Author Archive for Aashmeeta Yogiraj

Off-Page SEO

Search engine optimization, SEO, is a key element of building a brand and creating a recognizable online presence. While SEO’s primary focus lies in practices used to increase a brand’s chances of surfacing amongst search engine queries, one cannot and should not ignore “off-page” SEO. Where traditional SEO works within a brands website to increase its overall SERP rating, off-page SEO works externally to achieve the same goal. Building links back to your site from other online sources, aka link building, is central of off-page SEO. One socialmedia today post on off-page SEO writes that “the only thing you can do outside your website is bring links back to it.”

The Introduction to Search Engine Optimization ebook contains an excellent chapter detailing techniques that should be kept in mind when working on one’s off-line brand building. Off-page SEO, more challenging than traditional on page SEO practices, necessitates the creation of relationships with other websites as well as the individuals who run them. The process known as link building includes three fundamental pieces: who is linking to you, how they are linking to you, and how your content is shared through social media across the web. Lets break down these three components and see what they really entail.

 

Who’s Linking to You?

  • Determine what websites are already linking to you
  • The more inbound links a website has, the more influence or authority it has.
  • Not every link is created equal! One link from a major blog, publication, or educational website (ending in a .edu) could dramatically increase your brand’s authority.

 

How are they Linking to You?

  • When possible, opt for the keyword-rich anchor text for a link that uses your domain.
  • Use reciprocal links, but keep in mind that search engines recognize reciprocal links as such and may limit their overall value on a potential SERP.
  • Paying others to link to you is bad business and prohibited by search engines. All paid links must include a no-follow tag, allowing search engines to discredit the links.

 

Spread Your Content!

  • The amount of social network activity a webpage has, the better their ability to rank on the SERP.
  • Make content easy to share by implementing social network sharing buttons throughout your site.
  • Use email marketing but be weary of the multitude of other businesses doing the same. Make sure to have a clear message, or call-to-action, drive leads and convert them into customers, and lastly make email content easy to share.

Implementing the above strategies should be done after an online presence has already been created. And of course, this presence should be supplemented with an existence across the main social media networks. Social media accounts for the brand should be consistence and specific with the original website in message, especially with the use of key phrases and words. In a post about SEO basics, blogger Victoria Edwards reminds us to not forget to optimize our online presence for multi-channels with keyword-phrases. Platforms to keep in mind include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Linkedin
  • Blogs
  • Email
  • Off-line (TV/radio ads)

When building an brand presence, its just as important to consider off-page SEO as traditional on-page SEO. When used together, both strategies can dramatically increase a brand’s overall SERP rating.

You’ve Got the Community, Now Make it Stronger

Whether you’re an established brand or a start-up, getting your community up and running is by no means the end of the job. Once you have that initial foundation of return members and contributing users, what do you do next? Strengthen their connection to your brand of course! Now there’s a lot of wisdom out there on how best to strengthen your community, whether it be through comments, blogger outreach, or ambassador programs. Let’s look at the best words of advice for each of these areas.

To create a community is one thing, to make that community fiercely loyal to the brand, worthy of the title of brand ambassador, takes some practice. A post on brand loyalty offers this advice:

Fierce Loyalty

  • To get the community to be loyal to you, first you have to love them!
  • Loyalty comes from a feeling of connection.
  • Use social media to make sure members can connect with each other (on and offline)

To build that connection upon which your community will flourish into brand advocates, keep in mind that marketing today is all about the connection. This post by Britt Michealian highlights the importance of using social media to your advantage when building strong connections with your audience. You can’t simply rely on the occasional tweets and FB posts anymore. But rather, strategically reach out and build relationships with your audience.

Also, do not forget about social giving. As in, make sure your brand’s social strategy is not simply a broadcast one (think annoying TV advertisement), but rather one that adds value and relevant impact to your audience’s life.

And lastly, blogger outreach. There are many ways to approach the bloggers you want aligned with your brand. The inkybee ebook, The Best Practice Guide for Effective Blogger Outreach, offers some industry expert insight.

Step1: Research, Research, Research

Research the blogs you want to contact. It is essential for any brand building campaign to have a targeted audience. Once you have this, identify the blogs where your target audience hangs out. Also, keep in mind which blogs will have the most impact on your target audience. Read, learn, and understand what each blogger talks about.

Step2: The Relationship

Put in the work to become the blogger’s friend. The goal here is to turn the targeted blogger into your brand’s advocate and best champion. Build trust through honesty, transparency, and personality. Blogs are called earned media for a reason!

Step3: An Offer They Can’t Refuse

Most bloggers don’t work for money. So what gets them motivated? Top reasons include sharing their expertise/experience with others and being more involved in their passion areas. Start by offering them quality content with which they can grow their own audience base. Follow with appropriate incentives (small brand-related goodies, etc.) and most importantly, Always keep your commitments.

Step4: Quality Content is King

Make sure your content is current, crosschecked against other sources, and relevant to your audience. Talk about fresh stories with interesting angles. Quality content is the foundation of your relationship with a blogger.

Step5: Don’t Forget about the Relationship Once You Have What You Need

Successful blogger outreach is not a one-time event, but rather an on-going process. Continuous correspondence and timely appreciation have the potential to turn your sometime-blogger into a brand ambassador for life. Continue to treat the blogger like a valued partner.

 

MRY, JetBlue, & LiveFyre: How they do social

During the fall semester of #CMGRClass we got to hear three varying perspectives from the field of community management. The companies represented were, MRY, JetBlue, and LiveFyre.

What began as the youth centered social media marketing agency known as Mr. Youth has today evolved into the larger global digital marketing and technology agency known as MRY. David Yaris, General Manager at Mr. Youth, described his role as one with “a unique take on community management.” Yaris currently manages influencer communities, such as the small yet highly engaged communities and brand ambassadors. Using best practices culled from traditional community management practices, Yaris works to “ignite advocacy and word of mouth across college campuses.”

The social component of MRY is setup around its central Distribution team. The Distribution team follows a five-pronged approach with its subgroups: the paid, owned, earned, experiential, and analytical. The Community Manager role at MRY includes daily community monitoring as well as strategy and creative. The MRY CM works with the creative, strategy and analytics teams to construct the foundation. Here they focus on everything from what it is they’re executing, to writing posts, to working with the analytics to track back on efficiency and optimization of efforts.

 

Morgan Johnston from JetBlue, transitioned into the social media role from a corporate video position. When he joined the company, there was nothing in terms of a coordinated social media effort at JetBlue, aside from the MySpace account. The company’s very first interaction with social media proper came at the time of a crisis. From there the company started building up and experimenting with social media platforms such as YoutTube and twitter. The first and foremost principle of social media—talking to customers—helped aid the easy transition for JetBlue into the world of coordinated social media efforts.

JetBlue’s social media approach today is split in between three teams: Corporate Communications, Marketing and Commercial, and Customer Support. Corporate Communications, where Morgan sits, handles the big picture and the overall message of content.  The Marketing and Commercial side deals with brand stories, customer conversion, and delve into some content creation. The Customer Support teams, working 24/7, do the lion’s share of day-to-day social engagement. Handling everything from the tweets that come in for JetBlue, to hand-tagging for sentiment analysis, the Customer Support staff helps move customers around the organization. Since their social efforts are closely tied in with their operational team, the Customer Support staff also uses the information they gather to help implement operational changes. With the aid of a fourth component, the Customer Insight team, JetBlue is able to take data gathered, as well as surveys for analytics, to build a voice of the customer. In this way JetBlue, as a customer service company, is able to ask the ultimate question: How likely are you to recommend JetBlue to a friend or family?

 

Nick Cicero, Lead Strategist at LiveFyre, also fell into social. Initially starting out in music production, Cicero found himself getting into important conversations thru early platforms like MySpace. From there Cicero started working with companies to develop music for their content campaigns and in that time worked with big name artists like Kanye West, to get their communities growing. Though he started out as an independent music marketer, Cicero today works at LiveFyre to create technology to execute campaigns for a variety of brands. Being the strategy side, Cicero works with members who are CMs for other businesses and brands. Together, Cicero and the members he manages, work to identify how they can create engagement opportunities and how to better talk to their customers.

LiveFyre, as a company, is in the business of product commenting on live blogs and chats. Like many large businesses today, LiveFyre has lots of different departments dedicated to social media efforts. The Marketing and Customer Service teams are focused on maintaining communities related to LiveFyre internally. Both departments work in tandem to lead generational opportunities by responding to customers. They also pay special attention on constant monitoring of social platforms, Cicero is a big fan of HootSuite for this.  There is also an emphasis on following the chain of command internally to work with external customers.

The Industry’s Biggest and Brightest: What they look for when hiring for community management

Community management comes in all different shapes and sizes and breaking into the field requires just as many different characteristics. This week’s CMGR class featured a panel of four very different community managers. They represented some of the industry’s most influential companies, such as Google, and some that are small but influential in their own circle, like Cycle for Survival. Each CM at the panel put forth their personal take on what you need to get hired as a community manager.

 

Jennifer Sable Lopez is Director of Community at MOZ, previously known as SEOmoz. Jenn currently works with a small staff that focuses on community at MOZ. Designed as a software company that makes software to help marketers, MOZ has since expanded its focus. Beyond the software, the organization is now more content focused, working on social and community focused tools. They also feature an educational resources component on the website that breaks down concepts like SEO and other community management based principles.

As a veteran of this industry, Jenn’s criterion for potential hires is valuable insight. The key thing Jenn looks for in a candidate is some who is able to “figure to what to do next.” This includes the following capabilities:

  • The ability to take something and make a decision
  • The ability to figure out what has to happen next
  • The ability to know whether something’s a big deal or not
  • The ability to think on your feet

 

Lea Marino is CM at Cycle for Survival, indoor team cycling event that raises money for rare cancer research. Marino primarily works on email marketing, social media, and any marketing that goes beyond social. A large portion of her energy is dedicated to peer-to-peer fundraising as well, due to the nature of her organization.

For Lea, the biggest factor she looks for in potential candidates in the CM field is empathy. Not a quality you can necessarily teach, Lea believes that empathy is a personality-driven trait that makes a community manager stand out. In this age of social where people constant communicate digitally, a seasoned CM will have an inherent ability to understand what’s being said behind the words. In this way, one has the ability to connect with people in way “where you can hear what they want you to hear in the moment.”

 

Sahana Ullagaddi works at Klout as their Community Manager. Klout is currently the premiere tool to help you understand and measure your online influence. Organizational goals include helping their community improve its online influence by being better educated about social media. Sahana’s job is directly related to content that supports the fine tuning of channels the company uses to communicate their content. For Sahana, there is a distinct list of attributes and qualities she looks for when hiring in the community management field.

  • A hunger to learn
  • The ability to receive feedback well
  • Being able to speak up and share your opinions and feedback
  • The ability to be perceptive so people feel comfortable enough to open up to you
  • Being able to prioritize well.

 

Topher Ziobro, Communtiy Manager at Google Local NYC, works on everything from online interactions to in person events, to working with partners, and even encouraging people to explore and share about the various places of interest in NYC.

When it comes to hiring potential team members, Topher ranks energy management above all else. For a job centered around maintaining an energetic social media presence, Topher feels the individuals managing those accounts should be especially adept at using their energy wisely so as to avoid burnout, and thus a lackluster social media presence. Specifically, Topher places value in the following aspects of energy management:

  • How you display your energy
  • How to plan things so you are not draining yourself
  • Constantly thinking about building energy reserves so as to avoid burnout

The WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHY and HOW of Creating a Community From Scratch

Now that the CMGR class is well under way, we approach the daunting task of actually building a community from scratch. The current wisdom out there offers many ways to get started on building your community. This post will cover some fundamentals to keep in mind, specifically the Who, What, When, Why and How of the community building process.

WHO do you want in your community and WHY

So you toil and trudge to bring a select and involved group of individuals around a brand, but the glaring question arises, do you want individuals who are just obsessed with your brand OR do you want obsessed brand ambassadors? Is there even a difference between the two? I say yes! And the difference is a valuable lesson in getting that community up and running.

First things first, who do you want to make part of your community? While there is no one correct answer, there is a general idea behind the ideal community member. We are talking about an individual who is interested in the brand beyond just the product — someone who believes in the ideology that forms the brand. You could describe this person as obsessed, as a fanatic. Or you could view them as a potential brand ambassador. The transition from fanatic to brand ambassador takes place alongside the growth of the community. The people that start out at the onset of the community’s creation as fanatics can very well be groomed to be brand ambassadors as the community matures.

So now that you know you are seeking out “fanatics” to turn into potential brand ambassadors it is a good idea to stop and ask why? Dino Dogan, business blogger and founder of Triberr (a social network for bloggers) offers an insight:

  • Those fanatically engaged members of your community are the ones that will market for you while you sleep.
  • They will field technical questions from other members.
  • They will recruit other’s to do the same.
  • They will do all this for free.

The last point key. Because no brand seeks to build a community with an unlimited supply of funding, it is absolutely crucial to seek out individuals willing to pull some weight for the community’s cause without monetary compensation. This not to say there is no compensation at all. Much like volunteer work, their compensation comes in the form of engaging in and about a brand/product/cause they are passionate about. But they will not engage with simply just the brand, so a clear human connection must be made at the onset of community creation. Dogan expresses it perfectly when he says

Communities are people. And people want to interact with other people.”

 

The HOW

So how do you establish that vital human connection that is at the heart of a successful community? Focus on one person at a time. David Spinks, CEO of The Community Manager, describes in his blog post about building communities from scratch the first steps to focus on when getting your community up and running:

Step 1: Pick up your phone, and call a user/customer.  Ask them about themselves.  Ask them about their experience with your company.  Make a personal connection.

Step 2: Invite them to a private Facebook group for your customers.

Step 3: Introduce them to the group and help them get involved in the discussions.

This process is fundamental when getting a community up and running. More important though is to keep repeating steps one thru three until users begin connecting on their own and the initial foundations of your community begin independently taking form.

 

The WHAT and WHEN

Once you’ve identified who you want to involve in your community (the passionate, the obsessed, the brand ambassadors!) and why, and have a basic outline of how to get ahold of these people, the next step will be to formulate some kind of long-term plan to assess the growth of your community. The Community Roundtable offers a great visualization to help chart the progression of your community and to make sure you are on track with the direction.

 

Source: http://www.communityroundtable.com/research/community-maturity-model/

 

And there you have it…the who, what, when, why, and how to go about starting a community from scratch. Easier blogged about than done is certainly a good mantra to keep in mind when forming a community from the ground up.  A well-founded and passionate community will not come together over night. But with the right approach and key success signifiers, a full-fledge community can be created from scratch!

Interview with Carrie M. Jones, Community Manager at Chegg

For our midterm assignment, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carrie M. Jones, the community manager at Chegg.

In case you haven’t heard of it already, Chegg is the next big thing in

Retrieved from: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2009/12/prweb3397354.htm

terms of all-encompassing resources for college students. The company, which started out as a textbook rental alternative to hefty campus bookstore prices, is today a provider of digital rentals, homework help (24-hours a day) and even scholarships. That’s right, as a student, you can now go to one place to rent your textbook (for about half the price of buying it), get help about materials in the textbook, and create a profile to match you up with hundreds of scholarships you uniquely qualify for.

So where does Jones fit into this equation? She manages the community of individuals who are part of the source of Chegg’s resourcefulness. Known as “Chegg-experts,” these individuals consist of bright students and TAs, professors and teachers, and simply subject enthusiasts looking to share the wisdom. Oh, and there’s other community managers in there too. This is because, as part of her job, Jones seeks out individuals who are already talking about Chegg, or other subjects with frequency and fluency. She then invites them to come on over to the Chegg-experts’ community, and do what they do best – communicate their knowledge and perspectives. By fostering a community environment that promotes collective experience, Jones facilitates Chegg-experts in a way that gives the company an undeniable competitive edge in today’s rapidly evolving web services industry. While community managing can have a million different connotations in the field, Jones’ job specifically focuses on certain goals.

Goals of a Chegg Community Manager

  • Growth and retention of the community
  • Constructive product feedback
  • Creating positive experiences for members
  • Facilitating relevant connections amongst members
  • Seeking out brand ambassadors for induction into the community

Throughout the interview I got the chance to hear Jones speak candidly about what works in the industry and her job specifically. She mentioned some things that corresponded directly to the course material (ie: the differences between community managers vs. social media managers) and some things I had no knowledge of previously. Some of the most important takeaways of the interview can be boiled down simply as best practices and words of advice.

Best Practices & Words of Advice from a CMGR

  • Community management can vary drastically depending on the company/org within which it exists
  • Community managers (usually) have an inward focus, managing inter-departmental relations regarding the community
  • OVER-COMMUNCATION is the best way to avoid inter-departmental conflict and miscommunication
  • Clear and concise guidelines are the best resource for mitigating negative feedback
  • Companies love data and will hire individuals who demonstrate the ability to independently make decisions based on data analytics

With all the wisdom that was shared, I felt indebted to Jones for her time and willingness to chat with me. Thus, hypothetically speaking, if I were to be of strategic help to Jones and Chegg, I would focus on furthering her idea of developing forums about specific products. The way the Chegg-experts community currently exists is it relies heavily on its Google+ page for member interactions. Using member input, forums based on the most popular products could be created as offshoots of the current community, both expanding the community while narrowing the focus of discussion on key topics and products.

Although Chegg currently has a great spread of student-based services, there’s always room for more. How would you help the company do an even better job of connecting students to people, books, and merit awards than it already does?

Also, for those interested, the video of my interview with Jones is available for your viewing pleasure!

 

Community Management and Social Media Management: It all makes sense now

Photo cred: Rowan County Health Dept. Community Resources website

Coming into this class there was an ambiguity surrounding my understanding of what exactly a community manager was. At the time, it didn’t even occur to me to think about what a community manager was not (hint: community manager =/= social media manager) . As we moved through the beginning stages of the class, I grasped the general idea behind a community manager – or so I thought. Finally, this past week, it all came together for me.

I can confidently say that I now know what being a community manager entails, generally speaking. Furthermore, I learned the distinct differences between a community manager and a social media manager. The week culminated with me interviewing Carrie Jones, the community manager over at Chegg. The interview further reinforced my perception of the responsibilities of community managers. The final verdict was this: community managers work within the company and create strategy to engage the “community” and social media managers use social networks to bring that strategy to life.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Community Manager

  • Internal focus on communication and collaboration
  • Welcoming new members to the community
  • In charge of the guidelines that set parameters for community engagement
  • Promoting member-to-member communication within the community
  • Engaging and facilitating brand ambassadors

Social Media Manager

  • External focus (outside of the brand website) on outreach and communication
  • Acquisition of new members and users
  • Increasing brand awareness via content creation and curation
  • Participating and facilitating conversations about the brand while promptly addressing issues that arise within social network spheres
  • Strategizing on optimal brand promotion using social networking tools

Similarities amongst the two

Each role is distinct in job responsibility but many aspects overlap. For example, both community and social media managers, to some degree, have to focus on metrics regarding member engagement. Neither can do their job well if they don’t keep tabs on what draws users in and what keeps them coming back. Another example, in my opinion, is that both community and social media managers need to be concerned with USG. While USG could be simply lumped along with the rest of a community manager’s responsibilities, I feel that social media managers are the ones that bring in the users that will ultimately lend the brand USG.

Improved but still improving

Because for the longest time (pretty much the entire summer up until now), I was unable to accurately distinguish the difference between the two, this post only addresses the specific characteristics of community managers versus social media managers on the most fundamental levels as understood by me. My understanding would be incomplete without the class materials, especially these two resources – this post by Vanessa Mauro and this post on the Community Roundtable blog – that lay out the differences in a most understandable manner. But furthering that understanding was the interview with Carrie Jones, which only clarified the very different nature of her job specifically in comparison to her colleagues who handle Chegg’s social media presence.

If I left out any crucial elements or misunderstood any existing concepts, please let me know! The learning is on going and I’m sure there’s plenty more I have yet to understand about what it means to be a community manager versus a social media manager.

Some Words of Wisdom on Content Creation

For class this week we had two panel guests – Ally Greer, Community Manager at Scoopit, and Sean Keeley, blogger extraordinaire. Keeping in line with the current theme of the class, content, much wisdom was shared regarding content creation.

Scoopit

Scoopit, the it curation platform, currently boasts five million unique users in eleven months – making it one of the largest and most connected curation publishing platforms out there. Ally Greer, living the dream of many young professionals, wound up in her current position via an internship in Paris, one that eventually transitioned into a full time position at the Scoopit San Francisco offices. Tackling the issue of content creation and what it means for a company like Scoopit, which doesn’t exactly create content, Greer discussed where the focus lies: lean content. Martin Smith, Director of Marketing at Atlantic BT, even went as far as to dub Scoopit’s strategy as “The Lean Content Movement” in a February blog post. According to the Scoopit team, lean content is “Resources, tools, tips, and tricks for the most efficient use of content with the minimum use of resources.”

In an age where content is abundant and creation is a time/resource consuming affair, Scoopit has found the way to stay on top. This very methodology was echoed in Greer’s remarks at the panel, ones that truly define Scoopit’s content creation strategy: curation is the substitute for creation. Thus, a user of Scoopit will find that they have the ability to not just share their favorites with others, but that they can go one step further and edit the content to give it meaning.

 Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician

Sean Keeley on the other hand, employs a more fundamental strategy to content creation: he writes for himself. Keeley started blogging as a hobby, writing about sports in a way he found was lacking on other blogs. Today he likes to pride his blog, Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician, as the go-to place for Syracuse University sports and community happenings. Even though his basis is a regional entity (Syracuse sports), Keeley feels that his community is not tied down to upstate NY. He takes a topical approach to content creation, keeping his community coming back for the quality of the content, regardless of location. When discussing how he writes for his particular niche of the community, Keeley straight up says, “I write for myself.” For those struggling with content creation this is fantastic advice. Content should reflect the writer’s/brand’s personality and above all else should be consistent with who you are. This is especially true in Keeley’s case, who started blogging specifically to fill a void that he needed filled. Thus, he now produces quality writing that he would want to read in an ideal blog and the users that share that vision keep on coming back!

 

In terms of writing process, Keeley usually plays it fast and loose, but uses different techniques depending on the topic at hand. If for example, there’s a breaking story, he’ll pay attention to attributes like SEO (to make sure his post surfaces over the various others about the same story), but also work fast to get the story out there. Whereas, if it’s a subject Keeley has more leeway with, he’ll take his time and have fun with the writing. As of late, Keeley admits to widening his subject scope, writing a lot about women’s sports and underrated sports like soccer. Using site comments and social media as a gauge for interest, Keeley is able to determine what exactly his users want to read. For example, he keeps tabs on which of his content gets shared most frequently and generates notable feedback to further determine which topics he covers. Going more in detail about how he views social media, Keeley describes Facebook as his traffic driver and twitter as the conversation tool. Keeley is an especially avid twitterer however, passing along and sharing links to noteworthy stories even if he doesn’t personally write about them.

Takeaways

We heard from two very different individuals with two different approaches to content creation, but it was useful advice nonetheless! For Greer and Scoopit, the lean content approach works perfectly for their company and business model. Whereas, Keeley keeps his community interested by writing for himself.

I wonder though, how it would be if the approaches were reversed. How would Scoopit be different if the content generators based curation on personal preferences? How would the blog’s reception be if Keeley focused on curating rather than creating?

Online community vs. Social network

This week’s material laid the groundwork for understanding what community management consists of and how it came to be. One of the readings, History and emergence of online communities, details the rise of online communities. Relaying the inherent social nature of online communities, the report emphasizes that to recognize an online community for what it is begins first with a study of the social interactions of the members. There’s a distinction to be made here: the social community varies greatly from the social network.

While social networks bring together people with all sorts of interests and often struggle with security and privacy issues, the social community strives to bring together strangers by enabling them to connect, collaborate and share, often without the need to disclose private and personal information.

Going forward as both an objective observer of the evolution of online communities as well as a participant in some, I would like to focus on the elements that set online communities apart from current online social networks.

From a professional standpoint, it seems invaluable to know the difference between what Facebook can offer a business versus what a Reddit-type community can offer. Traditionally, a network like Facebook connects people irrespective of interest and similarities. Whereas, an online community like Reddit connects people based specifically on similar interests and a shared sense of humor.

For growing brands and companies there are benefits to being a part of both types of online entities, but I wonder if one boasts any significant superiority over the other.

  • Is it more favorable to appeal to a mass audience, regardless of whether they indicate interest?
  • Or is it more favorable to appeal to a targeted audience that is known to share in said interest?
  • In the increasingly crowded online sphere, which holds more value, the online community or the social network?