Kirsten asked a good question last week.
Why not just hire a community manager until the community can run itself?
Isn't this the ultimate goal? Once the community is self-sustaining, can't organizations let it run itself.
There are two problems with this logic.
The first is why moderation companies exist; something bad might happen. The community might be invaded by spam, the community might engage in an activity that makes the organization liable to legal repercussions, the community might flame out, or member's might engage in non-stop fights.
This is easy enough for everyone to explain and understand. Yet it's the second reason that's more important.
The second reason is the community won't be developed to it's potential. A community manager is the person that develops the community to its full potential. A community manager pushes the community as far through the lifecycle as it can go and keeps it there. That role never ends. That role keeps paying dividends.
As the community progresses through the lifecycle, the community manager's role evolves. They begin on micro-level tasks, move to macro, and finally to optimization-level activities.
This presents a danger to community manager's whose role doesn't not evolve and those that are doing the same tasks they did last year. This means you're not progressing and developing your community.
The community can always be bigger, more active, have a better sense of community, and deliver a better ROI. If you reach critical mass and drop the community manager, not only will your community likely regress, but it will also never reach it's potential. You get better returns from keeping the community manager.