Monthly Archives: October 2013

It’s Harder to Build a Community from 0-10 than 10-100

For our CMGRclass, we were fortunate enough to be able to chat with Ally Greer, a community manager a and Sean Keely, a blogger for Syracuse University sports. With two different backgrounds, we were able to gain different perspectives on how to manage communities.

Photo courtesy of Enrique Martinez Bermejo via Flikr Creative Commons

A variety of different topics were discussed that ranged from search engine optimization, how they measure success, and even their strategy for starting a community. There were a few points that each of them discussed that stood out to me:

Ally – It is harder to get from 0-10, than 10-100.

  • Her initial plan was to get thousands of ambassadors for and, but much to her surprise, it was very difficult to get ambassadors. She tapped into the top percentage of users and turned them into ambassadors. It is very difficult to get people to buy in, and because of that, it’s much more difficult than you think to get a huge community. She quickly realized that what her initial plan was not going to be the final plan, and as a community manager, you have to adjust to that.

Ally – “Just because you have 100,000 users doesn’t necessarily mean you have 100,000 users”

  • It is important to think that just because you have a community of only 100, it could still be stronger than a community of 10,000. The reason for this is because if these 100 community members/ambassadors participate, it will be more beneficial than the other community of 10,000 where only 20 participate. “I have learned that it is better to have fewer members that spark interest rather than many members that don’t spark any. Just because you may be a user of the product does not mean you are part of the community.”

Ally- “You have to constantly revamp a plan”

  • She emphasizes that one of the hardest parts is that you never know what people are going to react to and you might have to try something else. What I really took away from this is that community managers have to be able flexible and open to change because there are many different people with many different personalities that you have to tend to.

Sean – “Nothing speaks more to me than going to the site and seeing that a post has 150 comments and another post has 2”

  • While there are many different analytical tools and metrics to figure out trends, nothing speaks more to him than being able to see firsthand where the interest is. When and where posts are shared as well as people commenting on stories is where he can really tell that particular content is booming. This was particularly interesting because we have learned thus far that there are many ways to look at trends and metrics, and his way is simple, yet effective. He knows what stories are being talked about and he can create further content pertaining to those popular posts.

Sean – “The demographics I have seen are all over the place”

  • Many people assume a college sports blog like this would have a demographic of 20 year old males. But, there are a lot of female and older readers. The median age is closer to 40 than to 20. So, it is incorrect to say that his site is a 20 year old male centric site. This is an important concept in community management as well as content because you can never assume what your demographic is going to be, and you have to revamp your plan and adjust your strategy to the community. Community members might very well be all unique, but it is crucial to not assume what the demographics will be because you could be mistaken.

There were so many topics discussed in this hour long chat with both Ally and Sean. While those were only a few comments that stuck out to me, there were many more. It is very interesting to see how they differ when it comes to managing content, and it’s also interesting to see other differences, such as how they measure success (Ally keeping track of activations/ambassadors and Sean by site comments/social media input). On a final note, “everything depends on your ultimate goals,” Ally Greer.

Tips from the Pros: Community Management

In class last week, our community management class was fortunate enough to speak to Sean Keeley and Ally Greer, the founder of and Community Manager of (respectively). Each professional brought up interesting points as they shared experiences from their lives in social media and blogging. Throughout the hour long discussion, each person brought up important lessons for students to internalize.

50% Proactive, 50% Reactive

Ally Greer commented that community management was 50% proactive and 50% reactive. Although I understood prior to her comment that community management was more than just managing, it didn’t strike me that community management really had to be a balance between managing conversation and allowing them to happen organically. I thought it was important that she reminded the class of the balance a community manager needs to maintain in order to have a thriving, yet natural community. This also reminded me of what was talked about in class, which is to moderate a conversation, not dominate it. It was interesting to hear people apply the lessons learned in class to their own experiences, and phrase these lessons in words that applied specifically to their communities.

Sean Keeley talks to #cmgrclass via Google Plus.

Sean Keeley talks to #cmgrclass via Google Plus.

Write For Yourself 

When asked if Sean Keeley writes towards a particular demographic (perhaps a 25 year old Syracuse male), he replied by saying that he writes for himself. Although this comment at first seemed self-serving, it soon seemed like that was the only acceptable answer. While every blog may have a typical member, it is important that one’s own interests and passions are satisfied when writing. As discussed later in the Google Plus group, how can one run a successful blog if their own interests aren’t taken into consideration? Sean’s unique answer certainly gave all bloggers and class members an opportunity to think about why someone may want to initially start a blog.

People Need To Know What They Want

Although both bloggers/community managers have had different experiences, they can both agree that people need to know what they want. Based on Ally Greer’s experiences, she specifically mentions how users may not know what they want from a service until the option is offered to them. For Sean Keeley, offering news about different sports may not be something that users knew they wanted until the news was on the website. Regardless of the type of field one is blogging about, it’s important to give users options and allow them to figure out what they want for themselves.

What do you think about these points? Is there anything you’d like to add or disagree with? Let us know in the comments below! 

User Generated Content: Who’s Doing it Right?

User Generated Content (UGC) is crucial for the success of most blogs and websites, especially those that are community-based. To put it simply, UGC is content that is contributed by non-moderators of a site–it may include images, videos, guest posts, product reviews, and more.

Who’s doing it right?

When creating a blog, you have to establish whether or not you will incorporate UGC. Sites with a large following would benefit from UGC–it creates a stronger sense of community among the followers! Giving your members the opportunity to contribute allows them to feel like they are a true part of the community and not simply reading or watching from the outside. Let’s take a look at some brands and communities who have successfully incorporated UGC into their sites/communities.

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

What are they doing?
Late Night relies heavily on community interaction via various social media platforms. The show (and website) uses many forms of UGC, but the most prominent is “Late Night Hashtags”. Each Wednesday, Jimmy Fallon creates a hashtag and asks followers to tweet based on that topic. The following Wednesday, his favorite tweets are read aloud in a segment called “Late Night Hashtags”. This content is also posted online.

Why is it successful?
When someone sends a tweet to @LateNightJimmy, his or her followers can see it. With just one tweet, the show is reaching a wider audience than the night before. Also, the use of a common hashtag gives the show the opportunity to trend nationally (which happens almost every week). Now, even more people can see the hashtag and participate if they’d like.

Our book in class, “Buzzing Communities” discussed community blogs acting as local newspapers. Mentioning specific people is a great way to make members feel like an important aspect of the community. The “Late Night Hashtags” segment displays personal Twitter handles which encourages people to participate week-by-week. When followers tweet using the hashtag, they are more likely to watch the show that night to see if they will be mentioned on-air.

Content category repetition is also a great tool for any blog. Repetition allows your audience to know what’s coming. Followers of Late Night can expect a new hashtag announcement every Wednesday.

NOTE: While Jimmy Fallon may be a television show, his community and presence online is very strong. Online brands can learn a lot from his team’s use of UGC.

Free People

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On, customers help sell the clothing!

What are they doing?
Free People is receiving high praise for its recent campaign. They asked customers to post photos of themselves wearing Free People clothing on Instagram. Each picture is tagged with the clothing item’s name (given by the website), and the photos are featured on their website underneath that article of clothing.

Why is it successful?
The pictures are linked from each customer’s Instagram profile. When anyone visits the site and “likes” one of the pictures, it gets sent directly to that person’s account. This is a way to reward members for participating and for buying their products. The site promotes personal profiles and the photos promote the site. Everybody wins!

Being featured on the site allows featured customers to feel like they are a part of the brand. They are no longer simply buying the products… they’re helping to sell them!

More UGC-friendly Sites

Check out the following links for more sites I found using UGC to their advantage:

1. Steam – Gaming Community
2. Major League Baseball

Now that you know what to look out for, check out the sites you visit most frequently and see if they are using UGC (and if they are successful)! What are some of the sites you found?


SU Graduate Tackles Blogging

The Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician logo.

The Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician logo.

Sean Keely is a Syracuse University graduate who has a passion for all things Syracuse University sports. He started noticing sports blogs and channels were not covering sub-topics such as soccer. They also did not have the type of content that he was looking for. When it was time for Sean to take matters into his own hands, he decided to just create his own sports blog. Now Sean’s blog, Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician has many readers and brings in revenues.

A popular question that occurs in the blogging space is, “How do you attract reoccurring readers?” Although there may not be a “right” answer, bloggers typically have an idea of how they gained their audience. For Sean, his focus was simply writing for himself. However, using key words and amping up SEO are also beneficial to gaining traffic. There are many factors that are taken into consideration when using SEO. Blogger, Victoria Edwards lays out some key points to enhancing your SEO. In Sean’s case, he puts a focus on key words. Especially when a large or breaking news event occurs.

During our time with Sean, we were wondering if he had a relationship with the University now that his blog has many readers. Sean stated that at first the University was not involved, but he was okay with that. Now, SU is well aware of his blog and will invite him to special events or let him in on new news. Sean reached out to the University himself because he realized that he needed special access. From the panel, we also learned that Sean credits job offers from his blogging experience. One of these jobs includes his teaching position for a blogging course in the iSchool. This tells us that building a community is a valuable asset in the working environment.

At this point, it is safe to say that Sean Keely has built a name for himself in the blogging space. He has readers, access, and a “secret society” (if you know what Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician means, you’re apart of this society). He also has user-generated content, that he calls “Fanposts” and reader interactions. All of this has built a strong community made up of Syracuse University sports fans. Don’t forget to check out Sean’s blog here!

Creating and Curating Content with Ally Greer and Sean Keeley

CMGRclass had the opportunity to hang out (okay, Google+ Hangout) with Ally Greer, community manager at, and Sean Keeley, creator and blogger at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician.

Ally and Sean were a great choice for this stage of our class. We’ve covered community management through the lens of SEO, engagement, blogging, and user generated content (UGC) – great topics for them to cover.

Throughout the hangout, the biggest similarity between Ally and Sean’s job is the way they rely on content created by people other than themselves.

Using UGC is a common practice, and Ally and Sean use the idea in different but effective ways. Ally’s brand relies on UGC, and the interactive nature of Sean’s community breeds strong opinions – it’s clear they’ve easily determined that UGC is right for them.

"You can give context and meaning to further engage your audience." - Ally Greer’s entire platform is built around the idea that people can find what interests them, add their insights, and publish. The nature of is user-driven, and new content is created every day by users. Day to day, Ally combs through the content and looks for the best posts and writers.

Ally also strongly focuses on creating lean content, or, content that makes a big impact with few resources. Like Ally said during our hangout: creating content takes a lot of time. Lean content means Ally can repurpose content and help her users learn from content better and faster.

Meanwhile, Sean uses similar tactics in a different strategy. Sean writes for his blog because he loves to, but he still wants to curate additional content. In order to do so, he’s created a fan section of his blog where fans can write and publish their own content.

"Most people are writing because it's something fun to do." - Sean Keeley

Although Sean doesn’t run a platform like, he’s created a section of his blog where readers can contribute. Through this fanpost section, he’s able to find good writers that match the style of his blog. In some cases, fan blogs will be posted to the main blog, and in rare cases, consistently good fan contributors can become regular main blog contributors.

Both Ally and Sean create content, but in order to better use their time and take advantage of quality writers, they had to become skilled content curators as well.

In the CMGRclass G+ community, we’ve debated the best ways to do UGC. Some communities have depended on or currently depend on UGC with varying degrees of success – like Bleacher Report or Reddit. I’ve seen UGC increasingly become a part of other blogs – the Gawker Media blogs use Kinja to generate and help curate content from users.

It seems as though the successful blogs that use UGC are one of three things:

  1. The blog is the platform, and the best rise to the top (like or Reddit)
  2. The blog is fully integrated with a platform, and content is curated (like Gawker network blogs and Kinja)
  3. Provide an alternate platform for people to use, and content is curated (like TNIAAM)

Do you agree with these categories? Whether you do or not – are these methods really the best ways to curate UGC?

Is User Generated Content (UGC) right for you?


Content Syndication by Chris Heiler.

One thing fans know how to do is create content for something they love.

If you spend ten minutes combing through Tumblr’s search engines looking for anything, and I mean anything, you will find gifs, well-written reviews dissecting a scene, character or entire franchise, hand made drawings and paintings, fan fiction and in some cases, songs composed for a product.

In a similar way to Amazon reviews, Tumblr allows for a space for reviews to be posted and seen by a large audience. With Amazon, the feedback typically stops with a review and with a photograph of the product; whereas with Tumblr, the review can turn into GIFing commercials and dissecting actors.

Taylor Hawes, a blogger for Host Gator, discusses the pros and cons of user generated content (UGC) in his post, “Is User Generated Content Right for Your Website?” In the article, Hawes mentions that sometimes the content that’s generated isn’t always of the highest quality and that one should think about how to address the low quality content or negative reviews but one of the pros to UGC is that it can “significantly decrease the amount of content your team is directly responsible for creating.” Hawes also suggests that if you are going to use user-generated content that you make it as easy as possible for them to contribute.

One of the benefits to UGC not really talked about by Hawes is that if you manage a popular TV show, movie or book series, over time users might create content for you without being asked. Hawes does say that some brands can also encourage fans to create content from scratch but the fans I’m thinking of don’t need encouraging – they do it because they love the product. Tumblr is a great site to find this kind of response. For example, the last Harry Potter book was published in 2007, the last movie came out in 2011 and even though there is no new material, no new photographs from set – fans have been creating their own content based on the books and movies without being prompted by Warner Brothers or JK Rowling.

One thing Hawes discussed that had not initially occurred to me was the legal concerns for generated content. Hawes is referring to a situation where the company will have a user sign a terms and condition statement that releases the company (or brand) from any liability relating to a post that is inoffensive or inaccurate.

One of the last things Hawes talks about is figuring out when UGC is right for you. He acknowledges that all user-generated content is good for business but if you don’t have a strong fan base, it wouldn’t be a good time to launch a campaign asking for submissions.

I will leave you with one last piece of advice from Hawes, “User generated content vastly increases your reach, creates positive buzz for your brand and can be a lot of fun in the process. If you’re looking to increase your web presence, it’s likely that user generated content is a good fit for you. Laying out your strategy and addressing any legal concerns before you get started will allow you to experience this new marketing strategy as a fun, innovative way to promote your business.”

User Generated Content & Amazon

User generated content is a currently a hot topic. Taylor Hawes’ blog Is User Generated Content Right for Your Website? goes on to explain the basics. In simple terms, user generated content (UGC) comes about when businesses opt to have users generate content for them, either in place of or as a supplement to the content they already have. Such content can be: product reviews, guest posts, and customer images, along with others.

My Amazon Experience

Amazon is a prime example of using user generated content, most popularly in the form of product reviews. Every college textbook I have ever gotten along with 99% of items I order online comes from Amazon. While this blog isn’t to brag about them, I can commend them for the way they handle user generated content and it is easy to see that they benefit from it.

Let’s face it, most of us read reviews when we are looking to order something. Some even base their decision whether to order something or not solely off the reviews. In my experience, I have found that Amazon benefits from this. Not only does  Amazon offer quality products, but they also cater to the users. They always want users input on their products.

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So here, these product reviews are a good example of user generated content. Amazon breaks down these reviews with “most favorable” and “critical” so that you can get two different helpful reviews. Here is another example of user generated content. Many different vendors offer products on Amazon, and Amazon fulfills those orders. When users provide negative feedback, Amazon jumps right on to address it.

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In this case, there was a bad experience and Amazon was there to take responsibility. Without this user generated content, Amazon would not have any clue that this vendor sold a defective item. Amazon in my experience is one of the quickest to resolve these negative posts. They have one of the best customer service departments I have ever dealt with.

Why is UGC benefiting Amazon?

It is easy to see that Amazon, the company that sold 306 items per second, or 27 million items on Cyber Monday has a lot of content. These product reviews act as a supplement to the content that they already have. These reviews give them valuable information about their products and promote more business. You can’t tell me you won’t buy a product when you are contemplating buying it and you see a review for it saying that it shipped in one day and was better than advertised. Ultimately, UGC is beneficial for Amazon. They have a loyal fan base (when I look at a product it generally has over 200 reviews) and the content is generally spot on. If for some reason there is a negative review, you can be sure Amazon will resolve it within a few hours.

A few questions to consider:

  • In terms of quality of content, how would you deal with user generated content (in this case product reviews) that was not true? How do we know if users are just lying to give the product 5 stars?
  • Are there any downsides of UGC for Amazon?

Community Panel Highlights

On Tuesday, September 24th, our class had the opportunity to participate in a Google Hangout with Ally Greer, Community Manager at Scoopit, and Sean Keeley, the creator of the Syracuse Orange sports blog, Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician. The panel allowed us to put all of the content we’ve learned thus far into real-life perspective. It was interesting hearing two different sides of Community Management from people representing two very different communities.

“I Write For Myself”

Sean Keeley doesn’t spend too much time worrying about what his audience wants to read. Instead, he created a blog that he would want to read. It’s a good strategy, and it clearly yields results. However, there’s no way to know for sure if this method will work for everyone. This is successful for Sean because he knows his audience, and he considers himself to be a reflection of his members.

Instead of assuming what people want to read, community managers have to do some research. See which of your posts are the most successful and craft future posts to match. Look into your community–who are they? What are they interested in? How can you cater to them?

"Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician" taken from

“Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician” taken from

All Shapes and Sizes

Community Managers are, in a way, a direct reflection of the site. Scoopit and TNIAAM are very different sites which, because of this, warrant two very different Community Managers. Scoopit is a site all about people sharing content. TNIAAM is first and foremost a news outlet for Syracuse sports fans. While one may gather more user generated content than the other, both are heavily focused around a community. For TNIAAM, the community is specific: Syracuse sports fans with the occasional lovers of all-things-college-sports. Scoopit is for anyone, and the site can be used differently for each member.

This just goes to show how much effort needs to be put in as a CM. You have to really understand who your members are so you can decide what kind of site you’re going to be. Community is a huge part of a site’s success and, in a way, the community builds your site. They decide what goes on it and what happens next. Understanding your community will be your best tool.! logo taken from! logo taken from

Size vs. Strength

This was a common theme throughout Tuesday’s panel. When Ally said, “just because you have 100,000 users doesn’t necessarily mean you have 100,000 users”, it really stuck with me. Sean also mentioned that he liked the name of his blog because it acted almost as a code-word that only few understood. The blog and community itself had a sense of exclusivity to it, and Sean thought that added to the site’s appeal. So what’s more important? Do you focus on increasing the number of members in your community, or should you put your energy into creating a stronger community within the few members you currently have?

Taken from

Taken from

In my opinion, the strength of the community should be the priority. If you ensure that members are engaged and participating in conversations, your community has a greater opportunity to grow. People will be more excited about joining a community if they know that it has already been established and has a strong following.

My a cappella group, Groovestand, tries to stay very active on social media. We currently have over 700 likes on Facebook and are reaching for 1,000 by the end of the semester. While this is an ambitious goal, the panel and the readings we’ve covered thus far have made me think about bettering our content strategies and creating a more engaged audience before we worry about making the number of uninvolved people larger. We want our community to grow, but in this case, strength may be more important.



Lessons in User-Generated Content from … College?

In the past, I was lucky to work in two marketing departments at two excellent colleges. In one, I was a student worker, which helped me gain experience to become a salaried employee at the other. Both schools used the same tactic to gain user-generated content (UGC): an annual photo contest.

Photo contests are a common to collect UGC, and they seem like an easy way to get people to contribute. The logic:

  • People take pictures all the time, so there’s no shortage of material out there
  • Submitting a photo is easy; just attach it to an email
  • Who wouldn’t want their awesome photos promoted by their Alma Mater?!

After reading about UGC, I realized I have already learned a couple lessons in UGC from watching these contests.


Plan for procrastination

For both of these contests, lots of the submissions would come in the last week or even on the last day. Knowing this, would you make the deadline for a photo contest the day before you announce the winners? Probably not. So why would you set up the same schedule for any UGC?

People, not just students, procrastinate, so it’s necessary to plan ahead. If you you want to post your UGC on one day, make the deadline well before that. That gives you wiggle room to edit the content if needed, and even if the submitter is “late,” they’re not really leaving you high and dry.

Bigger audience does not always equal better UGC

quality over quantity

One photo contest was run by a bigger school and open to everyone, while another photo contest was run by a smaller school and only open to students who studied abroad in the pervious year. While the former contest got more total submissions, the latter contest got, in my opinion, higher quality submissions.

I believe that by targeting only students who studied abroad, it implies that the contest is searching for photos from exotic locations, and by requiring a narrative, it emphasizes the importance of storytelling from a unique perspective. Yes, it narrowed the entries, but those few entries were of very high quality.

For example: Would you rather receive ten guest blog posts but only one or two are good, or only get three guest blogs, all of high quality?

Make the incentives work for you, too


One contest offered a cash prize along with press release and a gallery showing on Alumni weekend. The other offered no monetary prize, but along with a press release, incorporated the photos and photographer’s names into the study abroad website. Both incentives worked, but I think one worked better. Can you guess which one?

Giving students the chance to have their photo immortalized for several years on the website not only provides incentive to submit, but it also provides the school with gorgeous photos to showcase on the website. It’s the win-win scenario that I believe makes the second contest smarter.

These are just some lessons I’ve learned from my professional experience. Do you agree? Do you disagree? Have you experienced moderating UGC before? What worked for you? What would you have done better?