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The Evangelist and The Operator

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May 31, 2018
May 19, 2023

There are two common kinds of community manager types: The Evangelist and The OperatorOften people do both, but they’re much better at one.The Evangelist tends to be a "face of the brand". They're very active inside and outside the community, creating content, hosting and attending events, connecting with people and bringing high energy to the community.They're out speaking, hosting events, connecting with people, writing blog posts, creating content in the community.Developer evangelists are good examples of this role. They become the person that the community gets to know well from the company. They host hackathons, create a lot of content, and act as a sort of ambassador for the brand while also serving and connecting their users.The Operator tends to work a bit more behind the scenes. They create systems and processes for managing communities as they grow. They focus more on creating an environment for others to create and connect, rather doing the creation themselves.They make sure the moderation strategy is set up to scale, build out processes for running events around the world, take a structured approach to content strategy, and track data for everything they do.Forum managers are often operators, making sure the systems and processes of the forum is working properly, defining content structures, mapping our onboarding flows, developing moderation processes, etc.--The truth is you need both to be really successful, either two people or one person who can handle both. This way, you have a strong, organized structure as your foundation, and someone to fuel lots of activity and engagement in the space, if it's not already happening organically. Often, companies will hire evangelists in the early days to grow membership and engagement in the community, and hire an operator once they have more organic activity and have to scale.There's an evangelist and an operator in all community professionals. It's a spectrum. Some are evenly balanced, feeling comfortable with both skillsets. Some feel more natural when playing one role or the other.Personally, as far as what comes naturally to me, I'm something like 80% Evangelist, 20% Operator. I love being out there, advocating for the community, writing, educating, personally connecting with people and connecting them with each other. I like bringing the energy and motivating others to contribute. I do also like to work on the systems and processes that community programs need to function and scale properly, but this operational work has been more difficult for me. I've had to work really hard to improve myself my operational chops.This is a spectrum you also see with CEOs, which is fitting because I've always said that community professionals make for great CEOs. CEO's tend to either be really good operators and less interested in being a public face, or they love being the public advocate and surround themselves with great operators to fill those gaps.In a startup, if the CEO is the evangelist, you probably don't need a community manager to be an evangelist, at least until the business grows to the point that it can actually use multiple evangelists.If the CEO is an operator, then it might make sense to have a community manager who sits in the evangelist role.Where a lot of community strategies fail is when they see all community professionals as the same, and they hire someone for the wrong kind of position. There are community pros with many years of experience as the evangelist, that would feel lost if put in a highly operational role. And vice versa, lots of folks with community operations experience wouldn't feel super confident in a very public facing role.That doesn't mean people can't grow into those roles and learn. It's just important to know where they're currently comfortable and experienced.And of course, this is painting with a broad brush. There are many many different skills that go into community strategy and this can be much more nuanced. But I've found this to be a useful concept to help businesses understand that not all community professionals are the same, and there are different sets of skills and needs for different programs at different times.

May 31, 2018
May 19, 2023

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