Daily Archives: October 31, 2013

Learning from Community Manager Tim McDonald

I had the pleasure of interviewing Tim McDonald, former community manager and now currently Director of Community at Huffington Post. Questions that I asked Tim corresponded with the topics that we have been studying this semester. Topics ranged from: differences between social media manager and community manager, search engine optimization (SEO), blogging, and metrics & analytics.

Tim’s Comparison of Social Media Manager vs. Community Manager

During the interview with Tim

It was very interesting to get Tim’s take on the differences. We have learned thus far that a social media manager is more focused on the brand, whereas a community focuses more on relationships and the community. He refers to a social media manager as a “social media marketer”. An excellent quote by Tim is as follows: “, “Social media marketing to me is more of a bulldozer- you are pushing information out. Community management is about being a magnet and attracting people and drawing them in.” This was a great takeaway from the interview and I felt as if it was a great yet simple way to explain the differences.


It was interesting to see that in such a large organization like Huffington Post, they have people that are solely dedicated to SEO. He states that even though that are people that are simply focused on SEO, it’s important to at least have an understanding and an awareness of it when working on Huffington Post. At Huffington Post, he doesn’t have to implement it, but he has to have an awareness of it. It might be different at a smaller company, where you don’t have particular people delegated for this particular thing. You may in fact have to be the implementor at a smaller company. It reminds me of an IT manager. You do not have to be extremely technical, but you should at least have an understanding of the concepts and processes.


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When it comes to blogging, Huffington Post is practically one big blog, so obviously, blogging is extremely important to them. Tim states that there is a huge emphasis on blogging there, but he also emphasizes that personal blogging is extremely important and allows your to establish your brand. There wasn’t too much to say, other than blogging is extremely beneficial and important to not only the company, but to you. Seeing how successful Huffington Post is when it’s practically a blog goes to show how important and beneficial blogs really are.

Metrics & Analytics

This was an interesting topic during the interview, since Tim stated that they are very fortunate and actually have people that build tools right at Huffington Post to monitor trends. So far, we have learned different kinda of metrics, such as audience metrics, engagement metrics, social listening & monitoring, customer service, demographics, etc. Some examples of the kinds of metrics that are studied at Huffington Post are: when posts are being shared, what the engagement will be on the post (how many re-tweets, replies, clicks), and  how many active registered users month after month and week after week. While there are many more, those are the few that he touched upon. One of my favorite quotes throughout the entire interview was when he was talking about metrics & analytics. He stated, “We need to stop looking at the big numbers, and start looking at the little numbers that create big results.”


It was really great to get a community manager’s perspective on the topics that we have discussed so far this semester. It was great to get a real-world example of the importance of these topics as well. Tim provided great insight and allowed me to learn a great deal not only about Huffington Post, but about the role that a community manager plays. Lastly, when speaking about a community manager, Tim states, “We are the experts of nothing, yet we know the experts of everything.”

The entire video can be viewed here: Interview with Community Manager Tim McDonald

Looking Like a Community Manager

Last week, our class had the opportunity to do a Google Hangout Panel with Morgan Johnston from JetBlue, David Yarus from MRY, and Nick Cicero from LiveFyre. Although the entire panel discussion was fantastic, one part in particular stuck with me.

David Yarus gave a great spiel at the end of the panel about what steps to take before applying for a community manager position, and although I think some should be taken with a grain of salt, they are great slices of advice.


“If you say you’re into social, how are you using social?” – David

If you’re an aspiring community manager, you should already be showing that you want to do it with your spare time. Are you participating in communities? Do you talk to people on a regular basis? With your own social media profiles, make sure you are “dressing for the job you want” by acting like a community manager, even though you aren’t one.


“Lock them down, make sure you’re polished, make sure you’re saying the right things and not saying the wrong things.” – David

Developing a personal brand is common on the Internet, and most web-based professionals have their Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, and other social media accounts put together. This not only means making them look nice, such as having clear and professional headshot, but also being mature and sensible on high visibility platforms like Twitter.


“Make it rain connections.” – David

Where do you want to work? Who do you want to work for? Are those companies or people on Twitter? If the answer is yes, follow them. Read what they have to say, retweet them, and once they take notice of you, talk to them and start building a relationship. Showing that you have an ability to connect online makes it easier to demonstrate your skills as a community manager, especially if you’ve proven you can build your reputation to having a conversation with the company’s CEO from scratch.

Another tip David has was to do anything to get 500+ connections on Linkedin. While I think there’s some truth to this, I think it’s essential for people to understand that your connections should be genuine. If you’re in college, it’ll likely take a while to build 500+ professional connections. Check out this article for what I think is a great guide to connecting on Linkedin.


“Maneuver around the people who are … doing the same things, going to the same career fairs, applying for the same jobs … ” – David

Are you trying to talk to someone on Twitter but they won’t respond? Try talking to someone else. Did your blog post not get any engagement? Write a different one. The only way to get out of the rat race is to separate yourself from the pack. Just do something different to get noticed while pushing your professional career ahead. As David puts it: we are in the Matrix. The sooner you understand that, the sooner you’ll be able to unplug, get out there, and make a difference with employers.

What do you think of David’s advice? Is it spot on? Is it practical?