Community management has been around for at least 20 years – ever since the first AOL chat rooms and newspaper forum message boards made their debut in the 1990s. Fan sites and gaming rooms were also early incarnations of online communities. Back then the community manager moderated posts by the thousands on a daily basis.
Fast forward two decades, where social media has come into play and the terms ‘community manager’ and ‘social media manager’ are commonplace – and sometimes used interchangeably.
With the explosive growth of both these positions at organizations big and small, the career path for this profession has extended along with it, as has the importance of social media in an organization.
As a result, there is a demand for the role of a Chief Community Officer. What is the professional development path for this role, and how does the role strategically benefit an organization?
The career path for community
The skills required of a community professional are many and varied. A talented community manager will be a skilled writer, a project manager, a brand marketer, provide incredible customer support, be a brand ambassador, and have a knack for event planning, and they also need to be able to lead.
As they progress in their career their scope and influence grows and they learn to manage communities at scale. The insight these people have into consumer behaviors is invaluable to a company’s leadership and can help inform company strategy and exciting new opportunities.
LinkedIn has seen the terms ‘online community management’ and “social media manager” grow 44% over the year as skills that people are including in their professional profiles. With no filters added, a quick look on LinkedIn reveals over 9,000 job opportunities for community managers, over 5,000 for Director of Community, and only 500 for Chief Community Officer. Yet a seat at the boardroom table is the next logical step in the career path of an individual who has built a career in community building.
The Value of a Chief Community Officer
In recent years companies like Starbucks and UBM Tech have hired Chief Community Officers to fill a very interesting and high-profile role. Their responsibilities range from editorial control and strategy, to training, uniting communities around the world, and social responsibility initiatives.
The Community Roundtable, a membership organization for community professionals, publishes a report each year on the State of Community Management. This year it found that communities are not only maturing rapidly, but the benefits seen from them are impressive, and the level of executive interaction within communities is increasing. In 58% of the communities surveyed, the community managers are coaching executives on how to participate in a community.
There are benefits to having a Chief Community Officer on staff. The Community Roundtable’s 2014 report states that communities that are “best in class” or mature and operating at scale, all have an approved strategy, and 79% of those strategies are operational and measurable.
With these kinds of demonstrable results, a Chief Community Officer can create a compelling business case to acquire the resources needed to make a strategy successful, such as tools, a bigger staff, or a fully funded roadmap.
Community management increasingly needs a full staff to cover all the following areas: social listening, moderation, content creation, SEO, analysis, and more. Social media and community management are not only 24 hours a day and seven days a week, but global as well. When there’s a well-resourced team handling the work, they are almost twice as likely to be able to measure value.
In the future we’ll see the role of Chief Community Officer become more commonplace in large-scale global brands, agencies, and in start-ups and small businesses. Rest assured, we can expect to see more Chief Community Officers take their seat at the boardroom table as community management grows in influence and delivers measurable results.