At Aprils Marketing Now conference in Wellington, a marketing manager for a charity asked how much to invest into an online community platform. Her board had approved NZ$25,000 for development.

Before the panel of experts could answer, another marketer in the crowd said you can do it for free on Or you could pay $25 per month for the ability to put your own ads in.

$25 a month? Thats mind-blowing to most marketers, who are used to having to pay developers thousands of dollars to come up with something they dont understand, but hope works.

It echoes the findings of the 2008 Tribalization of Business survey, which found businesses were spending up to a million dollars on community platforms that were then becoming ghost towns.

It’s not because the concept isn’t valid; it’s that the job has been half done.

Communities, movements, any collection of people for a purpose, happens because someone makes an effort.

So what skills are required? I believe a good community manager is like:

  • A magazine editor, who pulls together information from various sources and makes it easy-to-consume
  • An orchestra conductor, who brings the best out of a group of diverse people
  • A counsellor, who listens to people and helps them solve their own problems
  • An improv actor, who uses the situation at hand to create a completely new experience with his audience
  • A parent, making sure that no child is left behind, and that everyone treats each other well
  • An exploration leader, taking the community down new and exciting paths
  • A publican, whose job is to provide a convivial environment for conversation and entertainment, with the minimum of distraction
  • An artist, who knows how to add the X factor that makes content interesting and readable (thanks to Suzanne Kendrick)
  • A cheerleader, with a lot of positive affirmation and encouragement for people to share stories and pictures (thanks to Jeremy), and
  • A teacher/facilitator, who identifies possible connections and facilitates the process towards greater understanding (thanks to Tom).

Its a multi-faceted role that can yield excellent long-term results for your business. Yet, like all creative talent, a good community manager will do their best work when they are able to do what comes naturally.

Instead of recruiting skill and trying to enforce values, recruit people who share your brands values, and teach them the skills needed to lead a community using social media.

Not sure what your community should be about? Lets take a step back – what is your business about (except for making money)? What problem are you solving? Find the core, and you will find a community.