Daily Archives: May 17, 2013

Listening to your Audience or Community

I enjoyed being moderator for #CMGRclass and I particular liked the topic of Listening to Your Community, the readings I read, and the discussion amongst my classmates.

I opened the week by asking my classmates what are the things the communities they belong to do that bother them as well as asking what types of things would they do as a community manager to personalize the experience for their members. I received good feedback from my classmates.

In summary, #CMGRclass does not like:

  • When a community has conversations do not welcome differences of opinion
  • When community members are disrespectful to each other
  • Template responses that are not personalized
  • Unwanted advertisements
  • Receiving too many automated emails

#CMGRclass does like:

  • When CMs get to know some of their members on an individual basis
  • When CMs guide the conversation, not dominate
  • When companies/organizations use humans instead of automated systems
  • Direct interaction between follower and community manager/organization
  • Listening to feedback from your community

Steve Rhinehart gave a good example of how a coffee company has exceptional customer service and how they do that because they listen to their community. I enjoyed this quote from his post:

“It really goes to show how a bit of effort, a drive to create happy customers, and a bit of social networking can really make a company stand out, even one of the small guys.”

Jessica Murray stated that companies that have an engaged social presence gives her a warm and fuzzy feeling that makes her more likely and even want to do business with them. I agree with her—if social media is done right, companies will develop relationships with their customers that can lead to brand loyalty.

I really liked the Forbes article The 4 Pillars of Community Management, one being listening. By listening to feedback and social media metrics, you can evaluate your community. These were the tips:

  • Speaking directly with users, whether that be via social media, email, on the phone, or in person.
  • Asking users for feedback, either directly or by polling.
  • Measuring the brand’s social media analytics.
  • Monitoring online presence of the community — e.g., is your business what comes up when current or potential users are searching?

Overall, I learned that managing a community can be fun, but time consuming! However, if you as well as your community are engaged in the subject and interacting with each other, the discussion will be great and members can greatly benefit from each other.

Let’s Play! #CMGRChat Gets Gamified

Reality is broken, so let’s play games instead; that was the main point of Jane McGonigal’s keynote speech at 2011’s PAX East convention. In a large auditorium at the top floor of the Boston Convention Center, Ms. McGonigal got the entire audience to partake in a massive thumb war, after discussing the merits of injecting games and play into real life. Her arguments were strong, citing psychological evidence that play improves many quality of life factors, and can result in better work. I came away from that keynote with a shiny new achievement (Double Kill – I won both thumb war games simultaneously!), a heightened sense of enjoyment (the video games on the show floor didn’t hurt, though), a plan to buy her book, and a lasting interest in “gamification.” So when it became the topic of the day for #CMGRChat, I couldn’t wait to see what people had to say.

On April 3rd, dozens of community managers tuned into Twitter to discuss four questions about gamification and community. The questions posed were:

  • Is every community a good candidate for gamification? And how do you know yours is/isn’t?
  • What do you expect to gain from gamification within your community and how do you measure that?
  • What are some best practices for someone just starting to add game elements to a community? Things to stay away from?
  • What are some examples of gamification within communities that has worked well? Not so well?

Blog14_SB

The summary? Well, not all communities are created equal, and that goes for how suitable gamification is for them. Some communities are too casual for games to really motivate them, but others are hyper competitive and would love to be rewarded for using the platforms. Two examples I knew before I really knew how widespread gamification was are SuperBetter and Fitocracy. SuperBetter is Jane’s self-improvement network that ties personal achievements to in-game achievements. It’s a great concept, that’s really more about making a game out of real life than it is about joining a gaming community, but the community aspect is very much present and very helpful as a support system. Fitocracy, in contrast, is a bit more competitive. It is also based on fitness and self-improvement, but it rewards high scores and progress, pitting you against yourself as well as your peers. The community on both exists to support, but Fitocracy tends to emphasize safely one-upping your buddies.

Blog14_Evan

Gamification doesn’t work without a strategy, however, so some of the answers in the chat were especially helpful. Knowing what benefits there are to which features you want to implement is of high importance, right behind knowing whether or not your community will actually buy into them. Michael Hahn suggested using gamification to find advocates and influencers, as well as gather feedback. Evan Hamilton suggested using what already inspires community members as the focal point of gamification, which will likely lead to higher engagement. There are many ways to go about it, but going in blind is never a good choice. I think the rule of thumb is to actually spend the time needed to make a game that’s right for your community. If you can’t commit to that initial investment, it’s going to be very hard to commit to the long-term maintenance and upgrades of the game, and if the fit isn’t right, the game will very likely fail quite early. It’s really a lot more than stickers and achievements.

What is your favorite example of gamification? What worked best about it?

Using Content to Build a Community

The Community ManagerThis week I participated in #cmgrchat, the Twitter chat for community managers co-founded in 2010 and hosted each week by #cmgrclass professors Jenn Pedde and Kelly Lux.  I discovered on Wednesday morning that the topic was “Using Content to Build a Community” – perfect, I thought, to cap off this semester.

This week’s Twitter chat was not my first #cmgrchat experience.  I previously participated in a #cmgrchat about a year ago while I was a #RotoloClass student, and I occasionally drop in and out of the Wednesday afternoon chats as my work schedule allows.   This week, I used TweetDeck to track the #cmgrchat hashtag and keep up with the conversation, which can sometimes be challenging given the volume of tweets.  TweetChat is another popular tool for participating in Twitter chats.

@KellyLux welcome to #cmgrclass@JPedde welcome to #cmgrclass

 

 

 

 

 

 

#cmgrchat Questions

This week’s chat had five questions.

1. What’s your primary content type?  Trust Building, Educational, User-Generated, Conversion, or Filtered? — Why?

2. What are some integral components of a content strategy?

3. In what ways do current community members contribute to your owned content (blogs, newsletters, web pages, etc.)?

4. What companies make tools that have community building in mind?  What do you use?

5. How often do you evaluate an owned/onsite content strategy?  And what does evaluation look like?

 

Community Manager Insights

About ten minutes were devoted to each question, with Jenn and Kelly alternating as questioners.  Most CMs provided answers to each question, but others dropped in and out of the chat according to their availability.  I observed commonalities within each set of responses, and noticed interesting outliers as well.

  • #cmgrchat 042413 - Q1Content type: In response to question 1, most community managers participating in the chat seemed to report that they primarily used trust-building and/or educational content within their communities.  However, many expressed a goal of introducing more community-generated content in the future.

 

  • #cmgrchat 042413 - Q1Content strategy components: Common responses to question 2 included alignment with organizational objectives and understanding of community members’ interests and needs.  Additionally, many community managers commented on the importance of a content calendar while also acknowledging the need to retain flexibility to respond to real-time news and issues.

 

#cmgrchat 042413 - Q3

  • Community member contributions: In reply to question 3, a common theme among chat participants was the use of community members to share CM-developed content, provide feedback on content, and act in a guest blogger capacity.  I was excited to see one of my answers to question 3 prompt interaction with another member in the chat!

 

  • #cmgrchat 042413 - Q4Community building tools:  Chat participants named a range of tools they use to help build community; some I’ve used in my own community-building practice (HootSuite, StorifyTumblr), others I had heard of but not personally used (Google Hangouts and Alerts), and even more were new to me (CrowdBooster, SimplyMeasured, Sprout Social).  My motto is usually “show me the free” – and apparently I’m not the only one – but I’m definitely open to investigating some of the paid services.

 

  • #cmgrchat 042413 - Q5Content strategy evaluation: In answer to the final question, CMs responded that they analyze content for efficacy based on metrics and community feedback.  Reporting was a common tool, occurring on a range of time frames from quarterly, biweekly, weekly, and even more frequently.  I was impressed by the CMs’ diligence and couldn’t help but feel like I fall into the “not often enough” category.

 

A Sense of Community

What strikes me about #cmgrchat is the sense of community among the contributors.  Even after only a handful of appearances on my part, I recognized certain names as regular attendees.  Participants are quick to respond to, retweet, or mention comments that they find insightful – including tweets from newcomers.  (#cmgrchat is definitely not a good old girls’ or boys’ network!)  If you haven’t yet taken in a #cmgrchat, I highly recommend it: it’s acknowledged as the go-to resource for community managers, and has even cracked the Twitter trending topics list.  After my experience this week, I intend to participate more regularly to learn from this open and resourceful community.

Have you ever participated in a Twitter chat, #cmgrchat or otherwise?  What do you find most useful?

Check out my Storify of this week’s #cmgrchat here.  Visit the basis for this week’s chat, The Community Manager’s “Using Content to Build a Community” by Rebecca Lindegren, here, and tune in to #cmgrchat each Wednesday at 2pm ET.

(Screen shots of 4.24.13 #cmgrchat tweets taken by author.  Featured image’s word cloud created by author using Wordle.)

Building Community with Content

Wednesday’s #CMGRchat was about using content to build a community. I found this chat particularly helpful and the questions that Jenn and Kelly asked to the participants insightful. Here are some highlights:

Question 1: What’s your primary content type? Trust Building, Educational, User-Generated, Conversational, or Filtered? – Why?

cmgrchat a1For my community, most of my content is about events or news about our community/community members, so most of my content is educational/informative. But the answers to question 1 were diverse.

Many participants say that they prefer user-generated content and that they try to post things that are conversational. However, user-generated content comes with time, your community needs to grow and mature before you can have this type of content. Some community managers also agreed that it is good to have a combination of different content types to keep things fresh and interesting.

Question 2: What are some integral components of a content strategy?

The following is a list of the most talked about integral components of a content strategy:

  • Creating a content calendar
  • Knowing your community
  • Following the values of your brand
  • Keeping in line with the goals of your community
  • Listening to your community and the feedback they give
  • Using the proper platforms to help you post, track, and analyze
  • Consistency in curation and moderation
  • Clear business goals
  • Planning ahead

Question 3: In what ways do current community members contribute to your owned content? (Blogs, Newsletters, web pages, etc.)?

Currently, my community members don’t actually write newsletters, emails, blogs, help with our web pages, or anything like that. However, they contribute by letting us know what they are up to, by sending us links to shows, projects or informing us of other things they are participating in. Since I help manage a community for Syracuse University graduates, it is really helpful when our alumni notify us and keep us informed– they are our eyes and ears.

cmgrchat A3

Many partipants in #CMGRchat had more experience with community members contributing to their content. Their advice included:

  • Being open to guest bloggers/posters
  • Making sure your community members know they are valued
  • Encouraging community members to comment and give feedback
  • Encouraging community members to ask questions
  • Highlighting community members/showcasing talented community members
  • Making sure that it is a mutually beneficial relationship between the community and its members

Question 4: What companies make tools that have community building in mind? What do you use?

Tools that #CMGRchat participants listed as helpful included:

  • Email*
  • Twitter*
  • Google+*
  • Hootsuite*
  • Sprout Social
  • Crowd Booster
  • Storify*
  • StumbleUpon
  • Skype
  • OneTab
  • Marketo
  • Sales Force
  • Buddy Media
  • Radian6
  • Blogging sites such as Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress*

(* denotes tools that I also use/find helpful)

cmgrchat 1Question 5: How often do you evaluate an owned/onsite content strategy? And what does evaluation look like?

This was a pretty loaded question, and for most in the chat, they said it would vary depending on the type of community you are managing. It was also a common answer that you can never do enough evaluating since your community is probably constantly changing and growing.

Participants suggested:

  • Weekly and/or monthly reports such as key performance indicator reports
  • Evaluate and adjust based on feedback and user engagement
  • Listen to your community
  • Follow trends

*     *     *

It was amazing how much I learned in just 60 minutes. This chat could have gone on for hours since there is so much to talk about when it comes to managing an online community and developing content. I’m looking forward to participating in even more #CMGRchats in the future.

Have You Got the Right Stuff for a Community Manager Future?

You should have seen me and heard me! 

I jumped for joy, laughed out loud, clapped my hands and smiled from ear to ear as I read the content for this week’s Community Manager Class. (Well, I only partly did all that–but I certainly felt that way.)

Flickr/CC/Alex Mestas

Flickr/CC/Alex Mestas

Given the 15-week span of this class, the 15-month effort to earn my iSchool Certificate of Advanced Studies in Information Innovation/Social Media, and more than 15 years of work in PR and communications behind me, the end week of #CmgrClass signifies achievements beyond simply finishing another class, and I found those reflected in the course readings this week about the future of community manager jobs.

Here’s why: IST 620 completes my certificate program (once some paperwork is done). Finishing my CAS/Social Media credential means that I’ve achieved a sizeable goal. A year ago January, I set out to­ update my skills and convert my thinking from the status-quo world of traditional media and PR practice to the new reality of digital and online communication spaces. So this week, I got some good lessons and some affirmations that couldn’t have been more helpful and appropriate at this time.

Here’s where I #humblebrag (Please indulge me for just a bit).

This week’s readings provided a mirror for me. I suspected before (and have learned through this class) that I possess “the right stuff” for community manager work. My work experience and educational background, personality traits, work ethic, and cultural orientation are the type of ingredients that typically makes for a fine community manager. Through this course, I also now have the needed mindset, training, and skills—things learned from highly respected community managers who are leaders in the industry. And I’m feeling that I learned well, and now can successfully go forth in #CMGR work. I’ve been very lucky to have enjoyed a leading-edge social media and information space environment at the iSchool over five semesters, another element that’s been  instrumental in moving me from  old school to new realm. (Not that I was that #oldskool.)

Flickr/CC

Flickr/CC

To provide some perspective on these readings and that vantage point for others, I’ll quote what Erin Bury says in Social Fresh about the time she interviewed for the role of #CMGR at Sprouter. She was told then that a community manager is a mix of writing, PR, communications, and social media. After being in the role for a time, she now reflects: It’s a Web 2.0 communications role,” one that is “the face of a company, managing communications in both directions. This digital-savvy employee is responsible for all communications, PR, social media, events, and content creation, among other things.”

Erin says the job includes content creation, social media marketing, events and event planning, public relations, customer relations, communications and marketing strategy, analytics, and business development. She says a person suited to the role needs: an outgoing personality, writing skills, social media experience, interest in the industry (passion), a work-around-the-clock willingness, good employee, PR experience, cultural fit, and intellectual curiosity. (Sorry to add more #Brag here, but: Check, Check, Check, Check, Check, Check, Check, Check, and Check.)

In a Mashable piece about CM jobs, Mario Sundar of LinkedIn says community managers also should love the product or company they represent—but still must be able to “have an understanding of users’ pain points.” A community manager should be empathetic, too, since “that will help them be better at responding to complaints (and, at times, rants).” (Check!)

Community managers also must “understand that their role is to help people and enable their community to connect with each other,” writes Andres Glusman, of Meetup.com. (Another Check.) Another must for community managers, says Seamus Condron at ReadWriteWeb, is authenticity. “It’s not just about having a voice, but having an authentic one.” (A Double Check for me!)

Little-Orange-Chow/Flickr-CC

Little-Orange-Chow/Flickr-CC

It’s clear that the “hard tools” of the trade (data and analytics) will be as crucial as the “soft” tools for a community manager, yet it is good to understand that, as a  future job prospects go, the Community Manager role is gaining in business-world significance. As Vadim Lavrusik noted in Mashable:  “… engaging users online and off has become ever more important for both companies big and small. That’s because social media has revolutionized the idea of word-of-mouth marketing, providing not only an opportunity for companies to expand their brands but also creating the risk of a customer service nightmare.”Flickr/CC/cindy47452

So at the end of #CMGRClass, I’m feeling very good about my decision to retool, stay fresh, and keep learning. The insights, education, and  associations have been great. And I look forward to opportunities to become part of what Buzzing Communities author Richard Millington said community manager work is all about: a professional discipline whose value is backed by data.

Flickr/CC/cindy47452