The most recognized origin of the term (online) community manager is in the computer games industry with the advent of MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Games) in the mid 1990's. Roles have expanded to include a wide variety of responsibilities and skill-sets including social media management, marketing, product development, PR, and customer support. Game community management often includes supporting open communications between the developer and player community.
While the term "online community manager" may not have been used at the time, the role has also existed since online systems first began offering features and functions that allowed for community creation. These early efforts, in the form of bulletin board systems, had leaders known as system operators or Sysops. The early 1990s saw the growth of mainstream online computer services such as Prodigy, CompuServe and America Online. Prominent features of these services included communities which went by various names; Special Interest Groups, Communities of Interest and so on. And their leaders were often referred to as community managers.
Online community managers may serve a variety of roles depending on the nature and purpose of their online community, which may or may not be part of a profit motivated enterprise. Patti Anklam has asserted that "Every network has an underlying purpose" and motivations for such network creation include; Mission, Business, Idea, Learning or Personal. She says such leaders hold the collective vision, create and manage relationships and manage collaborative processes. Anklam does not distinguish a fundamental difference for these roles as related to the varying purposes of network, (i.e. community), creation.
Community managers are involved in the computer games industry, branded online communities, online research communities, corporate blogs, and other social media marketing and research activities.
Roles have expanded to include a wide variety of responsibilities and skill-sets including social media management, marketing, product support and development, PR, and customer support. At the core, community management encompasses a little bit of each of these, while retaining its core tenet - ensuring open communications between the developer and community.
This tradition started in 2010.
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