Daily Archives: April 15, 2014

Our Class Panel with Real-Life Community Managers

This past Tuesday, I logged on to my Google+ account for my bi-weekly CMGR class, which meets via Google Hangouts. Yet, this week’s class wasn’t the typical group discussion. This week, we had the pleasure of welcoming real-life community managers from extremely prestigious companies, such as Foursquare, Lenovo, PolicyMic, and Vimeo.

Every one of the community managers present, Tracey Churray (Foursquare), Gavin O’Hara (Lenovo), Caira Conner (PolicyMic), and Alex Dao (Vimeo), mentioned something that really stuck with me. Those little snippets were all connected to Brand Ambassador programs, which I think are an extremely important aspect to community management, as a whole.

Tracey Churray (Foursqaure)

Tracey Churray, Director of Support at Foursquare, the ever-popular “check-in” app company, got her start in the tech industry from a small email marketing service. After a number of years, she she was able to land her dream job at Foursquare, where she is able connect everyday with users of the app.

Fischer, John. "FourSquare." 2010 May 06. Online Image. Flickr. 2014 April 11.

Fischer, John. “FourSquare.” 2010 May 06. Online Image. Flickr. 2014 April 11.

Within the Foursquare community, Ms. Churray manages contact with the users at large, particularly with her “Superusers”. Superusers are exactly what they sound like; they are the Foursquare obsessed, the people who are extremely passionate about the use and success of the brand. These Superusers have had an incredible impact on the prominence of the Foursquare company. In fact, Tracey mentioned that she has asked for help from her Superusers and they assisted her in a very important task: creating the naming conventions in the Foursquare database!

Min, Julien. "4sq Superuser". 2011 July 07. Online Image. Flickr. 2014 April 11.

Min, Julien. “4sq Superuser”. 2011 July 07. Online Image. Flickr. 2014 April 11.

Tracey’s tips from Foursquare community management with her Superusers?

  • Don’t be afraid to give your followers a bit of inside information
  • Categorize your very involved and influential users
  • Reach out to your users and community members for advice

As Tracey pointed out, it is very important to pay attention to and treat your community members right. After all, you never know when they will come up with an idea that will forever change the structure and operations of your company.

Gavin O’Hara (Lenovo)

Community manager of Lenovo, a worldwide technology company, with the technical position title of Global Social Media Publisher, Gavin O’Hara got his start in community management with his love for coming up with social media content. In his current position at the prestigious personal technology company, Gavin creates the content for all the different social media platforms Lenovo uses, and reaches out to community members on a daily basis.

Anicic, Goran. "Lenovo ThinkPad T530." 2013 May 31. Online Image. Flickr. 2014 April 11.

Anicic, Goran. “Lenovo ThinkPad T530.” 2013 May 31. Online Image. Flickr. 2014 April 11.

One thing Gavin said, that really connected with me, was that “Community Management is about being both proactive and reactive.” What does he mean by this?

  • Producing content and responding to the content of his community members is integral to his job
  • Getting to know the audience of the community-knowing that it’s not made up of 1 kind of person-is vital
  • Just asking people personal random questions- “Where are you from?” or “How is the weather where you are?”is necessary

It’s those serendipitous moments of tapping into members’ lives that make people feel like they’re a part of something, especially a brand as large and well-known as Lenovo.

Like Foursquare, Lenovo has their own kind of Brand Ambassador program, Lenovo Insiders. The Lenovo Insiders are the global brand advocates of the technology company, who live, breath, and love Lenovo. To Gavin, Lenovo’s Brand Ambassador program is all about pulling the community members up into the Lenovo world.

Caira Conner (PolicyMic)

Caira Conner, Community Manager at PolicyMic, a digital/media news company, wanted



a way to study relationships. As she found her way into community management, she wanted to make content more available for consumption, rather than solely readership.

At PolicyMic, she plays an avid role in Recruitment and Strategic Development. What the heck is that?

  • Basically, building mini networks within the PolicyMic community
  • Communities are the journalists of PolicyMic
  • Mini networks provide a place for community members to collaborate and communicate

While Brand Ambassador programs are super important to the brand itself, they are also important to the

collective group of users who make up that program. At PolicyMic, they are making sure the ambassadors themselves have the people, resources, and communication outlets they need to be ample representatives of the brand.

Alex Dao (Vimeo)

Alex Dao, Community Development Chair for Vimeo, a video sharing website (similar to Youtube) got her start in community management from a very young age, simply from moderating message boards and chat rooms (believe it or not)!

Beale, Scott. "Vimeo Log In Screen." 2007 June 26. Online Image. Flickr. 2014 April 11.

Beale, Scott. “Vimeo Log In Screen.” 2007 June 26. Online Image. Flickr. 2014 April 11.

Ever since her pre-teen years, she has been doing a lot of that same kind of work at Vimeo. What exactly does that entail?

  • 80% of her time on member support throughout the online communities
  • 20% of her time on planning events with Vimeo members
  • Runs the apprenticeship program which hires people directly from their community(!!!!)
  • Helps to curate Vimeo accounts of users- highlights/*stars* 5-6 user videos a day for exceptional content

Alex has an important job in making sure the members of Vimeo community have the best experience possible. Because, who knows, you never know which one of those community members, coming out of the apprenticeship program, could be the next of the Vimeo brand.


What I really enjoyed about this panel was that each community manager mentioned something that we learned in class, which really made me appreciate these different types of concepts even more. As a student, it’s probably one of the coolest things to hear things you’ve heard in a lecture or read in a text book come into reality, and it helps switch on the “light bulb”, the one that is our brain. This class panel was full of real professional, real concepts, and real application, which is what community management is all about.




Lessons From and Army of Leaders

Words of wisdom. We traditionally look to the older and wiser for advice, but in today’s digital and social world it is often the young and the savvy who can teach us a thing or two about social media and community management. As part of #CMGRClass we had the opportunity to hear from an amazing panel of leaders in community management today, who had advice ranging from how to build an effective brand presence to effectively interacting with individuals in an ever growing online community.

The panel who we had the opportunity to hear from were leaders from names like Vimeo, Policy Mic, Lenovo, and Foursquare. All who offered unique perspectives on community management and social media.

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 2.10.29 PM

Common Themes

It’s no surprise that when you put great minds into one room, or one Google Hangout, they’re probably going to think alike. And that was certainly true. One on the main themes that I heard throughout the panel discussion was about connecting with individuals. This goes back to the idea of creating and building meaningful relationships with members of your audience.

Also, building on relationships, it’s important to make your audience feel important – like they matter. Being direct and tailoring your conversation or message was a key takeaway for me.

Furthermore, it’s important to stay grounded as your community grows. While the above may be easy as you are starting your community, as it grows to hundreds and even thousands of followers, staying on track and being true to yourself or brand becomes more and more difficult, but not impossible. That is why it is always important to have a plan.

Make the Audience Feel Special

One notion that stuck in my mind after the talk is that in order to make your audience feel special and keep them coming back, you really need to know your followers and understand them. You need to listen to their questions, comments, concerns and needs, and even better you need to be able to anticipate. Anticipate what they want, what will make them happy, and what will build trust.

Gavin talked about treating people like VIPs. With something like the Foursquare beta program, loyal users have the ability to have an impact on the future of a product, and this empowers them as well as builds a meaningful relationship that is two-way and beyond just a conversation.

I can relate to this having been an early buyer into a new product launching this summer called Coin, which is an electronic credit card device that stores up to 8 cards at once. As an early buyer, not only was I given a 50% discount, but I get frequent updates and access to their VIP site where I can updates on its progress and exclusive information. I don’t even have the device in my hands yet, and I feel “special.”

3 Pieces of Advice

While the panel offered tons of great advice, you would get bored reading an entire synopsis of what they said, so here are my three main pieces of advice to pass along:

  1. Don’t just create a community, build one – build trust, relationships, and recognize those followers who are extra special and loyal to your brand. Do something extra for them.
  2. Be a leader not a follower – unique ideas and a unique personality will set you apart. Those who follow other brands will be behind the curve before they even start. Don’t try to fool the follower, they’re smarter than you think. “Be proactive, not reactive.”
  3. Worry about the numbers, but don’t obsess – Depending on where you are with your community, your numbers might be big or small. What’s more important are the quality of your online relationships. Use metrics to your advantage, but don’t obsess over the numbers

What do you think of the advice? Do you agree or disagree with anything the panel discussed?

How to Build an Army of Brand Ambassadors – Tips from the #CMGRClass Panel

When a musician or actor gets on stage to accept a big award, they often make it a point to thank their fans. Some even go as far as to say I’m nothing without my fans. This statement can also be applied to brands because they, as well, are nothing without their fans.

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 6.30.33 PM

This week #CMGRClass held a online panel over Google+. We were lucky enough to have apanel of experts from four companies: Gavin O’Hara from Lenovo, Alexandra Dao from Vimeo, Caira Conner from PolicyMic, and Tracey Churray from Foursquare. One of the biggest themes I saw emerge from this discussion was the need to build and nurture a community of super fans, otherwise known as brand ambassadors.

Know Your Community

The first step to building an army of brand ambassadors is to get to know your community. A lot of the community managers during this panel said that community for them started out as customer service and support. They needed to answer all the tweets when customers had problems, and soon community and support melded together. Each of these community managers had to go where their customers were and be available to them through these social sites. After spending all this time interacting with their consumers, they really got to know them inside and out.



Connect Your Community to Each Other

Tracey Churray explained that Foursquare recently launched a forum for their superusers. This mutually beneficial project allows about 40,000 of Foursquare’s most involved users to have an equal baseline of knowledge of the service, and chat with each other. This forum allows the users to connect with each other and bond, but also increases chatter about the service. This thus creates a greater brand loyalty to Foursquare in general because it is constantly the topic of conversation. Foursquare also has three levels of superusers, that all lead up to the hand chosen SU3s who actually get to interact with the Foursquare engineers.



Help Yourself

Foursquare sometimes taps into this loyal community to get feedback about how the service is functioning in different parts of the world. One of my favorite stories from the panel was when Tracey discussed how Foursquare contacted the superusers to improve the “Chinese Restaurants” tab of Foursquare locations in different parts of the world. Chinese restaurants as we know them in America take on a different meaning in China, and Foursquare was able to talk to their users about what categories of Chinese restaurants are necessary to have in each country. This made the service more targeted and meaningful in each part of the world, and was all made possible by the suggestions of their superusers.

Situations like this get users involved in the creative process and make them feel like valuable assets of the company. Gavin harped on this point by saying “casual exchanges make [users] feel like they are peeking behind a veil and are a part of something bigger.”

Even further than this, the panelists encouraged Gavin’s nurturing of a superuser community by providing examples within their own community. Vimeo offers around the clock customer service to their premium users, and makes it a point to hightlight 5 to 6 user videos each day. Another panelist said, “Don’t be afraid to give them some inside information, before you release things (people don’t like change after launch). They are often very excited and own it because they are a part of it.”

Bring Your Community Offline

The last important aspect of a superstar brand ambassador program that the panelists brought up, was the need to bring any online connections offline, to really solidify them. Creating and encouraging opportunities for the community members to connection offline with each other, as well as you, really allows people to connect on a human level. Gavin jokingly commented that “We need to throw parties,” and although he presented this in a joking way, the message still stands. Tweeting, emailing, and Facebooking are all nice, but your job is to manage a community of people, so you must treat them as such. Brand loyalty stems from this feeling of connection and unity.

What do you think about these tips for building a brand army? What brands do you think have the best “superuser” programs? Let me know in the comments below!