As more businesses decide to create an online presence, some decide to appoint online community managers (OCM) to be the link between the online world and the internal business. The problem that some businesses may face with this decision is an unclear understanding on what role a successful OCM should play.

That most important thing to understand about an OCM is what their fundamental purpose is. The purpose of an OCM is to get their business’ voice heard online while bringing the voices of the people online to the business. Put simply, they must balance internally and externally the two voices that matter most: Business and consumer.

Communication Competence

As a communication major one thing that has stuck with me is the concept of being a competent communicator. To me, once the fundamental purpose of an OCM is understood, it becomes clear that any OCM must be a competent communicator in order to be successful.

Communication competence is most commonly applied to interpersonal communication situations; however, I believe that the six standards used to assess it can be adapted into traits of social media managers and OCMs. These standards/traits are: adaptability, conversational involvement, conversational management, empathy, effectiveness, and appropriateness. (I had to dig up an old notebook to double check my memory) Successful OCMs must understand how to apply these traits in order to be successful in their role.


OCM’s must be able to adapt to the ever-changing environment of online communities. They must plan ahead while understanding that their plans may very well not go as planned. Being able to adapt and adjust online is important.

Conversational involvement

OCM’s must understand that they are not appointed in their role to simply make their business or company known online. Instead, they are being looked upon to foster and maintain relationships with their consumers and clientele. Being active is crucial. They cannot expect to only periodically post and/or be present and be successful.

Conversational management

Despite online communities being online, the interactions held should be treated like live ones. This includes knowing when to talk about your company and when to listen to what other members have to say. Understanding the ebb and flow of interactions online is key for OCMs.


It is important for OCMs to be empathetic to both their employer and the members of their online community. They must strive to fully understand the needs of both parties so that they can be both an ambassador and an advocate for them both.


We all know that simply being online is not enough. OCMs must understand not only how to become effective/successful online, but also how they can show/prove this to their employer.


OCMs must understand how to handle appropriateness in online communities. They must possess good judgment in knowing what is appropriate and not in the messages they send to others and in the ones they get back. This involves things such as knowing what external messages to create, when to respond to posts/messages made by other members (which is usually always), when to ignore posts/messages by other (which is usually never) and when actions should be taken to remove or combat negative messages/posts.

Although I know that there are many other traits that OCMs must possess as well, these are a good starting point.

What other traits do you believe Online Community Managers should possess in order to be successful?

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