Monthly Archives: November 2013

Amber Rinehard: Community Manager at Uber

For our midterm, I decided to interview a Syracuse University graduate, Amber Rinehard, a Community Manager at Uber in D.C. Because of technical issues (I fell down the stairs with my computer), I emailed Amber a list of questions in case I wasn’t able to have the chance for a video chat. Luckily, I was able to get in touch with her later in the week for a quick video follow-up! Although my video was present during the call, it did not appear in the YouTube video. She was incredibly patient with my technical problems, and it was great to meet and learn more about her!

What is Uber?

Uber is a service that exists as an app for smartphones that will connect you with a taxi, town car, or SUV on-demand with the touch of a button. Once you request a ride, a driver will pick you up within 5-10 minutes. Your credit card information is loaded into the app, so you don’t have to worry about exchanging cash with a driver.

The Uber Community

According to Amber, the community is made up of people who are very excited about the product. The service is for anyone, so the community is endless. As we have learned throughout the semester and from our guests in the panels, “just because you have 100,000 users doesn’t mean they’re all engaged.” In all of my questions about the community, there was never a concrete answer about the community itself, it sounds more like an audience of users.

Community Management at Uber

A day in the life of a CM at Uber seems to be incredibly hectic. The beginning of the day is spent handling customer support tickets and the second half is spent coming up with ideas for marketing. Additionally, the CMs take turns managing the social media accounts as the company has no Social Media Managers. The DC office at Uber has eight Community Managers, and they are looking to hire even more.

Uber uses GPS to show you the closest available driver. Taken from http://www.consumergrind.com/technology/uber-personal-driver/.

Uber uses GPS to show you the closest available driver. Taken from http://www.consumergrind.com/technology/uber-personal-driver/.

Our Midterm asks us to think about “What would I change?”

The Position

There are 8 Community Managers at Uber DC. In New York, there are 13-15. Additionally, there are no Social Media Managers. The CM team is responsible for just about everything. For a service of this size, and also for one that is growing so rapidly, I’d definitely suggest at least making the position titles and responsibilities more specific. If there are multiple managers, I doubt they all do the exact same thing.

Perhaps the job could be split into the following specific positions or teams:

  • Social Media Manager
  • Customer Support
  • Marketing
  • Creative Team
  • Community Manager
  • Event Coordinator

The Community

There is potential for a much greater community than currently exists for Uber. Whenever the community was discussed in the interview, it always seemed like users were simply treated as customers on an individual basis. I understand that the product is universal–anyone who needs a ride can find one–but the community experience should be much deeper than that. I’m not sure that the company has truly established what type of community it should have.

Two companies stand out in my mind for great community management: Grouper and Lyft.

  1. LyftLyft is service much like Uber allows people to request a ride from their smartphone. Uber seems to be more of an elite type of service while Lyft allows anyone to be a driver (it’s more of a ride-sharing program). You can spot a Lyft driver from anywhere because they have a giant pink mustache attached to the front of their car. It may seem silly, but it’s eye-catching, and it allows for great branding. People post constantly on Twitter and Instagram after simply seeing one of these vehicles. It gets people talking, and more importantly, it gets them interested in the service. There seems to be more of a need for a community surrounding this service than for there is for Uber.

    The pink mustache is an immediate sign that this car is Lyft-friendly! Taken from Google Images.

    The pink mustache is an immediate sign that this car is Lyft-friendly! Taken from Google Images.

  2. GrouperGrouper is a great example of how you can take something that may not have a strong “community” around it and turn it into a community-based service. Grouper is an social group-dating site, but it doesn’t stop there. They encourage people to post pictures from their group dates on Instagram so they may be featured on the website. Additionally, they utilize User Generated Content by allowing guest writers to blog about their experiences.

    A sample of Instagram photos featured on Grouper's website.

    A sample of Instagram photos featured on Grouper’s website.

Uber is an great service with incredible potential for a greater community. Hopefully some of this insight will allow them to find it.

How Do I Create a Brand New Community?

Many users today see a thriving constantly changing community where there is a generous amount of activity. Not many users see what a community was like when it started out. This week’s reading deals with How to Build a Community which is something extremely important to me as I am personally building a community for a program at my office.

Where do I start?

The article gives the secret of “one person at a time.” I have to agree with this because of the fact that as I am working to create and build my community it wasn’t successful overnight. I had to build my community user by user where I had to start with a lot of outreach within the specific program.

How do I develop a Social Media Strategy?

The article gives 3 tips to creating a strategy; calling your users, invite them to a private Facebook group; and help them get involved with discussion.

I like to email or instant message my users to show them that they matter. Instead of using a private Facebook group I had held many “community working groups” where I would ask some of my most influential early users what they wanted to see and how I could further build the community. I love to get my users engaged as it not only benefits them, but it also benefits me. I will post on a discussion board major topics to generate discussion and my users will respond to create conversation.

Where do I continue from here?

This is a question that a lot of Community Managers are constantly asking, even I sometimes ask myself this. Strategy is the most important thing while managing a community if your strategy is horrible your community will be horribly effected. Having a poor strategy can not only cause you to lose users, it will cost you many new ones. If your strategy isn’t up to par try to figure out why. The best thing I did is meet with a few staff members, and users that are constantly on the community. Working Groups have been the most beneficial by far as they have kept me constantly up to date on the state of my strategy. It is okay to update your strategy to keep up with changes within your industry but implement changes at a slow rate, if too many are implemented quickly it can have a negative effect where it will take users longer to adapt.

Hanging out with three leaders in the CM community

For our #CMGRClass hangout last week, we had the amazing privilege of speaking with three community management professionals: David Yarus (@DavidYarus), CM at MRY; Morgan Johnston (@MHJohnston), Corporate Communications Manager at Jet Blue; and Nick Cicero (@NickCicero), Lead Social Strategist at Livefyre. Here’s a look into what they had to say.

Not all community management environments are created equal

Well, not exactly. They’re all just different. I found it fascinating to learn about the different team settings and how the setups of the various teams truly depend on the nature of the business. This sounds obvious, but I don’t find that to be the case. Each company or agency has its own brand, and uses that when it defines roles and organizational structure. Early on in the hangout, Nick mentioned that he believes job positions are much more definable today. These definitions have definitely evolved since the CM space first emerged, but I don’t know if they are yet definable to a point of satisfaction. Now, we just have a better idea of the types of roles we need filled for any given organization, but the description of that role will vary (drastically, or not,) from place to place.

All three men came from very different team backgrounds. At David’s agency, MRY, there is a distribution team that is responsible for media that is paid, earned, owned, and experiential and analytics. CMs work with this distribution team to create content, develop strategy, and monitor feeds. Specifically, David works with a community of influencers and brand ambassadors for Bobble and Spotify, among others.

At Jet Blue, Morgan is the head of the corporate communications department. He works with marketing and customer support departments to be sure that all communication is in check and stays in line with Jet Blue’s brand identity (for which he is also partially responsible). He works with Jet Blue’s customer insight team also uses a net promoter score as a way to constantly gauge the satisfaction of their customers; they survey, through a variety of media, “How likely are you to promote/recommend Jet Blue to a friend or family?” Aside from the 20+ team at Jet Blue corporate, there is a group of over 1000 employees in Salt Lake City who respond to the community at large (besides social channels): emails, phone calls, whatever it is, you name it, they respond to it.

Nick is a member of the strategy team at Livefyre, a real-time conversation and social curation tool. As a member of the strategy team, he works with the clients who use the Livefyre tools — other community managers. He helps them to use these products more effectively and how to better manage their communities. His strategy then coordinates with the customer and marketing teams to make for integrated communications.

Unique, not different

Okay, so maybe I was being a little harsh before. It’s not the differences that set these work environments apart, but rather, their unique qualities. It’s what these community managers are bringing to their respective workplaces to elevate their work.

At MRY, it’s that David likes to remove the idea of the screen away from the conversation. He constantly reminds himself to remember that there is a person on the other side of it, and to treat them as such. By breaking these barriers and treating people like people, simple tasks get accomplished a lot faster and a lot more efficiently. Completely unrelated, David also conducted this entire G+ hangout from the New York streets via his iPhone. I just love technology.

At Jet Blue, it’s that Morgan’s audience experiences the product/brand in real time. Although this can be frustrating and stressful at times (especially if the feedback is negative), it actually gives Jet Blue opportunities for wins; as David described, real-time gives brands the chance to “over-deliver, surprise, and delight.”

My own interaction with @JetBlue on Twitter!

My own interaction with @JetBlue on Twitter!

At Livefyre, it’s that Nick is working with people who essentially have the same job that he has. Nick works with community managers, yet he himself is a community manager of sorts. Again completely unrelated, Nick also worked with Kanye West early in his career to help grow his label’s community, so he wins at life.

 

Thanks again to David, Morgan, and Nick for hanging out with us – hope to see you all on Twitter!

Building a Community: A Fandom’s Fanatic Fans

Phew. Try saying that three times fast!

There are few things in life I love more than my TV shows. But nowadays what I love more than fangirling over the latest episode are those rare but beautiful moments when my shows interact with each other.

The writers from "Elementary" take on "Sleepy Hollow."

The writers from “Elementary” take on “Sleepy Hollow.”

I’ve mentioned it a few times in another blog post but the use of social media, specifically Tumblr and Twitter, is a great way for TV shows to interact with their fans. (Hint: watch the tags on Tumblr. They’re hilarious.)

The "Hannibal" SMM having too much fun.

The “Hannibal” SMM having too much fun.

I’m sure you’re sitting there thinking, “but Hannah, what does this have to do with building a community?” Excellent question, dear reader! Let me back up a minute and explain.

According to Dino Dogan, author of “How to Build a Community of Fanatics” there are six steps for how one should build a community:

  1. Intention: “You can’t spark a community by wanting to spark a community no more than you could start a fire by wanting to start a fire.” Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your community. Take your time.
  2. Know Your Audience: “I’m a blogger solving my own problem.” Do what you would like done (solving problems, making connections, etc.)
  3. Be a Human: “No one wants to interact with a brand, a logo, a picture of your dog, a cartoon, or worse. Communities are people.” Treat your community as people and they will become loyal.
  4. Customer Service: “People don’t want to be lectured at…They don’t want to be treated like a task on your list.” See #3.
  5. Have Fun: “Your community should have fun participating in that community.” What do you wish your favorite community would do? Do it for the community you manage.
  6. Positioning: “Positioning is shorthand. It’s an easy and quick way for me to figure out what you are or are not.” Make it clear what you are what you’re not.

(Each section has good parts that I left out, so I highly encourage you read through Dogan’s post.)

"Dracula" versus "Hannibal" - the Smirk Off.

“Dracula” versus “Hannibal” – the Smirk Off.

So now you must be thinking, “but Hannah, what does Dogan’s post have to do with your favorite TV shows?” You ask really good questions, dear reader. Let me explain using Dogan’s six steps:

  1. Intention: This one is a little difficult. Yes, the CM and SM teams set out to create a community but they might not have envisioned what it is today. One popular post and it snowballs from there.
  2. Know Your Audience: The writers of Supernatural are probably the first group to do this perfectly. They took a joke between fans, affectionately calling Jared Padalecki a moose, and wrote it into the show. Not only that, every time Padalecki sees something with a moose on it, he takes a picture with it. Exhibit A, B and C.
  3. Be a Human: Having the people behind your favorite TV show interact with another TV show, even one you may or may not like, is not only funny and adorable – it’s good for everyone involved. The watchers of the two shows see it and laugh about how cool their groups are, people who only know one of the shows are more likely to investigate why their TV show is interacting with the other and the people behind the interactions get to have fun and show their human side. It also will get fans to feel safe with you and you’re more likely to get UGC from them if they feel they will be appreciated (speaking of which, Elementary has it’s own tab for fanart).
  4. Customer Service: When it comes to TV shows, there probably aren’t a lot of customer service options that will come up. If anything it’ll be the SM teams answering basic questions: when will the new episode air, where can I catch a re-run etc.
  5. Have fun: This ties in with knowing your audience and being a human. Everyone wants to have fun. People love seeing their favorite things interacting with another of their favorite things. Help make it happen and I can guarantee you that it will win you loyalty and fans.
  6. Positioning: Like Intention, this one is a little more difficult. I guess one could argue that it’s kind of like the disclaimers at the beginning of a DVD that reads, “the views expressed in the following interviews are those of x and have nothing to do with y.” Let your community know what you are and what you’re not.

I hope this helps you think of fun things to do with a community and possibly ways you can make your community better. Let me know in the comments below what your favorite TV show is and if you’ve seen them do anything fun through social media.

I took screenshots of the images above but if you’re interested in following the writers from Elementary, Sleepy Hollow, Hannibal and/or Dracula on Twitter click on their names. To follow them on Tumblr click here, here, here and/or here. To see more photos from the Elementary v Sleepy Hollow writer “feud” click here. To view the Smirk-Off exchange, click here (in the time it took me to write this blog post, another of my favorite TV shows, The Blacklist, joined the Smirk Off).

Sarah Mordis – Social Marketing Specialist

I had the honor of interviewing Social Marketing Specialist for Sprout Social. Sarah currently lives out in Chicago and is working from there. She has been working in her current position for about  6 months, but has been working in the social media atmosphere for about 2 1/2 years now. She focuses on outbound marketing and interactions between outlets and find people who are looking for solutions for either their business or team.

 Background

Some rights reserved by topgold

Sprout Social – Some rights reserved by topgold

Sarah told me she originally attended school for subjects such as Spanish and Public Relations but she ended up taking some advertising classes because back then there were no social media classes. She started a PR firm but wasn’t to content with it so she left for something else. Social media wasn’t providing a job back then either so she had to look elsewhere to survive and try to do something she could manage at the time. She worked at a hotel as a sale assistant and worked very hard to get into the social media side and marketing side. She then held a position with the responsibility of bridging the gap between offline and online customers through social media marketing. She would leave a little note when they checked in to join the company on Facebook or Twitter to show that they were listening to what the customers preferred.

The Past and The Present

Sarah shared an example where her tactics worked out when a guest at the hotel had a bad stay and voiced it on a social media outlet and they were able to avoid losing that customer by creating accommodations. But Sarah was able to make a smooth transition into her job now due to those experiences. Sarah stated that along with her there are 2 other people who switch off from community management which is similar to what we do every week for CMGRClass.

LicenseCopyright All rights reserved by BuzzwordsManchester

Copyright All rights reserved by Buzzwords Manchester

By Sarah’s standards Social Media Marketing are:

  • Staying active in the interactions side and finding the issues.

 

  • Treat the brand like your baby because you may be the first face they see.

 

  • Realize what your business needs are and make sure they align with your target audience.

 

  • COI = Cost Of Ignoring. It costs money to lose money. So stay on the ball to gain revenue of any sort.

Learning that as social marketer you are responsible for helping bring revenue in and without that about 75% of business doesn’t exist. Being involved as much as possible will help bridge the gap between community managers operations. It will serve as  great social chemistry which is also something I learned from Sarah.

Concluding our conversation Sarah taught me that though things like Analytics/ROI are very important, if you don’t know how to measure them or improve them they may be pointless. Awareness is a large scale, as she states on the search for the perfect mix between community management and what she does as Social Marketer Specialist. Communication is key between everyone for maximum success when running social media. Below you can see the link for the Interview.

 

Interview: Midterm Interview with Sarah Mordis from Sprout Social

Make sure you follow Sarah on Twitter for the latest updates!!

Interviewee from Sprout Social

Interviewee from Sprout Social 

 

 

 

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.

MRY

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.

JetBlue

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.

LiveFyre

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.

Content

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.

Engagement

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.

Struggles

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.