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Peter Davis

I think what you're saying here holds true more for the startup stage of an online community. For a company looking to hire someone to manage an online community that has gone beyond critical mass, I don't think passion for the topic is the key skill. It wouldn't hurt, no doubt, to have someone knowledgeable on the topic, but if that's all they have going for them the new hire could do more harm than good. Someone with real "passion" on the topic can really dig in and choose sides where a community manager should be more impartial. It is easier to teach someone to be knowledgeable about a topic than it is to teach them to manage thousands of passionate personalities.

My impression with the "agencies" that get it wrong is that they're making mistakes on two ends. As you mention, they don't have the right staff, they're not hiring seasoned employees.. They're going for the cheap, right out of university, kids who are not given the coaching and supervisions that would turn them into successful community managers. But also, each employee is tasked with a whole portfolio of communities to oversee, and thus can't possibly do justice to any one of them even if they were passionate about the topics.

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