7 Essential Traits for Community Managers, by CMs

Earlier in the month Stuart Foster of Mashables dropped his “5 Essential Traits for Community Managers” and to be quite honest a few of us felt like he missed the mark. So I posed the question to the group of CMs I know around the gaming industry.

What do you think the the “5 Traits” should be?

This is my interpretation of their responses. They may not totally agree with what I’ve written since all communities and Community Managers differ, however these were the traits that were mentioned most often in their responses. I’ve divided them in to Primary and Secondary traits. The Primary were mentioned significantly more often than the Secondary and are in many ways tied together.

Primary Traits

Empathy: Most of us agree that we need to see things from the emotional perspective of our community. It is our understanding of their wants and needs that helps our companies make positive changes.

Community Managers need to feel what the community feels. If there is a significant change to the dynamic of the community, such as a policy change, the CM needs to feel it as it they were the community and understand the emotional impact on the community.

Communicator: We also tend to agree that communication is an important trait. The fact is that this is a large component of our jobs. We are either talking to the community or to our companies.

Communication is perhaps the most important trait. We need to be very good communicators. It isn’t just a matter of being a great speaker or writer. We often need to be able to express complex things in basic of terms so that most of the community is able to understand. Conversely we need to communicate the Community’s message to our Companies.

Perspective: This is different from empathy in that we need to be able to separate the emotions from the logical using common sense and personal experience. We need the perspective to present the right information to the community and our companies.

This is the tough one and one that can only be learned by doing. Each community is different and even within a given community there may be sub-communities that are different. The situations where you will need to use this trait will be just as unique. You can only rely on your judgment to make the best choice, for the given situation.

Advocacy: Simply put, influencing outcomes and the culmination of the three previous attributes. Sometimes this means we are advocating for the community with our companies and others for the company to the community. Either way, it is an important part of being a Community Manager.

We are the champions, the ambassadors and the evangelists. It is sometimes our jobs to ensure that the message is heard and fully understood.


Secondary Traits

Organization: We are masters of information and we need to keep it all together.

We deal with a lot of information and often have any tasks on our plates. Without a way to manage our time and priorities our tasks, nothing will get done.

Analytical: Seeing beyond what is primary and often looking “outside of the box”.

We often gather a great deal of information and we need to be able to sort out the important information. Knowing that you had a 150% increase in community members from Spanish speaking countries may not be the first thing you notice, but it information you should be aware of.

Knowledgeable: We should try to be the center of the community knowledge base. We can’t know everything but we should know how to find out.

The community expects us to know just about everything about our company and products. Often this can be quite challenging due to the sheer amount of information that you might be expected to know. At the very least we should know how to get the requested information and be willing to say “I don’t know, but I will find out”.


Ultimately these are but a few of the traits that you might expect to find in a Community Manager. It is my hope that this post opens a dialog to help further define what it means to be a CM.

Finally, one more thought. To say that “Community manager is the new it position in social media” is a misnomer. Many of the Community Managers I know have been doing the “Social Media Thing”, long before it was called “Social Media”. We just saw it as an aspect of what we do… reaching out the community in the best places to find them.

I would like the to thank the following people for their input. Keep in mind that we may not agree 100% with my view, but this was based on their responses. I encourage you to seek them out to hear their perspective. They have helped me grow as a Community Manager and I am better for knowing them.

Jeremy Preacher: http://jeremypreacher.blogspot.com
Dan Gray: Community Manager http://bifftheunderstudy.wordpress.com
Sanya Weathers
Iain Compton: Community Manager http://www.antipwn.com/blog
Joe Pishgar
Mathew Anderson: Community Manager for Quest Online, LLC. http://www.igda.org/wiki/User:MathewAnderson
Evan Berman
James Baldwin: Lead Moderator • The Chronicles of Spellborn & 2moons Twitter
Jill Henderson
Maggie Olsen: Community Manager – Vivox, Inc.  http://voon.vivox.com
Abel Bascunana – Ex-Community Manager, forever… unless they pay me A LOT.
Benoît Faverial
Kathleen Sanders
Katherine Connell
Meghan Rodberg: Senior Community Manager, Turbine twitter.com/70ms

2 Responses to 7 Essential Traits for Community Managers, by CMs
  1. AnjelusX Reply

    Overall I agree with the bulk of what you have written Hist. Though I’m not sure if Organization is a secondary trait, it’s one of those grey things, depending on the community size and type. It’s the switch hitter of the traits, it could be more primary in certain situations. However that’s me being picky more then anything.

    I would have placed Communicator at the top of the list myself, if you’re not a good communicator you’re not really going to excel at much of the rest. No matter how empathic, or strong a sense of perspective one has, if you’re unable to convey your message you’re not going to be very effective.

    I think what is missing, is having a good set of armour as a lot of times in many communities there are those people whom won’t really take what you say at face value whatsoever, and always those whom disagree with a CM’s methods or personality. That’s par for the course on the internet and being able to take the kind of crap that can be tossed at a person without letting it consume you is required to really do the job despite resistance.

    Same goes from top down as there are times when the company a CM represents refuses to or blatantly ignores the position of the community which can be equally frustrating for the CM as a CM is in the go-between position.

    Otherwise though, a good list, I can’t think of much else to add or comment on about it presently, but if I think of anything, I’ll certainly share it.

Leave a Reply