October 10, 2023

10 Myths About Community Management

By David D.

For many years now, the field of community management has been growing rapidly. With the rise of social media and online communities, there is a need for professionals to foster healthy conversations and bring people together. However, there are still many misconceptions about what community management truly entails. In this post, I want kick off a blog series to address and debunk some of the biggest myths. Each of these myths includes a link to a larger blog post on the topic.

Myth : Social Media Management is the same as Community Management

One of the most common misconceptions is that social media management and community management are interchangeable. While social platforms can certainly be part of the job, community management is much more expansive. Community managers foster human connections and belonging – they don’t just post updates and monitor mentions. Community is about cultivating real relationships between people through open dialogue and shared experiences. Whereas social media management can focus more on metrics and algorithms, community management prioritizes human emotions and brings value to people’s lives.

A Community Professional’s role extends far beyond any single platform. They help members find their place, resolve conflicts, educate newcomers, and feel invested in something larger than themselves. Social media is a tool for community managers, not the end goal. True community is built through meaningful engagement between individuals.

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Myth : It’s all About Enforcing Rules and Policing Behavior

Many assume community management is like babysitting an online message board. But enforcing rules reactively is the not the heart of the job. Of course setting guardrails is important, but community managers are more akin to community organizers who bring out the best in people through positivity, empathy and leading by example.

Part of any community is disagreements and heated debates will arise naturally. But a skilled community manager can tactfully steer difficult conversations to constructive ends. Really listening to all perspectives and appealing to our shared humanity goes much further than stern warnings alone. Community is a two-way street – managers support members as much as manage them.

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Myth : You Need a Background in Customer Success or Marketing

It’s not at all necessary to have technical chops or years of sales experience to excel at community management. While those skills can complement the role, the even more vital abilities are emotional intelligence, cultural awareness, and relationship building. Some of the best community managers come from backgrounds in social work, counseling, teaching or media relations.

The core focus is understanding human psychology and bringing out people’s humanity. Community management embraces all kinds of diverse thinkers – what matters most is heart, empathy, creative problem-solving and a dedication to civic participation. Technical knowledge can be learned, but passion for connecting people authentically cannot be faked.

Community management is a deeply meaningful profession that does not deserve to be reduced to social media ops or rule enforcement. At its best, it cultivates an environment where all people feel empowered to contribute towards the greater whole. If you set out to foster empathy, facilitate understanding and empower others, you have the potential to excel as a community manager. But those called to the field must reframe preconceptions of what community is and strive each day to strengthen the human ties that bind us.

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Myth : It’s All About Making Money

While community can be a driver of business goals like customer service or sales, that should not be the primary motivation of community management. When community becomes too commercialized or transactional, it loses the heart of what brings people together in the first place.

Authentic communities form around shared interests, values or experiences – not just products or services. A wise community manager focuses on addressing member needs holistically rather than chasing metrics. They nurture an environment where people genuinely want to spend time, not one that feels like constant advertising.

Revenue opportunities will follow when community itself is nurtured with care, empathy and generosity of spirit. But the work is about so much more than monetization – it’s about fostering fellowship, creativity and a sense of belonging for its own sake.

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Myth : It’s All Online

It’s easy to think community exists solely on social platforms and discussion boards. But community is something we experience fully in real life through face-to-face connection as well.

Offline events, local gatherings, and one-on-one relationships are profoundly important for building shared understanding and investment in one another. Community managers who promote in-person meetups and collaboration strengthen ties in ways no app or website ever could.

Even virtual community thrives when we see each other as whole human beings and find ways to bring a human touch. Things like video chats, personalized messages, and showing our personalities more richly can make an online space feel much closer to “real community.” The best managers know community needs nourishment on both online and real-world planes.

Community management involves reframing preconceptions about what community means today. It challenges us to think holistically about how we can cultivate fellowship wherever people gather, both online and offline. Above all, it celebrates our shared humanity – something no technology can ever replace. A wise community manager understands this truth and structures their work around strengthening human bonds with empathy, care and creativity.

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Myth : It’s An Easy Job

Many assume that since communities involve social interaction, community management must not require much skill or effort. In reality, it is an incredibly complex and demanding role.

Good community management involves constant learning, strategic thinking, project management, mediation skills, cultural awareness, marketing savvy, and the emotional labor of supporting others. Managers have to be part therapist, part organizer, part ambassador. They navigate delicate issues around sensitive topics while keeping many moving pieces operational smoothly behind the scenes.

Burnout is common in the field due to the responsibility of carrying so many people. Community building is hard work that takes patience, resilience and a real dedication to service. While the rewards can be great, it is far from a simple or uncomplicated career path. Community managers deserve respect for taking on such a multifaceted and cognitively/emotionally demanding role.

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Myth : Personal Ties Don’t Matter

Some think community management is just a transaction – that as long as guidelines are followed, personal rapport with members is irrelevant. But community runs on relationships and trust between real people.

The strongest communities form when managers invest personally in getting to know members as individuals. Personal anecdotes, empathy during hard times, inside jokes – these small acts of humanity mean so much. Members support causes and one another because they feel a sense of care, respect and friendship from their leader.

No community guidelines or policies can replace the bond created through one-on-one rapport and authenticity. Wise managers understand their role is partly caretaking for human beings, not faceless users. Personal connection is what breathes soul into digital spaces and keeps people invested for the long run.

Community management challenges preconceived notions about what constitutes a “professional” relationship and the importance of personal touchpoints. At its heart, the job is about enabling human fellowship – and fellowship requires an authentic human element that policies alone can never provide.

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Myth : Anyone Can Do It

Some believe that since community involves everyday socializing, anyone could step into a management role. But successfully leading a large group involves real expertise developed over time.

Nuanced skills like facilitation, mediation, project management and cultural sensitivity take years of focused experience to hone. One must also possess the empathy, communication abilities and work ethic needed for such an emotionally taxing career.

Communities deserve skilled caretakers who make the role their passionate vocation. Dropping anyone in with minimal training would be a disservice. Community members rightfully expect a leader well-versed in supporting human growth and collaboration at scale. True community management is a serious profession, not a casual side gig.

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Myth : It’s All Positive and Peaceful

While communities aim for positivity overall, diversity of opinions and even conflict arise naturally in any group setting. A common misperception is that real community happens without disagreements.

In reality, part of a manager’s role involves tactfully addressing volatile issues and moderating difficult discussions respectfully. They help teach members to disagree without hurting one another through open-yet-civil dialogue.

Community is messy at times precisely because it involves real people with complex lives and perspectives. Wise management embraces diverse viewpoints and believes that through understanding and empathy, even opposing sides can find shared ground. Confronting disagreement constructively is part of enabling true fellowship.

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Myth : Tech Can Replace Human Touch

Automation technologies have certainly aided scalable community growth. However, no algorithm can ever fully take the place of nurturing real human bonds.

While tools provide value, they must enhance – not replace – compassionate human oversight and care. Tech handles operational tasks, but a living, breathing person’s empathy, wisdom and personalized responsiveness are what members truly connect with.

Community will always need heartfelt human anchors who foster fellowship not just between users, but as whole people. Technology augments but cannot substitute for the very human work of bringing lives together through shared experience and goodwill. Together, tech and heart most positively impact lives.

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The Wrap Up

The field of community management challenges many preconceptions people have about what constitutes true community and the work involved in nurturing it at scale. While technology plays an important supporting role, community is – and always will be – about the human experience of fellowship between people. As the profession continues to grow in importance, it is my hope that we reframe our understanding of community management as the meaningful vocation that it is. At its best, it cultivates care, belonging, creativity and shared understanding among diverse individuals. For anyone called to this challenging yet profoundly important work, I encourage focusing first on enabling human bonds through empathy, authenticity and bringing out people’s shared humanity. When we prioritize strengthening real relationships over transactions or metrics, technology enhances but never replaces the human touchstone of community.

Questions for you…

Which of the myths addressed in the blog post did you previously believe? Has your perspective changed at all?

What is one part of a community manager’s role that you didn’t fully understand or appreciate before reading this?

David D.
David D.

Building Online Communities since 1998 | Full Stack Community Professional | Host of Community Live