, but more importantly, I established relationships with my fellow students and the teachers, recognizing how important they would be when I got to 6th grade and I opened a newspaper called the “Weekly WOW”.

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Fast forward a few years to my junior year in high school. I entered Buffalo Grove High School with very few people knowing who I was, and a personal goal of making sure everyone knew who I was by the time I left. That moment was here. I was about to get up on stage and ask the student body to vote me as the student council president for my final year. I’d like to say the standing ovation and victory was a result of my speech, but it was more about the relationships I had built through the various cliques we had at our school. I didn’t feel I belonged to any one of them, but very much felt a part of all of them.

Marriage, family, and climbing the corporate ladder soon followed. Then divorce and fate brought me to the real estate business. Of course I entered at the tail end of the peak of the real estate craze and rode the crash pretty hard. But after working for a developer and having college and high school age kids show me viral videos on Facebook, something clicked. They didn’t know the person who originally shared the video. One of their friends had seen it from one of their friends and so on and so on. I was hooked by this fascination of how we were now able to connect with people, people we don’t even know, in such a rapid way. It lead me to joining Twitter and learning about Social Media Club Chicago. After simply showing up at my first event, I volunteered to tend bar at my second event. By the fourth, I volunteered to join the communications committee, which after the third call, turned into just me.
As I adopted the title of Director of Communications for SMC Chicago as a board member, I knew I did much more that just communications. I was promoting, organizing, customer service, customer experience, leadership, marketing, etc.

I don’t remember when I first heard it, but I saw something about community management. The more I researched, the more I found there wasn’t much out there about this community management thing. A couple sites existed but they all seemed to have a niche. For me, community management didn’t have to be a niche, it should be welcoming to all. It led me to create My Community Manager as a place for community managers to share ideas, issues and questions with each other and help individuals and organizations wanting to learn more about community management. Basicly, a community for community managers.

For about 6 months, it was slow going, then I decided to try out Google+. It was a brand new place that we could set ourselves apart. When they introduced hangouts, we invited people to a weekly virtual chat called community manager hangout or #cmgrhangout. At that time, hangouts were not broadcast to the public or recorded, so we had a joke that whatever happened on community manager hangout, stayed on community manager hangout. That was furthest from the truth however, as we summarized the hangouts in a blog post each week to get others interesting in joining the following week. MOZ even included us in a post about how to use Google Hangouts! Most of you know where hangouts are today and from that very first community manager hangout, there has not been one Friday at 2pm EST that we’ve missed.

The combination of using live stream video and my passion for community management turned into a job at The Huffington Post when they we preparing to launch HuffPost Live. My experience at HuffPost, connected me with so many amazing people and also with the organization No Kid Hungry, which I have the honor of working with now.

As I look back, most of my life I’ve been practicing the discipline of community management, it just didn’t reveal itself to me until several years ago. Although I don’t have community in my title today, we are not defined by our titles and community is part of what I am so fortunate to be part of.

Tim McDonald

None of us are alone. That is Tim’s mission in life. To let everyone know they are not alone. It’s why helping others doing social good is his purpose.

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2 comments
ChristinKardos
ChristinKardos

I love your story, Tim! As a relative newcomer to the My Community Manager and #CMGRHangout circles, I really appreciate the work you all have put in. Like you and many others, I was involved with community management before it had a name. It's not only fun but validating and comforting to have an avenue for connecting and swapping stories with others who can relate. In addition to that, now that community management has been articulated as a bonafide field or career option, I love seeing the informative content on mycmgr.com for those who are thinking of getting started. What I wouldn't have given to have something like this back in "my day!"  Kudos and thanks.

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