Author Archive for Jaime Manela

Listen up!: Using comments, blogger outreach, and ambassador programs to build your community

When trying to grow or maintain your community, it is essential to provide your audience with unique opportunities to interact with your brand. Comments, blogger outreach, and ambassador programs are all paths through which a CM can better connect with the community. Read on to see what I’m talking about.

Comments
Read between the lines

As if it hasn’t been said enough times, Buzzing Communities reminds us that the customer is always right! ALWAYS. Take it from someone who has angrily reached out to brands on social media many times, I always remember which brands were pleasant to deal with, and which were not. Online conflict resolution is not only vital in that it calms dissatisfied customers, but the manner in which this resolution is dealt with speaks highly to the brand — and the reason why it’s included on this list.

Blogger Outreach
Why is this even necessary?

Unlike journalists, most bloggers are not constrained by traditional media models. In The Best Practice Guide for Effective Blogger Outreach, an eBook by InkyBee, it is noted that bloggers have instant and exponential reach. They are also a source of “earned media,” a relationship that is based on a real connection — both on and offline. PR professional Sally Falkow said that a BlogHer study showed that women in the US rank blogs as their “number one source of information.” That’s a lot of people. That’s a lot of power.

The first steps

Once you decide blogger outreach is the way you want to go, you need to devise a plan. First, consider all of the possible outcomes that, according to Jenn Pedde’s “Building Community in Blogger Outreach” presentation, blog outreach can yield:

  • SEO/link building
  • Increased sales
  • Engaged customers/users
  • Product testing
  • Being the dominant voice in your industry
  • Being the most trusted voice in your industry

Next, InkyBee recommends identifying the blogs where the target audience lives. And Pedde reminds us that not all blogs are created equal. In fact, according to a chart entitled “Blogger Outreach: Tiers of Blogging and Link Building” (Fig. 1) in her presentation, there are five tiers of blogs: news outlets, large blog outlets, influencers, specific subject, and everyone else.

Blogger Outreach: Tiers of Blogging and Link Building (via Jenn Pedde's "Building Community in Blogger Outreach")

Fig. 1: Blogger Outreach: Tiers of Blogging and Link Building (via Jenn Pedde’s “Building Community in Blogger Outreach”)

Perhaps the most important piece of advice offered from InkyBee is to remember to personalize your pitch to the blogger. Investigate how they prefer to communicate — Twitter, Facebook, Quora — and capitalize on it. You need to offer something that mutually beneficial; no one likes to walk down a one-way street.

Keeping it going

Once this mutually beneficial relationship is established, be sure to not let the relationship die. You’ve worked this hard – so keep it up! Thank them, continue providing them with good content, and maybe treat them to a nice lunch 🙂 Be sure to also store his/her contact information and maintain and updated blogger database.

Brand Ambassador Programs
Say what?

brand ambassador program, as defined by Mack Collier:

… allows for an ongoing, working relationship with special customers who are fans of your brand. Their job is to stay in constant contact with your customers, not only promoting you to these customers, but also giving you invaluable feedback on what your customers think about your brand.

As a result, as a CM, you gain a greater understanding of your target and can pass along valuable insights to your marketing and advertising teams. Brand ambassador programs are especially helpful for larger companies, who find it overwhelming to connect with their consumers.

Collier offers 10 tips for creating a brand ambassador program. Three of my favorites are:

  • Spread the world internally as well as externally
    • If you don’t have the entire organization behind any given initiative, it’s doomed to fail
  • Make membership exclusive
    • You want to ensure that you are giving “membership” to the customers who are true advocates to the brand and who are truly committed. No phonies allowed!
  • Give your advocates direct access to the brand
    • Be sure that your ambassadors have access to some executives or people of significance at the company. These people are the “brand’s biggest defenders and advocates,” so it is essential that their voice is always heard by someone who has the power to enact change.

Buzzing Communities also recommends that brand ambassadors meet at least one of these criteria:

  • High levels of activity
  • High levels of expertise or passion for the topic
  • Distinctive contributions
  • Interesting real-life positions
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Great contacts
  • Overall strategic fit

 

Many agencies and brands who are looking to reach college students are now targeting these same students to be their brand ambassadors (image via MrYouth http://mryouth.com/)

Many agencies and brands who are looking to reach college students are now targeting these same students to be their brand ambassadors (image via MrYouth http://mryouth.com/)

Choose wisely!

 

Which of these three avenues do you think best suites your brand? Try them out and let me know!

 

Starting from the bottom: Tips for building a community from scratch

Building a community isn’t something that happens overnight. But with a roadmap, realistic and goal-oriented expectations, and a good attitude, a well-developed brand community may not be so far out of reach.

Make a plan and stick to it

The key to community building is putting effort and value into a strong foundation. Even if it’s brick by brick, a community with a carefully thought-out strategy is going to come out on top. Cement between bricks takes a while to dry, and if you stack your bricks higher too quickly, the structure is likely to collapse. In his article “How to Build a Community From Scratch,” David Spinks offers a one person at a time strategy:

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.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Although tedious, it’s this type of focused strategy that will produce results.

It’s also helpful to create a design persona of your target audience in order to always keep your messaging focused. Dino Dogan (@DinoDogan), co-founder of Triberr, wrote a piece for Business 2 Community, in which he describes the process of creating this avatar. The purpose, he notes, is to become one with the consumer—get into their head and know their fears, problems, and passions. It also ensures that your messaging is always human in nature, because in essence, your community is speaking to this avatar that you have created.

Richard Millington’s book Buzzing Communities also outlines various types of communities that help focus your content: communities of interest, place, practice, action, and circumstance. Considering the type of community you are looking to build, in addition to the demographics (geographic location, age, gender) and psychographics of the audience gives your new community a better chance for success. 

Expectations

One of the most important things to remember when building a community from scratch is that you cannot expect the community to appear instantaneously. This is a problem that according to Spinks, both large and small companies face. Startups just want to scale as much as possible and grow as quickly as possible, but that is not the nature of communities. Larger companies feel entitled, established, and as if they have strong brand recognition that their community will grow instantly. As Millington describes, creating long and short term audiences helps remind us that we need to reach critical mass (via a well-developed plan, of course) before we can think about reaching as many people as possible.

All the tedious work is worth it

Remember, as Dogan carefully points out, a successful community will create fanatically engaged members. These fanatically engaged members will market for you while you sleep — and they’ll do it all for free. I can’t think of a better reward.

If Drake can do it, so can you.
(via “Eapatty01” on IGN.com)

Have you started your own community from scratch? Go ahead, what are you waiting for?!

Hanging out with three leaders in the CM community

For our #CMGRClass hangout last week, we had the amazing privilege of speaking with three community management professionals: David Yarus (@DavidYarus), CM at MRY; Morgan Johnston (@MHJohnston), Corporate Communications Manager at Jet Blue; and Nick Cicero (@NickCicero), Lead Social Strategist at Livefyre. Here’s a look into what they had to say.

Not all community management environments are created equal

Well, not exactly. They’re all just different. I found it fascinating to learn about the different team settings and how the setups of the various teams truly depend on the nature of the business. This sounds obvious, but I don’t find that to be the case. Each company or agency has its own brand, and uses that when it defines roles and organizational structure. Early on in the hangout, Nick mentioned that he believes job positions are much more definable today. These definitions have definitely evolved since the CM space first emerged, but I don’t know if they are yet definable to a point of satisfaction. Now, we just have a better idea of the types of roles we need filled for any given organization, but the description of that role will vary (drastically, or not,) from place to place.

All three men came from very different team backgrounds. At David’s agency, MRY, there is a distribution team that is responsible for media that is paid, earned, owned, and experiential and analytics. CMs work with this distribution team to create content, develop strategy, and monitor feeds. Specifically, David works with a community of influencers and brand ambassadors for Bobble and Spotify, among others.

At Jet Blue, Morgan is the head of the corporate communications department. He works with marketing and customer support departments to be sure that all communication is in check and stays in line with Jet Blue’s brand identity (for which he is also partially responsible). He works with Jet Blue’s customer insight team also uses a net promoter score as a way to constantly gauge the satisfaction of their customers; they survey, through a variety of media, “How likely are you to promote/recommend Jet Blue to a friend or family?” Aside from the 20+ team at Jet Blue corporate, there is a group of over 1000 employees in Salt Lake City who respond to the community at large (besides social channels): emails, phone calls, whatever it is, you name it, they respond to it.

Nick is a member of the strategy team at Livefyre, a real-time conversation and social curation tool. As a member of the strategy team, he works with the clients who use the Livefyre tools — other community managers. He helps them to use these products more effectively and how to better manage their communities. His strategy then coordinates with the customer and marketing teams to make for integrated communications.

Unique, not different

Okay, so maybe I was being a little harsh before. It’s not the differences that set these work environments apart, but rather, their unique qualities. It’s what these community managers are bringing to their respective workplaces to elevate their work.

At MRY, it’s that David likes to remove the idea of the screen away from the conversation. He constantly reminds himself to remember that there is a person on the other side of it, and to treat them as such. By breaking these barriers and treating people like people, simple tasks get accomplished a lot faster and a lot more efficiently. Completely unrelated, David also conducted this entire G+ hangout from the New York streets via his iPhone. I just love technology.

At Jet Blue, it’s that Morgan’s audience experiences the product/brand in real time. Although this can be frustrating and stressful at times (especially if the feedback is negative), it actually gives Jet Blue opportunities for wins; as David described, real-time gives brands the chance to “over-deliver, surprise, and delight.”

My own interaction with @JetBlue on Twitter!

My own interaction with @JetBlue on Twitter!

At Livefyre, it’s that Nick is working with people who essentially have the same job that he has. Nick works with community managers, yet he himself is a community manager of sorts. Again completely unrelated, Nick also worked with Kanye West early in his career to help grow his label’s community, so he wins at life.

 

Thanks again to David, Morgan, and Nick for hanging out with us – hope to see you all on Twitter!

A community with flavor: conversation with 16 Handles’ Adam Britten

I had the privilege of having a chat with Adam Britten (@AdamBritten), the community manager behind one of my personal favorite brands, 16 Handles (@16Handles), a frozen yogurt phenomenon located in my native East Coast. Adam had a lot to say about experimenting in the social space, growing your audience/community, and froyo (duh). Read on for a glimpse into our Google+ hangout.

@AdamBritten of @16Handles!

@AdamBritten of @16Handles!

Trying something new

My favorite thing about talking to Adam was his passion for the brand. He truly loves 16 Handles and every customer, and it shows in every piece of content he produces. It is because of this passion that he has no problem taking risks with the brand, despite it being smaller in size and perhaps having a smaller national reach than some of its competitors (i.e. Yogurtland). This is probably best emulated through Adam’s Snapchat campaign, which ran earlier this year in January. He realized Snapchat was one of the only platforms that brands did not instantaneously jump on, but also knew it was a platform on which the core 16 Handles user lived. Britten recalled his Mother’s use of scratch-off coupons she received from Kohl’s that were only redeemable at the register. He took this idea and transferred it onto Snapchat, sending users who added 16 Handles as a Snapchat friend coupons that were in essence, only redeemable at the point of purchase (Snapchats expire after 10 seconds or less). The campaign was a huge success, and even recently won a Mashie, Mashable’s new Marketing Awards, in the “Rising Star” category.

16 Handles' Mashie Trophy! (via @16Handles)

16 Handles’ Mashie Trophy! (via @16Handles)

Organic Growth

Many brands, especially those of a larger and more corporate nature, require SEO/metric deliverables each week, to prove to executives the reach social media is bringing to the brand’s community and how effective that is. In Adam’s case, he is not required to deliver any formal reports or numbers to his senior executives (although, he does that anyway, just because) or meet any numeric goals. Instead, Adam chooses to set these goals for himself. For example, each month, he strives to grow the 16 Handles’ following at a more rapid rate than the month before. It is this mentality that makes Adam a better community manager, because he constantly pushes 16 Handles to its fullest potential.

Flavors on flavors on flavors

Best part of Adam’s job? He also works with the operations team. AKA he helps them brainstorm, develop, and TASTE all of 16 Handles’ new flavors! Could there BE a better job? He told me they just finalized the flavor lineup for 2014, and that there are a few surprises in store. I can’t wait!

 

Thanks again, Adam, for taking the time to chat with me — I thoroughly enjoyed it!

 

 

Community Managers vs. Social Media Managers: What’s the Difference?

In today’s media landscape, the terms “community manager” and “social media manager” have more or less become synonymous. This practice of interchanging these two roles, however, is highly inaccurate. Let’s investigate this unruly phenomenon and hopefully, by shedding some light on it, we can change our behavior (yes, I mean “our,” as in, I’ve fell victim to this, too).

Back to square one

Let’s bring it back to basics. If you talk to a lot of people, you work in social media. Social media managers want to reach every person who participates in a conversation with the brand, and truly make for an engaging experience.  If you try to get a lot of people to talk to each other, you work in community management. Community managers essentially look to eliminate their own jobs — they want the brand to come to the point where users are talking to each other, so they act as the brand’s own personal defense.

You know you want it…

 

After reading through this article, even though I thought I was “bringing it back to the basics,” I found myself more confused. I see the clear distinction that is being made here, but I asked myself, “Don’t community managers use social media to get lots of people talking to each other?” It’s safe to say that these roles have become blurred.

Especially in the consumer space (versus the business-to-business space), the audience is a lot larger and broader, and it is not always as easy to decide which person — the social media manager or the community manager — should be the one to jump in first. This idea brought up another thought in my mind: we often generalize social media, much like the roles of social media manager and community manager, and clump it into one big responsibility. However, the nature of the content produced and the platforms used truly depends on the nature of the brand. B2B brands need strong community managers and social media managers, just like consumer brands do.

So if both comm. and social media mgmt. involve social media…

What’s all this “other stuff” everyone keeps referring to that community managers are also involved with? It’s never made clear that community managers have both online and offline responsibilities. Jenn Pedde (@JPeddesums it up best:

So what does a community manager do?

Communication, moderation, guideline writing, engaging day to day online (forums, owned communities, blogs, newsletters) and offline (events, conferences, meet-ups), strategy, working with the social teams/marketing/support/product/PR/management, surveying, customer service, and a variety of other activities.

Living and learning in a digital era, it’s easy to forget that communities offline are just as — if not more important than — communities online. A lot of the conversation about the brand happens online, but we see the results of such conversations take form in an offline realm. These conversations are only really worth it if the audience can translate what they’re saying into real actions in the “real world.”

Everyone loves examples
@Sharpie benefits from a social media manager, who's engagement with the audience makes for fun content that speaks to the brand identity.

@Sharpie benefits from a social media manager, who’s engagement with the audience makes for fun content that speaks to the brand identity.

Just incase it’s not entirely clear, here are two examples of work done by a community manager and work done by a social media manager. Community managers are more focused on socially or conversationally enabled content and responding to comments. Sharpie (@Sharpie) is great example of a brand that does not necessarily benefit from a community manager, as the business model cannot support deep relationship development, but benefits highly from unique user-generated content that social media managers would create.

The online web store Etsy is a great example of a brand that is well-supported by a community manager. In order to get users conversing with one another, the community managers at Etsy hold events, create webinars and curate collections. By doing so, Etsy is giving users opportunities for users with shared interests, etc. to collaborate. Thus, if the collaboration is successful, users feel a new sense of loyalty to Etsy because they owe this newfound success to the brand itself.

 

 

Etsy community page

Etsy community page 

Now that you know how to spot the difference between a community manager and a social media manager, which do you think your brand could benefit from best? Maybe you’ll even want to pursue one of these roles as a future career!

Learning from Community Manager Pros

Last week’s Online Content Panel Google+ Hangout was probably my favorite class session to date. Having professionals from the community manager community dialogue with our class provided for unique insight that I have not gotten from anywhere else. The two speakers during this hangout were Ally Greer (@allygreer), the community manager at Scoop.it, and Sean Keely (@NunesMagician), the founder of the popular Syracuse sports blog, “Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician.”

Countdowns are a great way to keep your audience curious and engaged.

Countdowns are a great way to keep your audience curious and engaged.

Although she hardly touched on it, I loved that Ally got her start with Scoop.it as an intern during her study abroad semester in Paris, France. I also studied abroad in Paris, which has an underrated tech and social scene. Not only does this excite me because of my own dreams to one day move back to Paris, but proves how global content management companies are and how community management work can be done anywhere in the world. Aside from her international experience, what I found most helpful from Ally was her discussion of “learning on the job.” There is only so much you can learn from a classroom. No matter how much preparation is involved, so much of being a community manager is being able to respond to scenarios in the moment and deal with problems as they come. Ally is a true example of this mentality, and it is things like #CMGRClass that provide tools that would be helpful in such scenarios.

Sean Keely's Twitter feed, where he is highly engaged with his audience and often uses as a source for new content.

Sean Keely’s Twitter feed, where he is highly engaged with his audience and often uses as a source for new content.

I found Sean’s story to be rather unique. Unlike Ally, he first (unknowingly) created a following, just by writing what he loved. It was only after the blog’s reach grew that he saw there was community to be managed. I find this “reverse” way of getting involved with community management to be very unique and thus, speaks to the niche nature of Sean’s audience. Sean capitalizes on this uniqueness by generating content through his fans — incorporating their content as guest posts, picking up on trending topics through comments and social media, etc. Sean’s method shows how community management does not have to be intimidating or overwhelming. For smaller brands, community management is rather simple and does not even require a ton of tools or resources (which may be the case for larger, more corporate brands).

Thanks Ally and Sean for chatting with us!

 

 

Content may be King, but Curation is Golden

Once you have a well-established social community, it is difficult to maintain it. A community manager then needs to curate compelling content — the best quality & the most relevant —  in order to keep their audience engaged. The beauty of curated content is that it can serve as the perfect compliment to your self-generated content, allowing for new content without the extra cost. Think about it — millions of users are posting on social networks every minute, giving a community manager endless opportunities to find unique content. Don’t forget to link back to the original source — it is common courtesy!

Here’s a great example from Life is Good:

lifeisgood

 

Like I mentioned, there are millions of users are posting on social networks every minute.

Insert panic mode here.

It is nearly impossible to effectively curate content without using tools to help you manage the overflow of user-generated content. Here are Teresa Dankowski’s (Content Marketing Manager at Cision) “5 Tools to Help With Content Curation:”

  • Storify — Finds the most relevant content on a variety of platforms: Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, & Instagram; search function for content discovery
  • Triberr – Communities of bloggers & influencers organized into niche categories
  • NewsCred – Newsroom service that provides access to licensed articles, images & video; curation technology powered by an editorial team
  • Social Monitoring tools – Scour social networks for keywords and mentions; HootSuite & Radian6 are two popular options

Personally, I have also worked with RebelMouse and the social monitoring tool Spredfast. RebelMouse is very similar to Storify, but RebelMouse offers more than just curation and serves as its own content management system. Muck Rack* is also a wonderful way to find unique content, as its Pro search features only pull mentions from verified journalists and bloggers on Twitter.

Example of a media search for “Syracuse University” on Muck Rack Pro:

Screen shot 2013-09-23 at 8.29.42 PM

Successful content curation, then, is about combining these two philosophies: finding unique content and using tools to find and post such content. Mashable’s “5 Tips for Great Content Curation” sum it up best:

  1. Be Part of the Content Ecosystem — Be both a content maker and a content curator.
  2. Follow a Schedule — People take comfort in knowing when to expect something from you.
  3. Embrace Multiple Platforms — Your audience lives on a variety of platforms, so you should too.
  4. Engage and Participate — Show your audience there is an actual human being behind the platform, give your networks a voice.
  5. Share. Don’t Steal. — As I mentioned earlier, attribution is common courtesy! No one likes a thief.

*Disclaimer: I am a former Muck Rack employee.