World of Warcraft (WoW) players might have heard of Community Managers (CMs). They can be seen posting on forums, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and more. It’s not uncommon for players have an incomplete understanding of what CMs do. Community Managers are far from exclusive to WoW. Community is a vital part of every brand, meaning that CMs have been around in some form for a long time. However we’re here to discuss WoW, a game whose consumer base is quite different from many other brands. I’ll attempt to explain who CMs are, what they do, and why they deserve more respect. Information presented here is based on this post, blue posts, my own observations as a WoW player, and Josh Allen, aka “Lore”, who was kind enough to answer some direct questions (thanks again!).
Before I can say what they are, I’ll get out of the way what they are not. Community Managers share some similarities with, but are not the same as Social Media Managers, Public Relations, Marketing, or Customer Service. They are not developers, and they have no authority on what content goes live (or to public testing). Generally, no two companies manage their communities the same way. Even within a department, CMs will do their jobs differently than their colleagues. The overarching theme is “community”. CMs foster a sense of inclusiveness and camaraderie through various outreach tools. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. are integral parts of said outreach, but CMs often go beyond that with streams, videos, events, projects, and more. Again, each CM has their own way to interact with the consumer base, and that’s only one part of the job.
The above points are generic expectations for community management in any brand. WoW has unique needs, though. WoW players have an important role in the iterative process of running an MMO. MMOs are living, breathing creations shaped by the visions of the developers and the experiences of the players. Communication between the players and the developers is the lifeblood of WoW. For over a decade, players have demanded more transparency from Blizzard. Even today the company continues to work on making communication easier and clearer.
That’s where Community Managers come in. A CM will facilitate the transfer of information from player to developer and vice-versa. As a player, I see this as the most important job of a Community Manger. Clarity in communication is invaluable as well. The series of Developer Q&s that led up to Legion’s launch gave the players a chance to have their questions directly answered straight from the devs. These Q&As are hosted by CM Josh Allen, who helps keep the questions (and answers) relevant and concise.
Live Q&As are just one way to connect to the player base. Behind the scenes, CMs are working with other departments to stay abreast of the latest information. When CMs know more, they can help more: questions are answered more quickly, and the next topic can be addressed. Recently, Blizzard made some internal changes to their community team structure and to how feedback is brought to the developers. These days, when something is posted, it’s sure to be seen by someone, be it the CMs, QA team, or the devs.
Intimate involvement with and understanding of the player-base gives CMs a barometer of how new ideas will be received. Believe it or not, they probably cautioned the developers against that “Thing You Really Don’t Like.” Vocally critical players should remember to consider all of the things they never had to complain about because a CM was there. Cautionary feedback is not the same as having authority over game development, yet too often these get confused. CMs can gather and deliver all the feedback in the world, but it isn’t their fault a given class is still undertuned or that it’s not possible to fly in Molten Core. CMs do take feedback seriously: for proof, check out some of the changes Blizzard has made in that department. With the increased presence on PTR forums, hopefully more unpopular changes can be nipped in the bud before hitting live servers.
Above all else, CMs are here to make the consumer happy with the product. You can put a value on community. It takes effort to build a presence and engage with people, but when a player feels valued and included he or she will keep coming back. Unfortunately, being approachable opens up avenues for abusive and toxic people to state their “opinion” and demand that it be treated as fact. This behavior comes with the territory, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. Being respectful and clear goes a lot further than angry rantings, yet this is often forgotten by those who bring their issues to Blizzard. CMs are people, and the game I love wouldn’t be the same without them.
Now that the role of a CM is bit a more clear, one more burning question remains: how does one become a Community Manager? Josh Allen revealed the secret: “my answer is generally ‘just start, find a forum or fansite, or Discord, or streamer community and grow from there’”. Like any other job, hard work and persistence pays off. WoW’s community too often forgets how much effort CMs put forward to ensure that players’ voices are heard. CMs deserve much more respect than they receive, and have a much harder job than many realize.