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Should you ditch your community job title?
Q: “Hey David, I’ve been a community professional for 7 years but the recent job market has made me consider changing to another field where there are more opportunities. I still want to build community, but I’m thinking I might have more success getting a job with a marketing title. How important do you think it is to have “community” in my title?”
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This is a great question and one that a lot of community builders are mulling over right now.
The community industry is at a turning point.
We knew this day would come.
The tech downturn, layoffs, banks failing, etc…
It’s the day we’re forced to confront the big, hairy question:
What is the value of community?
In a bull economy, we were able to get away with fluffy, theoretical answers. The fact that companies were hiring community teams was evidence enough that there’s value.
Now that the well has dried up, those answers don’t fly. People are losing jobs. Either community drives cold, hard value or it doesn’t.
Enough value = you have a job.
Not enough value = you don’t.
It’s a harsh look in the mirror. We might not like what we see. But it will be the truth. And I’d much rather drink from the chalice of truth than the solo cup of comfort.
That truth has led a number of community builders to consider making a career change to marketing, product, or customer success.
It’s a question that community builders all have to answer for themselves.
Here’s my take…
You’re here. I’m here. We’re having fun, right? Let’s do this again next week?
A community title isn’t what makes you a community builder.
What’s the difference between a community builder who achieves marketing goals and a marketer who builds community?
Your title isn’t what makes you a community builder.
Building community is what makes you a community builder.
Community doesn’t have to be in your title to be your special sauce.
Side note: It’s fun to imagine that we spent the last two decades in training so that we could now infiltrate every part of business with the community-building manifesto.
“Surrrre… I’m a ‘marketer’…wink wink”
The hard truth is that the marketer who builds community is probably going to get more budget than the community builder who drives marketing.
And I’ll be honest… this pains me. I’ve dedicated my entire career to the community profession. I’ve spent, literally, over 10,000 hours working to carve out a corner for community builders in the world of business.
But I’ve also always known that community was never going to be the end goal for businesses. Community was always going to be a means to profit. Because it doesn’t matter how “good” a business is, they all live by the same golden rule: you must make more money than you spend.
Community can only be one of two things in the world of business*:
Something that spends more money than it makes
Something that makes more money than it spends
If it falls in bucket #1, then it will only be something that businesses invest in if they have the extra cash to burn. It will only exist in a bull market.
If it falls in bucket #2, then companies will invest in it even in a bear market, because it makes money.
*The caveat is if you work for a non-profit or a publicly funded organization. In that case, it’s not about profit. Even then, talk to any non-profit founder and they’ll tell you exactly how much of their time they spend focused on raising funds and applying for grants. Talk to any publicly-funded organization and yup, you guessed it, funding is a major concern.
It’s impossible to outrun the green monster.
Most job titles have their business outcome right there in the name.
Marketing managers drive marketing outcomes.
Product managers drive product outcomes.
Customer success managers drive customer success outcomes.
The community title is different.
Community managers drive marketing outcomes.
Community managers drive product outcomes.
Community managers drive customer success outcomes.
See: The SPACES Model
“But what about the community managers that drive community outcomes?”
They’re probably out of the job right now.
Community outcomes aren’t business outcomes unless community is your business (ie. paid memberships, conferences, social platforms, etc.)
So should you change your title?
Yes. No. It depends.
If you change your title, you’ll probably get more buy-in. But you’ll want to make sure that the business is bought into taking a community approach. Otherwise, you’ll just be doing regular ol’ marketing / product / customer success.
You could also go with a hybrid title. Call yourself the “Community-Led Marketing Manager” or the “Community-Based Product Manager” or the “Head of Community-Driven Customer Retention”.
I like that idea. You keep “community” in your title, making it clear that you take a community approach to achieve your goals. But you also speak to the business outcome you’ll drive.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you decide because changing your title isn’t going to change how your work is perceived.
Until community professionals start making it their business to grow the business, they’ll keep running into the same wall.
Keep the community title, and work on becoming the community builder that’s known for getting business results.
Be the community builder that’s known for 10x’ing sales.
Be the community builder who reduced customer churn by 10%.
Be the community builder that makes the marketers, sales reps, and customer success leads stop in their tracks, look your way, and ask “how in the world did they accomplish that?”
Then, look them straight in the eyes, smile, and say, “community, bitch.”
If you can accomplish that, trust me, you won’t have trouble getting a job.