The Community Manager Trap

Dori Gray

It’s no secret to community managers that we wear many hats.

Writers. Editors. Graphic designers. Platform experts. Customer support. Project managers. Trainers. Reporting analysts. Coders. Marketers. Salespeople.

And that’s not even close to the full list. 

So how can one person be great at all these things? The answer is simple: they can’t. That is the community manager trap! 

Community management can mean so many things that it ends up meaning all the things. 

As a community manager who is terrible at analytics reporting, I struggled for a very long time with the expectation that I should be good at that. While I can review the metrics and make decisions based on the data, when it comes to taking that data and creating a report that visualizes information and trends -- I just can’t do it. 

I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve tried. Whenever a boss asked me to create a report, I’d say, “Sure, I can do that,” and then proceed to spend way too much time trying to figure out how to do it. I’d even ask other people with their own jobs to take time out of their days to help me. I hated every second of it, and after all the stress the report seldom turned out well anyway. 

I lived in fear of being asked and expected to do work I would never be great at, work that it just wasn’t worth spending my time on. That’s not to say I don’t think people can learn new skills and improve, but it’s just as important to know your limits as it is to showcase and build on your strengths. There is bound to be something you’ll never be good at -- and that’s okay! 

The key to success is knowing your strengths and recognizing where you have room to grow. This means acknowledging what you’re terrible at, too. 

Once I realized this, the next time my boss asked me to create a report, I said: “While I am happy to work on this, I think my time would be better spent revamping our champions program and running a series of how-to webinars.” Not all bosses will be as understanding as mine was, but consider it good practice advocating for yourself. 

If you still have to do the task, all you can do is your best. When it’s done, move on to projects where you can demonstrate your skills, experience and talent. 

Also keep in mind your best work often happens outside your comfort zone. Even if you think you might not be good at something, don’t let that stop you from trying. When I started an employee podcast, I had no idea what I was doing. A year later I was presenting about my experience and advising other community managers. 

Focus on what you can do, what you’d like to do and how you can learn to do it. We all have to do things at our jobs that we don’t like or aren’t good at; that’s part of having a job. But if you’re expected to be great at everything that community management could possibly entail, you’re not going to be awesome at anything. 

It will take time and practice to advocate for yourself and establish your expertise but take it from me -- you can escape the community manager trap.  

Get to know Dori

Dori Gray is a Senior Community Manager at Social Edge Consulting. She became a community manager by accident at Verizon, and went on to manage the Medidata Solutions employee community. Dori won the 2018 Aurea Community Manager Gold Standard Award, and her contributions helped Medidata win a 2017 Jive Digital Transformation Award. One of her favorite memories is celebrating her community’s birthday with different events each year, such as cake at all offices, community trivia, and a champagne-fueled podcast interview with the president of the company. Having worked closely with Social Edge Consulting since 2014, Dori is extremely thrilled to be part of their incredible team.

Fun facts about Dori:

  • Ran 7 marathons
  • Wore only black for her entire 5-year tenure at her last job
  • Lives on a canal
  • Her toddler loves the dog; her dog just wants to be left alone

Follow Dori on Twitter @TheDoriGray and LinkedIn!