Today’s guest post is written by Jelena Woehr.

Are all bloggers also community managers?

Jayme Soulati , in suggesting this topic, wondered if ignorance regarding community management might explain some blog failures.

Because this post began as a comments-section Q&A, we’ll continue it in the same vein:

What Is Community Management?

Community management is the art of creating something by allowing it to create itself, then nurturing it by creating an environment in which it nurtures itself. Community managers conduct an orchestra of hundreds or thousands as a community forms or sustains itself, but the credit for a successfully developed online community belongs primarily to its members.

Are Bloggers Community Managers?

Some bloggers are (whether they know it or not) community managers; others are new media journalists, content curators, or simply diarists. If any of the following are true of your blog, you might be a community manager:

  • You find yourself mediating audience disputes.
  • Your goals for your blog include “community growth” goals, such as, “By the end of the year, 50 percent of my comments will come from people who leave at least two comments per week.”
  • Your blog has spawned “memes.” One good example is Hyperbole-and-a-Half’s “alot” post, which is reliably linked by a H & ½ audience member anywhere online commenters misplace the space between “a” and “lot.”
  • You find yourself making moderation decisions based on your audience members’ feelings as much as your own.
  • You let your audience members have access to your pages by inviting guest posts or using a “diarist” system (a la Daily Kos).
  • Your audience maintains its own rituals to strengthen a group identity. (More on rituals in my last Spin Sucks post.)

Are Failed Blogs Victims of Neglectful Community Management?

When a blog collapses, the most common outward culprits are blogger burnout or failure to thrive.  Poor community management won’t unilaterally cause these, but it could contribute. Trolls running rampant can cause an audience to evaporate, leading to failure to thrive.

Alternately, blogger burnout can be caused by overenthusiastic community management. Take negative comments personally or adopt every audience member’s problems as your own, and you’ll soon run out of energy.

So What’s a Blogger to Do?

If you do your best to remain an objective blogger, rather than building a personal connection to the audience, feel free to simply moderate comments as necessary to reduce spam.

If, however, you’re striving to build an online community, look for community manager meetups in your area and learn from professionals who work with big brands. Consider giving audience members the opportunity to guest blog, or adding a diaries page for community members. Schedule community events and Ustream chats.

Above all, remember that you can’t create organic communities by force. Take a deep breath, release it, and appreciate the symphony your “orchestra” creates—even if it’s not what you expected!

Jelena Woehr is community and social communications manager for Yahoo! Contributor Network, where more than half a million writers share their knowledge on some of the world’s most visited websites, including Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Shine, and more. In her spare time, she herds cats, feeds carrots to ponies, reads management theory textbooks, and works toward her goal of becoming a professional CEO/Senator/Cowgirl/Eccentric Novelist hybrid.