The Evolution of the Community Manager

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It’s hard to define the term “community manager” because the role is constantly evolving. This is something I’m witnessing first-hand as the director of community at Sumazi. And my pathway to getting here has been somewhat untraditional.

If you would have asked me as a teenager what I was going to be when I grew up, I would have said a figure skating coach and high school English teacher.

Back then, I was an exercise and sports science major at the University of Delaware as well as a competitive figure skater, training in ice dance.

My skating led me to San Francisco, where I found an ice dance partner, and we were training for national-level competitions. Long story short: He quit, I stayed, and I discovered the world of journalism. And salsa dancing. And Facebook.

Believe it or not, all three of those worlds collided, leading to me becoming a community manager and employee #2 at Sumazi.

Shortly after moving to San Francisco and quitting skating, I learned how to dance salsa and joined RicaSalsa Dance Company. While dancing on their professional team, I met a lot of close friends, one of whom is Sumaya Kazi, the CEO and Founder of Sumazi.

One day she posted on Facebook that she was looking for a managing editor for a startup she was working on. At the time, I was working as a television writer and producer for the morning news, with part-time work at ABC Sports and ESPN. I also had a startup on the side of my own, which was a video production company geared toward dance. I responded, saying we should chat.

I came on board as the managing editor of a startup that later turned into Sumazi. My original job was to manage a group of about 30 volunteer writers from around the world for a LinkedIn-meets-CNN type of company. Its mission was to connect you to the people you don’t know, but should. And like most startups, it evolved.

Fast forward to today: Sumazi is a social lead generation platform for enterprises. We help big companies find the best marketing, sales and event leads for their next campaign.

Just as our company has evolved, so has my position, which is how I went from being a managing editor in a media company to being a community manager working in the enterprise social space.

Likewise, the “community manager” position is evolving. It’s not just about managing social anymore — it’s about managing relationships that transcend online, offline, as well as all of the connections that play a big role relating to the overall vision of a company. Social just evolves with it.

A typical day for me includes managing the day-to-day happenings with clients and accounts, managing our social presence, engaging with potential hires, attending events and 100 other things.

This position can vary greatly depending on the type and size of a company and that company’s goals. I can more definitively speak to the small startup point-of-view, where being in a 5-person startup requires each person to wear many hats.

I’ve had many amazing experiences along the way: Our startup being selected from more than 1,200 other startups to compete on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, where we received the Omidyar Network award for “startup most likely to change the world”; hanging out with MC Hammer at the after-party, and learning he not only knew about Sumazi, but was a big fan of ours; coming up with cool marketing ideas like this:

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And also this:

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And, of course, getting to work alongside a group of hard-working friends every day.

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Through my evolving role as a community manager, I have gained a wide variety of skills related to tech, product, sales, account management, recruiting, startup cycles, and so on. My position went from focusing on building connections and engagement on social media to realizing it’s not just about growth anymore. It’s about using social media to find the right kind of leads, and using tools to track ROI. A big part of my job now focuses on data and how to become a technical marketer — and I’m learning what it takes to get there.

In celebration of Community Manager Appreciation Day, let’s connect with other community types and learn about what they actually do. As the social landscape evolves, so will the community manager role — and we’re all along for the ride.

What unique skills do you bring to the table as a community manager? I’d love to connect with each and every one of you. Please feel free to reach out to me at paulette@sumazi.com, or follow me @paulette on twitter or on Facebook here.

Paulette Bleam

Director of Community at Sumazi
Paulette heads up community and accounts at Sumazi. She’s known as “gets shit done” in the office. She has a passion to connect people who are looking for a very small needle in a massive haystack. In her free time, she’s a competitive salsa dancer and loves to edit, never leaving home without her red pen.

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