Author Archive for Erin Bartolo

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.

The First Rule of Ambassador Programs

Tyler Pointing Loop Film

Image via

Ever since I deconstructed Fight Club scene-by-scene in an undergraduate film class, it has pulled me back to illustrate various messages over time.

My unyielding love of Fight Club aside, there is a meaningful connection to brand ambassador programs in its storyline.

For those who have seen the film, you might be cringing a bit. How can I use one of the most iconic anti-consumerist artifacts from American pop culture as a blueprint to promote brands? The reason is not to be ironic. I just love Fight Club.

For those who have not seen it, IMDb sums up the plot of Fight Club nicely by stating, “An insomniac office worker looking for a way to change his life crosses paths with a devil-may-care soap maker and they form an underground fight club that evolves into something much, much more.”

Anyone who is considering creating a brand ambassador program might like these three take-aways from this 1999 classic:

Image by

Image by

1.       By emphasizing exclusivity, you create zealots. And, that’s a good thing for a brand ambassador program. The film’s most quoteworthy scene outlines the rules. “The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.” By emphasizing how exclusive this group is, the founding 15 or so members who were sworn to silence could not help but share how cool it was.The article 10 Things to Remember When Creating a Brand Ambassador Program recommends you make membership exclusive.

In order to have an ambassador program, you need to recruit a select group of participants. With that role, their words carry weight when talking to others.

2.       Plug your ambassadors smack-dab into your brand (the seventh tip in the article I mentioned). By the time that Fight Club members had passed their initiation, they were completely integrated into the community and ready to roll. Note: your brand might want to go about this onboarding process in a less intense manner that they did in the film.

3.       Your brand ambassador program can fuel future initiatives. The film’s climax shows a well-organized effort called Project Mayhem, which sought to deflate the consumer values the community was against. This initiative was possible because members broke the first two rules not to talk about the club. The brand community that was Fight Club had grown so large and so focused on its mission that it became more like a cult. Craziness aside, it is clear that their goals to grow as a community ultimately provided enough dedicated members to execute Project Mayhem.

How would you choose your brand ambassadors? What would you do if you were armed with a community of ambassadors to back your effort?

Be A Community Manager Extraordinaire

What happens when your employer wants it all but only has the budget to hire one person for three or four jobs?

If you are Janise McMillan, they hire you. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Janise for a paper about working as a community manager. While Janise makes it look easy, I soon learned that her smile and professionalism hid a secret that many not-for-profits keep—a vision beyond its budget. In other words, too many plans and not enough resources.

What started as an interview about community management became a story about how to do it all. From social media management to marketing to public relations and other priorities along the way, those who work for not-for-profits in a mid-sized city need keep many plates spinning.

Here are three ways to make things happen when you are a one-person team:

  1. Work smarter, not harder. When you have so many responsibilities, it is essential that you get value from each project.
  2. Stay accountable. Understaffed teams (or solo artists, as is the case with Janise) are bogged down in the day-to-day hustle. In order to keep projects moving across practice areas like social media and community management, make sure to talk about your goals and timelines to others. This could be a supervisor, a trusted colleague or even a friend. Make sure that your plans are made public so that you keep your accountability and focus.
  3. Come up for air. Studies show that taking a quick break can increase productivity. Make this your mantra, even when you are swamped—which might be every day!

An example of how to put these tips into practice was an open house for Janise’s company after it relocated to its new headquarters. She was able to keep active on her social media accounts, targeted the guest list and created invitations, as well as issuing all of the press releases  for the event. In the midst of this, she kept focus on her goal of community management for the event and incorporated a real-time feedback video that allowed guests to discuss their impression of the new headquarters.

This added a fun factor to the event and engaged the community. If Janise had not used the three tips above, she might not have pulled all of this off, all while keeping up with routing operations.

Do you have a secret that helps you do it all? Please share that, along with your feedback, in the comments!

Good Community Management Helps Shine Rainbows Over the Stormy Twitterverse

The Case Study: When the Twitterverse Turns on You outlines a social media campaign on Twitter for Canadian Jet, a fictional airline with a lackluster reputation. The plan was to use the hashtag #CanJetLuxury for a Twitter contest that would reward the user who posted the most creative tweet with a set of round-trip tickets. It sounds innocent enough but those who work in the Twitterverse know that brand-sponsored campaigns are easy prey for trolls and disgruntled customers.

After a few short hours, the hashtag was hijacked with accusatory tweets such as “Arriving a day late to your daughter’s wedding #CanJetLuxury.” The team went into a panic. The article closes by asking if they should throw in the towel.

So, Should Canadian Jet Cancel the Contest?

Absolutely not. By definition, a campaign is a systematic course of aggressive activities ( It is not a Twitter announcement followed by second thoughts.


When you bring your branded message into Twitter’s public stream of consciousness, you should not expect sunshine and rainbows. You expect to create the sunshine and rainbows.

After all, isn’t that what community management is about –bringing dazzling experiences to people? Helping them discover why they love you, over and over again?

The problem posed in this case study is only a problem because the company’s conversation about what to do when faced with negative tweets was supposed to happen long before the campaign launched. This failure to plan raises questions about their Twitterverse aptitude.

Want to check your readiness for the Twitterverse?

Here are Five Diagnostic Questions About Your Twitterverse Aptitude

  1. Are you energized by the opposition? Andrea Kemp, the company’s account manager from Wrigley & Walters who advised Canadian Jet, thrived in this high-pressured environment.
  2. Do you know what you are getting into? Critics can reduce your beloved hashtag into a mere “bashtag” if you mismanage the campaign.
  3. Do you see the glass as half full or as half empty? Do you disregard positive tweets when faced with a negative one? (Warning: In cases like  #AskJPM the glass was quickly emptying. Recognizing that shows your realism, not pessimism.)
  4. Do you give the silent treatment? Social media is inherently social so if you are not prepared to respond to what is in front of you this might not be the best venue.
  5. How is your agility? Be responsive to changing conditions when sailing through the Twitterverse. This does not mean that you cannot plan. It simply means that your plan needs to account for the possibility of inclement weather.

What Can We Learn?

There are three lessons to be learned from this case study.

  1. #CanJetLuxury was out of touch. While the campaign was a great way to breathe life into their brand, it seems like organizers expected the announcement  of the Twitter contest to absolve them of any hostility that had developed in the previous years.
  2. They gambled. They did not have a plan in place for negative tweets, even though they were aware of the risk.
  3. They held a meeting when they should have been tweeting responses. They should have countered the negative tweets immediately, rather than reassessing the campaign as a whole.

Have you ever suspended a campaign? We would love to learn about your experiences in the comments below.

Kill Your Darlings, Not Your Blog

In 2008, I started utter (de)construction, a blog that covered major issues facing global brands, politics, and society. It was pretty cool, but as I continued to publish, I became was afraid of my strong editorial voice, which is naturally bold and provocative.

At the time, I was a Communications Associate at a religious institution, as well as a freelancer who was looking for new clients, and working to satisfy current ones. Although my blog was not targeting these populations, I kept my more conservative contacts in mind as I developed my personal brand. This made me increasingly uncomfortable putting my content out there as a blogger.

I worried my delivery was inappropriate for some readers. An example of this is when I entitled a post about former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s campaign-financed clothing makeover “Barely Legal Campaign Expenditures,” I thought it was edgy and pretty funny but worried that its reference to the porn industry went a little too far. Despite my concerns, I ultimately published the post but it never felt quite right. Eventually, I ended the blog. We’ll get back to that later.

The two-step writing process

After reviewing the readings for #CMGRclass, I found myself revisiting this personal experience and realize that there is a simple, two-step process for writing and editing content for any channel (blog, website, video script, etc).

Image via Flickr

Step 1 (Write): Let loose

The Ultimate Guide to Blogging by the Content Marketing Institute provides three key points to consider while blogging. One tip states, “Loosen up: Authenticity trumps perfection when connecting with readers.” This is true for the writing stage. Do not edit while you write. You need to write a first draft from start-to-finish (making notes along the way to cite that article or fact check some detail, rather than derailing your initial draft). Type whatever comes to mind, even if it sounds stupid. Especially when it sounds stupid. Step 2 will take care of the rest.

Step 2 (Edit): Kill your darlings

Recently, I heard that to write for any channel, including, but not limited to, blogs, you must kill all your darlings—a phrase first turned by famed writer, William Faulkner. It is often the work to which we are extremely attached that most needs editing. This points to a tension that exists between writer and editor, which, for bloggers who wear both hats, refers to the same person.

From 2008 to today

When I first launched utter (de)construction. I covered issues that not every 20-something could handle. I was on to something.

Looking back, I realize that when I felt conflicted I killed my blog when I should have simply killed my darlings.

Thinking back to that racy title in 2008 that never quite sat right, I now realize that those four words “Barely Legal Campaign Expenditures” embodied one of my darlings. I just love the phrase, even today, but now I am prepared to lead that and others to slaughter. Lesson learned.

Going beyond the two-step process

There are many guidelines that make for a great blog post. These are some from #CMGRclass:

Blogging: 34 Things you’re Doing Wrong

How to Write Great Blog Content

How to Find and Keep Great Writers for Your Blog

How to Create an Editorial Calendar That Will Grow With Your Audience

Five Benefits of an Editorial Calendar

Do you have a single tip that helped you unlock the words stuck in your head or to mercilessly edit your own work? Please be sure to include them in the comments below.