My professional love affair with community management began when I worked for an indie gaming studio. The studio had since closed and the games are no more, but the community remains and so does the community manager.
It all started a lot before that, though. Apparently, I was born to lead communities. I have always been a community manager; I just didn’t know it! It was a friend who showed me the light, when he visited me at my place of work (I was a content & social media specialist in a company that built websites) and told me: I have a gaming studio, and we need a community manager. I want you to come work with us. I asked him “but what is community management? How do you know I can be a community manager?” and he answered “because you already are…”. So, I found myself working for a really cool Indie studio that developed social games. We had 2 games on Facebook (really good ones too!!) and for me, it was the best job ever. I honestly could not believe how lucky I was to land this job because it incorporated everything I loved and everything I was good at: Writing content, creating worlds (I wrote the in-game content too), marketing, social media and … playing games! I mean really … I got paid to play!
During that time, I helped form and maintain strong communities of players for both games. The most important thing I learned about myself as a community manager, was that I am a natural networker and that I have a gift in the sense that I can read people’s mood even when they post it on Facebook. I can connect with the players and live the game through their eyes. This is what made me a true community manager and this is what allowed me to create content that matters for them.
The game is no more… now what?
When the studio closed I had to make a choice. Did I want to look for another job in social media management? Or did I want to do something else? One important thing to note is that I am based in Israel. Community Management here was … well … not very popular, to say the least. Most people around me failed to understand the value of true community management and how it differs from “just social media management” or “just copywriting” or “just running ad campaigns,” etc. Also, most of the gaming companies (and there are quite a few) are located far from where I live, and I didn’t want to travel a lot. I can, and I did, work from home without any problem, but most employers failed to see the benefit of having an employee who isn’t tired from a long commute, who isn’t in a hurry to get to the train and who can work outside office hours (when the community is up and active but the rest of the staff members are already fast asleep).
I thought of giving up community management altogether, but I felt it would just be wrong. After all, this is who I am, not just what I do. I am a community manager. In my life and in my work. So I went freelance and I set my goal: to educate companies, brands, startups and other businesses about Community Management and to make it a standard for everyone and everywhere.
Did I make it?
Almost 5 years have gone by and so far it’s been going pretty well! I have grown and evolved as a Community Manager. I have come to realize that I am not just creating worlds (of content) for my clients’ communities, I am becoming a leader of those communities. A community manager is essentially a leader. He or she are not really “managers” sent from the mighty forces above to “manage” communities. No. We are leaders, we are authentic, we are part of the communities we manage. We have to be or else the people who make up those communities will not really rally around the shared cause and interest we set.
As a Community Manager (outsourced) I am now doing so much more than just “community management.” I create and develop the communities in the first place so I even have something to “manage.” I therefore provide my clients with content, social media, PR, UX feedback, blogging and much more. I create their marketing and business strategy from scratch, all with a view on community management and engagement as the end goal.
I am extremely lucky. I get to work with companies all over the world, creating and managing communities of users, investors, media people and others, working in sectors varying from medical device through software and hardware, tourism and all the way back to gaming. I am true to my goal of educating the world. I give talks at conferences, I give workshops, I write posts … I spread the word.
I am a community manager. It’s who I am, not (just) what I do.
Elinor is the founder of the Social Fairy, the first (and so far only) company focused on Community Management and Co-Founder of The Engagement Strategy Group – a strategic consulting firm for global brands, based on Elinor’s unique Engagement Strategy model.