Daily Archives: May 22, 2013

A Profile on Community Management with VaynerMedia’s Harry Barron

vaynerI recently had the opportunity to interview Harry Barron, a community manager with VaynerMedia.  Through the interview Barron lent insights as to what life is like as a community manager with a community and media management firm, and shared some of the tactics and practices that VaynerMedia employs in its quest to manage the online communities of its many clients.

The Company

VaynerMedia was launched in 2009 as an endeavor between Gary Vaynerchuk and his brother AJ, and began as a small community and media management firm with the founders and three of AJ’s friends. Since that time, VaynerMedia has grown to have two offices, one in New York City and the other in San Francisco, and has hundreds of employees and a varied client portfolio.

The Community Manager

Barron started working with VaynerMedia in November 2012, only several months after his graduation from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He is tasked with managing the online communities of one of VaynerMedia’s large, global clients, through their Facebook and Twitter accounts. He performs his job by managing these online outlets daily, and working in tandem with several other employees on the same client account who are tasked with managing various online outlets of the client, and by working with several departments within VaynerMedia to effectively manage the online communities.

Takeaways from the Interview

One of the most interesting things I gathered from the interview was how some online communities are managed in a departmentalized fashion.  While I had previously functioned under the assumption that all online communities were managed by one basic entity, information garnered from Barron proved that assumption wrong. At VaynerMedia they employ a segmented approach.

There are teams assigned to each client, and depending on the size of the client, a variety of community managers are assigned to manage different facets of the online community. For a large, global company such as the one that Barron is assigned to, the online outlets are broken up and several of them will be assigned to different community managers to allow them to better focus their attention. For large clients, having one community manager manage all aspects of a client’s online presence would spread them too thin and impact the amount of interaction and observation they could feasibly apply to each outlet.

Outside of the teams, there are departments within the company that are shared among the CM teams. The analytics department and the social media strategy departments are just two examples of this. Instead of having the community managers handle the analytics and the strategy, VaynerMedia has created entire departments to handle these specific tasks. From the work of these departments, the information gleaned from analytics is shared with the client team on a weekly and monthly basis so that they can adapt their content and communication strategies. The social media strategy departments assess this data as well, and plan new strategies to share with the client teams.


While I was surprised to learn that there is minimal user guideline material applied to Barron’s client’s Facebook and Twitter proceedings, and also that a more comprehensive content calendar was not employed, after giving some consideration to the context of these choices they began to make more sense.

I was shocked to learn that Barron’s client opts not to take advantage of brand ambassadors, particularly since it is a global company that has as many avid fans as it does critics. While the current strategy does recognize community members who are particularly active by awarding them swag, there is little outside of that to recognize and encourage excellence in community members.

The Nutshell

Overall, I found the interview with Barron to be very information, particularly since it opened my eyes to the tactics of community management in a departmentalized fashion. While the segmented nature of community management for large clients at firms like VaynerMedia may be a bit off from what I had chalked up community management to in my head, I have learned that sometimes the sheer size and scope of a company occasionally demands it. And while this tactic may change the way that analytics or strategy impact the role of a community manager, the essence of monitoring and communicating with a community remain the same.

A Look Inside Chobani’s Community Management

Chobani peaked my interest as a potential subject for this #CmgrClass final paper based on my personal consumption of the Greek yogurt brand. I also noticed,  more than once, that the brand represented a great corporate narrative and that the brand was doing fantastically creative advertising and online communication.

Chobani Products

Chobani Products

Here’s the Chobani story.

In CentraI New York, a CEO from Turkey bought an abandoned dairy plant and started manufacturing Greek-style yogurt. The “good “ that resulted in the community and its economy produced like business results. In six years, Chobani became America’s #1 Greek Yogurt brand. As I’ve watched, I thought some of that rise had to be due to the superb online presence and community management work being done by the brand. I began to follow Chobani on Twitter, and when my tweet to @Chobani received a quick response, I decided to ask if the team might be my subject for IST 620’s final paper interview.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a positive response. This blog tells more about the question-answer process that flowed from that connection, and how and why a small, in-house Chobani team fields huge numbers of digital customer engagements.

Ashley Butler is the community coordinator I connected with from first tweet. She answered my 11 questions, with responses composed together with her boss, Emily Schildt, Chobani’s Director of Consumer Engagement.

The community management team of 11 works from an open-space office in New York City, fielding customer comments and questions and listening to their remarks around the clock. That data is mined for customer service as well as product R & D.

The team is closely integrated with the other business segments (marketing, advertising, events, public relations, customer service, sales, and market research) that, in my view, presents an optimal model.

The Chobani “brand” is characterized by simple, pleasant design and friendly, easy-going, “human” talk, presented in an engaging, “fun” style, according to Ashley. Though the workload is quite heavy, Chobani responds to “each and every tweet containing ‘Chobani’,” it reports. The online traffic usually nears 2,000 tweets a day (180 tweets per each of 11 team members).

So friendly, polite Ashley answered my 11 questions. I was able to additionally capture some of her personality through an online blog profile she provided (below).  Ashley and her team function as follows:

Ashley Butler, Chobani Community Coordinator

Ashley Butler, Chobani Community Coordinator

  • Community coordinators are structured as an in-house group (Digital Communications) vs. a vendor-provided service
  • The team grew from one person in 2011 to 11 people now, and works around the clock
  • Members are housed together in an open-cubicle space in New York
  • All tasks are handled by all team members. Community Coordinators’ roles “encompass many tasks, including engagement, publishing content, communicating and harboring influencer relationships,” Ashley reports.
  • All response is authentic and on-the-spot. Per Ashley: “No scripts, just human! Of course, we have some basic messaging to cohere to, and always maintain tone across channels.”

(See the other 10 community coordinators here, on this blog post: http://chobani.com/community/blog/2013/03/10-months-10-goals-our-10-for-10/.)

Chobani Offices, NYC (via Steve Rhineart)

Chobani Offices, NYC (via Steve Rhinehart)

The team fields also responses on these channels:

  • Two Facebook pages and two blogs (Chobani and Chobani Champions)
  • Three Twitter handles (Chobani, Chobani Champions and Chobani SoHo)
  • Pinterest, Instagram and Google+ accounts.

From all angles, this is the group of people in communication with the team potentially at any one time industry- entry description) (numbers as of March 2013, Shorty Awards :

  • 51,000 followers on Twitter  (as of today, it is 57,907 following on      Twitter)
  • 613,000 fans on Facebook
  • 42,000 followers on Pinterest
  • 16,000 followers on Instagram

The group is also responsible for some of the content, and you can see that they experiment in a special Chobani Kitchen which provides the setting for collaboration, creative ideas, new images and recipes to try, and the spirit that comes out of a collaborative environment.

So, thank you very much, Ashley Butler, for helping to make my assignment come to reality, and my curiosity about your community management function be satisfied.

Product/Brand image

Product/Brand image

For more information about Chobani’s social channels and community management model, look the company up at:

Website:  http://chobani.com/goreal/

Community section, website: http://chobani.com/community/

Blog: http://chobani.com/community/blog/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Chobani

Google +: https://plus.google.com/s/chobaniFacebook: https://www.facebook.com/Chobani?fref=ts

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/chobani

You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/user/ChobaniYogurt

Vine: Creative kitchen times and content hours at Chobani: https://vine.co/v/bg9hAgej5u7.)

Thank you, Ashley, and Thanks, Chobani. I appreciate your attention and responsiveness here, just as I did when I experienced it on Twitter.