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Two Themes to Rock Your Community Management

Recently, I was able to absorb some serious community management tips straight from five leaders in the field. From the experience, I have found two themes that emerged from the talk and want to share them with you.

As a student in the iSchool Community Manager course that hosts this blog, I had access to a four-person panel this week. It was held as a Google Hangout and moderated by Kelly Lux and Jenn Pedde, who offered some input over the transformation of the community manager role.

Shout out to Tracy with Foursquare, Alex at Vimeo, Gaven at Lenovo, and Kara with PolicyMic for their time and expert insights!

The two themes include enjoying the ride as a professional who is or is working toward being in a community manager role, as well as building communities that can last.

Here is the scoop:

Image via Flickr (sopie & cie)

Image via Flickr (sopie & cie)

Enjoy the ride. Most community managers’ previous experience shows a non-linear path to the role. Whether you background is business-to-business marketing, international relations or being an early adopter of chats, many people find themselves doing community management long before they are given the title on a business card. In some cases, they might have a different title anyway.

If you find yourself doing community management but are not necessarily being paid for it, you might still be on the career track to this position.

And, just when you accept an offer for your dream job, remember that it could completely change a year from that moment. One community manager noted that a recent company change completely retooled her daily role.

Build it to last. The best days for community managers are those that have a bustling online conversation without their input. Likened to the feeling of a conversation that starts with teenagers once the parents leave the room, or even a classroom when the professor steps out, this type of authentic conversation is what makes communities thrive.

This might be because a few people started chatting or, more formally, because you have an ambassador program with people who are extensions of your brand keeping the conversation going.

See my blog post, The First Rule of Ambassador Programs, for more about ambassador programs. They are a great way to ensure that you can take a vacation without the sky falling down.

The panel covered a lot more content than I can outline here but the two themes covered give you a taste of these four professionals’ experiences in the role. If you were part of the Google Hangout, please leave your thoughts about the panel below. If not, what do you think about these two themes in community management?

Feel free to add more tips in the comments below.

Real World Experience as a Moderator

Recently I had the opportunity to be the moderator for our CMGRClass. Although I had guidance from the assigned readings as well as examples from others within the class, I still felt a bit nervous in the position. I spent several nights thinking about how to engage my classmates as well as searching for new and fresh articles that would be of interest.  This was my first time in a position such as this and my main goal was to experience a week in the shoes of a Community Week.

Advantages

This week I was able to moderate the discussion during the same week as one of our class panels. I found this to be very advantageous as well as thought provoking. I was able to more efficiently incorporate the panel discussion with our recent readings on building communities and Brand Ambassadors.

Disadvantages

One of the hardest parts for me as a moderator was trying to be creative. No matter what role I take in life, I have never considered myself to be a creative individual. There were several times when I felt a bit frustrated because I could not think of new ways to get people involved.

That leads me to my second thought. I also found it difficult to engage people in meaningful conversation. I didn’t know what questions to ask people that would encourage them to think outside of the box and generate new ideas. Nor could I think of ways to encourage people to participate in the conversation. As a moderator there is a fine line of starting a conversation and dominating a conversation and I did not want to be the type of moderator that constantly posted various ideas and questions.Moderation Assignment tweets

My final issue I experienced was using Twitter and encouraging people to participate on that social media platform. I am not the biggest fan of Twitter and have never really enjoyed using it. I think my own personal opposition caused me to remain resistant to using it for the moderation assignment.

Life Lessons

We were approaching the end of the semester and as a moderator we had the responsibility of keeping users engaged. With that said, I learned that it is essential to know and understand your audience in order to provide them with information that they are interested in. We have discussed knowing your audience since the beginning of class, but distinguishing what I think may be interesting and what others may be interested in can be difficult. Furthermore, if I could redo my moderation over I would strategically plan out what I wanted to tweet throughout the week to ensure that I actively used Twitter. Overall, the moderation assignment was very interesting and allowed me to further understand the role of a moderator.

The Anatomy of a Great Post

In my second week of moderation, I wanted to take a closer look at the types of content that succeeded in sparking the most smbuttonconversation. If a community exists to spark conversation, one of the measures of a good CM is showing that they can get that conversation started. This week, the two pieces of content with the most comments were one by me on SU’s FixIt’s Twitter account, and one by community member Jared Mandel on a NYPD Twitter hashtag hijacking. I tried to experiment with different types of content, from best practice articles to job resources, but these two similar articles were the most successful, and had a lot of similarities with other types of content that have been successful in our Google+ group. Without further ado, the anatomy of a great post:

  1. Current Events Current events are always successful, maybe because they give something of value to the community: knowledge about a topic that they can discuss with their other communities, be they virtual or real-world. This is especially true in the face of current events-driven communities such as Twitter, where information is plentiful but fleeting. Your community may have heard of a current events story in passing but not pursued it, and sharing the story in a community is a way of helping them filter the noise and get the top headlines in any given area.
  2. Localized Another theme was localization; both these articles were within the state of New York, with one of them being actually in Syracuse. If a story takes place in your area, your community may have more context or knowledge on the topic, which helps spur conversation. It’s also interesting to note that the distance learners who weren’t in Syracuse offered an interesting perspective on FixIt’s Twitter presence because of the fact that they weren’t on-campus.Colouful speech bubbles
  3. Room for Improvement/Debate Both these articles were controversial and had room for debate. If you were NYPD, what would you have done differently? Do you think FixIt’s unconventional Twitter strategy is effective? There was room to weigh in, versus just listing a favorite “best practice” from an article.
  4. Summarize Google+ is an interesting platform in that it cuts your post off after the first couple of lines. It’s good because it sort of forces you to summarize, but you need to be conscious of this caveat and make sure you’re making important points right at the beginning. Best practice is to summarize at the beginning to draw your community in, and then go onto specifics later on.
  5. Give Credit Where Credit is Due If you borrowed some content from your community, give them props! They’re more likely to contribute to the conversation if they’re tagged. Also, if you know someone who is particularly interested in a topic, tag them! The more you tailor content to specific members, the more likely they are to step up and participate.

What do you think makes a great post?

Moderation, Round Two

Having done it before, you would think it would be easier the second time – well, it was! After being the weekly community manager for CMGRClass a few weeks ago, I learned so many things about what it takes to aggregate content, start and keep up conversations, and do it all across multiple platforms, while keeping it meaningful.

When I had the opportunity to do it all again this past week, I was exciting to put what I had learned the first time together to do an even better job the second time. Most of what I tried worked, but other things did not. First with the good…

The Good

What I had trouble with the first time while moderating the class discussion was balancing Twitter and Google+ conversations. I was confused as to what I should post where, and when I should do it. I sort of started off with a let’s wing it attitude, but that proved to be a little difficult and hard to keep track of. This time I had a more concrete plan.

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 8.24.24 PMFirst, I recognized that it was near the end of the semester, so I used that to my advantage when deciding what to post on Google+. I used the idea that people would be excited to talk about the end of the semester, to start conversations that were nostalgic and reflective on what we had learned in the previous weeks and months. People seemed to really like that. I also interjected into the conversation some of my own ideas each time I posted something, so that people felt like I too was taking the initiative to be a part of the conversation just as they were – something I learned from reading “Buzzing Communities.” 

Next, I decided to vary the content more from Google+ to Twitter. Instead of posting the same content in a different way, I posted different content. For Twitter, I decided to stick with fun facts and little tidbits of information that people might retweet or favorite. That is exactly the behavior that I saw from people. On the other hand, Google+ content was focused more on conversation starters and longer form discussions.

The Bad

What did not work for me so well was the way in which I initiated my own thoughts into my Google+ posts. I realized soon after I started that I was being a little inconsistent. On some posts I added my own insight right into the post, in others I added my own comment. I think it worked better posting later in the comments, because doing it the other way made my initial post much longer and less appealing for people to read in the first place.

There was certainly less participation this week than there was when I previously moderating class discussion, but that is likely due to the timing of the week. It think that planning out the content to better suit the time frame really did help, though, because it applied to what was on people’s minds at the time.

In the End

Overall, I enjoyed moderating the class discussion for a second time. I think that with each time you do something, you learn something new and hone your skills a little more, and community management and moderation is certainly no exception.

What do you think about my job as moderator. How did I do? Come on, lay it on me – the good and the bad!

Being a Foursquare Campus Ambassador

Syracuse's 44 Badge

Syracuse’s 44 Badge

Throughout the panel, we had the pleasure of hearing from Tracey, Support Director at foursquare. Towards the end, she spoke on foursquare’s ambassador programs, and briefly mentioned the Campus Ambassador program, which foursquare transitioned from. I was actually a foursquare ambassador before they ended the program, and looking back, realize how healthy and thriving of a community that was. In speaking about the superuser user, she spoke about how excited they were to sort of “own” a part of foursquare. I’d say that that was generally the feeling among the campus ambassadors, and while I’m sad our community has been shut down, I’m glad that it served as a great model for lessons learned.

  1. Use the right platform – Our community was hosted on Facebook, which was great. Since we were all undergraduate college students, we all had Facebook accounts that we were very active on. It definitely boosts participation when notifications about activity are already embedded into your daily life.
  2. Meeting Dennis Crowley!

    Meeting Dennis Crowley!

    Make them feel special – We had an application process to become a campus ambassador. I’m not sure how competitive it was, but once you got in, you got a box of swag, including an official foursquare campus ambassador t-shirt and lots of stickers. The official shirt definitely made me feel like I was important to foursquare, which is important for an ambassador. I also had the opportunity to meet Dennis Crowley (SU alum!) when he came to campus as a result of being an ambassador, which was an awesome experience.

  3. Give them tasks – The campus ambassador team would give us tasks occasionally, like putting up window clings, or hosting an event for Foursquare Day. This definitely made the entire experience more structured, and ensured that we were having a real impact on campus.
  4. Let them learn from each other – A lot of the posts on the page were not from foursquare staff, but rather other ambassadors showing off the cool stuff they were doing on campus. This helped other ambassadors see the creative ways other people were using the platform, and also made the person posting feel that their efforts were being recognized.
  5. On the quad during Foursquare Day

    On the quad during Foursquare Day

    Be helpful –  Whenever we posted, Ray, the foursquare guy, always answered within five minutes. One time the SU team was doing something that required a venue being opened right at 10am on a Sunday morning. Ray was there for us. When you have a dedicated community manager who is willing to go the extra mile for ambassadors, all the better.

Eventually foursquare transitioned off the program without much warning– there was never any closure on group, and some ambassadors recently expressed disappointment that there was no real ending. While the closing out of this community could have been handled better, I think the real mark of a thriving community is when members are genuinely upset that it’s over. Thanks to all the panelists for the time and input on community management!

Lessons Learned from a Week in Community Management

Community management is hard.

I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be when I went into it. I’ve been involved in social media (and dabbling in community management) since my freshman year of college, when I started managing Twitter for the SU chapter of PRSSA. Since then, I’ve managed social media for many different startups, crafted tons of social media strategy plans for classes and projects, and, most importantly, been a part of the SU social media team 44Social for three years.

When I sat down to start doing community management for this class, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I work anywhere from 8-15 hours for SU each week; social media is a part of my routine. I kept wanting to compare my  44Social experiences to managing this Google+ group, when in reality, they’re completely different. When I sit down for a 44Social shift, it has my attention (or at least my divided attention, if I’m working on other projects for the team) for three hours. Managing this community, however, was a 24/7 job. Managing the community, on top of schoolwork and exams, plus being home for Easter, was a major feat. Sometimes I would dismiss the notifications on my phone vowing to answer in five minutes, and forget about it for eight hours.cmgr

Here’s what I learned from my week spent managing the Google+ community:

  • Make time: In a real-life situation, you’re going to want to monitor the community in as close to real-time as possible, because that’s when the conversation is happening. Carving a couple dedicated chunks of time into your day to check and respond to your community is crucial. You can’t rely on yourself to do it on the fly.
  • Medium is key: I’m probably not the first person to say this: I hate Google+. I’m terrible at navigating it, I hate that notifications pop up when I’m on my Gmail (when I’m on my email, I’m trying to get something done, not be distracted by a notification), and there’s no native way to schedule posts. That being said, I would probably choose a different medium if this were my community, but sometimes you have to suck it up and learn how to make it work for you. Also, it was way too easy to forget that we had another community happening on Twitter, so that fell by the wayside during the week.
  • Find a content source: I started trying to just find content that was interesting on the fly by scrolling through my Twitter feed. My Twitter feed is an odd mix of reality stars, PR pros, high school friends and motivational ACL reconstruction accounts (don’t ask). It’s better to find a couple hashtags or create a list of accounts that you can go to for content in a pinch.

Some of this I learned through 44Social and managing other communities, but I forgot how important they were (shows how easily we can slip into patterns and forget lessons learned). Overall, my community manager experience was definitely an interesting one, and I’m definitely glad to get another shot at it this week and apply some of the things I learned.

The Importance of Using Social Media and How to Do So

Using Social Media to Increase Business Exposure So you’re a small business with a great business idea and promoting your product or service in a niche market. How do you gain exposure and increase your brand awareness? Over the past ten years, social media has had a direct effect on businesses. Whether a company has used social media to interact with customers or gain more market exposure, social media has tremendously impacted how businesses operate.  For instance, according to Edosomwan et. al., social media within an organization “helps strengthen the brand experience which will support brand building.” Social Media Tools Being that the way the world conducts business has drastically changed over the years, there are multiple social media outlets that can be used to promote a business. For instance business owners can utilize Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube to increase business exposure and connect with consumers.

Social Media Outlets

Importance of Using Social Media Social Media outlets greatly influence how an organization conducts business and has changed the dynamic of traditional marketing and public relations within a company. Here are a few reasons why social media is necessary to incorporate within a business:

  • Increases the amount of traffic to a business’ website
  • Builds a stronger brand and promotes brand awareness
  • Allows businesses to interact with customers and identify the needs of customers
  • Allows businesses to gather data about their customers

Effective Ways to Use Social Media Understanding how to effectively use social media within a business can be a bit tricky, but when done properly, can significantly generate positive results for the company. Here are a few ways to use social media to promote a business:

  • Engage in conversations with customers and build valuable relationships that attract customers to the product or service
  • Gather data from current and potential customers to tailor products and services towards them which will potentially increase revenue
  • Solicit reviews and feedback from consumers to address needs and improve products and services
  • Use analytic tools to gain a understanding about consumer habits and optimal times throughout the day to promote the business to optimize brand exposure

True Story In recent weeks, I have used social media to increase brand awareness for a small startup company. The company focuses on assisting students and parents in identifying and securing funding for higher education. On a daily basis I use social media to inform followers of upcoming scholarships and deadlines as well as useful tips for navigating through the college application process. I also solicit different questions from followers at address those questions throughout the week via Facebook and Twitter. By generating different conversations, other people have started to follow the company and contract the company to assist them in their search. Furthermore, I use analytical tools on Facebook and Twitter to understand when users view and share different posts in order to ensure I post information at optimal times when viewers are online.

5 Ways to Build an Effective Brand Ambassador Program

Why It’s Important

Incorporating Brand Ambassadors into a social media strategy allow future customers and members of the community to have firsthand access to the personal stories and opinions of members who are familiar and enthusiastic about a product or service. BAs are instrumental in establishing and building a company’s image by influencing current and future community members.

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According to Olivier Blanchard, the author of Social Media ROI, “Through the use of social media, organizations can breed loyalty in their members by interacting regularly with them, befriending them, and empowering them to make a difference. The magic stems from the fact that social media can help humanize communication to such a degree that genuine friendships can begin to form between an organization’s staff and the member they interact with.”

The key here is that BAs help to “humanize communications” by publicizing the community and generating conversation around a product or service.

Here are 5 ways to build a Brand Ambassador Program:

  1. Listen to customers- Who knows your brand better than your customers? Most likely people within your organization, but customers know exactly what they like about your product and/or service and can better articulate that to members within the community. Listen to your customers and find out what they like/dislike and what they would like to see more or less of.
  2. PLAN! PLAN! PLAN!- And then plan some more. Planning is extremely important when creating a Brand Ambassador Program and it’s more important to ensure that the program is aligned with the organization’s goals and objectives.
  3. The Inside Job- The best place to start for a BA program is from within an organization by engaging employees. Search for people within your organization who are already using social media and have a basic understanding of how things work. Utilize these people to be the first BAs for your organization.
  4. Be selective- Not everyone should be an advocate for your brand. Although you may have hundreds of willing individuals who express an interest in being a BA, not all of those people will be a good fit for your organization. Understand your organization’s personality and create a list of qualities you would like your BA’s to possess then select people who meet those qualifications.
  5. Make It Worth While- Although customers may love your organization, people are more likely to participate when there is an incentive. Get creative! Highlight your BAs in interviews or feature them on your website. Offer BAs discounts or free items that reflect the organization. 

Do you have a success story to share about your Brand Ambassador Program? If so, please share below.

A Panel Discussion with Community Managers

On April 7, 2014, our class had the opportunity to conduct a Google Hangout with four individuals who are established Community Managers in their respective organizations. The Google Hangout consisted of Alexandra Dao from Vimeo, Tracey Churray from Foursquare, Gavin O’Hara from Lenovo, and Caira Conner from PolicyMic. Each person shared their personal story as to how they started as community managers and shared advice on how to establish and build a community.

lenovo-logo-1432All About Connection
Gavin started off as the second person of Lenovo’s social media team four years ago. He currently manages social media content and focuses on moderating the company’s global Facebook page. One thing that Gavin pointed out was that sometimes, Community Managers Spend more time reacting to social media issues rather than being proactive and conducting more check points with users. He stated that “small gesture go a long ways” and that community managers should connect more with users. Gavin also discussed how he often connected with users by sending messages or participating in conversations within the community.

Weekend CelebrationsVimeo logo
Alex focuses on User and Community engagement as well as support at Vimeo. She discussed how she would like to interact more with users and find creative ways to encourage users to be more involved within the communities. For example, Alex’s team hosts “Weekend Challenges” with different themes that encourage users to interact and celebrate various things.

PolicyMic LogoSmart and Sharp
At Policy Mic, Caira currently focuses on building a community of rising journalists. Recently, PolicyMic shifted their areas of focus and is now trying to reach a larger community where the company’s content is “Smart and Sharp” and can be shared amongst various demographics. As the company has changed, Caira is promoting loyalty within the community by building on strategic partnerships and networks.

Super Usersfoursquare_logo
Tracey manages the entire community of users at Foursquare and ensures that content is properly managed.  Recently Foursquare launched a forum for “Super Users” that focuses on product direction and feedback within the community. The “Super Users” assist the company by providing ideas and different perspectives related to various topics. Tracey explained her support for Brand Ambassadors and how it is important to incorporate users and have users test and explore new ideas first.

At the end of the panel, it was clear to see that each Community Manager played a different role in their company although the positions were similar. One thing stands true- interacting with users within the community will always be essential for the community to succeed. Positive and personal interactions will always help strengthen a community.

Our Class Panel with Real-Life Community Managers

This past Tuesday, I logged on to my Google+ account for my bi-weekly CMGR class, which meets via Google Hangouts. Yet, this week’s class wasn’t the typical group discussion. This week, we had the pleasure of welcoming real-life community managers from extremely prestigious companies, such as Foursquare, Lenovo, PolicyMic, and Vimeo.

Every one of the community managers present, Tracey Churray (Foursquare), Gavin O’Hara (Lenovo), Caira Conner (PolicyMic), and Alex Dao (Vimeo), mentioned something that really stuck with me. Those little snippets were all connected to Brand Ambassador programs, which I think are an extremely important aspect to community management, as a whole.

Tracey Churray (Foursqaure)

Tracey Churray, Director of Support at Foursquare, the ever-popular “check-in” app company, got her start in the tech industry from a small email marketing service. After a number of years, she she was able to land her dream job at Foursquare, where she is able connect everyday with users of the app.

Fischer, John. "FourSquare." 2010 May 06. Online Image. Flickr. 2014 April 11.

Fischer, John. “FourSquare.” 2010 May 06. Online Image. Flickr. 2014 April 11.

Within the Foursquare community, Ms. Churray manages contact with the users at large, particularly with her “Superusers”. Superusers are exactly what they sound like; they are the Foursquare obsessed, the people who are extremely passionate about the use and success of the brand. These Superusers have had an incredible impact on the prominence of the Foursquare company. In fact, Tracey mentioned that she has asked for help from her Superusers and they assisted her in a very important task: creating the naming conventions in the Foursquare database!

Min, Julien. "4sq Superuser". 2011 July 07. Online Image. Flickr. 2014 April 11.

Min, Julien. “4sq Superuser”. 2011 July 07. Online Image. Flickr. 2014 April 11.

Tracey’s tips from Foursquare community management with her Superusers?

  • Don’t be afraid to give your followers a bit of inside information
  • Categorize your very involved and influential users
  • Reach out to your users and community members for advice

As Tracey pointed out, it is very important to pay attention to and treat your community members right. After all, you never know when they will come up with an idea that will forever change the structure and operations of your company.

Gavin O’Hara (Lenovo)

Community manager of Lenovo, a worldwide technology company, with the technical position title of Global Social Media Publisher, Gavin O’Hara got his start in community management with his love for coming up with social media content. In his current position at the prestigious personal technology company, Gavin creates the content for all the different social media platforms Lenovo uses, and reaches out to community members on a daily basis.

Anicic, Goran. "Lenovo ThinkPad T530." 2013 May 31. Online Image. Flickr. 2014 April 11.

Anicic, Goran. “Lenovo ThinkPad T530.” 2013 May 31. Online Image. Flickr. 2014 April 11.

One thing Gavin said, that really connected with me, was that “Community Management is about being both proactive and reactive.” What does he mean by this?

  • Producing content and responding to the content of his community members is integral to his job
  • Getting to know the audience of the community-knowing that it’s not made up of 1 kind of person-is vital
  • Just asking people personal random questions- “Where are you from?” or “How is the weather where you are?”is necessary

It’s those serendipitous moments of tapping into members’ lives that make people feel like they’re a part of something, especially a brand as large and well-known as Lenovo.

Like Foursquare, Lenovo has their own kind of Brand Ambassador program, Lenovo Insiders. The Lenovo Insiders are the global brand advocates of the technology company, who live, breath, and love Lenovo. To Gavin, Lenovo’s Brand Ambassador program is all about pulling the community members up into the Lenovo world.

Caira Conner (PolicyMic)

Caira Conner, Community Manager at PolicyMic, a digital/media news company, wanted

http://www.yandp.tv/2012/02/policymic/#.U0hKuMfTuSI

http://www.yandp.tv/2012/02/policymic/#.U0hKuMfTuSI

a way to study relationships. As she found her way into community management, she wanted to make content more available for consumption, rather than solely readership.

At PolicyMic, she plays an avid role in Recruitment and Strategic Development. What the heck is that?

  • Basically, building mini networks within the PolicyMic community
  • Communities are the journalists of PolicyMic
  • Mini networks provide a place for community members to collaborate and communicate

While Brand Ambassador programs are super important to the brand itself, they are also important to the

collective group of users who make up that program. At PolicyMic, they are making sure the ambassadors themselves have the people, resources, and communication outlets they need to be ample representatives of the brand.

Alex Dao (Vimeo)

Alex Dao, Community Development Chair for Vimeo, a video sharing website (similar to Youtube) got her start in community management from a very young age, simply from moderating message boards and chat rooms (believe it or not)!

Beale, Scott. "Vimeo Log In Screen." 2007 June 26. Online Image. Flickr. 2014 April 11.

Beale, Scott. “Vimeo Log In Screen.” 2007 June 26. Online Image. Flickr. 2014 April 11.

Ever since her pre-teen years, she has been doing a lot of that same kind of work at Vimeo. What exactly does that entail?

  • 80% of her time on member support throughout the online communities
  • 20% of her time on planning events with Vimeo members
  • Runs the apprenticeship program which hires people directly from their community(!!!!)
  • Helps to curate Vimeo accounts of users- highlights/*stars* 5-6 user videos a day for exceptional content

Alex has an important job in making sure the members of Vimeo community have the best experience possible. Because, who knows, you never know which one of those community members, coming out of the apprenticeship program, could be the next of the Vimeo brand.

 

What I really enjoyed about this panel was that each community manager mentioned something that we learned in class, which really made me appreciate these different types of concepts even more. As a student, it’s probably one of the coolest things to hear things you’ve heard in a lecture or read in a text book come into reality, and it helps switch on the “light bulb”, the one that is our brain. This class panel was full of real professional, real concepts, and real application, which is what community management is all about.