Author Archive for Katie Lemanczyk

4 Job Description Red Flags for Aspiring Community Managers

There are lots of positions for community managers, and for those that are interested, the hardest part can be knowing what’s the best fit for you. A position for one place might seem like a great opportunity – but how do you know that?

When you’re looking for a job, there are all kinds of things you want to see. You’re looking for something that fits your qualifications, is located in a desirable area, and is with a good company. The only bad part is that you don’t know what you’re going to get until you actually start the job, and even then it’s easy to feel stuck when the position turns out to be less than ideal.

In #CMGRclass, we’ve talked a lot about how some companies just don’t know what to do with community management, and thus don’t know what to do with a community manager. Here’s how to find out what if a company might not quite get it yet just from the job description.

1. A lack of personality


Does the job description give you a sense of the work environment at the company? If the job description seems formulaic, it might be a sign that the company doesn’t understand the kind of person they’re looking for – or worse, it doesn’t understand what kind of company they are. Look for cues on company culture within the job description so you can really know if it’s right for you.

2. Non-specific description


“Experience with social media,” “understanding of analytics,” “we’re expecting you to cover everything and anything.” Okay, you might not see that last one, but if the job description seems like a catch-all for web buzzwords, continue on your search. This is yet another sign that this company probably doesn’t know what community management is really about.

3. All you can see is “Social Media”


If you’re serious about taking a community manager role, you should already know that community management is not social media. Yes, you should have a good grasp on how to fit them into an overall community management strategy, but it should not be your job to manage social media accounts. That’s a social media manager’s job.

4. Too good to be true


If the job makes promises, like 9-to-5 hours … do your research. It’s okay to be skeptical. A company culture that believes work only happens only in 8 hours of the day probably doesn’t understand how community management doesn’t sleep. Even worse, it might force you into becoming that community manager that wakes up the next morning with a total social media meltdown on your hands. You can always check LinkedIn to see if the company has a good team in place! If you can’t find other community managers on their bench, look for another listing. This one isn’t for you.

While some of this advice comes from my personal experience looking at job descriptions, huge thanks to Erin Bury and Jenn Pedde for providing the inspiration for this blog post! Go check out their posts for more on what to look for in a community management job.

Have you seen any truly horrible community manager job descriptions that just get it all wrong? Would you ever apply to a red-flag listing so you can tell them what community management is?

Doing Your Homework: The Key to Becoming a Great Community Manager


CMs need to learn on-the-go. From moriza on flickr.

The easiest way to become a terrible community manager is to focus solely on your own community.

Does that seem contradictory? It shouldn’t. A past panel mentioned that community managers aren’t just managing members – they’re also managing communities within communities. Same goes for the other way: your community is probably one among many other communities just like it. If you’re going to get anywhere with your community, you need to be a full incorporated member of sister communities, too.

So what’s the biggest thing you can do to strengthen your community management skills?

It’s simple: research.

In a presentation on Blogger Outreach, Jenn Pedde (our own #CMGRclass leader!) offers some advice in a presentation one how to stand out from the crowd in the sea of community managers.


This is a logical first step for CMs. Understanding where your blog exists among others is the best way to understand your position and to whom you need to reach out.


Another step to building a community is reaching out. A great way to spread the word is to create an ambassador program: an integrated team of people who love yours community and want to help it grow. When creating this team, Mack Collier insists that research is key to understand who will be the best people.

You can’t just sit back an pick the most active people: you need to watch, listen, and converse with people. Research, after all, isn’t just reading up!


From Britt Michaelian’s blog post, she emphasizes how people are rejecting traditional marketing, and instead they crave connection.

Community managers are driven by this demand to supply connection, and most likely they are the kind of person that’s naturally good at it. What Michealian reminds us is that it’s important to remember how every action by a successful community manager is backed by a strategy. Every exchange is carefully crafted to maximize returns to the community.

Although “strategic” and “crafted” sounds like community managers aren’t genuine, it’s actually a good thing. CMs, after all, want people to find connections in their community. That’s their job. If a community manager can help someone make that connection, they try their hardest to establish it. Wouldn’t you want someone to do that for you?

This means that community managers are consistently watching other communities and community managers and learning from their every move. Where have they made mistakes? What has made them a big success? What are the best tried-and-true methods? When is it a good idea to step outside the box?

Being a community manager is like being in a relationship: they are not easy to maintain, they take a lot of work, and you learn from the past to get better next time. The only way to keep afloat is to constantly learn, make mistakes, reevaluate, and try hard.

What do you think about researching for community managers? If you’re a community manager, do you actively research throughout your day or week? Or is it more passive?

Community Building is like Making Friends

We’ve all done it. It can sometimes be difficult, but the rewards outweigh the effort.

It’s making friends.

Probably not the best way to build a community. Courtesy of Toothpaste for Dinner.

Probably not the best way to build a community. Courtesy of Toothpaste for Dinner.

Not everyone has built a community, but most people have made a friend or two. It’s tough, but in order to do it right, you have to put yourself out there, meet new people, figure out if you want to hang out again, and repeat.

Just like making new friends, there’s a lot to consider when starting a community. There’s no one answer, and there’s no wrong answer. It all depends on what is right for you and your community.

The readings this week, however, did give some great advice for community managers just starting out, and I think that across communities, these factors will hold true.


The key to making friends is that you need to get out of the house to do it. People can’t talk with your RSVP, just like a community can’t talk to your website updates. You need to be present for things to happen.

You are your community’s biggest asset – a human face, a personality, and a lot of passion. David Spinks hits the nail on the head when he says the key to building a community is doing it one person at a time.

Reaching out and making personal connections may take time, but there’s no point to being a community manager if you have no one in your community. So go out and make some friends.


You can go to the club, the pub, or anywhere in between. Where you go depends on what you want, but it’s probably best to start small and make friends at the pub. Community building is like that, too.

In Buzzing Communities, author Richard Millington echoes Spinks when he says:

“A community should not target its entire possible audience in its launch.”

You should, however, target people with whom you know you’ll have something in common. The more focused your audience in the beginning, the faster and more clearly you will understand the dynamic and direction of your community.


It’s no fun to get to the pub and realize no one you can make friends with is there. Where did you go wrong?

Simple: you didn’t plan ahead.

When you’re making friends, you have to communicate with them to make plans. You can’t just show up at a pub and expect them to come to you.

Once you’ve made plans, next you need to execute and figure out how it went:

  • Did they show up?
  • Was it fun?
  • Did your new friend throw a drink in your face?

If the answers are yes, yes, and no … then you probably have a solid friendship starting.

This kind of thinking is equally important for community managers. At the beginning of the community lifecycle, it’s important to talk to people, but it’s also important to understand what your following wants. Having a focused audience not only helps you focus your community, but also lets you figure out data fast.

You already know the audience because that’s what you targeted – now look for what you couldn’t before.

  • Are people spending more time on your pages?
  • Is your audience growing?
  • Are they participating?

Use the answers to guide what you do next. If your friend gets drunk and throws drinks in your face every time, it’s probably time to hang out with her at the coffee shop for a little while.

Apply that same logic with your community. If they don’t respond to blogs about [relevant topic X], try posting about [relevant topic Y].


You might not be a community managing pro yet, but odds are you’ve made friends in your lifetime. Stop over-thinking it and put those friend-making skills to good use. As a community manager, it’s all about making connections. Get out there, be yourself, and find others like you. Community will follow.

Do you think starting a community can be this easy at first? Also, what about personality types – are introverted community managers at a disadvantage in this respect?

Agency Community Managers: An Interview with Rob Engelsman

Huge LogoIf you’ve ever interacted with a community manager online, there’s a chance that person isn’t the type of community manager you would expect. Although most people assume they are talking to an in-house community manager, more companies are able to outsource community management to agencies.

I had the chance to talk with Rob Engelsman, an agency-based community manager. Formerly a content specialist at his alma mater Ithaca College, Engelsman made the jump from in-house to agency earlier this year. He currently works as a community manager at Huge, a full-service international digital agency based on Brooklyn, NY.

How do you become a community manager for a company you don’t know? The answer is tons of research, both inside and outside company.

“We start to see early on where there are faults in the system internally: where there are faults in what they think they are, and what other people outside think they are,” said Engelsman.

Those faults are the driving force for agencies, as they represent opportunities that Huge’s teams can fix. Analytics and data are the drivers of not just Huge’s strategy, but they are crucial to how the community managers approach and understand their communities from an outside perspective.

Engelsman believes that most companies are unsure of how to start an online community, most notably in hiring employees and understanding how to leverage social media in their communities. That is why they turn to agencies to fill that role.

“They assume ‘the young kid knows social’ … A lot of companies will hire kids straight out of college and – I’m not bashing that, my school hired me straight out of college so it’s not that bad – but there are certain aspects of that, coming from a strategy perspective, are more nuanced,” said Engelsman.

Where Engelsman focuses his time is the maintaining the voice of the client, quality of the content, and it’s relevancy to the audience. “At the end of the day, the goal is to add value … whether that’s a video clip about the stock market or someone is laughing because of what Cap’n Crunch said, you’re creating an environment that people want to be a part of,” said Engelsman.

As social media moves to monetize, however, quality content can only get you so far. “Facebook continues to change its algorithm to continue to entourage you to spend more money to make sure people see your posts,” said Engelsman. “We’ve got these big budgets now and we need to spend them … It all comes back to that question of whether you’re adding value or not.” Engelsman points to the recent spike in real-time marketing, where brands take advantage of a trending topic to promote their product, as one example of companies that are putting the numbers ahead of relevancy and quality.

For agency community managers, their time is divided between many clients. “We’re talking minutes of difference,” say Engelsman, referring to how quickly it’s necessary to shift between voices and tones. It’s important to have the chameleon-like quality to quickly adapt in different surroundings in an agency setting. This unique aspect of an agency community manager isn’t often needed in an in-house community manager.

Although being highly adaptable is impressive, it demonstrates how an agency community manager can’t be committed to a brand 24/7. Even so, most in-house community managers can’t listen all day, every day, either; they must run analytics, develop content, and attend meetings. At an agency, specialists take over each of those individual tasks. The real question is whether a community manager like Engelsman and his entire support system at Huge is less, more, or equally productive than an in-house community manager, and whether the money spent on that system results in a true living, breathing, self-sustaining online community.

What about what Olivier Blanchard from Social Media ROI has to say about outsourced social community managers:

“How do you build relationships through a proxy agent? Can you? Should you? … Whether you are conscious of it or not, the message you send to your customers whenever you outsource a relationship-based social media function like customer service or community management is this: We need someone to do this because someone has to, but we don’t care enough to do it ourselves. How much trust, affection, and loyalty will this kind of attitude generate?”

Is this true? According to Engelsman, in-house social teams are the people that hire agency strategy teams, including community managers. Why are those with the ability to build a community management team opting out of doing it themselves and turning to agencies? If we remember from The State of Community Management, community managers are highly experienced individuals, but despite a high level of expertise and commitment, they are stretched thin. Are the too-high expectations of in-house community management driving the demand for agency-based experts?

As some food for thought, remember Justin Isaf’s definition of a “win” for a community manager:

“[Community managers] ‘win’ if they put themselves out of a job because their users are talking to each other, evangelizing the brand and defending itself to the point that the Community Manager is no longer needed.”

Are agency community managers the future of community management? How might this sort of structure affect practices like relationship building and longevity in communities? In what scenarios could an agency community manager be a good or bad idea?

Don’t Panic! Being a Prepared Community Manager

PANIC buttonBeing a community manager is a 24/7 job, and can be unpredictable. This past week, #CMGRclass learned about how to handle crises. While every community manager will have different needs, there are some basic ways to understand how to approach crisis communication from within a community.

Be Present.

The biggest lesson learned from Heather Whaling’s presentation was that Community Managers need to be present and attentive. In her presentation, Whaling details how a community manager was able to detect a situation happening between another branch of his organization and the community, get in touch with all parties, and diffuse the situation by understanding the problem and guiding the parties to a better solution.

Be Relevant.

We’ve seen it countless times: people trying to get exposure by taking advantage of current events. It might work for a little bit, but before you try it for your community: is it a strategy that makes sense for you?

Before you join a conversation, make sure you and your community a place in it. Understand if the topic is relevant to your community before your add your two cents or speak for your community. Generally, attempts at leveraging real-time events for your community won’t go over well if you don’t have anything of value to add.

A good tip from this article is to respond to actionable conversations. Creating guidelines for what counts as an actionable conversation within your community is a good idea, so that you can avoid both getting too personal or reaching too far in a conversation topic.

Be Right (Not First)

Everyone has a first impression or reaction to new, surprising, or controversial information. The key to reacting from a community manager point of view is to approach all new information with skepticism. Always ask questions about the source of information, even if something is labeled “confirmed.” It’s better to be right than first.

In the past, I’ve attended CERT (community emergency respond training) sessions as a social media manager for a small college. My team went through a hypothetical emergency: a dorm catching fire.

As the exercise went on, we were told different information from various sources. Sometimes the information was emotionally heavy (rumored student fatalities), and it was difficult to keep information like that aside – on the chance it’s true, you want to let people know.

Although the practice situation was dire, the safety officials emphasized that in any situation the communications team should only release information confirmed by law enforcement officials or any other kind of official source.

For organizations, releasing only official information protects the credibility of the institution as a whole, as well as the communications team, and avoids the spread of rumors.

As a community manager, it’s important to know how to identify rumor and truth – and understand what level of source or confirmation turns a rumor into a credible source of information.

Be Prepared.

You know Murphy’s Law? It’s the theory that what can go wrong, will go wrong.

Do you know your community? Do you have a plan to follow if it turns against you?

As a community manager, there will be issues that make you community go absolutely crazy. No matter the likelihood, always have a Total Disaster Meltdown Plan in place. Know who’s in charge, who you can count on to deliver the right information (even if it’s just yourself) and know who you can call on to provide the right information. Have a plan before things go wrong, so that when they do, you’ll be prepared.

Have more advice to add about crisis communication? Have you been through a communication crisis yourself? What helped you, and what do you wish you had known before the crisis hit?

Community Manager or Social Media Manager? A Checklist

How do you know if you’re a community manager or a social media manager?

Here’s a comparative checklist to see is what you do matches better with a Community Manager or Social Media Manager. Do you talk or listen? Are you aloof or involved? Are you more concerned with relationships or promotion?

Community Manager vs. Social Media Manager





























I learned a couple interesting things making this chart:

  • There is a lot of overlap between the two positions – especially in the tools that they use – but it’s mainly what they do with those tools that sets them apart.
  • Not only that, but while researching the difference, there’s a gray area. SMMs can take on CM roles if their position calls for it, and vice versa. Both positions can exist as a hybrid of the two, despite the title.

Most of that chart information was taken from here and here.

What do you think of this chart? See any big skills or major differences missing?

Looking Like a Community Manager

Last week, our class had the opportunity to do a Google Hangout Panel with Morgan Johnston from JetBlue, David Yarus from MRY, and Nick Cicero from LiveFyre. Although the entire panel discussion was fantastic, one part in particular stuck with me.

David Yarus gave a great spiel at the end of the panel about what steps to take before applying for a community manager position, and although I think some should be taken with a grain of salt, they are great slices of advice.


“If you say you’re into social, how are you using social?” – David

If you’re an aspiring community manager, you should already be showing that you want to do it with your spare time. Are you participating in communities? Do you talk to people on a regular basis? With your own social media profiles, make sure you are “dressing for the job you want” by acting like a community manager, even though you aren’t one.


“Lock them down, make sure you’re polished, make sure you’re saying the right things and not saying the wrong things.” – David

Developing a personal brand is common on the Internet, and most web-based professionals have their Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, and other social media accounts put together. This not only means making them look nice, such as having clear and professional headshot, but also being mature and sensible on high visibility platforms like Twitter.


“Make it rain connections.” – David

Where do you want to work? Who do you want to work for? Are those companies or people on Twitter? If the answer is yes, follow them. Read what they have to say, retweet them, and once they take notice of you, talk to them and start building a relationship. Showing that you have an ability to connect online makes it easier to demonstrate your skills as a community manager, especially if you’ve proven you can build your reputation to having a conversation with the company’s CEO from scratch.

Another tip David has was to do anything to get 500+ connections on Linkedin. While I think there’s some truth to this, I think it’s essential for people to understand that your connections should be genuine. If you’re in college, it’ll likely take a while to build 500+ professional connections. Check out this article for what I think is a great guide to connecting on Linkedin.


“Maneuver around the people who are … doing the same things, going to the same career fairs, applying for the same jobs … ” – David

Are you trying to talk to someone on Twitter but they won’t respond? Try talking to someone else. Did your blog post not get any engagement? Write a different one. The only way to get out of the rat race is to separate yourself from the pack. Just do something different to get noticed while pushing your professional career ahead. As David puts it: we are in the Matrix. The sooner you understand that, the sooner you’ll be able to unplug, get out there, and make a difference with employers.

What do you think of David’s advice? Is it spot on? Is it practical?


Why Community Managers need analytics (even if they think they don’t)

Community Manager and Analytics

Although we know that measuring ROI is important, not everyone is convinced. Take a look at some quotes from some articles from the past year or so:

“If you simply must crunch some numbers, there are a few data points you can look at …  But the bottom line remains: don’t get too hung up on the numbers.”

Social Media ROI: It Doesn’t Really Matter (Really!), July 2012

“We’ll never be able to quantify every lead, every brand-awareness lightbulb moment, everything social does for us.”

Why Social Media can’t be measured – and why that’s OK, November 2012

” … you have this previously unmeasured darknet that’s delivering 56.5 percent of people to individual stories. This is not a niche phenomenon! It’s more than 2.5x Facebook’s impact on the site. “

Dark Social: We Have The Whole History of the Web Wrong, October 2012

If I were an aspiring community manager, what I would I take away from these articles is:

  • Tracking analytics is silly. You don’t need to do that!
  • What we can measure (data) is insignificant compared to what we can’t measure (“relationships”)
  • If you care about analytics (which you shouldn’t), you must be an unfeeling robot

But, after learning how many different ways there are to approach analytics (just take a look at this list – and this barely scratches the surface), not using analytics seems lazy. So is it?


Perhaps analytics seem silly in the short term. It’s hard to see patterns and rhythms in the community in the first weeks or even months.

Over time, however, analytics can tell you some important things. While you shouldn’t get “hung up” on the numbers on the day-to-day, they should play a big part in how you create strategy.

If you are tracking analytics but not getting much from them, perhaps it’s time to take a look and see if the analytics are the right one for your strategy.


Not tracking anything because you can’t track everything is like eating an extremely unhealthy diet because you’re predisposed to heart disease. You’re probably going to die from the disease, so why try?

Maybe that’s morbid, but the point remains: because you can’t control one factor doesn’t mean it’s pointless to control what you can. If that were true, there wouldn’t be community managers.

Although community growth may happen through so-called “dark” channels, it’s foolish not to get as much as you can from blogs, social, website, and email channels. Optimizing and experimentation with controlled channels is what makes the job so challenging and fun.


Paying attention to analytics and data does not make you a robot – it makes you a good community manager.

Analytics, as well as relationship building, is an important. Yes, it’s necessary to be human, but it’s also important to have those human interactions guided strategically by data.


Looking at analytics will always give you something more than what you put in. It will tell you if you’re doing something right, if you’re doing something wrong, or – if you don’t get any useful data – it will tell you how to get better at measuring ROI.

It’s always good to be reflective. Always consider what analytics you couldn’t capture, such as:

  • What have I changed?
  • What alternatives didn’t I implement?
  • Do I know the success of those alternatives?
  • Am I measuring the right analytics?
  • Are there other tools I can use?
  • Do I need more data?
  • Do I need to change my approach for better results?
  • Do I need diversify my approach for better data?

Are you an analytics naysayer? If so, why? If not, what convinced you to start tracking analytics? Do you find them more beneficial or cumbersome?

Lessons from Moderating: User-Generated Content (UGC)

I was one of two moderators for this week of class when we discussed User-Generated Content, otherwise known as UGC. Here are some lessons I gathered from the community discussions on how to best approach UGC.

You can’t force it

There seemed to be a strong consensus in the class that the best UGC is natural, not forced. If you want to take advantage of good press and try to turn it into UGC, it might not be the best option. It would take a lot of work to encourage that UGC, and you may not get the quality you want.  But when people organically want to contribute, that’s what you’re getting somewhere.

Accept that you have less control… But set clear expectations.

Content is always the #1 priority, but human writing and storytelling through author personality is what will make your content interesting and different. Don’t stifle personality with perfectionism. You don’t want bad writing on your blog, period. Content, quality, style, and tone should be fully understood by your and your UGC creators.

Kelly’s prompt on the G+ community promoted a great discussion about this topic, and there were awesome answers by my classmates. Set yourself up for UGC success by vetting your content creators properly: set clear quality standards and get to know your UGC creator’s skills before you promise them a feature.

Less for you, more for your community

If you have users writing well for you, not only do you have more time to devote to other tasks to growing your community, but you are giving you and your audience more to talk about. More writers can mean more perspectives, and if those writers are good, it can increase the reach, quality, and engagement of your community. This was something that was addressed frequently in our G+ Hangout with Sean Keely and Ally Greer.

#1 lesson on UGC from Moderating: Be Patient.

Moderating was much more difficult that I thought. I’m not a patient person, and moderation is a huge test of patience.

If I could go back, I would have written much less in the discussions. It was hard to be patient and let others write, especially when sometimes the wait was several hours before anyone commented.

By the end of the week, I began to understand the rhythm of the community. Most people start commenting and posting in the evenings. This makes sense: people are done with classes and are home from being on campus all day.

This is a struggle that all communities have to go through: you can’t start a community and the next day ask for UGC. It’s a natural step in the evolution of a community, and you must be patient in growing it. If you’re patient and focus on engaging your audience, you might reach the point of UGC.


Creating and Curating Content with Ally Greer and Sean Keeley

CMGRclass had the opportunity to hang out (okay, Google+ Hangout) with Ally Greer, community manager at, and Sean Keeley, creator and blogger at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician.

Ally and Sean were a great choice for this stage of our class. We’ve covered community management through the lens of SEO, engagement, blogging, and user generated content (UGC) – great topics for them to cover.

Throughout the hangout, the biggest similarity between Ally and Sean’s job is the way they rely on content created by people other than themselves.

Using UGC is a common practice, and Ally and Sean use the idea in different but effective ways. Ally’s brand relies on UGC, and the interactive nature of Sean’s community breeds strong opinions – it’s clear they’ve easily determined that UGC is right for them.

"You can give context and meaning to further engage your audience." - Ally Greer’s entire platform is built around the idea that people can find what interests them, add their insights, and publish. The nature of is user-driven, and new content is created every day by users. Day to day, Ally combs through the content and looks for the best posts and writers.

Ally also strongly focuses on creating lean content, or, content that makes a big impact with few resources. Like Ally said during our hangout: creating content takes a lot of time. Lean content means Ally can repurpose content and help her users learn from content better and faster.

Meanwhile, Sean uses similar tactics in a different strategy. Sean writes for his blog because he loves to, but he still wants to curate additional content. In order to do so, he’s created a fan section of his blog where fans can write and publish their own content.

"Most people are writing because it's something fun to do." - Sean Keeley

Although Sean doesn’t run a platform like, he’s created a section of his blog where readers can contribute. Through this fanpost section, he’s able to find good writers that match the style of his blog. In some cases, fan blogs will be posted to the main blog, and in rare cases, consistently good fan contributors can become regular main blog contributors.

Both Ally and Sean create content, but in order to better use their time and take advantage of quality writers, they had to become skilled content curators as well.

In the CMGRclass G+ community, we’ve debated the best ways to do UGC. Some communities have depended on or currently depend on UGC with varying degrees of success – like Bleacher Report or Reddit. I’ve seen UGC increasingly become a part of other blogs – the Gawker Media blogs use Kinja to generate and help curate content from users.

It seems as though the successful blogs that use UGC are one of three things:

  1. The blog is the platform, and the best rise to the top (like or Reddit)
  2. The blog is fully integrated with a platform, and content is curated (like Gawker network blogs and Kinja)
  3. Provide an alternate platform for people to use, and content is curated (like TNIAAM)

Do you agree with these categories? Whether you do or not – are these methods really the best ways to curate UGC?