Battle Scars

While at a conference last week, I overheard a woman talking about community management being the “hot new job.” Pardon me, while I stifle a laugh. The position may be hot, but it is not new. It was not even new when I came on the scene in 2006. Before Twitter there were forums and before forums community management was taking shape in the physical world. Don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled that community management is being taken seriously and all of the hats of the community manager are (slowly) being recognized.

The job is not all fun and games. When things don’t go as expected, communications go awry, and the community goes from compliments and good times to complaints, the job becomes tough very quickly. Behind a keyboard, the masses become powerful and sometimes hurtful voices. What happens then? Who supports the community manager? Beware the dark side of social media and community management. At the keyboard it all seems clear to us what a person or company should do. Shouldn’t everyone see as clearly as we do?

Go ahead. Search my tweets and Facebook updates for when I have publicly called out a company or a person. It doesn’t happen. Not because I have never had a rough customer experience or I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs to anyone who would listen. I don’t because behind the company avatar, the business is comprised of individuals. Fellow human beings, like me, who are monitoring and responding to online dialogue or simply doing their jobs. You don’t know the inner workings of the company. You don’t know what makes the company tick, the people who recognized an issue and attempted to resolve, but found their hands tied because they were not empowered to make decisions. You just don’t know what happens behind closed doors.

Compliments are wonderful and enjoyed by most communities, but as you may personally know, it only takes one negative comment to bring you down. It is easy to become trapped into a constant cycle of negativity as a community manager when you are listening and responding to the complaints and issues of the community. While there are issues that are legitimate and you empathize with the community, there are times when the masses rob the community manager and company of the respect and mature conversation that may have occurred in the physical world and not in the ether. The job of a community manager takes a toll. Those of us who have the battle scars remember each and every strike that caused pain. The scar tissue builds up. Skepticism is but one tweet or status update away. Keeping the darkness at bay is the difference between an emoticon and #epicfail.

There are two sides (or more) to every story. Before you weigh in and add your two cents to the latest scandal, just remember, there is another human being on the opposite side.

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  • Sherry Carr-Smith

    “There are two sides (or more) to every story. Before you weigh in and
    add your two cents to the latest scandal, just remember, there is
    another human being on the opposite side.”

    This is an all around good philosophy in all you do; but, maybe especially when people don’t always remember that there is a real person attached to that avatar or logo.

    • Lauren

      You are right, Sherry. It is easy to scream at a company logo. Would you do the same if there was another person staring back at you? This is why I think the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, is the best business and life resource.

  • Anonymous

    I find it fascinating that a CM must be simultaneously empathetic, sympathetic and apathetic.

    I use apathetic in the sense that you have stated; having or showing little or no feeling or emotion in reaction to personal or overly aggressive attacks.

    • Lauren

      It is an odd balance!

  • Chel Wolverton


  • Hillary

    It’s the first thing I think of now regardless of my personal politics or beliefs. I know there is a team behind that drama getting their butts kicked and it’s not really their fault except by association, but they are on the front lines. I don’t weigh in much as a result either, and if I do I try to make it more constructive and helpful. I think you can give feedback (even strong feedback) without tearing anyone down. 

    • Lauren

      Completely agree, Hillary. I am not saying feedback should be limited in any way. Balancing how we (the CM) feels and what is right is a tricky dance.