Daily Archives: November 4, 2013

Don’t Panic! Being a Prepared Community Manager

PANIC buttonBeing a community manager is a 24/7 job, and can be unpredictable. This past week, #CMGRclass learned about how to handle crises. While every community manager will have different needs, there are some basic ways to understand how to approach crisis communication from within a community.

Be Present.

The biggest lesson learned from Heather Whaling’s presentation was that Community Managers need to be present and attentive. In her presentation, Whaling details how a community manager was able to detect a situation happening between another branch of his organization and the community, get in touch with all parties, and diffuse the situation by understanding the problem and guiding the parties to a better solution.

Be Relevant.

We’ve seen it countless times: people trying to get exposure by taking advantage of current events. It might work for a little bit, but before you try it for your community: is it a strategy that makes sense for you?

Before you join a conversation, make sure you and your community a place in it. Understand if the topic is relevant to your community before your add your two cents or speak for your community. Generally, attempts at leveraging real-time events for your community won’t go over well if you don’t have anything of value to add.

A good tip from this article is to respond to actionable conversations. Creating guidelines for what counts as an actionable conversation within your community is a good idea, so that you can avoid both getting too personal or reaching too far in a conversation topic.

Be Right (Not First)

Everyone has a first impression or reaction to new, surprising, or controversial information. The key to reacting from a community manager point of view is to approach all new information with skepticism. Always ask questions about the source of information, even if something is labeled “confirmed.” It’s better to be right than first.

In the past, I’ve attended CERT (community emergency respond training) sessions as a social media manager for a small college. My team went through a hypothetical emergency: a dorm catching fire.

As the exercise went on, we were told different information from various sources. Sometimes the information was emotionally heavy (rumored student fatalities), and it was difficult to keep information like that aside – on the chance it’s true, you want to let people know.

Although the practice situation was dire, the safety officials emphasized that in any situation the communications team should only release information confirmed by law enforcement officials or any other kind of official source.

For organizations, releasing only official information protects the credibility of the institution as a whole, as well as the communications team, and avoids the spread of rumors.

As a community manager, it’s important to know how to identify rumor and truth – and understand what level of source or confirmation turns a rumor into a credible source of information.

Be Prepared.

You know Murphy’s Law? It’s the theory that what can go wrong, will go wrong.

Do you know your community? Do you have a plan to follow if it turns against you?

As a community manager, there will be issues that make you community go absolutely crazy. No matter the likelihood, always have a Total Disaster Meltdown Plan in place. Know who’s in charge, who you can count on to deliver the right information (even if it’s just yourself) and know who you can call on to provide the right information. Have a plan before things go wrong, so that when they do, you’ll be prepared.

Have more advice to add about crisis communication? Have you been through a communication crisis yourself? What helped you, and what do you wish you had known before the crisis hit?

Community Management Pros Talk Big Picture and Efficiency

Looking back at older blog and discussion posts, I’m realizing that I’m definitely not the only one who enrolled in this class with a half-formed mental definition for community management and what it means to be a community manager. But now, midway through the semester, I’ve got a better grasp on the material—thanks in part to weeks’ worth of reading and practice, as well as one Online Content Panel Google+ Hangout already behind my back. That’s probably why last week’s panel—with David YarusMorgan Johnston, and Nick Cicero—proved this semester’s highlight thus far. Not just because the discussion flowed easier for me, but because I could finally relate to the conversation and connect it with ideas we’d already visited in class.


I loved that David was able to put community management into perspective during the panel. Through his management of influencer communities for MRY, he could share a different aspect to the idea of community management, one that sits apart from our typical idea of community management as a whole social channel with millions of users and fans and followers and engagements. I found that incredibly helpful, since it helped scale down the idea of community from something so large and nebulous to something more tangible and comprehensible. And because his work centers on igniting advocacy and word of mouth across college campuses, he proves that community management doesn’t necessarily need to remain confined to Internet work; it can break beyond normal web barriers.

For JetBlue—as well as MRY and LiveFyre—the community comes first.

For JetBlue—as well as MRY and LiveFyre—the community comes first.


As a frequent flyer, I was very interested in what Morgan had to say as a JetBlue team member. What I found most heartening, however, was hearing about their customer insight team. Having gone through my own share of frustrations while flying, I loved hearing that all the online feedback funnels into what he called “a voice of the customer.” Whereas other airlines might tackle tweets, for instance, on an individual basis, he explained JetBlue’s policy for compiling all of that information while ensuring that something actually gets done to rectify the situation. That tactic embodies the ideal community management aspects of both transparency and efficiency.


With Nick, on the other hand, I found what he had to say about “looking at the big picture” to be really enlightening. As he mentioned, it’s easy for community managers to get swept in the day-to-day routine. But by having a team—and a position where he can act as a “mentor or coach” for that team—he can ensure that no corner of the community and its goings-on gets overlooked. Most of the community managers we’ve talked to (and the one that I’ve interviewed for my midterm) tend to work with the company as a whole, but mostly as the sole representative of that particular job of engaging the community. Nick’s perspective, however, maintained that yes, there’s a hierarchy of sorts, but not in a way that detracts from the overall group effort to keep the community active and involved.

Moderation Week: The Best Lessons

There’s only so much you can learn from books and articles. Life’s greatest lessons come from experience. At first, I was nervous to start my week as the CMGRclass Moderator, but I became more excited when I began to realize that it would help me truly grasp the feeling of being a Community Manager. My most important lessons and takeaways from the week are below.


I was lucky enough to have a great topic to work with for the week. So far, we’ve learned about the factors that go into making a community great, but you can’t even get to that point until you learn how to start a community from scratch. I was able to discuss a wide range of topics, because anything related to making a community stronger has to be considered from the very beginning! I enjoyed all of the articles from this week as well as the chapter in Buzzing Communities, so I had a great time leading discussions on the topic.


Getting community members engaged is more complex than most people think. You read about it in articles and class readings, but as a moderator, you experience it first-hand. Here are the three things I learned about engagement this week:

  • One of my posts from this week received 1 comment (a week after it was posted).

    One of my posts from this week received 1 comment (a week after it was posted).

    Learn from previous posts. Some of your posts are going to get a lot of activity, and some are going to be left alone. Learn from it! Track the type of posts that generate conversation and engagement, and craft the rest of your content to match.

  • Get a conversation going. You’re more likely to get people engaged if you ask them a question or spark a conversation. Once you have a few comments on a post, I noticed that the flow of conversation really started to move itself. When someone reacts to a post, you comment back as a Moderator, and other members become even more interested in joining the conversation.
  • It isn’t going to be easy. Learning the ropes definitely takes time. I struggled with getting people to react and engage–and this was a group of people who needed to participate in order to earn a grade! I can’t even imagine how much effort goes in to getting members engaged in a community where participation isn’t obligated.

Across All Platforms

My conversation with @allygreer was the only Twitter activity for the week.

My conversation with @allygreer was the only Twitter activity for the week.

“Should a brand be equally active across both channels or try to cater their content to where the audience is?” One of my posts on the page led to a discussion about posting content across all platforms, and this helped show me that it isn’t as easy as it seems. I feel as though one platform may be more established than others and, by nature, most members will flock and feel most comfortable there. Take our class for example. The moderators and professors post content on three different platforms: Google+, Twitter, and WordPress.

If you track the activity of the semester thus far, most engagement occurs in the Google+ group. This surprises me because I assume that most class members are using this platform for the first time (myself included). As young college students, I would expect there to be more engagement on Twitter, a site we all use daily. I’m even surprising myself! Also, even though we are required to post weekly on the blogs, we aren’t commenting on them or getting engaged with posts written by others. The only activity I had on Twitter was with Ally Greer, a CM for Scoopit and a CMGRclass panel guest! I only tweeted a few times, but, because the posts didn’t receive much activity, I didn’t want to bombard the account with Tweets that weren’t generating any feedback.

Top Moment

I posted twice in one day. My first post was a question related to one of the readings from this week. It received no attention. Soon after, I sparked a conversation with a real-life scenario about my a cappella group, Groovestand. It was kind of a “what would you do?” type of situation, and the class reacted well to it! It was only a few people, but there were over 15 comments on the post, and it was a real conversation.

The topic was something that a few people could relate to but, even if it wasn’t, I think people really reacted well to a scenario that made them think and asked for their advice on a real topic. It was great, because everyone used things we’ve learned from the class as well as information they had prior, and I really learned a lot from them.


Personally, I was having a rough week. My schedule was ten times more hectic than usual, and even personal issues had me in an off mood. I tried to make sure that my personal life wouldn’t get in the way of what I had to do as a professional (because that’s how I was treating it). It was important to me that my own feelings didn’t affect the content I was putting out or the way I was behaving to the group.

I learned that being a CM is a 24/7 job. You have to be on your toes for everything, and it’s up to you to get conversations going and continuing to flow! I had a great time being a Moderator for this class, and it opened my eyes to how important getting engaged is for the class. This is the best I’ve felt thus far in this class, and now I’m ready to take the rest of the semester head on. All in all, this week was the best lesson I could ask for.









People who participated this week:

– Jaime Manela
– Zachary J Prutzman
– Aashmeeta Yogiraj

Gold Stars
Hannah Nast
– Ben Glidden

– Anne Suchanek

– Andra Kenner
– Jess McDonald
– Katie Lemanczyk


Vanessa DiMauro: Where a CEO and Role Model Combine

Vanessa DiMauro. *queue Ghostbusters theme music*

Vanessa DiMauro has over fifteen years experience in managing communities, is a researcher, speaker and author with her work published in the New York Times, the Wallstreet Journal and CIO Magazine AND is the CEO of Leader Networks. While she no longer runs communities herself, if you are a large or small business and are interested in creating an online community where your suppliers, partners and employees can interact, you call Vanessa.

Still not convinced? In 2006 Vanessa founded her own company, Leader Networks, which is the “leading authority on B2B social business strategy and B2B online communities.” As both a research and consulting group, Leader Networks focuses on helping organizations “build deeper B2B relationships with key stakeholders.” They help companies with the strategic use and deployment of online social tools and techniques, including developing innovative ways to listen to, learn about, interact with and build trust across a wide range of constituencies, including prospective or current customers, supporters, partners and employees through B2B online communities and social business initiatives.

What’s B2B you ask? Excellent question! B2B, also known as Business to Business, is a marketing term meaning a transaction between a companies. For example: manufacture to wholesaler or a wholesaler to a retailer. Contrasting terms are B2C (Business to Consumer) and B2G (Business to Government).

Through talking to Vanessa I learned that there will always be more B2Bs than B2Cs. This is because there will be more transactions involving sub-components or raw materials from business to business and only one transaction from business to consumer for the finished product. For example creating a car: there will be B2B for the tires, windows, rubber hoses etc. versus the one B2C when the dealership sells the car to a consumer.

I was first introduced to Vanessa through class when her article, “Social Media Manager vs. Online Community Manager: Same or Different,” was one of the articles we read for our unit on differentiating between Community Managers and Social Media Managers. It was very much a fangirl moment for me when I got a chance to Skype with her, not only because I had enjoyed her article but because she is a successful business woman in a typically male dominated industry and she is good at her job. If you ever find yourself in the position of needing a B2B online community created, give Vanessa a call or connect with her on Twitter.

Thank you Tumblr and Universal Pictures for accurately depicting what was going on in my head.

Fun fact about the interview: I panicked for an hour before I Skyped her. I’m not in the habit of speaking to CEOs and I was nervous I would forget everything we had learned so far in the semester but within the first two minutes of speaking to Vanessa she had me laughing and by the end of our conversation she had me inspired to go out and create and manage my own community.

If you’re a community manager who’s slowly burning out and in desperate need of inspiration, talk to Vanessa. Ten minutes with her and you feel like you can take over the world.

VSnap – Personalizing The Community

I sat down with Trish Fontanilla, the Vice President of Community and Customer Experience at Vsnap. Fontanilla has built a community from the ground up; she started working with the company before its product was launched.

Since Vsnap is a startup company, Fontanilla is a one-person team in regards to handling Vsnap’s social media feeds and overall customer experience. As a result, Fontanilla has acquired a lot of different skills when it comes to handling an online community.


You have value in every aspect of the business

Fontanilla said that she participates in almost every company meeting. As a community manager, Fontanilla has insight as to what the customers want.

“I think that in every department, someone needs the voice of the community,” Fontanilla said. “Someone needs to talk on behalf of the customers.”

Vsnap's Trish Fontanilla says that a community manager provides value to every company meeting. Screenshot taken by Zachary J. Prutzman. All rights reserved.

Vsnap’s Trish Fontanilla says that a community manager provides value to every company meeting.

The use of sentiment analysis provides Vsnap with an understanding of how customers feel about its product. Fontanilla uses this information to shape product development, and enhance the customer’s overall experience.

“[I] could easily pop into any meeting and have a valuable perspective,” Fontanilla said.


You get to hear the news first

A great part about handling the community is that many customers reach out to Fontanilla about their experiences with the product. Relaying this feedback to the product development team helps shape the application.

I’m pretty much the first person that gets to hear really awesome customer stories,” Fontanilla said. “On the flip side of that, I also get to see when people are not happy with us.”


Know why you are apologizing

It’s no surprise that customers use social media to voice their displeasure with a product.

“One of the reasons people lash out on social media is because they feel like no one is listening,” Fontanilla said.

While it is important to apologize, Fontanilla said that you first need to listen. It is important to know why you are apologizing, and how you can help the customer. Simply scanning an email for keywords and giving a bland response is not enough; the reply needs to be tailored to each individual customer. Make sure that you are alleviating the customers’ needs.


Your social media sites are not PR

Realize that your community is not simply public relations for the company. Fontanilla stressed the importance of promoting other local businesses and events through her social media feeds. The value is that the favor could be reciprocated in the near future.
Also, try to take these relationships offline as often as possible. When Fontanilla was working for Bands In Town, she would meet up with local, active community members at concerts. The more you can interact with your customers, the better.

The full interview is available here. Enjoy.