Happy CMAD (courtesy of Social Fresh)

Image courtesy of Social Fresh

As a Community Manager, it’s nice to have a whole day to celebrate how great we all are! Today is that day.

So in celebration, here’s a bit about how I came to become a Community Manager.

In college, I always thought I would be involved in some kind of marketing or Public Relations job. When I graduated from college, I kicked around for a while after graduation, and eventually took a position at a medical clinic. I worked there for less than a year, why less than a year? Well I had always wanted to move to New York City, and I figured I needed to do it now, while I was still young enough and stupid enough to do so. So I packed up my bags and moved across the country from Oregon, all the way to the big city.

I had originally moved to New York to study comedy and take improv classes at The Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre, and eventually (and naively, be on SNL). Lofty aspirations I know. I took a couple of odd jobs at a clothing boutique and a restaurant before landing at a non-profit organization working in fundraising. Part of my duties working in the fundraising department was to draft the eNewsletter as well as manage the online donation platform we used. One day the Communications Manager and I realized that the organization was not on any social media channels (keep in mind that Facebook had only been available for everyone to use for a year or two, and Twitter was just in it’s infancy), so we were pretty ahead of the curve. So we hatched a plan to convince the Executive Director that we needed to be on social media. Luckily as two eager millennials (before that was a thing), we managed to convince her of the importance of being on social media.

We worked in tandem to manage both social channels, engaging with, and helping to answer user questions. Little did I know that I was actually doing was cultivating and building an online community on social media. Essentially managing it (whaaaaat? Community manager before it was a thing). While working at the organization, I ran into my first snake oil salesman claiming he could increase our social presence, and help us to manage our social profiles. I was skeptical, but the Executive Director was drawn in, and spent a lot of money on this guy who came in, and eventually all he did was set us up with HootSuite to manage our Twitter, and tell us to get rid of one of our social pages on Facebook. All while telling us that it would only take an hour or two a day to manage our communities. It didn’t, it took a lot more time than that, and then he vanished. Lesson learned, if someone tells you that you can manage social channels in one hour a day, they’re lying. Being a community manager is a full time job.

While working at the organization, I was also involved with an improv team who hosted shows throughout NYC, and I was in charge of doing promotion for our shows. I had learned quite a bit about PR from working closely with the Communications Manager, and I grew to know the importance of social media when it comes to getting the word out about your shows to get people in seats. We had several sold-out shows thanks to my PR efforts. Pretty soon people in the comedy community took notice of my PR prowess, so I started to do freelance PR for other comedy shows throughout NYC and Los Angeles. I had built up a pretty extensive client list, and I was ready to move on from working in fundraising and work more in the communications and PR space. Luckily for me, the fundraising department got restructured and I was laid off. Good news for me, because I could now pursue a communications career.

By the time I left the organization, the Communications Manager and I had grown the community to over 10k people on Facebook, and over 5k on Twitter. I moved onto another a position with another non-profit helping to manage their social channels as well as working with the Communications Manager to increase visibility through traditional outreach efforts.  Just the type of position I was looking for. This position allowed me to attend more conferences, including the 140 Conference, where I first learned that Community Manager was actually a position that a lot of companies were now hiring for. I was determined to make one of these coveted Community Manager positions mine.

I began attending more conferences, and took a more active role in managing and growing our social communities, developing relationships with people on our communities. I started going to Community Manager Meetups, and reading more books about social media and community management. I even started participating in twitter chats including #cmgrchat and Social Media Today webinars. I was absorbing more and more information and applying what I was learning into my work. I became a man obsessed with learning all I could about being a community manager, waiting for the day when a position would open up. Then, a moment came, I applied for, and got an interview with a start-up video app as a Community Manager. I was so excited, I prepped for the interview by looking at what other video apps were doing with their communities and how I could help this app become a standout. I went to the interview, waited, waited, and waited, and waited, the interviewer never showed up. Besides being completely unprofessional, this was a blessing, I didn’t want to work with a company, however new it was, that didn’t appreciate a person’s time. Better I learn that now than 6 months in.

Then another opportunity came, I saw that someone that I knew from Community Managers Meetup had an open position with the new company she was working for, an advertising agency, with a brand I loved. I went in for the interview and was hired! I was overjoyed, I had finally achieved a job I wanted. A perfect fit, where I could apply all the skills I had been learning over the past few years. I worked hard to get where I am today, and I want everyone out there to know, that you just need to keep learning, and networking. Never give up, and remember sometimes dreams change, and that’s okay. You’ll end up finding where you belong, and you’ll eventually find a job you love doing. It’s all about the journey, so if you’re starting out where I did, doing something that you’re not particularly, in love with, find an aspect of the job you love doing, and find a way to keep doing that aspect bigger and better. You’ll eventually land on something that makes your work, not seem like work.

Good luck to you aspiring CMs and Happy Community Manager Appreciation Day. You’re all wonderful!

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