In any case, per Ed's question:
I describe the Community Manager (CM) role as a team leadership, and support role, which doesn't require technical programming/development or systems administration knowledge, but does need some experience in using the tools for the community. I'd divide their job up into the following areas:
- Guiding their organization - on what they want to achieve from the community, what type of tools they should use, supporting internal teams and individuals to help them make best use of the community
- Guiding the community - guiding new users, inviting people to join, lending an ear to the community, working with key users to guide the community, rewarding top contributors
- Activities, spotlight and feedback - organizing activities, keeping the community on track with its mission/goals, spotlighting lead contributors, collecting feedback on how to improve the community tooling or how to improve the organization's products/services
- Measuring participation and recording knowledge - measuring traffic, measuring achievements, saving FAQs, writing best practices
- Dealing with trouble - making sure members do not break policies, playing peacemaker or arbiter in member conflicts, making sure people aren't gaming the system (in some cases), recording issues for historical purposes
- Operations - they would need to create or maintain any policies for the community, any documentation, assist with member account issues, work with other internal teams to resolve any issues, creating status reports
While the term "manager" is part of the name, this is not a classic functional manager or even a matrix manager role. This is primarily because the expectation is that the people in the community may not be part of your team (in the organization), or even part of your organization at all. If they are to support an external community, they need to treat each member with the proper respect due to a customer, even if they are part of your organization. This complicates things in some peoples minds: are they a tech support person, a marketing person, a PR person, a sales person? Probably none of them solely, and perhaps all of them to some bit.
In a perfect world, you'd have one community manager per community, but it is more likely they'd have multiple if not dozens of communities to work with in an organization. Even the definition of a "community" is vague here. In terms of size some communities could be a dozen people while others could be thousands-strong. The work is not quite proportionate, and what's worse, the amount and which elements of the above work you need to do, may vary with the mission, activities, and even tooling of the online community. For example, I tend to look at a blogger as being the center of their own community, and having a hundred bloggers, means that you have a hundred communities; however, the issues you may need to help your bloggers with can be different per blogger, or different when compared against a discussion forum-based community.
However, what is key to note is that when they are not present, things start to fall apart. A typical scenario I've seen is that a company decides they need forums and blogs started and really don't set guidelines or have a CM. If say a member starts harrassing another member, they turn to the sysadmin to fix it, as if it is solely a technical problem. There are right ways of handling situations and wrong ways, and unless the sysadmin takes the time to do the things that a CM does, then you might end up in a bigger pickle. In many similar situations, the sysadmins have to figure things up from scratch, eventually playing the role of a CM.
The key skills needed for the job are:
- leadership - you don't have to be the sole leader, but by default, you are part of the leadership of the community
- flexibility - things can move suddenly and change rapidly in communities, so you need to be flexible and adapt well
- empathy - you're dealing with people here, so you should pay attention to their needs and issues
- fairness - most communities have some level of conflict arise, and you need to be fair across all members
- organizational skills - it will probably start with you to organize or record information, activities, events, etc.