Hiring a community or subject matter expert?

Should you hire an expert on managing communities and train them in the topic?

Or should you hire a subject matter expert and train them to manage the community?

Of course, you want both, but that’s rare. So here’s a simple framework.

If the role is directly interacting with members, building relationships, answering questions about the topic, you almost certainly want a subject matter expert. You need someone that can relate well to members, is passionate about the topic, and has existing relationships (hiring from the community tends to work well here).

If you’re hiring a senior level role (e.g. managing a community team), you almost certainly want a community expert. Someone that understands best processes, inspiring a community team, platform integrations legal issues, building internal support, recruiting, etc…

Choose carefully.


  1. Sarah Hawk says:

    I think there is middle ground here.

    I believe there is a place for community internships provided the boundaries and expectations are clear. There needs to be transparency within the community and clear lines of escalation/access to information.

    As the role of the CM has moved away from being engagement-centric to a more strategic one, I’m not sure it’s always going to be realistic to find subject matter experts from within the community that have an interest in community management.

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