Last week I took some long-postponed vacation time and missed Stormy’s blogging prompt. But this particular question needs answering.
What does a community manager do?
Whenever people ask me what I do, I find myself struggling for words, because being a community manager is a daunting mishmash of interrelated tasks that range from marketing to HR to event management to journalism to … everything else.
During the Obama years, the term “community organizer” was bandied about, and that comes close to what a community manager does. And then there’s the confusion around the term “manager”, because I’m not a manager, and I don’t manage the community.
So what do I do?
Well, it’s a bit of this and a bit of that.
A major task of community management is to be the lead cheerleader for the community. I’m the community manager for RDO, and so it’s my job to promote RDO to the various audiences that might care.
In the case of RDO, that includes the larger OpenStack community, cloud operators in the general IT work force, and also internally to people at Red Hat who need to be informed about what’s happening in the “upstream” community, and how it affects our “downstream” product, Red Hat OpenStack Platform.
To this end, I manage our Social Media presence, post updates to our mailing lists and blog, make announcements on IRC, and so on. I also show up at conferences and answer questions from attendees, put together presentations to tell people about what we do, and speak at events.
At Red Hat, we have an actual event planning team, and they are awesome at what they do – booking facilities, shipping stuff around, planning and setting up and tearing down the physical booths at events, coordinating and communicating with all of the people that will attend.
I don’t do that.
But I plan and coordinate events that my part of the community will show up to. I plan small social events around the main events. I make sure that those events work with the schedules of the people that I’m responsible for, and encourage them to come and bring their friends.
And I help out with small regional meetups, providing swag, as well as helping with (i.e., funding) travel and lodging for speakers that might not have budget to do that on their own.
Make personal connections
A major job of the community manager is to become an expert on the community members. Who knows what. Who is willing to speak on a particular topic. Who has the connections to make things happen.
Then, when a question is asked, or when someone has a need, it’s my job to connect them with the right person that can help them.
So … kind of like first-tier support, triaging problems, solving the ones that I’m able to, and referring to second-tier support those problems that are beyond my expertise.
There’s also some mentoring that goes in here – helping people new to the project know where to fit in, and where to find the information they need.
Look for stories
I look for stories of people using our project, and tell those stories to the world. In this part of the role, I’m the journalist, looking for ways to tell the story about how our project makes life easier. Much of this is amplifying stories that other people are telling. And then some of it is going out and gathering the stories, and then finding ways to tell those stories.
While I don’t write code for the RDO project, I do a little bit of everything else – whatever people need done, I try to fill in, or find the right people to do those tasks.
So, that’s why it’s difficult to know how to answer when people ask me what I do at work.