Six things we learned from the 2021 ACM State of Community report

by Amber Robinson February 22, 2022

The community management industry as a standalone discipline is still relatively new in Australia, making it difficult for community managers to understand their space in the ecosystem and benchmark their salary, title and job conditions. 

The annual Australian Community Managers State of Community Management Survey, originally launched in 2015, attempts to address this data gap and is the only benchmarking data captured about online community professionals in the APAC region.

The 2021 survey results have just been released. It’s a comprehensive 32-page report covering all aspects of the Australian community management industry. While I’d recommend reading the full report, here a few key takeaways.

  1. The gender gap is (finally) closing
    Traditionally, community management is a female-dominated profession. That might be because many community managers have a background in communications, which is also predominantly female. Preferences for humanistic work and an opportunity to improve the online experience of others may be another reason women have been attracted to the profession. That seems to be changing. In 2021, 61% of respondents identified as female, noticeably down from previous years (73% in 2020). Greater diversity amongst community managers is a win for the diverse communities we represent, so we hope to see continued diversity across gender and cultural background in future years.
  2. We’re older, and more experienced
    Once classified as a role for juniors, community management has come of age as a profession in Australia. Forty six per cent of community managers have more than five years’ experience, and 67% are aged over 30. We’re also a well-educated lot: 63% of community professionals are tertiary qualified, and 95% take part in ongoing learning and professional development such as webinars and conferences. This brings us to the next point: wages are going up, in line with seniority.
  3. Show me the money! Salaries are on the up

    ACM’s most recent survey shows that the average respondent has jumped a salary band, and are now being paid between $100-130k. A further 29% are being paid between $71-100K. It’s difficult to match these salaries back to seniority and title based on the results of the survey, but is a positive sign that community managers are rising to mid, senior and leadership positions in many organisations, creating pathways for emerging community managers to follow.  
  1. Proving ROI and coping with mental health are the top industry challenges

    Many community managers have experienced the frustration of trying to communicate the value of their online community to the wider business. It’s not surprising that this remains the biggest challenge for Australian community managers, but it is dropping, from 36% of respondents in 2020 to 23% in 2021. Interestingly, 26% of community managers have never measured community ROI, highlighting a key opportunity.

    Maintaining positive mental health and wellbeing continues to prove challenging too, with 23% of respondents still reporting negative impacts around the emotional toll of  their work. Although this figure has slightly decreased YOY, there is still work to be done to help community managers avoid emotional burnout.
  1. New platform alert! Say hello to TikTok, Trybz and MightyNetworks

    Social media platforms like Facebook still dominate the community space in Australia, however there are more owned platforms entering the market and growing their footprint. The leading dedicated community platforms are Higher Logic (including Vanilla), Discourse and Salesforce (Lightning Communities). Mighty Networks has grown year-on-year, while Khoros has lost a small portion of its market share (down from 6% to 4%). Australian community platform start-up Trybz has entered the market (2%). In social media, TikTok usage has soared in 2021 – from 3% in 2020 to 24% this year, while Facebook usage across various products is consistent year-on-year. With all this market competition, it’s not surprising that 10% of online community professionals said a platform migration for their community is planned within the next 12 months, with greater functionality and ethical considerations the biggest motivators.
  1. Community management is more understood and valued than ever

    Overall, the 2021 ACM State of Community report shows an industry maturing, reflected by experienced staff, higher salaries and greater acknowledgement for the discipline. For the second year in a row, there has been an increase in the number of community practitioners reporting their work as understood and valued. The needle has moved significantly – from 24% in 2020 to 34% in 2021. This is in stark contrast to 2019, when only 2% of community managers said they felt their role was understood and valued.

    Most community managers survey said they felt optimistic about their future, and that’s not surprising based on the overall picture we’re seeing from this report.

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