Daily Archives: May 20, 2013

Susan Chavez: Building Community within the Junior League

The moment I saw that #CMGRClass students were to interview a community manager for our final assignment, I knew who I wanted as my subject.  I first met Susan Chavez in May 2011 when I attended a conference of The Association of Junior Leagues, International (AJLI), a nonprofit community impact and leadership development organization.  I later attended ’s AJLI’s fall 2011 conference to continue with AJLI’s social media curriculum.  As a member of the Junior League of Syracuse and one of over 150,00 Junior League members worldwide, I value the work that Susan does to advance the AJLI mission and was looking forward to understanding more about her work.

Susan Chavez

Susan Chavez, Nonprofit Social Media Consultant. (Photo from LinkedIn.)

Susan Chavez, Nonprofit Social Media Consultant, on LinkedIn

A New York City native, Susan attended school in upstate New York, earning a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Cornell University in 2003.  While in Ithaca, she became affiliated with the Cornell Public Service Center and following graduation, worked in its New York City office as a literacy educator furthering programs aimed to bridge the gap in summer education to underserved populations.

Susan’s work with the Public Service Center sparked her passion for nonprofit organizations.  After working with several New York-City-based not-for-profits in event planning, fund and grant development, and web development, Susan joined AJLI in 2006 as a Marketing and Communications Specialist.  Susan continued in that capacity through June 2010 when she relocated to San Francisco to become a nonprofit social media consultant.

Since then, Susan has continued her work with AJLI as a consultant.  Among the AJLI projects to which Susan has contributed are the establishment of an internal community on the AJLI website, where members can complete profiles, connect with other members, and join discussion forums; the creation of external communities on Facebook and Twitter; the development and execution of strategy for the Junior League blog, Connected; and the development and delivery of training via AJLI conferences and webinars.

Final Reflections

Jessica Murray and Susan Chavez. (Photo by author.)

Jessica Murray and Susan Chavez at AJLI’s fall conference in 2011. (Photo by author.)

Interviewing Susan was a fitting end to #CMGRClass, providing another real-world look at the life of a practicing community manager.  So, what did Susan reinforce for me?

  • Community managers wear many hats.  Susan reports that while she spends considerable effort to content planning, listening, and measurement, most of her time (35%) is devoted to content creation.
  • To a community manager, planning is key…  Susan estimates that she spends 25% of her time setting community strategy and planning content.  The creation of and adherence to a content calendar allows Susan and her teammates to develop content aligned with AJLI’s goals and work plans.
  • … but so is flexibility.  As important as the content calendar is, some flexibility must be retained for content coming from other sources.  This could be in the form of previously-unknown information just coming to light, announcements from partners or members, or major news affecting AJLI or a Junior League organization.
  • Measure what matters.  While it can be relatively easy to look at followers, mentions, and retweets, what does that contribute to a community’s underlying goal?  For Susan, as much as mentions and retweets indicate that content is being shared within members’ networks, AJLI’s primary objective is expanding the audience receiving their training.

How does Susan keep her skills fresh?  Which of her personal traits makes her well-suited to be a community manager?  Hint: be a lifelong student (vociferous reading helps), get social (go to conferences and local events), and be a cultural anthropologist (conduct research into the culture of communities).  Check out the entire interview in this YouTube interview (also embedded below).  Read more about Susan at her LinkedIn profile here.

What advice do you have for aspiring community managers?  What is your greatest reward as a community manager?

(Featured image, a word cloud of this blog post created by the author, generated using Wordle.net.)

Interviewing Community Manager – Adam Britten

Adam Britten has an amazing job. He gets to go to work every day and interact with happy people, engage an active and supportive community, work with a team that is receptive of his ideas, and best of all, he gets to work with froyo. There’s something about frozen yogurt that just seems to make for an incredibly rewarding job, and I can’t say I’ve ever met somebody who represents a frozen yogurt brand on social media who isn’t incredibly satisfied with their job. It’s this perfect combination of a fun treat that’s fairly good for you, the happiness it brings to customers, a delightful lifestyle and a product that basically sells itself, which opens up a world of marketing possibilities. Those possibilities apparently lead to fun and engaging social media campaigns and active communities around the brands. What’s not to love?

Camera fail. I'm the black square in this shot.

Camera fail. I’m the black square in this shot.

I interviewed Adam for my final assignment in #CMGRClass, to get a sense of his work life, and how he approaches community management. He’s the community manager for 16 Handles, a small chain of self-serve frozen yogurt shops based mainly on the East coast. His brand – and his work – is notable for being the first to adopt the popular picture sharing app, SnapChat, where picture messages can be viewed for only a few seconds before they disappear forever. Adam used the platform to offer a promotion to Handles fans, which got picked up by social media news outlets, trade magazines, even Wired. Innovation like that is just one way he works to make his employer look awesome on social media.

16 Handles is more than a yogurt company, which is apparent in all their online media. Their web site describes their mission to help make the world a better place by participating in green projects, planting trees, and improving communities. On Facebook, they share photos of their staff’s Earth Day improvement projects, on Instagram you’ll find pictures of the office dog (a frenchie named Handles) decked out in his very own 16 Handles hoodie. On Twitter, every fan gets a personal touch, whether they have a question, a complaint, or just want to say hello. Adam has ensured that online, 16 Handles is more than pictures of froyo, and is instead a very approachable and human brand.


When you’re competing with giants like Red Mango and Pinkberry, and you’re established in a crowded city and a saturated market, it’s tough to stand out. And yet, here’s a brand who is recognized by Quick Service Retail Magazine, a trade publication focused on retail operations with small footprints and in-and-out service, as a company to keep an eye on. If social media were the judging criteria, 16 Handles would be high on the top of the list, posting engaging content and very plainly valuing its fans. In contrast, Pinkberry, Red Mango, and TCBY all share more product shots than anything, and often ignore their customers on Twitter, only responding to a few each day.

Speaking with Adam, it’s plain that he’s not only a social guy who loves making people happy, but a talented and driven community manager. He’s forward-thinking and proficient at marketing, he fully understands his business’ goals and works hard to attain them, and he’s on the lookout for every opportunity to be at the forefront of digital marketing. He loves his fans, and he goes out of his way to make sure they’re engaged and positive, while striving to get more bodies into their stores, get more franchisees interested in the company, and get 16 Handles’ name on more headlines. He’s certainly a model #CMGR.

Adam’s favorite froyo flavor is salted caramel. What’s yours?