The Startup Community Manager

January 31, 2012 — by Megan Larsen15



The Startup Community Manager

January 31, 2012 — by Megan Larsen15




This is a follow-up to a post from Tim McDonald earlier this month. To begin, I’d like to thank each and every one of you who’ve supported and contributed to My Community Manager. It’s been a great opportunity to share with you all my passion and dedication towards an extremely loyal community of students, community managers, aspiring community managers, and businesses looking to learn more about the community manager role.

Helping others, and wanting to help others, has been a key to my success as a community manager. I was involved in several not for profit organizations while studying PR/Advertising at DePaul University. Focusing on new media studies, courses such as Digital Media and Advertising (the extent of new media courses at the time) were available to only a small number of students, and luckily, I was one of those students. After graduation, I continued to follow my passion for helping others, while also pursuing new media communications in the ‘real world.’ Here is my story:

Speaking Up

I entered the Chicago startup scene when I landed a community manager gig with a tech startup. My title at the time was ‘Business Community Manager,’ and to be honest, I had no idea what the title entailed. I went to work everyday with a smile on my face, and with the mindset to expect the unexpected. I was given no job description, nor did I care to ask. The fast-paced work environment blinded my curiosity about the job description. I was asked by Chicago entrepreneur and my boss at the time, what to do differently with the business. The company was in a pre-launch, almost static phase, and room for improvement was always an option. Should I be honest with my boss or run away from the situation? What do I have to lose? The answer was clear. I couldn’t do my job right if we weren’t present on the web. I suggested we put our efforts towards social media marketing. Before I knew it, a (wonderful) social media manager was hired. From that day forward, I assisted the social media manager in the daily implementation of our social media plan and overall execution strategy. Quickly recognizing the importance of social media presence for startups and small businesses alike, I started to educate and spread the word (on my own terms) about the fast-growing Chicago startup scene, in addition to highlighting the widely overlooked execution of a social media plan within a startups overall business goals. It’s not to say that startups intentionally overlook the implementation of social media, but often times there are more important things on an entrepreneurs mind – let’s be honest!

Living and Loving

Three months flew by, and I was left with the decision to either stay with the company or leave. I left to explore what else was out there in the tech/startup world. ‘Wearing many hats’ and taking on multiple tasks, often at the same time, was expected within the fast-paced startup environment.  Self-managing was also a large part of my job, and with that comes larger responsibility, and if trusted, more flexibility. Desiring to help others- whether helping team members or providing support to online and offline communities- was an unspoken responsibility, by choice. While ‘wearing many hats’ and ‘expecting the unexpected’ are common phrases used to describe the community manager role(s), these are two notions I suggest all community managers should live by, and love. Through the adoption of this mindset, I believe all community managers will find a happy medium between their passion for community management and the desire to keep up within the fast-changing tech and social media realms.


While searching for the next greatest entrepreneurial endeavors, I was e-introduced to Maria Katris, Director of Built in Chicago– an organization dedicated to helping connect digital innovation and leaders in Chicago, and my has it grown! For example, 1871 was recently funded as a space for entrepreneurs to work closely in an environment with other entrepreneurs, and exchange ideas, information and resources with one another. Although I haven’t had the opportunity to visit 1871, I suggest those of you who have the opportunity, go check it out! At the moment, I work from home, and while working from home has its perks, I miss face-to-face interaction with my peers. Thankfully, I was introduced to the idea of co-working spaces by startup MentorMob, which hits the Chicago startup scene next month (congrats)! These co-working experiences have contributed to my success as a community manager, by providing additional office spaces, allowing for dynamic teams and like-minded community managers to work together, to collaborate and challenge one another- share what has worked and what hasn’t work, etc. With the growth of startups, comes the rise of community manager roles. Has your startup considered hiring a community manager? Were you recently hired as a community manager for a startup?

I have so much more to say, but I will save my thoughts for future posts. I hope I’ve shed light on those looking to become community managers and community managers alike, about the vast and ever growing community manager role, specifically in the area of tech/startups. Do you have any questions, comments or feedback? Please leave a note below : ) Thank you!

Have you signed up for the Chicago Community Manager UNconference event on February 24th? We hope to see you all there!

Megan Larsen

I'm passionate about meeting and engaging with aspiring professionals and professionals alike in areas of startups, technology, online community management, and anything new media marketing/communications. I think we all have something to share and learn from one another.
  • jennyweigle

    Great post Megan! I’m looking forward to hearing what you’re doing at MentorMob!

    • @jennyweigle Oh I’ll keep you posted Jenny 🙂 Just having the opportunity to go work with others even though I may not be a part of ‘the team’ is pretty rare and awesome. I hope things are going well over at Career Builder. How is WOMMA treating you? Thumbs up or thumbs down?

  • Melysa_S

    I miss you dearly, my social media partner in crime. So happy for you and this new gig though. Can’t wait to hear all about the things you accomplish. Fantastic post.

    • @Melysa_S Social media partner in crime, social media soul sista, what have you… I miss you around but I see you’re very busy over there @theprintedblog and @ohkumbuya 🙂 I wish I could have seen everyone’s faces on launch day, bet it was a big smile! Let’s chat over some email about your recent Ford expedition, woot! Thanks for commenting Melysa dear!

  • ErinMMarguerite

    I love this Meg! I can certainly relate to the special challenges a startup cmgr encounters as they help build something from the ground up. Thanks for mentioning the co-working space with which MentorMob is involved! [Yes, official announcement coming later this month! :D] We’re beginning to build an exciting event schedule both startups and established companies can partake in. Can’t wait to have you visit this week 🙂

    • @ErinMMarguerite That’s great. I like the idea of both startups and established 🙂 Should make for one great work space! Thanks for commenting Erin, and if all goes well and life does not get in the way, I’ll be in your offices tomorrow afternoon 🙂 I’ll keep you posted per usual. Should I include one more smile in there? 🙂

  • vietducnguyen

    Looking forward to this resource. I’m a programmer by trade for 11 years. I volunteered for an internal social media project and found out that the people motivate me more than the code, so I appreciate the opportunity to be a student. Thank you!

    • @vietducnguyen Hi 🙂 Thank you for the comment. I think you’ve come to the right place! It’s an amazing community for this reason (any many more!): Community managers come from all sorts of backgrounds, and everyone has something to learn from one another. I’m happy to have you join the community! I’d love to hear more about your journey from programmer to social media volunteer 🙂

  • adamcalica

    Great story. Glad I messaged you 🙂

    • @adamcalica Hey Adam. I’m glad you messaged me too! Thanks for finding me here and taking the time to read my rather lengthly post : ) Would love to hear more about you- what exactly do you do with Built in Chicago? I see you all over the place!

      • adamcalica

        I do community manager type stuff, social media, data crunching, and basically whatever needs to get done. Basic startup stuff I guess haha. Anyways, feel free to reach out anytime if I can help you with anything –

        • @adamcalica Will do. Thank you Adam 🙂 I’m happy to have another CM buddy in Chicago. You’re a part of something pretty amazing! I look forward to taking our conversation to email.

  • Adi Gaskell

    It’s interesting that there aren’t more top notch communities for community managers. You’d think as a breed we’d be great at it, yet very few exist.

    I wonder though if we need to have somewhere to educate those higher up in our organisations? So many still see social media as a broadcast medium that it inevitably makes our job pretty hard.

    • @Adi Gaskell I agree. We can start by sharing our stories with one another. Have you experienced something similar in an organization you’ve worked for or with? I see you’ve made a LinkedIn survey addressing social media reach and engagement 🙂 Which do you think is more important? The choice was clear to me…both!

      • Adi Gaskell

        @meganlarsen4 Not really. There are one or two decent blogs on the subject, but few of those get many comments so I wouldn’t call them communities. LinkedIn has loads of groups around social media and community management, but again few are really active. There’s the Emint Yahoo group but again, despite being run by a community management organisation, it isn’t very active at all.