Monthly Archives: May 2014

Two Themes to Rock Your Community Management

Recently, I was able to absorb some serious community management tips straight from five leaders in the field. From the experience, I have found two themes that emerged from the talk and want to share them with you.

As a student in the iSchool Community Manager course that hosts this blog, I had access to a four-person panel this week. It was held as a Google Hangout and moderated by Kelly Lux and Jenn Pedde, who offered some input over the transformation of the community manager role.

Shout out to Tracy with Foursquare, Alex at Vimeo, Gaven at Lenovo, and Kara with PolicyMic for their time and expert insights!

The two themes include enjoying the ride as a professional who is or is working toward being in a community manager role, as well as building communities that can last.

Here is the scoop:

Image via Flickr (sopie & cie)

Image via Flickr (sopie & cie)

Enjoy the ride. Most community managers’ previous experience shows a non-linear path to the role. Whether you background is business-to-business marketing, international relations or being an early adopter of chats, many people find themselves doing community management long before they are given the title on a business card. In some cases, they might have a different title anyway.

If you find yourself doing community management but are not necessarily being paid for it, you might still be on the career track to this position.

And, just when you accept an offer for your dream job, remember that it could completely change a year from that moment. One community manager noted that a recent company change completely retooled her daily role.

Build it to last. The best days for community managers are those that have a bustling online conversation without their input. Likened to the feeling of a conversation that starts with teenagers once the parents leave the room, or even a classroom when the professor steps out, this type of authentic conversation is what makes communities thrive.

This might be because a few people started chatting or, more formally, because you have an ambassador program with people who are extensions of your brand keeping the conversation going.

See my blog post, The First Rule of Ambassador Programs, for more about ambassador programs. They are a great way to ensure that you can take a vacation without the sky falling down.

The panel covered a lot more content than I can outline here but the two themes covered give you a taste of these four professionals’ experiences in the role. If you were part of the Google Hangout, please leave your thoughts about the panel below. If not, what do you think about these two themes in community management?

Feel free to add more tips in the comments below.

Real World Experience as a Moderator

Recently I had the opportunity to be the moderator for our CMGRClass. Although I had guidance from the assigned readings as well as examples from others within the class, I still felt a bit nervous in the position. I spent several nights thinking about how to engage my classmates as well as searching for new and fresh articles that would be of interest.  This was my first time in a position such as this and my main goal was to experience a week in the shoes of a Community Week.

Advantages

This week I was able to moderate the discussion during the same week as one of our class panels. I found this to be very advantageous as well as thought provoking. I was able to more efficiently incorporate the panel discussion with our recent readings on building communities and Brand Ambassadors.

Disadvantages

One of the hardest parts for me as a moderator was trying to be creative. No matter what role I take in life, I have never considered myself to be a creative individual. There were several times when I felt a bit frustrated because I could not think of new ways to get people involved.

That leads me to my second thought. I also found it difficult to engage people in meaningful conversation. I didn’t know what questions to ask people that would encourage them to think outside of the box and generate new ideas. Nor could I think of ways to encourage people to participate in the conversation. As a moderator there is a fine line of starting a conversation and dominating a conversation and I did not want to be the type of moderator that constantly posted various ideas and questions.Moderation Assignment tweets

My final issue I experienced was using Twitter and encouraging people to participate on that social media platform. I am not the biggest fan of Twitter and have never really enjoyed using it. I think my own personal opposition caused me to remain resistant to using it for the moderation assignment.

Life Lessons

We were approaching the end of the semester and as a moderator we had the responsibility of keeping users engaged. With that said, I learned that it is essential to know and understand your audience in order to provide them with information that they are interested in. We have discussed knowing your audience since the beginning of class, but distinguishing what I think may be interesting and what others may be interested in can be difficult. Furthermore, if I could redo my moderation over I would strategically plan out what I wanted to tweet throughout the week to ensure that I actively used Twitter. Overall, the moderation assignment was very interesting and allowed me to further understand the role of a moderator.

The Anatomy of a Great Post

In my second week of moderation, I wanted to take a closer look at the types of content that succeeded in sparking the most smbuttonconversation. If a community exists to spark conversation, one of the measures of a good CM is showing that they can get that conversation started. This week, the two pieces of content with the most comments were one by me on SU’s FixIt’s Twitter account, and one by community member Jared Mandel on a NYPD Twitter hashtag hijacking. I tried to experiment with different types of content, from best practice articles to job resources, but these two similar articles were the most successful, and had a lot of similarities with other types of content that have been successful in our Google+ group. Without further ado, the anatomy of a great post:

  1. Current Events Current events are always successful, maybe because they give something of value to the community: knowledge about a topic that they can discuss with their other communities, be they virtual or real-world. This is especially true in the face of current events-driven communities such as Twitter, where information is plentiful but fleeting. Your community may have heard of a current events story in passing but not pursued it, and sharing the story in a community is a way of helping them filter the noise and get the top headlines in any given area.
  2. Localized Another theme was localization; both these articles were within the state of New York, with one of them being actually in Syracuse. If a story takes place in your area, your community may have more context or knowledge on the topic, which helps spur conversation. It’s also interesting to note that the distance learners who weren’t in Syracuse offered an interesting perspective on FixIt’s Twitter presence because of the fact that they weren’t on-campus.Colouful speech bubbles
  3. Room for Improvement/Debate Both these articles were controversial and had room for debate. If you were NYPD, what would you have done differently? Do you think FixIt’s unconventional Twitter strategy is effective? There was room to weigh in, versus just listing a favorite “best practice” from an article.
  4. Summarize Google+ is an interesting platform in that it cuts your post off after the first couple of lines. It’s good because it sort of forces you to summarize, but you need to be conscious of this caveat and make sure you’re making important points right at the beginning. Best practice is to summarize at the beginning to draw your community in, and then go onto specifics later on.
  5. Give Credit Where Credit is Due If you borrowed some content from your community, give them props! They’re more likely to contribute to the conversation if they’re tagged. Also, if you know someone who is particularly interested in a topic, tag them! The more you tailor content to specific members, the more likely they are to step up and participate.

What do you think makes a great post?

Moderation, Round Two

Having done it before, you would think it would be easier the second time – well, it was! After being the weekly community manager for CMGRClass a few weeks ago, I learned so many things about what it takes to aggregate content, start and keep up conversations, and do it all across multiple platforms, while keeping it meaningful.

When I had the opportunity to do it all again this past week, I was exciting to put what I had learned the first time together to do an even better job the second time. Most of what I tried worked, but other things did not. First with the good…

The Good

What I had trouble with the first time while moderating the class discussion was balancing Twitter and Google+ conversations. I was confused as to what I should post where, and when I should do it. I sort of started off with a let’s wing it attitude, but that proved to be a little difficult and hard to keep track of. This time I had a more concrete plan.

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 8.24.24 PMFirst, I recognized that it was near the end of the semester, so I used that to my advantage when deciding what to post on Google+. I used the idea that people would be excited to talk about the end of the semester, to start conversations that were nostalgic and reflective on what we had learned in the previous weeks and months. People seemed to really like that. I also interjected into the conversation some of my own ideas each time I posted something, so that people felt like I too was taking the initiative to be a part of the conversation just as they were – something I learned from reading “Buzzing Communities.” 

Next, I decided to vary the content more from Google+ to Twitter. Instead of posting the same content in a different way, I posted different content. For Twitter, I decided to stick with fun facts and little tidbits of information that people might retweet or favorite. That is exactly the behavior that I saw from people. On the other hand, Google+ content was focused more on conversation starters and longer form discussions.

The Bad

What did not work for me so well was the way in which I initiated my own thoughts into my Google+ posts. I realized soon after I started that I was being a little inconsistent. On some posts I added my own insight right into the post, in others I added my own comment. I think it worked better posting later in the comments, because doing it the other way made my initial post much longer and less appealing for people to read in the first place.

There was certainly less participation this week than there was when I previously moderating class discussion, but that is likely due to the timing of the week. It think that planning out the content to better suit the time frame really did help, though, because it applied to what was on people’s minds at the time.

In the End

Overall, I enjoyed moderating the class discussion for a second time. I think that with each time you do something, you learn something new and hone your skills a little more, and community management and moderation is certainly no exception.

What do you think about my job as moderator. How did I do? Come on, lay it on me – the good and the bad!

Being a Foursquare Campus Ambassador

Syracuse's 44 Badge

Syracuse’s 44 Badge

Throughout the panel, we had the pleasure of hearing from Tracey, Support Director at foursquare. Towards the end, she spoke on foursquare’s ambassador programs, and briefly mentioned the Campus Ambassador program, which foursquare transitioned from. I was actually a foursquare ambassador before they ended the program, and looking back, realize how healthy and thriving of a community that was. In speaking about the superuser user, she spoke about how excited they were to sort of “own” a part of foursquare. I’d say that that was generally the feeling among the campus ambassadors, and while I’m sad our community has been shut down, I’m glad that it served as a great model for lessons learned.

  1. Use the right platform – Our community was hosted on Facebook, which was great. Since we were all undergraduate college students, we all had Facebook accounts that we were very active on. It definitely boosts participation when notifications about activity are already embedded into your daily life.
  2. Meeting Dennis Crowley!

    Meeting Dennis Crowley!

    Make them feel special – We had an application process to become a campus ambassador. I’m not sure how competitive it was, but once you got in, you got a box of swag, including an official foursquare campus ambassador t-shirt and lots of stickers. The official shirt definitely made me feel like I was important to foursquare, which is important for an ambassador. I also had the opportunity to meet Dennis Crowley (SU alum!) when he came to campus as a result of being an ambassador, which was an awesome experience.

  3. Give them tasks – The campus ambassador team would give us tasks occasionally, like putting up window clings, or hosting an event for Foursquare Day. This definitely made the entire experience more structured, and ensured that we were having a real impact on campus.
  4. Let them learn from each other – A lot of the posts on the page were not from foursquare staff, but rather other ambassadors showing off the cool stuff they were doing on campus. This helped other ambassadors see the creative ways other people were using the platform, and also made the person posting feel that their efforts were being recognized.
  5. On the quad during Foursquare Day

    On the quad during Foursquare Day

    Be helpful –  Whenever we posted, Ray, the foursquare guy, always answered within five minutes. One time the SU team was doing something that required a venue being opened right at 10am on a Sunday morning. Ray was there for us. When you have a dedicated community manager who is willing to go the extra mile for ambassadors, all the better.

Eventually foursquare transitioned off the program without much warning– there was never any closure on group, and some ambassadors recently expressed disappointment that there was no real ending. While the closing out of this community could have been handled better, I think the real mark of a thriving community is when members are genuinely upset that it’s over. Thanks to all the panelists for the time and input on community management!

Lessons Learned from a Week in Community Management

Community management is hard.

I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be when I went into it. I’ve been involved in social media (and dabbling in community management) since my freshman year of college, when I started managing Twitter for the SU chapter of PRSSA. Since then, I’ve managed social media for many different startups, crafted tons of social media strategy plans for classes and projects, and, most importantly, been a part of the SU social media team 44Social for three years.

When I sat down to start doing community management for this class, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I work anywhere from 8-15 hours for SU each week; social media is a part of my routine. I kept wanting to compare my  44Social experiences to managing this Google+ group, when in reality, they’re completely different. When I sit down for a 44Social shift, it has my attention (or at least my divided attention, if I’m working on other projects for the team) for three hours. Managing this community, however, was a 24/7 job. Managing the community, on top of schoolwork and exams, plus being home for Easter, was a major feat. Sometimes I would dismiss the notifications on my phone vowing to answer in five minutes, and forget about it for eight hours.cmgr

Here’s what I learned from my week spent managing the Google+ community:

  • Make time: In a real-life situation, you’re going to want to monitor the community in as close to real-time as possible, because that’s when the conversation is happening. Carving a couple dedicated chunks of time into your day to check and respond to your community is crucial. You can’t rely on yourself to do it on the fly.
  • Medium is key: I’m probably not the first person to say this: I hate Google+. I’m terrible at navigating it, I hate that notifications pop up when I’m on my Gmail (when I’m on my email, I’m trying to get something done, not be distracted by a notification), and there’s no native way to schedule posts. That being said, I would probably choose a different medium if this were my community, but sometimes you have to suck it up and learn how to make it work for you. Also, it was way too easy to forget that we had another community happening on Twitter, so that fell by the wayside during the week.
  • Find a content source: I started trying to just find content that was interesting on the fly by scrolling through my Twitter feed. My Twitter feed is an odd mix of reality stars, PR pros, high school friends and motivational ACL reconstruction accounts (don’t ask). It’s better to find a couple hashtags or create a list of accounts that you can go to for content in a pinch.

Some of this I learned through 44Social and managing other communities, but I forgot how important they were (shows how easily we can slip into patterns and forget lessons learned). Overall, my community manager experience was definitely an interesting one, and I’m definitely glad to get another shot at it this week and apply some of the things I learned.

The Importance of Using Social Media and How to Do So

Using Social Media to Increase Business Exposure So you’re a small business with a great business idea and promoting your product or service in a niche market. How do you gain exposure and increase your brand awareness? Over the past ten years, social media has had a direct effect on businesses. Whether a company has used social media to interact with customers or gain more market exposure, social media has tremendously impacted how businesses operate.  For instance, according to Edosomwan et. al., social media within an organization “helps strengthen the brand experience which will support brand building.” Social Media Tools Being that the way the world conducts business has drastically changed over the years, there are multiple social media outlets that can be used to promote a business. For instance business owners can utilize Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube to increase business exposure and connect with consumers.

Social Media Outlets

Importance of Using Social Media Social Media outlets greatly influence how an organization conducts business and has changed the dynamic of traditional marketing and public relations within a company. Here are a few reasons why social media is necessary to incorporate within a business:

  • Increases the amount of traffic to a business’ website
  • Builds a stronger brand and promotes brand awareness
  • Allows businesses to interact with customers and identify the needs of customers
  • Allows businesses to gather data about their customers

Effective Ways to Use Social Media Understanding how to effectively use social media within a business can be a bit tricky, but when done properly, can significantly generate positive results for the company. Here are a few ways to use social media to promote a business:

  • Engage in conversations with customers and build valuable relationships that attract customers to the product or service
  • Gather data from current and potential customers to tailor products and services towards them which will potentially increase revenue
  • Solicit reviews and feedback from consumers to address needs and improve products and services
  • Use analytic tools to gain a understanding about consumer habits and optimal times throughout the day to promote the business to optimize brand exposure

True Story In recent weeks, I have used social media to increase brand awareness for a small startup company. The company focuses on assisting students and parents in identifying and securing funding for higher education. On a daily basis I use social media to inform followers of upcoming scholarships and deadlines as well as useful tips for navigating through the college application process. I also solicit different questions from followers at address those questions throughout the week via Facebook and Twitter. By generating different conversations, other people have started to follow the company and contract the company to assist them in their search. Furthermore, I use analytical tools on Facebook and Twitter to understand when users view and share different posts in order to ensure I post information at optimal times when viewers are online.