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Last week, one of my teammates related a conversation he'd had about how poor community manager job expectations are and, concurrently, how little they are getting paid.

What my colleague pointed out—correctly—is that a lot of the jobs listed out there that are called "Community Management" are really not anything close to what the job actually entails.

I've covered this before, back in July 2015. The actual title "Community Manager" is vague enough to get co-opted by many other occupations that think the whole collaborative/open thing is just a nice turn of marketing phrase.

Currently, the most prevalent conflation of the title and role is the use of the term Community Manager for tier-one support on various online forums. My inbox is full of emails from recruiters who saw "Community" in my LinkedIn profile and therefore assumed I would be perfect for managing an online gaming forum for Kandy Krush 5000 or somesuch thing.

To be fair, that would definitely be a possibility as a future career waypoint, because part of what a community lead does in their workday does involve working with community members on platforms like mailing lists, IRC, and online forums. Just as part of the day is involved with social media, blogging/CRM platforms, handling content in git... these are just some of the skills we use or have picked up in the course of our work here on the OSAS team.

But the best value in working with communities is not as a support staffer, or a marketer, or even a high-level governance planner. At least, not alone. The best value when working with communities is doing all or some of these things in such a way that you can let the community decide for itself what it wants to do and how it wants to grow.

When that happens, communities are at their best.

About the author

Brian Proffitt is a Manager within Red Hat's Open Source Program Office, focusing on content generation, community metrics, and special projects. Brian's experience with community management includes knowledge of community onboarding, community health, and business alignment. Prior to joining Red Hat in 2014, he was a technology journalist with a focus on Linux and open source, and the author of 22 consumer technology books.