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Startups are flocking to hire community builders. Why now?

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Communities have existed on the web since its earliest days, with tech employees tasked with cultivating them. But until recently, startup community builders never had much of a community of their own (oh the irony). They were shuffled to side panels at SXSW or grouped in with social media managers and growth hackers. They were seen as an ambiguous part of product marketing and not a profession in their own right. 

The real power of community is that it becomes the brand. “The expertise was out there, but was it was very fragmented and isolated,” Rachel Happe, co-founder of industry organization The Community Roundtable, said. 

But in the last few years that has started to change. We’re seeing the professionalization of the practice, with emerging standards, customs, and experts. Community management is becoming a lifelong career path in its own right, with such positions being created at multiple occupation levels, including Directors and VPs of community. “Community management” job listings are appearing more and more frequently on recruiting sites. Professional organizations, like The Community Roundtable, have formed in the past few years to track the industry’s progress. And new conferences, like Thursday’s upcoming CMX Summit, bring community leaders together to discuss everything from social psychology to tracking ROI.

What's striking to me is that good community managers are hard to find. 

Usually they develop within the community itself.

Yeah, that's the best scenario, but it works if the community is at least a good fit. It's always awkward to have a community manager that stands out (in a bad way) and just doesn't get users.

And that makes a community manager challenging to hire!

Because there's no way to know the chemistry between a person and the community until s/he is part of the community.

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