Author Archive for Jessica Smith

A Profile on Community Management with VaynerMedia’s Harry Barron

vaynerI recently had the opportunity to interview Harry Barron, a community manager with VaynerMedia.  Through the interview Barron lent insights as to what life is like as a community manager with a community and media management firm, and shared some of the tactics and practices that VaynerMedia employs in its quest to manage the online communities of its many clients.

The Company

VaynerMedia was launched in 2009 as an endeavor between Gary Vaynerchuk and his brother AJ, and began as a small community and media management firm with the founders and three of AJ’s friends. Since that time, VaynerMedia has grown to have two offices, one in New York City and the other in San Francisco, and has hundreds of employees and a varied client portfolio.

The Community Manager

Barron started working with VaynerMedia in November 2012, only several months after his graduation from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He is tasked with managing the online communities of one of VaynerMedia’s large, global clients, through their Facebook and Twitter accounts. He performs his job by managing these online outlets daily, and working in tandem with several other employees on the same client account who are tasked with managing various online outlets of the client, and by working with several departments within VaynerMedia to effectively manage the online communities.

Takeaways from the Interview

One of the most interesting things I gathered from the interview was how some online communities are managed in a departmentalized fashion.  While I had previously functioned under the assumption that all online communities were managed by one basic entity, information garnered from Barron proved that assumption wrong. At VaynerMedia they employ a segmented approach.

There are teams assigned to each client, and depending on the size of the client, a variety of community managers are assigned to manage different facets of the online community. For a large, global company such as the one that Barron is assigned to, the online outlets are broken up and several of them will be assigned to different community managers to allow them to better focus their attention. For large clients, having one community manager manage all aspects of a client’s online presence would spread them too thin and impact the amount of interaction and observation they could feasibly apply to each outlet.

Outside of the teams, there are departments within the company that are shared among the CM teams. The analytics department and the social media strategy departments are just two examples of this. Instead of having the community managers handle the analytics and the strategy, VaynerMedia has created entire departments to handle these specific tasks. From the work of these departments, the information gleaned from analytics is shared with the client team on a weekly and monthly basis so that they can adapt their content and communication strategies. The social media strategy departments assess this data as well, and plan new strategies to share with the client teams.

 Surprises

While I was surprised to learn that there is minimal user guideline material applied to Barron’s client’s Facebook and Twitter proceedings, and also that a more comprehensive content calendar was not employed, after giving some consideration to the context of these choices they began to make more sense.

I was shocked to learn that Barron’s client opts not to take advantage of brand ambassadors, particularly since it is a global company that has as many avid fans as it does critics. While the current strategy does recognize community members who are particularly active by awarding them swag, there is little outside of that to recognize and encourage excellence in community members.

The Nutshell

Overall, I found the interview with Barron to be very information, particularly since it opened my eyes to the tactics of community management in a departmentalized fashion. While the segmented nature of community management for large clients at firms like VaynerMedia may be a bit off from what I had chalked up community management to in my head, I have learned that sometimes the sheer size and scope of a company occasionally demands it. And while this tactic may change the way that analytics or strategy impact the role of a community manager, the essence of monitoring and communicating with a community remain the same.

Community Management: To Infinity and Beyond!

This final week of #cmgrclass has circulated around the future of community management. Considering the exceptional growth this field has seen over the past few years, it’s reasonable to assume that its growth will only excel in the years to come. As recently as 2009, people like Dawn Foster were giving talks entitled “Online Community Manager: Yes, It’s Really a Job”. Now, only 4 years later, this career path has taken a commanding and fertile root in companies worldwide.

While the future growth of community management is all but guaranteed, the field itself continues to evolve as the full potential and benefits of well-crafted community management is realized.

In her post Community Manager Job Description, A Definitive Guide, Erin Bury shares how she went from not knowing what the job title “community manager” meant back in 2008, to becoming gainfully deployed as one, and then gives, as a title implies, a definitive guide to what she perceives is the role of a community manager.

In broad terms, Bury defines the role of a community manager as “the face of a company, managing communications in both directions. This digital-savvy employee is responsible for all communications, PR, social media, events, and content creation, among other things.”

Prefacing the list with a brief disclaimer that each and every day as a community manager is different, here are the items she found crucial to the job:

1. Content creation

2. Social media marketing

3. Events and event planning

4. Public relations

5. Customer relations

6. Communications/marketing strategy

7. Analytics

8. Business development

 

Taking it a step further, Rachel Caggiano and Matt Kelly do a bit of community manager forecasting in their post Rebranding the Community Manager – The 7 Skills of a Community Director. The concepts presented in their post build on a foundation of Bury’s definition, and go on to state how it’s currently changing and speculate how it will continue to evolve.

They found that “today’s community manager needs to be a fan segmentations specialist, an ad and content targeting expert, a crisis radar technician, and a leader of multiple content creators across the organization. A real business director with the necessary gravitas to get the most out of the community, as well as the brand, to really drive value,” and dub this highly skilled individual as something new but in so many ways the same…the Community Director.

 

ogilvy_cmgrdirector

 

This graphic from Ogilvy details the 7 skills of a community director as detailed by Caggiano and Kelly, which is a career path that I best understand to be a community manager with a really productive growth hormone. Whether this is where the future of community management, or, ummm, community directorship, will take is remains to be seen, but the fact remains that the future of community [insert productive noun here] remains bright.

Data: The Secret Ingredient to Successful Online Communities

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8saYbWFg3A0/USL-LFDC3rI/AAAAAAAAPK0/jhSuTTkD0Pw/s1600/dataprocessing.jpg

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8saYbWFg3A0/USL-LFDC3rI/AAAAAAAAPK0/jhSuTTkD0Pw/s1600/dataprocessing.jpg

In the 10th ProCommunity podcast entitled “How to Use Data for Better Online Community Management” Josh Paul interviews Rich Millington, founder of FeverBee and the Pillar Summit, on some of the tactics that have made him a frontrunner in the still-emerging field of community management.  And if you read the title of that podcast, you being the astute and educated reader you are, may have surmised that one of the secret ingredients to Millington’s success has been his knowledge, use, and championship of, DATA!

Of his work helping companies and community managers become the all-stars that lie right under the cusp of glory, Millington had this to say:

“The approach we always recommend is the data-driven approach. We think it’s absolutely of paramount importance to make sure that you are viewing your data and you are getting that information so you can see what really matter. We make sure community managers are tracking their data so they know where they are now, then they track the data so they know where to go next. “

For Millington, data is a yellow brick road that leads to effective work instead of characters missing very important characteristics, green profits instead of an emerald city.

I could not agree more with Millington if I was charmed with an imperio curse and told to do so. Apparently there are a few authors/community managers out there who share my enthusiasm, sans-weird-harry-potter-spell-or-otherwise.

Thomas Kim, Product Manager of Social Technologies as Rio SEO, wrote a piece entitled How Big Data Powers Community Managemet for WOMMA. He stringently believes that as social media grows, and company departments that manage social media strategies and community management demand increasingly heftier shares of the overall budget, the burden of justifying that funding lies with those who work in social. The data is necessary for countless reasons, but especially for providing evidence of the worth of social campaigns that may have few measurable deliverables.

“Discrete and clear objectives that help to define a deliberate strategy for social media, or marketing actions that support it, often begin and end with the collection and interpretation of big data,” says Kim.

This brings me to my closing point, which is DATA NEVER LIES. Except when its tampered with. But hopefully that not being the case, data can offer clarity of purpose and of past performance that no self-evaluation, quarterly review or consumer survey could ever touch. Looking at the data will tell you what topics your community is most receptive to, what time of the day is the best to break news or rekindle a conversation in embers. Data will give you the pulse, blood pressure, and temperature of everything that is your community. And for that, I claim data is not going anywhere, it is merely going to become more important in all aspects of life and business, and considerably so in community management.

Community Scaling: The Answer is Within

http://cdn2.business2community.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/community-manager.gif

http://cdn2.business2community.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/community-manager.gif

One of the most invigorating things about successful online communities is that they grow. A community manager has the opportunity to guide and shape the malleable, lifelike entity that is an online community that draws in members like moths to a flame. And if that manager is successful, the members become engrossed in the community, generating more content, driving conversations, and pulling in even more members.

While a successful online community is what all community managers strive for, exceptional growth can land the community manager in a sticky situation: being in over her head.

There may come a point that the time needed to respond to every e-mail and tweet, monitor discussion boards, write blog posts, and maintain the platform, exceed the working hours in a day. It is when this pinnacle is reached that the practice of scaling a community becomes a necessity.

Rich Millington, founder of online community consulting firm FeverBee Limited, addresses some of the challenges of scaling a community in his post 11 Processes for Scaling Online Communities. The processes he suggests are logical and put a heavy premium on the need for responsible, dedicated community members to pick up a shovel and do some heavy lifting.

In his post Scaling the Management of Your Online Community (SXSW Interactive 2013 Proposal) Patrick O’Keefe of iFroggy Network states that “As an online community grows, it has different needs.” He then goes on to pose 5 questions about the challenges of scaling an online community.

As luck should have it, many of Millington’s 11 processes can satisfy some of O’Keefe’s questions.

O’Keefe Question 3: With greater contributions comes a greater burden on moderation. How can you scale your moderation team, and your policies, to ensure they are fairly and evenly applied to members?

Answered by Millington Processes #2 and #6:

#2: Rewriting guidelines if they are violated too frequently.

Here, Millington advocates for a more navigable community. Stringent or confusing guidelines may result in well-intentioned community members unintentionally violating guidelines, which subsequently takes more time out of the community manager’s day and dilutes the quality of content within the community.

#6: Ensure members can identify and remove bad posts.

The concept of instilling this great power in members can be nerve wracking for managers and insanely empowering for members. While the ability to delegate some of the community moderation to members can be a life saver in scaling a community, the members entrusted with this power should be fully vetted.

O’Keefe Question #4: How does the community manager role change as a community grows?

Answered by Milllington Process #1: Recruit, train, manage and motivate volunteers.

While pretty much all of Millington’s processes are applicable here, this first provides the overarching gist of the idea. When a community grows, a community manager has to find a way to delegate some of the responsibilities of managing that community, which can be achieved through empowered and enthusiastic community volunteers. While this by no means indicates that the community manager hands off enough responsibility to become detached from the essence and daily conversations of the community, handing down some responsibilities to volunteers can allow for a larger community that maintains its quality.

O’Keefe Question #5: What can you do to tap into the power of your growing membership to help you scale your management of the community?

Answered by Millington Processes #1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. So essentially, the majority of Millington’s processes will satisfy the realization of this question.

#1: Recruit, train, manage and motivate volunteers.

#3: Encourage members to submit their own news.

#4: Setup a community e-mail address which several volunteers can access and reply to.

#5: Teach volunteers to recruit and train other volunteers.

#6: Ensure members can identify and remove bad posts.

#7: Automate members inviting their friends.

#8: Let members apply to run various forum categories.

#9: Allow members to create their own groups, initiate events, start live-discussions with scheduled VIPs they have persuaded to participate.

After assessing O’Keefe’s questions alongside Millington’s suggestions, it seems the answer to good community scaling lies with the members of the community.

As Millington states in his book Buzzing Communities, “Community volunteers are the most effective means of scaling an online community.”

How to Create a Brand Ambassador Program by Selecting the Right Brand Ambassadors

Brand ambassador programs are the ice cream to apple pie, the free movie on a transatlantic flight, the t-shirt gun to sporting events. None of these items are necessary for the functionality of the actual events themselves, but their existence makes them that much better. A brand ambassador program, though not crucial to a company’s functionality, can significantly enhance the experience offered by the company.

In his post 10 Things To Remember When Creating a Brand Ambassador Program, Mack Collier explores the most important factors of creating and maintaining an ambassador program to add that special spice of experience into what the company has to offer. These ten items consist of:

1 – Spread the word internally as well as externally.

2 – Research, research, research.

3 – Start small, grow big.

4 – Make membership exclusive.

5 – Connect with your advocates and create ways for them to connect with each other.

6 – Pay your ambassadors.

7 – Give your advocates direct access to the brand.

8 – Create a feedback loop between the brand ambassadors, and the brand.

9 – Give your ambassadors the tools to create something amazing.

10 – Transfer ownership of the program from the brand, to its ambassadors.

Concentrating on items 7-10, the importance of the actual brand ambassadors over the program itself is incredibly apparent. A company could create the best brand ambassador program this side of Pluto, but without exceptional brand ambassadors to breathe life into that program, it might as well not exist.

In the post What to Look for in the Best Brand Ambassadors, Shelly Justice examines some of the qualities that a company should look for in its attempt to “staff” its exceptional brand ambassador program. Some of the qualities expressed by Justice are particularly apt to satisfying terms 7-10 explored by Collier.

First and foremost, a brand ambassador should “share the company’s philosophy”. While this may seem like a given, its importance cannot be understated. In order for someone to appropriately act as an ambassador for a company, he or she should be breathing the same brand-filled air as the company itself, enthralled by the purpose of the brand, obsessive about its exceptional products. To convey a love for a brand online, the passion for it in real life should be 10x as big.

Second, they should “embrace innovation”. Brand ambassadors will be tasked with cutting through the thick fog of stuff on the internet to convey a message to select groups of people. As is true now, and will become increasingly important over time, this skill will take a bit of innovation and creativity on part of the brand ambassador. Is the ambassador capable of harnessing emerging technologies to better spread the word? Can he or she identify new ways of using old technologies to create an exceptional brand experience for customers and advocates of the brand everywhere? These are considerable topics to be explored when selecting brand ambassadors.

The last item of the list that I’d like to explore is that the brand ambassadors “are passionate and have a strong personality”. In order to discuss the brand and brand promotion with the company, other brand ambassadors, and consumers and advocates alike, brand ambassadors must have strong personalities. This trait, in tandem with the two aforementioned from Justice’s list, rounds out the necessary components of a brand ambassador by stressing the importance of the enthusiasm and capability in conveying that enthusiasm in a brand ambassador.

In order for a company to give its advocates direct access to the brand, create a feedback look between the company and the brand ambassadors, give ambassadors the tools to create something, and transfer ownership of the program to the ambassadors, these traits, among others, are absolutely necessary.

A Commenting Moderation Policy for the People

Retrieved from: http://www.adobe.com/products/flashmediaserver/segments/government/

Retrieved from: http://www.adobe.com/products/flashmediaserver/segments/government/

The #cmgrclass topic of the week is a tricky one: moderating commenting in communities. To me, this seems to be an art form reminiscent of governments and their people.

There is the dictatorial approach, in which the moderator has the final approval on all things, and nothing sees the light of day until it has been reviewed and stamped as allowable for community consumption. The second is more of a democratic approach, where community members enjoy a greater freedom in posting comments, but the system implements methods to protect the community from spam and undue profanity. The third, and least restrictive, is akin to anarchy where anything goes, and all community members, be them lunatics, posters, spammers or deviants, enjoy the same level of freedom in community conversation.

Of course, each of these techniques has its place in different communities with different moderators, and there are pros and cons that can make a strong argument for or against each.

In the post Moderating Comments and Managing Online Communities, Tara Coomans offers positive and negative aspects of each.

For the dictatorial approach, which she dubs the “Unlock Policy”, Coomans offers the following:

Pros: Keeps out all the riff-raff.
Cons: Delaying comments prevents organic timely conversation. Can you keep up with reading every single comment and approving in a timely manner?

Due to the pro, which is keeping out fight-seekers and spammers, this tactic may be aptly applied to communities that feature particularly controversial subject matter. However, taking into considering the con in this case, this may only be practically applied to a rather small community, as reviewing and approving each comment individually in a large, fast-paced community is difficult if not impossible.

For the democratic approach, coined by Coomans as the “Knock-First Policy”, she says:

Pros: Keeps the community free of junk without over reaching-gives the community a true voice that is consistent with the community’s own language. Not terribly time-consuming to manage.
Cons: Comments can create community drama without being spammy or profane.

This in-between approach takes a protective hand in filtering spam and profanity, but enjoys a greater level of freedom in allowing community members to post without the need for review and approval. This tactic is prime for a mildly controversial topic, because it will allow community members to rapidly reply to each other and offer bold opinions without being subjected to undue spam or profanity. Would also be well applied to a variety of other communities due to the harmonic balance it strikes.

For the anarchic technique, or rather the “Open Door Policy”, Coomans states:

Pros: The community is completely transparent to one another, with the exception that people will often use pseudonyms on communities like this.
Cons: Spam and lowest common denominator magnet. These two elements will likely crowd out your actual community.

While this gives community members the greatest level of freedom, it also subjects them to distracting spam and overly controversial or profane statements that may dilute the overall quality of the conversation.

While there are subsets of these categories that may be tailored to be applied to the full spectrum of online communities, it is these three main categories from which they are derived. For each community there is a commenting policy, and for each commenting policy, a community.

Moderation Frustration & Rewards

My experience as moderator for #cmgrclass was eye opening, frustrating, rewarding, and provided me with quite a few takeaways. One of the most frustrating things for me acting as moderator was the time commitment. A good moderator needs to dedicate an immeasurable amount of time to the community each and every day and be constantly monitoring activity in the community. When I was attempting to moderate the community,  I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. When I was doing other things, all I could think about was if there was something in the community I needed to respond or contribute to. The job of a community manager is more than a full time one, and my small taste as moderator really drove home that point for me. One of the most rewarding things for me was when community members would enthusiastically reply to a post, or when a certain item would spike conversation, or even just when someone said they enjoyed a resource I provided.

I started the week off by using the Oscars and the #oscars hashtag as a small case study on how people/organizations attempt to hijack large scale events for their own benefit, and to present the question of whether the organizations behind these large-scale events should appoint a community manager, or more likely a team of community managers, to moderate the hashtag for the event. It seemed to be pretty unanimously decided by my classmates that large events are too pervasive to even consider moderating, and that most companies that attempt to piggyback off the hashtag of a large event just look foolish in their attempts.

In my next post I pivoted towards the topic for the week, which was planning a community. The questions I posed were:

  • What tools do you think may be most effective for listening to a community and then planning to improve based on what you gather them from?
  • What is the best way to roll out community changes?
  • To what extent should information gathered from community members be taken into account when planning changes geared more towards brand-advancement than pure community improvements?
  • While this didn’t generate the kind of responses I was necessarily looking for, it did result in the sharing of some interesting tools to use to track communities and insights that indicated most students are in favor of slow and gradual roll-outs when introducing change to a community.

The next item I presented for discussion was a post on 5 trends that community managers should expect this year. This article provided a fairly logical broadcast of what the growing and volatile field of community management may experience in 2013. One of the points that I highlighted for discussion was one that claimed that niche platforms will gain more traction, and asked the community to discuss their thoughts on niche platforms and the viability of them gaining major ground in community planning in the future. The general consensus was that larger social networks are typically necessary to properly access a community, and niche networks will probably never take the forefront merely due to how limited they are in scope and access.

In the second half of the week I decided to highlight one of the 2 assigned reading resources for the week. The blog post entitled “Do Your Community User’s Guidelines Only Protect People You Like” brought up a very important aspect of community management, which is the presence/absence, severity/leniency, of guidelines.  I asked the community to consider if the rules they would expect others to use when talking to other community members should also be applied when others talk about external entities, such as politicians, or, say, an unpopular form of vegetation. The community overwhelmingly stated that all forbiddance of name-calling and offensive language should be applicable when discussing members in the community as well as external entities.

I ended the week with a blog post that featured an interview with an interesting community manager, who made some good points about planning a community. I thought this was appropriate due to our looming community manager interview assignment as well as presenting the POV of a community manager on how/what to plan for when planning. This post didn’t really generate conversation, but I also didn’t ask any questions to spark discussion.

The Double Edged Sword of Guest Posting

retrieved from: http://stinkingtruth.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/side-projects-development-double-edged-sword.jpeg

retrieved from: http://stinkingtruth.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/side-projects-development-double-edged-sword.jpeg

Guest blogging, akin to pretty much everything else in the social media sphere, is a double edged sword.  In his post How to Find and Keep Great Writers for Your Blog from this week’s #cmgrclass reading, Jacob Klein cites the employment of guest bloggers as crucial in order for those who run blogs to consistently provide quality content in diverse voices on a regular basis. While there is ample evidence to support the benefits of mixing things up with a guest blogger here and there, as the practice of guest blogging has grown myriad issues have emerged to challenge the purity of this practice. Diverting from Klein’s optimistic outlook on guest blogging, there are numerous sources across the web that call for caution in engaging with this outsourcing blogging practice, for quite a few reasons.

 

Pros

Mutually beneficial new content

For blog managers and editors, the pressure to create new and diverse content can get a bit demanding and overwhelming at times. Inviting in a guest post adds variety, a new point of view, and provides the editor with a small but helpful hiatus. In its best form, the practice of guest blogging is an exchange of value-for-value where both parties benefit mutually.

Increasing backlinks

As stated by Klein, the “content for links strategy works so well because both parties are receiving something truly valuable.” The guest poster receives exposure and a link to his domain from a trusted source, the new content can generate site traffic and, as is the theme of this pro-item, “precious, precious links.”

 

Cons

Commercialization of guest post pitches

Sujan Patel from Single Grain Digital Marketing laments that the well-intended procedure of guest posting has been hijacked by “enterprising marketers” who “see guest posting as a technique that can be automated… to promote their own websites for to get guest posts published as a  service to others.”

Increasing backlinks

No, you’re not having déjà vu. This fun tidbit is so special it made it onto both the pro and con lists. While more backlinks will result in better SEO results, it will also post a billboard-sized invitation for spammers across the web to pay a visit or 500 to your blog. To be curt, Mo’ Backlinks, Mo’ Problems. Not to mention, spattering your guest blogger’s post with backlinks to your own blog, or vice-versa, can come off as inauthentic and self serving, and no one likes that.

Content. Content, content, content

In a world where content always has been, and always will be, king, the concern over questionable content received from guest bloggers poses a viable threat to the practice. This overarching issue breaks down into three sub-issues; poorly written posts, stolen or re-purposed content, or a voice that is not consistent with the blog or one that completely misses the mark on the purpose of the blog.

Blogger Jeff McIntire, in a guest post on guest posts called Why I Took Down my Guest Posting Page (take that for meta), laments over these issues and how it’s changed the way he approaches guest blogging.

“When I put [my guest posting] page up, I assumed it would attract professional pitches and posts from knowledgeable content creators. I knew that many of these pitches would come from marketers, but thought certain they’d  want to build a long-term relationship with an established site, and send me well-written, thoughtful content that I’d be thrilled to share with my readers. In a few cases, I’ve received those high-quality pitches and posts; in many, many others, I’ve been proven woefully wrong in my assumptions. More often than not, I’ve gotten untargeted, spammy pitches.”

And for your viewing pleasure, blogger Ann Smarty has compiled a handy video on guest blogging pitches gone wrong. This video is incredibly groan-worthy and showcases link-hungry guest post spammers. Read her full post on The Guest Blogging Fails: Again here.

Building a Brand Around a Common Name

http://howmanyofme.com/search/?given=Jessica&sur=Smith

http://howmanyofme.com/search/?given=Jessica&sur=Smith

I was cursed when I was born. This curse came in the form of my name, as gifted by my innovative parents. Jessica. Lynn. Smith. Because Twitter was just a twinkle in Jack Dorsey’s eye, and the concept of domain names were completely irrelevant to either of my parents’ lives, the volume of people with the same name as me was of little to no concern to Kevin and Beth, who did not foresee the online woes it would present to me as I grew up alongside the internet.

Last week in #cmgrclass we had Olivier Blanchard, renowned maverick of brand building in the social sphere, join in on a Google hangout with the class. While this particular Olivier Blanchard is a U.S.-based author of the book Social Media ROI, he shares a name with French Olivier Blanchard, a world class economist who is well known for his work with the International Monetary Fund and has published a book on macroeconomics.

Identifying that we both shared name-based woes, I inquired how one can best build a brand when a name makes it uniquely difficult to gain the assets necessary to grow a self-oriented brand.  Using answers provided by Blanchard (the social media guy, not the economist) and outside resources, I’ve compiled a list of some tactics that can be used to distinguish yourself in a sea of name-sameness.

  1. Work with what you’ve got.

Blanchard recommended to first and foremost take a look at methods outside of a name that can be leveraged to strengthen your brand. One would be to use a consistent profile picture across all online accounts. Another would be to design and implement a consistent graphics scheme to use as backdrops and, when optional, icons, in order to build a readily identifiable image to strengthen your online brand.

  1. Use a variation of your name.

 In her post 6 Personal Branding Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for People With Common Names, Kimberly Bordonaro, a branding consultant who realizes that “..you must stand out if you want to be noticed. You get it. Your mom didn’t. She named you something so boring, so original, so blah…” recommends throwing some twist on your parent-given name to give it a little distinctive umph. I’ve done this, with my inventive and truly visionary adaptation of my name to create the twitter handle @j_lynn_smith, but have seen much better, more effective variations that don’t require the inclusion of not one but TWO count ‘em TWO underscores. There’s the option to add hyphens to names, or choose different extensions for domain names.

  1. Change your name.

Drastic? Maybe. Effective? You betcha. Erik Deckers, owner of Professional Blog Service, created this post on how to brand yourself with a common name in response to a request from a Twitter user. He uses Chad Johnson, #85 for the New England Patriots, as a prime example. Filled with dismay over his #3 most common last name (which, let’s be real, is a cakewalk compared to Smith), Chad opted to change it to something a bit more distinctive, and went through the legal process to change his name to Chad Ochocinco. While he likely didn’t make the name change to acquire his ideal domain name, or get that Facebook extension he’s been lusting after, this seemingly drastic measure can be quite effective to social-media-minded individuals as well.

While I have no immediate plans to change my name, and my Twitter handle is pretty much set unless Twitter wants to go ahead and repurpose @j_smith for me (c’monnnnn guys), I’m going to take Blanchard’s tip on working with what I’ve got. And, in spite of the fact that there are 6,805 Jessica Smiths in the United States (according to HowManyOfMe.com) I plan on building my brand and hopefully, making myself the most distinctive Jessica Smith out there.

Community Guidelines and Offensive Language

Image from http://www.inflexwetrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/IFWT_offensive_language.jpg

Image from http://www.inflexwetrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/IFWT_offensive_language.jpg

Community guidelines can be key to helping a community manager moderate a community. Keeping all members on the same page and laying out expectations will help prevent hiccups along the road to a happy and healthy thriving community.

In his post Do Your Community’s User Guidelines Only Protect People You Like, Patrick makes the claim that if your community guidelines don’t apply to people outside of your community, they’re pretty much meaningless.

Most communities feature guidelines that put a premium on respect; no name calling, no disrespectful comments, no unfounded attacks, etc. The author touts a track record of ensuring community guidelines apply to members within his community, as well as everyone and everything outside of that community.

According to Becky Johns in her blog post How to Create Facebook Community Guidelines, the content issues most frequently addressed in community guidelines fall into one of the following categories:

  1. Profane, defamatory, offensive or violent language
  2. “Trolling”, or posting deliberately disruptive statements meant to hijack comment threads or throw discussions off-track
  3. Attacks on specific groups or any comments meant to harass, threaten or abuse an individual
  4. Hateful or discriminatory comments regarding race, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation or political beliefs
  5. Links or comments containing sexually explicit content material
  6. Discussion of illegal activity
  7. Spam, link baiting or files containing viruses that could damage the operation of other people’s computers or mobile devices
  8. Acknowledgement of intent to stalk an individual or collect private information without disclosure
  9. Commercial solicitations or promotion of a competitor
  10. Violations of copyright or intellectual property rights
  11. Content that relates to confidential or proprietary business information
  12. Content determined to be inappropriate, in poor taste, or otherwise contrary to the purposes of the forum
  13. Promoting competing products, services, or brands
  14. Personal promotion

Let’s take category one as an example for Patrick’s issue. While profane, defamatory, offensive or violent language may be expressly prohibited when directed towards fellow community members, should that protection be granted to entities outside of the community as well? And by what standards is the “offensive” nature of a post determined?

Patrick believes that any application of one of these categories will do nothing but impede useful and productive discourse and instead invite in a mob mentality with little constructive conversation. While some may cite their wording as necessary tools to effectively express their opinions, the post writes this off as a useless excuse. Patrick finds that:

“You can dislike what someone does, you can criticize their actions, you can disagree with them – without calling them names, without inflammatory language, without personal attacks. That is the level of discourse I aim for.”

While I personally agree with Patrick that eliminating rude and offensive language entirely will raise the level of conversation and provide a better quality, I do not think that expressly forbidding that avenue of expression is the right way to go, either. If something is truly horrific in nature, the CM retains the right to remove the post. Otherwise, conversation should remain as unrestrained as possible to foster authentic and organic conversation, offensive or not.