Being A Community Professional In 2019

Also, Ian and I spent three fabulous days in San Francisco.

I was in San Francisco last week to attend the CMX Summit an annual conference for community management professionals. This event is an exciting opportunity to attend panels with leading voices in the industry, learn new strategies, listen to case studies, and optimize your craft. Simultaneously it’s a fantastic opportunity to connect with peers who face the same challenges or have overcome them and can share tips. CMX is one of the best support organizations for community managers in the industry. Many times we work solo or in small teams (3 – 4) so having a professional organization that is dedicated to our craft is incredibly helpful as a resource.  That is one of the many reasons why I am a CMX Pro member.

This year going in to the conference I wanted to look for support and information around the hurdles I am facing at my current organization. The two that I’ve identified as “strategy breaking” (meaning I’m unable to execute an effective community strategy without overcoming them) are aligning the community to business goals and winning executive support to prioritize community development efforts. While I absorbed LOTS of information around these two items, and participated in several discussions with other professionals who have felt this pain in their roles, the ultimate route others took to overcome these two things was budget. Budget being the one thing I’ve fought for this year and haven’t been able to get due to changing executive priorities and organizational consolidation. Budget would allow me to a) hire the resources I need to b) develop an effective platform on Salesforce Customer Community that aligns with business goals. 

The experience with my current organization has taught me that you can have the best community tools at your disposal but without executive alignment you will be doomed to fail the moment a resource or priority conflict arises within the organization. Community can be isolated and vulnerable to executive shifts and changes. Even with a leadership environment that insulates and protects community there is only so long you can make it before the winds of change WILL inflate the sails potentially leaving you without a dock to weather the storm in.

I’ve been promoted to a role in content strategy which allows me the opportunity to  develop new skills in the content realm which are complementary to my work in community. As much as I enjoy what I do in my current role – my heart belongs to community. I am actively looking for my next opportunity and seem to be entering an interesting phase of my career. I’ve accumulated extensive experience, I’ve been honored to work with amazing companies, and the opportunities I’ve had I am humbled and incredibly grateful for.

As a candidate you feel like this is all building a case for what you can bring to an organization who has a gap they would like to fill with someone who has a community background. However, the feedback I’ve received after being a finalist for several positions is that I am “too senior” for the role. This may be a combination of the experience on my resume and that I don’t hide the fact I am looking to move to an organization who a) wants someone to lead an award winning community program and b) wants someone who has the desire to move up the leadership ladder. 

The concern that stems from this discovery during my search for a new opportunity is that companies are relying on junior candidates to support their community efforts. This isn’t a negative when that person is working on day to day administration or is super self motivated to seek out support and answers. However, when you consider the business impacts that are involved – platform & project management, stakeholder expectation management, executive influence, budget, ALL the strategic work that community entails – there is concern that companies still in 2019 don’t quite understand the importance … and VALUE… of senior leaders for their community efforts.

Yes, we as community professionals are making inroads in our field. There is a burgeoning awareness of what we do. However this field is still nascent and there continues to be a need for education to ensure that organizations understand the value of our talent. This can be emotionally exhausting especially when it’s happening during a job search but it’s important work that has to be done to help set the stage for those who come into this field after us.

If you’re interested in learning more about why this is a concern please take the time to read the 2019 State of Community report. The SOCM report is compiled by dedicated research team at The Community Roundtable.