Author Archive for Elaina Powless

Knowing your Community: #CMGRClass Panel

This week I was able to sit in on a panel with four active Community Managers. It was a great conversation discussing the types of communities and engagement tactics used in their day-to-day work.

What was especially interesting was even though every person fell under the umbrella of community management, they had very different roles and objectives in comparison. Each focused on different categories of community management, such as content management, support, moderation and engagement. These distinctions seemed to be formed by the industry, brand’s strategic objectives, and the nature of the community.

Vimeo Staff Picks Banner, a curated channel for members

Vimeo Staff Picks Banner, a curated channel for members

For example, the tech manufacturer Lenovo’s community has a different atmosphere than Vimeo’s. People who are a member of Vimeo’s community are most likely passionate about producing creative content, or enjoy consuming creative content. This community has different values and ways of interacting than the tech-focused Lenovo community. The differences in the needs and values have an impact on how a community manager encourages engagement.

Gavin O’Hara from Lenovo drove this point home even further: “The first rule of community management could easily be knowing your audience…first, who is your audience in broad strokes, and then you dig deeper… you can’t define your audience by one set of people” This point was a common theme that persisted through the panel, all of the panelists seemed to agree of the importance of listening to your community, despite the industry.

 

Vimeo

Alex Dao is part of of a community team of 22 personnel, that works congruently on interconnected layers of the Vimeo community. They have many opportunities for members to participate in the community, holding events, weekend challenges, distributing lessons, and curating channels with highlighted videos in addition to support and social media interactions. This is a great example of engaging all streams of a community, with knowing what niche groups would enjoy engaging in a certain way.

 

PolicyMic

In contrast, Cara Conner manages her community solo, concentrating on twitter chats, email, outreach, and PolicyMic’s new fellowship. This fellowship is a part of the transition of PolicyMic from thought leaders to more regular, young journalists. She hopes that the fellowship shifts the focus from web traffic to the voice and stories of the target audience of PolicyMic—Millennials. In that way the fellows are the brand ambassadors, the actual voice of the community.

 

Few posts on Lenovo's blog

Few posts on Lenovo’s blog

Lenovo

Gavin O’Hara has been with Lenovo’s community from the start, growing the twitter following from 3,000 to about 2 million. He attributes trial and error a large part of the journey, but has a good handle on his community now. Something I found intriguing about the Lenovo community were the special Facebook group set up for the committed members of the brand. This group rewards the top-tier members by interacting one-on-one with the users, and making them feel like they are a part of something bigger. These tactics of recognizing passionate members of the community creates loyalty in addition to fostering engagement.

 

Foursquare

Foursquare Superuser icons

Tracey Churray of the Foursquare community team focuses more on the support side, and tapping into the community to build a database. Foursquare’s strategy is driven by crowdsourcing users for venue updates and tips, so they have unique relationship (and even reliance) with their community. They also have established a hierarchy within their community, giving increasing levels of power to more involved members. These tiers of Superusers are specially picked, and they get perks such as previews and special editing access. It’s a genius program, and plays well into Foursquare’s gamification M.O. Users are driven to reach the next status level of Superuser, and to reap the rewards.

Takeaways

  • Above all, you must have a clear understand of your community
  • Priority levels based on activity or membership establish loyalty
  • Community Management is not solely social media- creating strong relationships is a result of diverse touch-points

Are you part of a brand community with a hierarchy? Does this inspire you to be more involved in the community?

Building Loyalty- 4 Brands That are Doing it Right

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Building loyalty should be a priority to create a passionate branded community. In my opinion, it is one of the most important things to keep in mind when developing a strategy. People who are loyal to your brand become advocates and help you to promote the brand and broaden your audience. Having a small community of engaged core fans of the brand will be more valuable than having high visibility and an apathetic audience. When people are truly passionate about the company, the services, or the experience of the brand, it creates a community and is attractive to observers. This is where the role of a Community Managers comes in.

According to Work Smart Lifestyle’s post on strong social brands, to create this loyal following, you must connect with your audience and engage with them. It starts with a good product or service. You have to have a good product or compelling mission first in order for people to buy into your company. If they feel like your company values or brand vision aligns with theirs, they are more likely to champion your brand. This core idea ties into the concept of Lovemarks, where brands transcend the boundaries of a typical service and create a more meaningful connection to the people that follow them. This can be achieved by creating a brand experience and persona, and embodying it through social media outlets, blogs, internal services, and any other consumer touch points. A great brand will exceed expectations and provide value to their community.

Here are a few brands that have a very loyal fanbase:

 

Whole Foods

Whole Foods

Whole Foods, Whole Story

The core values of this grocery market is to provide its shoppers with high quality, organic food. The small grocery community crossed with national chain balances reliability with fresh food and a close community feel. They have established a strong brand identity, to the point where Whole Foods is associated with concrete attributes and characteristics. There is even a certain stigma of the people that shop at Whole Foods, though this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Whole Foods perpetuates the local, friendly community through their blog. They appeal to that niche target market and write posts on healthy, organic recipes. The website highlights issues such as sustainability, equal trade, and local community. In addition, the Co-CEO’s have blogs that support the vision, and sustain Whole Food’s image of a close community. Whole Foods uses blogging as a way to channel the mission of the organization and to support the community of Whole Food shoppers.

 

Chipotle

@ChipolteTweets reaches out to a tweeter with a complaint and makes a successful brand interaction

@ChipolteTweets reaches out to a tweeter with a complaint and makes a successful brand interaction

Chipotle taps into the trend of conscious fast food. They promote their use of natural ingredients and casual dining to create a brand identity. I know people who are obsessed-going to Chipotle is more like an event rather than a meal. Chipotle embodies the down-to-earth brand persona through their interactions on their twitter handle, @ChipolteTweets. They are one of the best companies for responding on twitter, in my opinion. They make everyone feel like their opinions are important to Chipotle, and builds strong relationships. This strategy engages the consumers the and creates loyalty with the fanbase.

 

YouTube

YouTubers on mainstage at VidCon Convention

YouTubers on mainstage at VidCon Convention

YouTube, the video platform, has progressed from the website people used to watch cat videos to a platform that supports rising YouTube personalities. YouTube is dependant on user content and user viewership, but they have become very smart in the way that they encourage loyalty and engagement. They now support content creators, certifying channels that have a large following and high quality content and even supporting them financially. These high-profile vloggers are then given credibility, which supports YouTube’s brand popularity. There is a sort of mutual benefit to the people YouTube chooses to support, and those people become YouTube’s Brand Ambassadors.

There is a definite hierarchy within the YouTube community, based on viewership and connections. The YouTube celebrities encourage viewers to create their own content to achieve YouTube fame, and to keep watching their favorite personalities on YouTube. The loyalty in the YouTube community is most apparent during conventions like Playlist Live and Vidcon, where masses converge from all over to meet their favorite YouTube stars.

 

Starbucks

Starbucks Reward Program App

Starbucks Reward Program App

photo 2 (1) photo 3 (1)

Like Whole foods, there is a stigma of frequent Starbuck consumers. People are crazy in love Starbucks, and this can be half attributed to the products, half to the community created through the love of Starbucks. They do amazingly well on branding and fostering loyalty with consumers.

An example of this is the Starbucks Reward Program, specifically through the app. The app notifies you when you are near your favourite Starbucks locations, and brings up your virtual card which you can scan to pay through the app. When you pay through the app, you are awarded a star, which accumulate to achieve different levels with increased rewards. This app rewards loyalists and enables an easy way for people to become loyal to Starbucks.

 

Thoughts on Moderation

GoogleCommuntiy

This was my first time moderating any sort of discussions. I am more comfortable as a member, commenting and sharing additional articles to the community. It was a unique experience for me to take control of the discussion, and a great way to be introduced to community management without too much risk.

Going into my moderation week, I felt fairly confident. Our group on Google+ was getting great activity, with awesome comments and thoughtful discussions. It was great to share articles with the class and hear their opinions on issues raised in those articles. I was ready to step in as moderator to continue the great discussion for CMGR Class.

Setting Goals:

I had one main goal I set for myself at the start of the moderation; to post one article each day that I had found to be especially interesting. Not only was that the minimum requirement, but looking back at previous moderation weeks, it seemed like posting more than one link each day overwhelmed the community. I also had the unique situation of moderating midterm week, the week before Spring Break. I had to be aware of the time that people were able to spend on the Google+ community, as they balanced projects and studying.

An objective of a community manager is to listen, in order to understand what the community is most receptive to. This is why part of my goal is to only post articles that I found to be useful and thought-provoking. My reasoning: if I enjoyed reading it, others would too. In the Moderation chapter of Buzzing Communities, Richard mentions the sharing of information is a way to drive discussion between members (Millington, pg 69). I aimed to focus on quality over quantity in order to drive activity.

Pros:

Since this was the week before break, I decided to focus on reinforcing the definition of community management and exploring the strategy involved. For me, it always helps to revisit what community building means at its core in order to apply new concepts/analyze strategy. Towards the end of the week I shared articles written that simplified the community building process. These articles were the ones that I found were the most interesting, and a result they received the most conversation and positive response.

It felt great that the articles that strongly resonated with me were helpful to others. Another topic that had a good discussion was whether Snapchat was an appropriate social media platform for a brand to spend time on. Members brought up great challenging points about the viability of Snapchat for a community tool, and that discussion was the highlight of my moderation week.

 Cons:

 While I understood that it was a busy week for everyone, I still didn’t get the level of activity that I expected. It was also hard to know when to step in the comments and when to step back. There was a balance between probing the conversation and dominating it, and I feel like that was a skill that needed to be developed over time.

Another obstacle I ran into was that there was no readings for my moderation week. This meant I was left to create my own theme for the week, which ended up being slightly more difficult than I thought. I had to trust that others were interested in revisiting the core role of community managers.

Twitter was not as active as Google+, which was my fault for not focusing on it as much. I posted a total of three tweets during the week, two from my personal account using the hashtag #CMGRClass and one from the @CMGRClass Twitter account. The tweet about Ellen’s phone use during the Oscars got three click-throughs and a reply. I tweeted an article about why community managers build community, and that got one click-through and two favorites by non-classmates. I wish that I had found more things to share on Twitter.

TwitterStats

Screenshot from Hootsuite

A unforeseen disadvantage to my goal was that I spent a lot of time finding articles. Since I was only sharing things that I thought would be worth posting, I had to read more than I posted. All of our readings always say that time management and scheduling is an important part of community management, and this week I glimpsed the scope of time and effort put in.

Takeaways:

I enjoyed being more central to the discussion and guiding the conversation. Everyone was very constructive and thoughtful in their comments, which is all you could really ask for.

Looking back, I know I could have done better in responding to comments and asking probing questions. I was too worried about dominating the conversation and that inhibited my ability to lead it properly.

A large part of moderating involves trial and error. I realized that the only way to truly become a great community manager is to actively apply the concepts to your community. This assignment was great since it gave a taste of moderating a community, but nothing compares to the adjustments needed when you are managing a community in the long term.

Chatting with Sunny

Syracuse Media Group

The inside of Syracuse Media Group, where Sunny works. Taken from Syracuse.com

When choosing a community manager to interview for CMGR class, I knew I wanted to talk to someone local. Syracuse has a great local community based around pride and support of the city. There is a core group of people in Syracuse who love the city and are doing great work to make it a great place to be. Sunny Hernandez is one of those people.

I first learned of Sunny through Twitter, appropriately. She seemed like the person to know, many of the people that I admire were following her and having conversations. I followed her to stay in the loop on local happenings and see how she managed her social media. Sunny gives off this vibe that makes you think that she is a good friend, and I perked up everytime I saw her in my Twitter feed even though I had never formally met her. It made sense that she works for Syracuse.com as a Community Manager, since she is able to easily engage with people through the medium of social media.

Sunny graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in Sociology. This degree came in handy in the future as she taught in the area. To raise funding for her program and to raise awareness, she ventured into the world of social media. From there she took off, becoming immersed in the local Twitter community, taking social media focused jobs, and learning about Community Management.

Her current job at Syracuse.com involves managing the Twitter and Facebook accounts, writing community blog posts, and moderating the comments section of the articles. Since Syracuse.com is the largest digital news organization for Central New York, it is up to Sunny and her team to manage the community. Syracuse.com’s digital strategy is transitioning away from solely broadcasting local news and towards being more engaging. With this in mind, Sunny is strategic about the stories that she shares on social media, thinking of what the community would respond well to. I thought it was interesting that she stated that a big part of her job is knowing the community. I never realized to the extent that Community Managers are always mindful of that, and how absolute it is. If you are not familiar with your community, then you will not be able to connect them in the best way possible.

I was also interested to hear that they do use featured posts, where they ask for photos from people in the community to feature. Sunny also will reach out to a community member who has posted a comment on an article, and ask them if they will elaborate on the topic. Sometimes they even have an article of comments that people have posted. These are all great ways to encourage discussion and promote engagement with the community.

Lastly, another interesting point that Sunny brought up was the community guidelines. These are in place to make sure that the comments that people are posting are constructive and appropriate. Surprisingly, it does a lot to help monitor the comments, Sunny refers to it when she has to talk to someone about their unacceptable comment to keep everything under control. She even finds the community self-moderating, politely pointing out the guidelines to each other. This is a sign of a great, constructive community!

It was a pleasure to talk to Sunny and discuss the community-building of Syracuse.com. The one thing that I would recommend, is to hold events to reward community members and foster a stronger sense of community. Making the community more visible and central will bring everyone in the community closer together, and humanize the people behind the posts. Overall, I think they are moving in the right direction towards achieving a close and engaged community.

Video interview

 

The 4 Stages of the Community Life Cycle

Current online technologies have made it easier than ever to participate in discussions with people with similar interests and passions. Barriers for connecting with others have never been so low, as enhanced forms of media have enabled us to convey ideas and share like never before. In a society obsessed with content, the internet and social media has changed the way that we discover this content and who is able to distribute it.

The internet has changed the role of community managers, and has given them a wider range of tools to encourage discussion and inclusion within the community. Social media is one of these tools, as pointed out in Minot State University’s study The History of Social Media and its Impact on Business. Syracuse Sync, a local web design community organized it’s first meetup mainly through Twitter. Word of the meetup spread through social media, speakers and sponsors found through Twitter conversations, and the conference was a great success. Since attending, many attendees have reached out and supported my endeavors.

However, a community does not only exist on social media, and other efforts are required in order to build a successful community. Building a community is not easy, it requires a focused strategy and attention to sustain. A community manager’s main goal is to create relationships within the community, and to no longer drive the conversation. That being said, there are four main stages of a community life cycle as outlined in Chapter 1 of “Buzzing Communities” by Richard Millington. Each stage has specific duties in order to maintain and grow a community.

cycle

Inception

This is first life stage of a community, where the manager starts building relationships and initiating discussions. At this point, the main goal is to reach critical mass, or when your community is actively generating the content and discussions. Reaching the point of critical mass is achieved by:

  • Inviting people to join the community
  • Initiating discussions
  • Encouraging members to share and contribute
  • Establishing one-on-one relationships
  • Post content regularly

Establishment

This stage is marked by the community reaching critical mass. Community manager’s role is to promote inclusiveness and regular activity by the members, acting as a moderator. At this point, focus is shifted to referrals, promotion of the community, and organizing events. Tasks include:

  • Writing content
  • Managing events and chats
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Recruiting
  • Analyzing data about community
  • Referral growth tactics
  • Establishing a strong sense of community

Maturity

This stage level is when the activity level by members is the majority of the activity of the community. The community manager’s role is now to build publicity about the community and maintaing the general tasks. In addition, this stage will eventually plateau where the level of activity will be maintained at the highest point possible. The community is highly responsive and active, and is influential in its industry.

Mitosis

The final stage of the community cycle, where the community is very large and prominent. Subgroups form within the larger community, and the manager must make sure that the sentiment of being in a good community is still priority. The community manager supports the mini communities, and helps them become at critical mass.

This outline of the life cycles in “Buzzing Communities” is very clear in visualizing the goals and tasks for the community. Growing a successful community requires a lot of hard work and monitoring in order to create value for all participants.