Community-led growth continues to gain momentum, and we have the privilege of sharing best practices, growth strategies, and other trends that are developing in real-time. We’re particularly excited about the rise of the community operations manager (COM), a member of a community team who focuses more on setting big-picture strategy than on daily moderation and management tasks.
It’s common for smaller communities, as well as those in the early phase of the community maturity curve, to have a community leader who manages all aspects of growth, engagement, content production, reporting, and more. But as a community flourishes, the workload will inevitably outgrow a one-person team, creating the need to hire for new positions that contribute additional skills and impact.
Below, we dive into the role of the community operations manager, the tasks this team member should own, and what qualities you should look for when hiring someone for the position.
Let’s begin by answering the question, “How is community operations different from community management?”
Community management and community operations work closely together, but they do serve distinct functions, and there are many benefits to establishing them as separate positions on the community leadership team.
The goal of community operations is to align community initiatives to the organization’s top-line goals. This includes optimizing the community team’s tech stack, processes, content production, and more, striving to meet the organization’s needs in more effective ways. Much of this optimization will be driven by the analysis of data that’s been pulled from various community channels, social media, an internal CRM or ticketing system, and anywhere else your community engages with your company.
These functions are core to a community-led growth strategy and to maximizing the power of community, proving ROI, and making data-backed decisions about what comes next.
If you’d like to connect with more strategy-minded community leaders, jump into the Uncommon community on Slack.
Community operations is responsible for setting and working towards both internal and external goals. Internal goals are things the community team is working toward behind the scenes, such as optimizing internal processes, automating workflows, organizing a team of SMEs that help with content production, increasing product awareness, or contributing relevant, qualified leads.
External goals include initiatives that members will see and participate in. This could be launching a champions program, identifying great content collaborations or partnerships, finding new speakers for events, or facilitating the growth of community-led meetups.
A community roadmap is the “how” of achieving the goals defined above. These are detailed and documented plans, mapped to a projected timeline, and often in a visual form, like a Gantt chart or project management software.
Some key elements of these roadmaps are:
A roadmap is often used for external goals, like inviting super users to beta test a new feature, but as the community grows, a roadmap may also outline how tools and processes will scale to keep pace.
What happens once the roadmap is in place and the wheels are in motion? It’s time to assess the results. A COM tracks activity back to its source, as well as looking forward and using these insights to hone community initiatives.
They monitor basic community health metrics, like membership and engagement, but they also track business impact metrics such as customer support case deflection and customer retention. These KPIs provide additional insight into how effectively the community is providing value to the organization.
The ultimate goal of a community operations manager is to ensure that community initiatives further organizational goals.
Some examples of goals the community can contribute to:
A COM will carefully monitor KPIs, and use the insights to improve day-to-day community management and prove ROI to the business.
To illustrate how all of these pieces feed into each other, let’s say an organization has noticed that a large percentage of users leave after their 30-day trial and wants to boost retention over the next quarter. Their community ops manager knows the community has the power to significantly impact this organization-wide goal.
The COM’s roadmap might include:
A COM should have a proven record in operations management, which includes establishing and optimizing processes, building a tech stack to support team initiatives, and having the ability to manage strict timelines and budgets. These skills form the foundation upon which external, member-facing initiatives will be built.
In the course of their duties, a community ops manager will need to lead and motivate various stakeholders within the organization and the community itself. They must be strong communicators who can guide team members toward shared goals and resolve any conflict or pushback that may arise.
Project management skills can absolutely be applied to larger internal goals, but they really come into play with external goals. To provide consistent value to members, COMs juggle the planning and execution of content publication schedules, digital and in-person events, automated campaigns, community engagement programs, and much more.
A community ops manager should be able to synthesize data from many different sources, identify patterns and noteworthy events, and convert this information into actionable insights for stakeholders across the organization.
Data-based strategy setting is at the heart of community operations but, historically, the only way to gather community insights has been to piece information together from many disparate sources. It’s a time-intensive, manual process that often results in an incomplete and inconsistent understanding of the wants, needs, and overall health of the community.
With an intelligent community growth platform, like Common Room, COMs have access to immediate, consistent, and reliable insights across all channels, including member activity, product usage, community health indicators, and much, much more. Armed with this information, COMs can make informed decisions about how to grow and support their communities, as well as tying their community initiatives directly to business impact.
Check out our blog for more resources on building a responsive and empowered community team, exercises to align community goals with organizational goals, and tips for evaluating community growth platforms. To connect with 1500+ community and DevRel professionals on similar community growth journeys, join the Uncommon community on Slack.