Monthly Archives: March 2013

A Week of Moderation For CMGRclass – Lessons Learned

CMGRclass

It was my pleasure to moderate the #CMGRclass the week of March 3rd – March 10th. It was an especially busy week as it was the time for mid-term tests and projects. I found balancing my moderation with my regular schedule in addition to midterm activities a real challenge. I recognized that this is  probably the way of the real world in Community Management and rose to the challenge. I started to plan about a week before my turn and began looking for good information to share. My topic was blogging so there were numerous directions available, so I had to decide what I thought would be interesting to talk about.

As I thought about creating interaction within the community, I made the decision to post a few things that I thought were informative but  to focus on responding to others posts as a way to interact. I wanted to create a more inclusive atmosphere by responding to others posts rather than dictate the topics.

red-50

On March 3rd, I posted about tips for choosing blog topics – “50 Can’t-Fail Techniques for Finding Great Blog Topics“. This seemed to resonate with people as they responded favorably to the article. I chose this article because I know I have challenges at time to find the right topic for blogging.

Rod Koch posted an interesting read about CDO jobs on March 4th. I decided to see where people would go with this so I responded to his post and kept an eye on the interactions. This was followed by Kelly’s post about the “hot topic” of the week, the hybrid position of social media manger and community manager. Although the majority of postings were by Jenn and Kelly, it was very informative and got people thinking. A vast amount of valuable information was shared.

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailMy next post was March 5th. I found an article that was very motivating – ” A Physics teacher creates a new Blogging Record in India!!!” It talked about his record 365 blog postings in one year. I chose this as an inspirational piece to get the community thinking about posting in a different way. I feel this was a good choice as the community responded favorably and had a lot to say about the article as well as their own aspirations. After this post things started to slow down a bit. I was not surprised by this as it was quickly approaching Spring Break time. I had anticipated a weaker response towards the end of the week due to this fact.

I did not post on Wednesday because I am at work at 8:30 am and then have classes from 12:30 pm until 10 pm. It does not lend much time to check in to the community or anything else for that matter. Kelly made two posts on the 6th that were informative to the class but did not generate much conversation. Jessica Smith shared a post on March 7th – “Why I Took Down My *Guest Posting* Page“. Responses came from Sonny, Micheal, Jessica M., and myself.

frustrationI got back on track by posting in the morning on March 7th. I wanted to create a connection with the community by asking about their personal plans over break. It seemed as though the people that were working were the ones that responded. This was no surprise!  I posted later in the day with an article that talked about finishing and posting a blog rather than trying to “make it perfect”. I believe that this was a good choice as the responses were interesting and conversations ensued about the topic. I also posted about “how to monetize your blog“. I decided to post this because several of the members of the community had mentioned they needed to make money or needed a job. I thought this might be helpful information and I had gained a lot from reading the article. Only two responses but I am not surprised as the week was winding down to break.

I wrapped up the week with a couple of posts I found interesting. Again, thinking of my classmates, I offered a post that shares way to get paid blogging. I had gotten some freelance writing work from the site so I thought it might help others in the class.

Things Learned:

  • I felt my strategy of not over posting but encouraging community interaction was successful.
  • Preparing for moderation in advance was the key for me to be ready and have valuable information to share.
  • Be aware of reasons for fluctuation of interactions. Having the week before a break has a set of challenges for gaining interaction.
  • By reading the community posts you can insight into their thoughts and interests.
  • It takes a balance of time, effort and content to gain community support.

I feel I have gotten a good insight of the “real world” position f community manager. It is challenging and exciting. It is certainly not for the unmotivated person or anyone looking for an “easy” job. The commitment to growing a community is challenging but also very rewarding as you learn as much from them as they learn from you.

In reflection of these results, Thursday was the best day relative to interaction. I do believe that an eminent vacation had a strong effect on participation.

 

 

 

 

My First Twitter Chat Experience – #CMGRChat

On March 13th 2013, I participated in my first ever #CMGRchat by using TweetChat.com. The experience was unique and very beneficial for someone such as myself that is being exposed to community management for the first time. Participants of the chat ranged from community managers to bloggers and enthusiasts, all having a great deal of knowledge in the creation and management of communities.

question markWhat is it all about?

#CMGRchat provides a means of discussion and collaboration between community managers from around the world. Hosted by Jenn Pedde and Kelly Lux, the chat concentrates on the discussion of topics related to the emerging field of Community Management, and how professionals in the field approach day-to-day problems. The hosts present several questions to the group to stimulate discussion, which seems to work pretty well with achieving a meaningful conversation about Community Management topics.

My Experience

I thought that the chat was very interesting and provided some great insight on topics such as testing within a community, handling changes and managing UI / UX testing. I never knew that Community Managers would be involved at the user interface or user experience level, but according to David Spinks, “often, CMs (community managers) should be involved in those projects.” Prior to chat, I always believed that Quality Assurance specialists or web designers would handle the testing of an interface, but this was not the case based on the feedback provided in CMGRChat.

The general consensus during the chat was to ensure user acceptance of any change in the community through extensive testing. The communities in question where such extensive analysis and testing was performed, varied by size and audience. Change affects everyone in a community and regardless of how large or small the size, it can impact the potential growth, thus making it vital to keep as many active participants as possible.

One of the questions that was presented to the group was how to implement a major change to the community. I personally believe any major enhancement which may alter the way a user does something should be gradually implemented over time. Major feature releases can be done in smaller “chunks”, ultimately making the new/changed features transparent to the end user. In my own experiences, I’ve always used a phased rollout with a detailed action plan on how to handle end user acceptance of any changes being made.

Closing Thoughts

Based on the discussion between the participants of CMGRChat, testing is a crucial part to the pursuit of an online community’s continued growth and response to a changing industry. The Community Manager (CM) role itself is still undergoing change and continues to be crafted throughout the various companies that have established the position. Discussions that #CMGRChat provides weekly, creates a useful discussion that may allow CMs define their role effectively themselves.

Blog Better

Before I knew much about blogging, I equated the term with an activity done by an opinionated person who was extremely knowledgeable about some subject area – politics, business, sports – but who had far too much time on his hands.  I assumed that structurally and stylistically, if you’d seen one blog post, you’d seen them all: they were dense and chock full of ideas, and posed a struggle to get through unless you were really into that subject.

Then I came to the iSchool.  In each of my last three classes (four, if you count #CMGRClass), blogging has been an integral part of the assigned curriculum and work, and one was even devoted to blogging.  Needless to say, I now know that my original assessment of blogging was way off mark.  (At least in most cases, that is!)

This week in #CMGRClass, students studied, read, and wrote (or, more correctly, blogged) about blogging.  Included in this week’s readings was ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse’s How to Write Great Blog Content: a great go-to resource for those new to blogging or who feel they need a refresher on blogging best practices.  The post itself is a brief list-meets-link post, where each item in the series of bulleted lists is the title of another of Rowse’s posts.  Taken together, there are 17 articles providing guidance on developing content, crafting a post, and motivating oneself to blog better.

Blog Better

Rowse’s series is broken into several sections, most having at least three articles each.  Like any good blog post, each post is long enough, but not overly lengthy.  (A recommended guideline is between 250 and 1000 words).  Each has a descriptive title, and most include pictures that complement the content.  Each post has formatting that aids in digesting the content: headings and subheadings in bold, italic, or underlined text, bulleted or enumerated lists, etc.  Interestingly, across all of the posts, several of the wide range of types of blog posts are represented – instructional, list, and link.  (Turns out that idea of blogging I had may have been based on seeing a rant post or two as is described in number 11 here.)

  • Where to Start: How to Craft a Blog Post outlines “10 crucial points” to consider before clicking publish, including the importance of quality control and timing
  • Techniques: offers guidance on effective post titles, suggests optimal post length, and provides ways to make a post more scannable for reading on-screen
  • Workflow: includes considerations on post frequency and guest posts
  • Motivation: offers numerous ways to battle bloggers’ block
  • Principles: includes four excellent posts on developing content
  • RSS: provides a how-to guide for developing and growing a RSS feed

Carry On Blogging

blogging - Flickr user hgjohnSome keys to blogging will be constant.  As Rowse says in The 4 Pillars of Writing Exceptional Blogs, “… create valuable content and good writing, and the readers will come.”  Content is king.  (Yes, I talked about that in last week’s post on community content, too.)  In How to Craft a Blog Post, Rowse also writes, “small mistakes can be barriers to engagement for some readers,” and that definitely applies to me.  Provided the content is there, I also value an aesthetically-pleasing post that contains correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

I believe there’s a fine line in determining when a post is ready for prime time – especially in cases where one’s own high standards are in play.  (There’s an interesting discussion going on in the #CMGRClass Google+ group about this very topic.)  Regardless of where you might fall on the spectrum of “done” vs. “perfect,” make no mistake, what your post contains as well as how it looks are vitally important to your blog’s readers.

What do you think are your blogging strengths?  Weaknesses?  Are you more of a “done” or “perfect” blogger?

(“Keep Calm and Carry On Blogging” image from Flickr user hgjohn.)

Moderation Frustration & Rewards

My experience as moderator for #cmgrclass was eye opening, frustrating, rewarding, and provided me with quite a few takeaways. One of the most frustrating things for me acting as moderator was the time commitment. A good moderator needs to dedicate an immeasurable amount of time to the community each and every day and be constantly monitoring activity in the community. When I was attempting to moderate the community,  I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. When I was doing other things, all I could think about was if there was something in the community I needed to respond or contribute to. The job of a community manager is more than a full time one, and my small taste as moderator really drove home that point for me. One of the most rewarding things for me was when community members would enthusiastically reply to a post, or when a certain item would spike conversation, or even just when someone said they enjoyed a resource I provided.

I started the week off by using the Oscars and the #oscars hashtag as a small case study on how people/organizations attempt to hijack large scale events for their own benefit, and to present the question of whether the organizations behind these large-scale events should appoint a community manager, or more likely a team of community managers, to moderate the hashtag for the event. It seemed to be pretty unanimously decided by my classmates that large events are too pervasive to even consider moderating, and that most companies that attempt to piggyback off the hashtag of a large event just look foolish in their attempts.

In my next post I pivoted towards the topic for the week, which was planning a community. The questions I posed were:

  • What tools do you think may be most effective for listening to a community and then planning to improve based on what you gather them from?
  • What is the best way to roll out community changes?
  • To what extent should information gathered from community members be taken into account when planning changes geared more towards brand-advancement than pure community improvements?
  • While this didn’t generate the kind of responses I was necessarily looking for, it did result in the sharing of some interesting tools to use to track communities and insights that indicated most students are in favor of slow and gradual roll-outs when introducing change to a community.

The next item I presented for discussion was a post on 5 trends that community managers should expect this year. This article provided a fairly logical broadcast of what the growing and volatile field of community management may experience in 2013. One of the points that I highlighted for discussion was one that claimed that niche platforms will gain more traction, and asked the community to discuss their thoughts on niche platforms and the viability of them gaining major ground in community planning in the future. The general consensus was that larger social networks are typically necessary to properly access a community, and niche networks will probably never take the forefront merely due to how limited they are in scope and access.

In the second half of the week I decided to highlight one of the 2 assigned reading resources for the week. The blog post entitled “Do Your Community User’s Guidelines Only Protect People You Like” brought up a very important aspect of community management, which is the presence/absence, severity/leniency, of guidelines.  I asked the community to consider if the rules they would expect others to use when talking to other community members should also be applied when others talk about external entities, such as politicians, or, say, an unpopular form of vegetation. The community overwhelmingly stated that all forbiddance of name-calling and offensive language should be applicable when discussing members in the community as well as external entities.

I ended the week with a blog post that featured an interview with an interesting community manager, who made some good points about planning a community. I thought this was appropriate due to our looming community manager interview assignment as well as presenting the POV of a community manager on how/what to plan for when planning. This post didn’t really generate conversation, but I also didn’t ask any questions to spark discussion.

The Customer Is Always Right (Take Note, Eddie Bauer!)

dklimkeI had a very negative experience recently with a Customer Service department, and I think this might be the space to lay out all the details and analyze what made things so bad in the first place.

I ordered two items from Eddie Bauer online. The first was regularly priced, the second on clearance. Because the two items were in two separate warehouse locations, in two separate cataloguing systems, they could not be paid for or shipped together. So, the regularly priced item was charged to my debit card, shipped, and I received it the next week.

However, there were all kinds of problems with the second.

Firstly, I, the valued customer, was expected to pay shipping twice, which I think is ridiculous (the organizational problems at Eddie’s warehouses shouldn’t be my problem!)

Secondly, the charging systems they used to bill Mastercard/Visa decided to place three pending transactions for the same item on my debit history. The item was $18.35 total with shipping, but there were three holds for that amount, which tied up some of my hard-earned funds.

Thirdly, when I called Customer Service to try and resolve this issue, I was told I’d have to take things up with Mastercard/Visa – not the service they used to make transactions through these companies. Calls to my bank and to the credit card company sent me straight back to the same Customer Service agent, who apologized and said there was nothing she could do. I would just have to wait out the computer glitch.

At that point, I was fed up, and I requested to cancel my order. The agent on the phone happily complied. Three days later, all three pending charges were still in my transaction history, and two separate phone calls, on two consecutive days yielded two assurances that the order was cancelled, and the charges should disappear.

One day later, I received two notification emails about this order – which I had cancelled.

“It’s processing!”

“It shipped!”

Calls and emails to the customer service demanding that they refund my money (which, technically, they had no authorization to take anymore) only got me apologies, and sheepish reminders that I could pay more shipping and return the item for a refund.

I know this is a relatively small transaction, and sounds like a relatively small issue. But I was so incensed that all my responsible efforts and kind interactions with the people who were supposed to handle these things didn’t pay off. Plus, neither item ended up fitting correctly, and I ended up returning them both, at a loss because of the shipping charges. Figures.

According to SM ROI, here are the things they could have come better:

Recruited me into crafting a solution. If they had offered to credit my online account for the same amount they erroneously charged me, I would have been pacified. If they had apologized and refunded me for the clearance item’s value (even still charged for the shipping!) I would have been happier. Instead, they blamed the problem on their own charging/shipping processing systems!

They added air into my “angry balloon,” by not acknowledging the company’s fault. And, if they thought my request was unreasonable, they should have provided some alternative that benefited both of us. Any alternative would have been better than the falsely apologetic, “Sorry, it wasn’t our fault… it was our equipment…” excuse.

Anyone else ever had a negative experience ordering online from Eddie Bauer? Have to say, I was hugely disappointed, because I do love their physical stores and their clothes. I am never ordering online from them again.

What do magazine journalists and community managers have in common?

photo

http://www.flickr.com/photos/angelabowman/8450025763/

Entering college in 2009, I knew I wanted to be a magazine journalist. My ultimate goal was to create a magazine that caters to all women of color. Although still a passion of mine, I am exploring other fields to broaden my perspective on the vast world of communications.

In doing the #cmgrclass readings for this week, I found a lot of commonalities in how community managers and magazine staff writers and editors prepare for content creation.

Throughout this post, I am going to focus specifically on the editorial calendar. All major publications have an editorial calendar in which the staff refers to before going to print. It’s essentially the element that keeps publications structured and organized. Our readings have indicated that community managers also use this method to ensure consistency when writing compelling and engaging content.

Editorial calendars allow community managers to plan ahead. This will prevent the infamous writer’s block in the future. When you have a clear direction it’s much simpler when it comes to creating stories to share with your community. The calendar will also help community managers foster short and long terms goals for the evolution and progression of the community in the future.

In the documentary released in 2009 called “The September Issue” director R.J. Culter explores the most anticipated Vogue magazine issue of the year—the September issue. Readers and subscribers also informally know this issue as the fashion issue. Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief, is frequently captured referring to the editorial calendar in preparing for the publication’s largest issue of the year. The Vogue editorial calendar helps her see the completion of particular projects, look ahead to see what needs to be tackled, and continually track progress until the issue goes to the publishers.

In essence, community managers are doing the same when creating an editorial calendar. They will have an opportunity to delegate responsibility based on the number of incomplete components of a blog, oversee which tasks are currently in the works, and see if there’s room to address current topics that may happen throughout the year. In using this method, community managers allow room to create themes around the content they produce, which has the potential to attract advertisers. Planning ahead gives community managers time to carefully construct topics and pick an angle that will further engage members.

Like magazine journalists, community managers are expected to use a conversational writing style. Therefore, users feel an urge to comment and inquire about specifics. Community managers and magazine journalists also have to understand the difference between timeliness and timeless works. Covering current topics in a timely manner is important. You’re users want to have access to the information while it’s still relevant. Otherwise, they will look to other sources for the most up-to-date information.  It is also crucial to produce pieces that are timeless, meaning no matter the time frame, the information contained in the post can be useful and applied even years after it has been published.

As a community manager, do you use an editorial calendar? If not, in which ways do you manage the content being posted to your site? Share your stories with the #cmgrclass!

Everyone Blogs – And So Should You!

This week we take a look at blogging and how its use has risen over the past decade. A “blog” is an abbreviation for “web log” that allows a user (such as business rep, private individual, or ad agency) to post content that is available to everyone on the World Wide Web. Many businesses are currently using blogs to keep their audiences informed about the current state of their business. The popularity of blogs has risen substantially over the years, which has increased the need for companies to establish their own blogs throughout the Internet.

According to Joe Pulizzi’s guide, blogging has been a steadily increasing practice for most companies. Business-to-business marketers increased their use of blogs by 27%, making blogs the 3rd most common content marketing activity. The ubiquity of the Internet is responsible for such growth, which is now requiring companies to establish an online presence through the use of popular blogging systems such as Word Press.

Costs and Maintenance

6355220839_982b1263d5_mHow much is this going to cost my company? I’m sure that’s a common question asked by many business owners when deciding to create a blog. Referring to the previously mentioned guide, there are several aspects that need to be taken into account when attempting to calculate a cost for the blog. Depending on the types of platforms you use or resources that are employed, the costs can vary greatly. Some factors that will affect costs are the following:

  • Company size
  • Location (taxes, regulations, etc…)
  • Are you hiring in-house or outsourcing to an agency?
  • How much content is being posted and managed?
  • Hosting fees / ISP fees

According to Jay Baer’s article, calculating the cost and ROI for your blog can be done in 9 steps. The specific calculations are listed in the article (see link above), but seem to concentrate on assertions of how many hours per month your resources are spending on the blog management.

Overall, blogs are great way to inform and interact with your audience about content that’s relevant to your company and customers. This is a popular tool that is being used by companies around the world to establish a more direct relationship with their community of users.

327122302_bbc4a3935b_mWhere’s the content? Planning your community…

We’ve already discussed the benefits of having an active blog in your community, but what about internal management of content generation? How are you going to plan for future content? When will it be posted and made available to the community? When will the community post content?

Say hello to the editorial calendar. The benefits of the editorial calendar can be found here. The editorial calendar allows community managers to stay focused on mid to long term goals and provide members with regular initiatives to drive content creation. Such calendars can promote teamwork and allow for easy delegation of tasks.

In Closing…

Overall, blogs are a popular trend that is not going away any time soon. There are many different services on the net that enable a business to create a blog, but there are many steps needed to make it successful. The referenced guides promoted the concepts of successful blog posting and content generation that a business can use to further develop its online community via blogs.

Blogging For Bullseyes

Writing a blog post is a bit like public speaking – you’re sending your unique perspective out to a large audience of listeners. But you wouldn’t get up to speak about 10 Ways to Cook a Steak at a vegan convention, nor would it be very productive to deliver your industry-specific insights in a sidewalk sermon. Selecting the right audience is not only key to reaching people who are interested in what you have to say, but it’s one of the most important steps to deciding on what you’re actually going to be writing about. You probably have an overall theme in mind, but the specific topics of your posts should suit your audience’s wants and needs. So, how do you go about targeting the right audience?

Are you reaching the right audience?

Are you reaching the right audience?

Who are your customers?

Assuming you’re blogging for a brand, you probably have products or services that you offer. So, as Joe Pulizzi puts it in his Ultimate Guide to Blogging, who is buying what you’re selling? Those people are already interested in your brand, so why not target them with your blog? You can write more interesting articles related to your products, your industry, your community, even feature power users or helpful tips. Chances are you know how your customers use your wares, and you know a bit about who they are, so using them as a base audience is a solid place to start.

Demographics and Psychographics

As you narrow down your audience, imagine a few different individuals who might read and share your content: how old are they? Are they male, female, both? What are their other interests, what do they do for a living, what are their passions? Sometimes, companies create personas to assist with targeted marketing or communications, and the same tactic will work for your blog. When you consider what people are really looking for, you can better tailor your blog posts to their expectations and needs.

Pick Your Corner of the Market

There’s nothing wrong with writing for a particular niche, as Sherilynn Macale writes for The Next Web. If you have an audience of enthusiasts, blogging your expert opinions on their favorite subjects can be great for your traffic. For example, I keep two different blogs about specialty coffee; one is for general coffee topics, like news, how-to posts, opinions and musings, and the other is exclusively for coffee reviews. My niche is the same for both blogs – specialty coffee enthusiasts, with an extended audience of those who wish to learn more about that level of geekiness – but the content is fairly different. Even if your niche is already occupied, you may still be able to provide some unique and valuable insight.

Expand and Contract

Often, it can be difficult to determine how large your audience should really be, so don’t be afraid to experiment. You can always adjust the tone and subject of your posts to alter your targeting. If you find your blog is reaching too many of the wrong people – people who may never share your content or buy your products – you might need to rethink how you write your posts. The same goes for trying to increase your reach, so it is important to keep track of your key metrics, and make sure your targeting is actually working as planned. With a bit of planning and effort, you should be able to hit your target spot on – bullseye!

Rewrite and adjust your content to suit your new targeting.

Rewrite and adjust your content to suit your new targeting.

What are some of your most helpful tips for finding your blog’s target audience?

Book Review: Trust Agents – Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

Brogan and Smith

Julien and Chris

I love to read, especially books that help me grow in social media. I recently read a book that I have heard a lot of “buzz” about, Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. These guys have really used their experience well to deliver the basics of creating community, using social media tools and networking.

 I liked what I read and the fact that they used some of their own personal experiences as examples of what to do and what not to do. However,  I felt  like it maybe more focused on the newbies to this world of social media. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is always good to be reminded of the basics and what is important. I especially like the the “Six Characteristics of a Trust Agent“.  If you only read that one section you will learn enough about the concepts to implement their ideas for success. The idea of “build an army” resonated the most for me. It goes something like this –

Build An Army – this is a key component to successful community building. This will create an opportunity for collaboration from a varied set of resources. The best approach to any problem is with a variety of like-minded people being committed to a common outcome. Remember, you cannot do it alone!

army

So, what do you after you have amassed this army? You continue to engage and support them. It seems obvious that making your own game is crucial to attracting an audience and building a community, but you can’t just leave them hanging. If your content is fresh and brings a unique perspective to the topic(s) you discuss, you should have no problem attracting an audience and getting them engaged.

Another message that Brogan and Smith seem to make loud and clear is the fact that everyone needs to support and create opportunities for others, as well. An example that Smith gives is when Brogan was offered an opportunity to speak at an event in Los Angeles. Uunable to do it because of a scheduling conflict, he checked his network of people and referred the client to three other qualified professionals. In doing this, he showed us how we can use a network to problem solve effectively and look good doing it. This will not be soon forgotten by the other parties and is a prime example of the “Archimedes effect”.  The “pay it forward” mentality that Brogan employed will certainly provide a healthy ROI in the future as he is remembered for his generosity.

 

hands reaching

As a community manager, the use of all of these characteristics are important.  As a community manager you are working to develop a fully engaged audience that will help you with your mission because they are connected and passionate about your brand or cause.

Brogan and Smith have demonstrated some great fundamental ideas to an effective, transparent approach of how to become a good `community manager and a trust agent. Some essential concepts to take away for being a Trust Agent and/ or a Community Manager are truth, transparency and willingness to help others. While there will be a lot work to gather and maintain a community, the rewards will far outweigh the efforts. If you need more information or a deeper clarification of how to become a Trust Agent, I recommend reading Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.