A man looks at distant mountains.

The community management community is fortunate that every year Rachel Happe and the Community Roundtable Team produce the state of community management report. An insight to world of community management, highlighting progress and challenges.

The main headline from the 2019 report is communities empower people, they transform organisations but unfortunately community leadership is still often disconnected from key decision making and operational stakeholders.

This year sees the 10th year of the ‘state of community management’ report from the Community Roundtable. A must read report for anyone working in online communities and thanks must go to Rachel Happe and the team for pulling this valuable resource together.

It began in 2009 with sharing stories and anecdotes from the community. Now it has grown into insights, backed by data, around the state of community management today. Offering insights and with the community roundtable benchmarking model, a way to truly understand the value of your community activities.

What jumps out from the 2019 report is the growing success of community efforts and the challenges they face. The image on the front of the report tells the story of where we are now. As Rachel Happe explained in the webinar accompanying the launch of the report: The image suggests some hard work has been done and progress has been made. Now we can see the mountains peak, but there is still much work to be done. Indeed, in 10 years community management has gone from a small beginning to be a common, albeit oft overused topic.

I won’t cover all the data in the report, if you want that, then I’d recommend you download and read the report. However, some key facts, the report covers over 325 community programmes. Over 50% of these are external/customer communities. The majority of the communities are mid sized. The highest reporting range of members for internal communities is 1,000 – 9,999 and external is between 1,000 – 49,999. These communities use a diverse range of platforms.

Communities and engagement

Engagement is seen more and more as vital for successful organisation. Communities, when developed and managed effectively, can positively influence key factors to increasing engagement customers and employees is becoming more and more apparent.

Communities support engagement, helping connect people, helping them feel seen and heard and enabling them able to ask questions and get solutions.

As the report highlights:

“63% of communities empower members frequently or all of the time. That empowerment comes in a range of forms – feeling seen, being heard, providing solutions, and taking leadership initiative. It’s easy to see these numbers, nod, and move on, but empowering people to feel seen and heard is no small achievement.”

The value of communities

What is great to see in the report is the focus on Return of Investment (ROI). The ROI of communities is now something which can be shared. The figures are high, but backed by years of data they hold up to scrutiny. When looking at cost to value, the report highlights a 3,475% ROI for internal and 8,932% ROI for external communities. Pretty impressive figures likely to get the attention of any executive and one reason why community efforts are getting and growing support at the board level. The ROI of communities also show that value grows, often from initially small starts, followed by a period of rapid growth until the value starts to plateau. Rachel Happe suggests that communities of 6 years or older, this might mean they want to look at their original shared purpose if they wish to continue to increase value.

Community Leadership:

Whilst the value is clear across communities, leadership in communities is not evenly distributed, creating significant risks. Roles, pay and experience are varied. Often the community team is a one-person show. So it’s not surprising then to hear that 50% of Community Managers are highly burnt-out.

The report goes on to paint a picture of an emerging community leader, experienced, well educated with a background in marketing, communication, customer service or IT. Though they may lack some vital business knowledge.

The emerging leaders need to focus on having a clear roadmap, greater business alignment to bridge business knowledge gaps. This is further highlighted with the report contrasting the  advanced communities being more able to prove their value and having stronger strategies.

What seems common across these areas is the need for Community leaders to lead in new, more distributed ways. Leveraging the power of community to find more balance in their work. By building a strong network to provide support and business acumen they can continue to develop.

The report also provides a suggested reading list. A must-have for any community manager to support their continued learning and growth.

Advanced strategies

Those communities with advanced community strategy – one that is approved, operational, and measurable show the most value and it’s this that appears to be the big differentiator of increased success for communities. Time and time again, it’s this group of communities which are larger, seeing greater ROI, have executive support and only have a positive impact on a organisations culture or brand.

The future structure of the organisation

Given their cross organisational nature, the report highlights the power and challenge of communities to connect the organisation and help shape the future structures which many organisations need to enable customer experience and employee experience.


In the last decade community management has really grown up. Communities show strong ROI and are able to support and improve organisational culture and engagement with employees and customers. Organisations which are using communities and especially those who have an advanced community strategy are seeing the benefits. We need to continue to work on getting the support needed to have the most impact. This report goes some way in helping to highlight the value of communities.  The potential impact for organisations  (and the world) is significant. 

I’ll leave the last word to Rachel Happe:

“For awhile, I’ve said the future of all management in a networked world is community management. Then I started thinking the future of leadership is community leadership. Now I wonder if the future of strategy is community strategy. The results from #SOCM2019 [the state of community management report] are compelling.” Rachel Happe


Dan Leonard