Community operations is not new. If a community has been around for a while, or if it has grown and scaled in any way, it would have been impossible without community operations.
That being said, I still get asked all the time to explain what community operations is. While community operations roles or responsibilities aren’t new, the term is and still has some ambiguity to it. Is it a Program Manager? Is it a Data Analyst or Scientist? Is it a Product Manager? Should they have coding experience? What are examples of operational responsibilities on a community team?
I use this analogy a lot, but to set the scene for understanding what community operations is, I think it adds a lot of value. Picture a restaurant. In it, you have the:
Then, you have the restaurant’s General Manager. This person has a handle on both sides of the house. They are in the front of the house, visiting tables and asking if everyone is enjoying their meal, or at the host/hostess stand making sure wait times are accurate. They’re also in the back, making sure meals are plated correctly before they go out and taking care of escalations like dishes that have been sent back.
What the General Manager does for the restaurant, the Community Ops team does for your community.
Community operations professionals constantly look for improvements in process, tech stack and platforms, or general community programming, from both the community member and the community team’s perspectives.
They’re interacting and chatting with community members on a regular basis but also behind the scenes making sure the community team members have what they need and that the wheels are turning smoothly.
Let’s take a closer look at some necessary skills for all the tasks in the community operations wheelhouse.
A strong Community team needs a Community Operations Manager to keep things running smoothly, both behind the scenes and within the community.
As with all community roles, community operations doesn’t operate in a silo — it is fluid, touches every part of the community, and often has a fine, gray line between roles and responsibilities between community managers. It can sometimes become a bit blurry where one person’s job stops and another person’s starts.
A “that’s not my job” mentality truly doesn’t exist on a Community team. However, when developing a role for a community operations person, or when determining that division of labor across the team, it’s important to differentiate between operations and other jobs. There is some natural overlap between community ops and community management roles, but the two aren’t interchangeable.
Now that we know what community ops is, let’s explore what it isn’t.
More about Community Operations
Community operations is a key component to a Community team, supporting every program, initiative, platform, team member, and even partnering teams within your company. Our 2022 post on Community Operations shares more insight into why the role is essential and how to advocate for hiring a Community Operations Manager.
This article is a preview of Community Operations, a self-paced course by C School — and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. In it, students can expect to learn how to get started in community operations, road mapping tips and tricks, how to manage a tech stack, and so much more. Head over here for more info on C School’s self-paced offerings.