Presenting: The Community Manager Manifesto

April 3, 2013 — by Tim McDonald1

About 3 years ago, I shared a wild idea at a networking event in Chicago that community managers should report directly to the CEO. Last year, Natalie Rodic Marsan, Nick Cicero and I decided to put a proposal in for SXSW. After initial conversations, I knew the wild idea I had would be coming closer to reality by virtue of the workshop titled: The Community Manager: Enter The C-Suite.

This two and half hour workshop, saw 60 community minded professionals come together to form the Community Manager Manifesto. We had 6 C-Suite participants and almost a third coming from a director level position. The guidelines were simple: Don’t be confined by your current position, think utopian, and above all, think of definitive statements which would be used in creating a manifesto that would be shared in an effort to act as a guide for all community managers and organizations.

Please feel free to copy, share and distribute this manifesto. (Please leave names attached.)

We are proud to present,

Community Manager Manifesto from Tim McDonald



Created Collaboratively at “The Community Manager: Enter the C-Suite” SXSW Workshop on March 13, 2013

Connecting Community Members, Giving Them Voice, and Ensuring a Sense of Community Belonging and Ownership

We must respect that a healthy community is inherently social. Our voice, tone, and influence are derived from our ability to relate as human beings first, and brands second. We must be champions of real communication and not surface messaging.

We must understand the overall purposes of our community and the diverse needs of its members, and acknowledge that these purposes and needs can change.

We must create spaces where community members are continually encouraged and empowered to participate. We must also realize that community design should be a collaborative effort: community members must have the power to help design their own communication tools.

We must curate, recognize, and elevate valuable community-sourced content regularly.

We must give our community members a sense of purpose and a strong motivation to connect: we must publicly share our unique vision and “reasons for being” with our community, thereby giving them a sense of belonging.

Measuring the Health of the Community

We must recognize that there are many ways to measure the health of a community: determining the “right” metrics depends on the communication platform(s) used.

We must track our own community health metrics regularly, based on a deep understanding of our community’s purpose and members’ preferences and needs. These metrics include but are not limited to: overall engagement and engagement by community segments, community sentiment, and membership size and growth.

We must embrace giving and reciprocity: the health of a community should not only be measured in terms of our own success, but also in terms of how we provide value to our members.

Curating and Amplifying Content from the Community

We must establish clear standards and criteria for community curation, giving members the knowledge and confidence to contribute.

We must build a collaborative and empowering environment that amplifies community members’ voices and experiences, and also respects each member’s unique personality.

Using Community Knowledge to Develop Organizational Strategy

We must represent the voices and opinions of our community members authentically.

We must acknowledge that community contributions are actionable data: they are vital to promoting innovation in and providing strategic direction to our organization.

We must seek reliable information and use appropriate measurement tools to validate qualitative and anecdotal community feedback and behavior.

We must empower ourselves and be empowered to take initiative without bureaucratic approval¾even pivot direction¾ when community members offer timely and pertinent suggestions.

Trusting the Community Team and Understanding Its Obligations

We must facilitate a vigorous feedback cycle and conversation: just as it is important for us to advocate for our community members internally, it is also important for us to advocate strongly for our organization, our brand, and our colleagues’ voices and opinions.

We must secure the trust of our colleagues by sharing our success stories: as frontline communicators who exist in “two worlds,” we must help our colleagues understand the calculated risks that we must take to meet and exceed our organization’s goals.

We must publish clear and accessible process-, protocol-, and service-level agreements, based on empirically grounded test-and-learn strategies, and we must actively educate our colleagues about these agreements.

Defining the Community Manager as Educator, Networker, and Expert

We must educate our organization about insights and opportunities provided by the community, and show our colleagues how they can contribute directly to its ongoing growth and success.

We must cultivate close relationships with community influencers—and motivate lurkers and occasional participants to become influencers—in order to grow our membership and strengthen our brand.

We must commit to the never-ending task of growing our own expertise: we must identify and craft effective community management strategies that transcend any one marketing campaign or organizational culture.

Developing a Voice in the 24/7/365 News Cycle

We must serve as a key author in developing the brand voice and primary brand stories of our organization.

We must be empowered with enough information and relationship-building opportunities to represent our company autonomously and at a moment’s notice.

Providing Excellent Customer Service and Sharing Valuable Product Feedback

We must invite and act on community feedback on an ongoing basis. We must constantly share this feedback with our own team members and use it to improve our organization.

We must respond in a swift, all-inclusive, and complete manner from start to finish.

We must strive to make community members feel heard, valued, and influential.

We must meet the community’s expectations at a minimum and exceed them whenever possible.

Internal Collaboration

We must work with internal stakeholders to define our community’s purpose, develop shared practices and processes, and determine binding communication guidelines.

We must collaborate with internal stakeholders to find and build tools, technologies, and platforms to maximize efficiencies and effectiveness.

We must update internal stakeholders about key discussions in the community regularly, and share any follow-up actions that arise from these discussions.

We must identify key areas where internal collaboration is necessary, and describe processes for collaborating effectively, including processes related to legal/PR approvals, compliance and audits, product/service education, and analytics integration.


Workshop Leaders

  • Natalie Rodic Marsan @rodicka
  • Tim McDonald @tamcdonald
  • Nick Cicero @nickcicero

Workshop Participants:

  • Jessica Masterson @awomanswork
  • Mike Gerholdt @MikeGerholdt
  • Nicole Bohorad @nbohorad
  • Raechel Megahan @alphamommie
  • Meghan Murphy @mmurphydc
  • Boyan Shmorhun @boyanshmorhun
  • Justine Bloome
  • Dean Schaffer
  • Dan Bohm
  • Allie MacPherson @alliemac01
  • Jessica Klimczak
  • Kimberly McCabe @kimberlymccabe
  • Keith McLellan
  • Roland Smart @rsmartx
  • Nikki Serapio @nikkiserapio
  • Carie Lewis @cariegrls
  • Alia Mohsen @amohsen
  • AMee Tomlinson @amee_tomlinson
  • Liz Arroyave @lizign
  • Meghan Krane @meghan_krane
  • Andrea Campbell @andreac007
  • Melissa Bojorquez
  • Lauren Hogan @l_hoges
  • Shannon Webb
  • Joel De La Garza @joeldelagarza
  • Joyce Sullivan @joycemsullivan
  • Jack Pate @arkansas
  • Sharon Lasure-Roy @sharonlroy
  • Christina Brady @cfgbrady
  • Laurie Briggs @lauriebriggs
  • John burgess @work_jb
  • Gina Bollenback @gbollenback
  • Kat Lourenco
  • Nikki Lee
  • Rachel Cain
  • Michelle Catin
  • Jean Scheidnes
  • Rafael Sangiovanni
  • Price Smith
  • John Refford
  • Dean Broughton
  • Ricky Hutchinson @dcricky
  • Jose Leon
  • Kaye Blum
  • Tony Dunn @tony_dunn
  • Jay Bartlett @jay_bartlett
  • Yunfei Ren @yufeiren
  • Phillip Crowe  @phillipcrowe
  • Mindy Broeren-Martosoedjono  @mindymusic
  • Kathy Houghtalen  @khoughtalen
  • Anna Bacheller @annadaron
  • Trevor Martin @trevorFmartin
  • Adam Chapman @socialmediatoday
  • Scott Stephens @HotSauceFire
  • Jessica Murray @jessicaRmurray
  • Igla Lear Generoso @iglageneroso

Tim McDonald

None of us are alone. That is Tim’s mission in life. To let everyone know they are not alone. It’s why helping others doing social good is his purpose.

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