Author Archive for Lindsey Silver

Lindsey is currently a junior at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. She loves all things social media, so connect with her on Twitter: @Lindzsilver

How to Build an Army of Brand Ambassadors – Tips from the #CMGRClass Panel

When a musician or actor gets on stage to accept a big award, they often make it a point to thank their fans. Some even go as far as to say I’m nothing without my fans. This statement can also be applied to brands because they, as well, are nothing without their fans.

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This week #CMGRClass held a online panel over Google+. We were lucky enough to have apanel of experts from four companies: Gavin O’Hara from Lenovo, Alexandra Dao from Vimeo, Caira Conner from PolicyMic, and Tracey Churray from Foursquare. One of the biggest themes I saw emerge from this discussion was the need to build and nurture a community of super fans, otherwise known as brand ambassadors.

Know Your Community

The first step to building an army of brand ambassadors is to get to know your community. A lot of the community managers during this panel said that community for them started out as customer service and support. They needed to answer all the tweets when customers had problems, and soon community and support melded together. Each of these community managers had to go where their customers were and be available to them through these social sites. After spending all this time interacting with their consumers, they really got to know them inside and out.

getsatisfaction.com

getsatisfaction.com

Connect Your Community to Each Other

Tracey Churray explained that Foursquare recently launched a forum for their superusers. This mutually beneficial project allows about 40,000 of Foursquare’s most involved users to have an equal baseline of knowledge of the service, and chat with each other. This forum allows the users to connect with each other and bond, but also increases chatter about the service. This thus creates a greater brand loyalty to Foursquare in general because it is constantly the topic of conversation. Foursquare also has three levels of superusers, that all lead up to the hand chosen SU3s who actually get to interact with the Foursquare engineers.

aboutfoursquare.com

aboutfoursquare.com

Help Yourself

Foursquare sometimes taps into this loyal community to get feedback about how the service is functioning in different parts of the world. One of my favorite stories from the panel was when Tracey discussed how Foursquare contacted the superusers to improve the “Chinese Restaurants” tab of Foursquare locations in different parts of the world. Chinese restaurants as we know them in America take on a different meaning in China, and Foursquare was able to talk to their users about what categories of Chinese restaurants are necessary to have in each country. This made the service more targeted and meaningful in each part of the world, and was all made possible by the suggestions of their superusers.

Situations like this get users involved in the creative process and make them feel like valuable assets of the company. Gavin harped on this point by saying “casual exchanges make [users] feel like they are peeking behind a veil and are a part of something bigger.”

Even further than this, the panelists encouraged Gavin’s nurturing of a superuser community by providing examples within their own community. Vimeo offers around the clock customer service to their premium users, and makes it a point to hightlight 5 to 6 user videos each day. Another panelist said, “Don’t be afraid to give them some inside information, before you release things (people don’t like change after launch). They are often very excited and own it because they are a part of it.”

Bring Your Community Offline

The last important aspect of a superstar brand ambassador program that the panelists brought up, was the need to bring any online connections offline, to really solidify them. Creating and encouraging opportunities for the community members to connection offline with each other, as well as you, really allows people to connect on a human level. Gavin jokingly commented that “We need to throw parties,” and although he presented this in a joking way, the message still stands. Tweeting, emailing, and Facebooking are all nice, but your job is to manage a community of people, so you must treat them as such. Brand loyalty stems from this feeling of connection and unity.

What do you think about these tips for building a brand army? What brands do you think have the best “superuser” programs? Let me know in the comments below!

You’ve Got the Power, Now What? How to Harness Your Influence as a Community Manager

Image citation

“Flat-Pack This. Ikea unfolds its potential in China and Israel..” Industry Leaders Magazine RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Apr. 2014. .

Building is hard work. Building a house is hard work, building a “do-it-yourself” table from IKEA is hard work, even though they tell you it won’t be, and building a community from the ground up is hard work for a community manager. So once you have invested time and energy, and the structure of your community is built, you must use your newfound leadership position wisely.

In chapter five of Buzzing CommunitiesRichard Millington explains how to harness the influence of your community. As well, he exposes the powers of persuasion and divides them into three categories.

  • Content Creation

A big part of contributing to your community is putting out relevant, timely content. You can send news articles out through email, or create a Google+ page like we do for #CMGRClass. I think it is important to note that every community is different and you must find what makes your community unique, and figure out what makes your audience tick.

Overall, one strategy to encourage engagement and bridge the gap between the community manager and the community is highlighting. “You can highlight trends or opportunities within the community and shine the spotlight on members whose actions merit reward” (77). When you highlight your community it allows the individual members to feel special and gives them an opportunity to be heard. It also encourages them to visit the community every day because members love when content is about themselves.

On campus, one of the organization I am involved in has the motto Live With Purpose. This phrase can be adjusted ever so slightly to fit community management and evolve into Write With Purpose. What this phrase means is to use the insights learned about your community to share information and create content users want to read. Don’t just put content out for the sake of sharing. If you share meaningful content, your users will appreciate it and reciprocate with quality content of their own.

  • Administrative Rights

You are probably the admin on all your community’s social network sites, and most if not all community wide emails come from you. Therefore, it is your job to remove people and posts that are not appropriate, or you feel do not positively contribute to the community as a whole. Now, this is a large burden to bear, but it is a necessary one. Communities can easily get off track, or be filled with negativity if somebody is not there to monitor it all. Who would want to consistently visit a community only adds negativity to their life? You must set a standard for how community members will behave, and lead by example. Millington specifically says that, “The biggest influence upon a member’s behavior is the behavior of other members” (80). The community manager can also grant rights to other members that they deem appropriate.

  • Access to the Company

As both a part of the community, as well as a part of the company from which the community stems, you’ve essentially “Got the Power.” You’ve always got the inside scoop on breaking news, as well as everything going on inside of the organization. You are the liaison between the company and the community, and the expert on whatever topic your community was built upon.

You also must be passionate about your community. You should be passionate about the topic of your community, but also passionate about talking to people. You should want to help your community members connect, as well as make sure they have a positive experience with your brand. Being passionate about something ensures that you will preform to the best of your abilities.

What do you think about Millington’s categories of persuasion? Do you have anything to add to them? Leave your comments down below!

Think You Got What It Takes To Be A Community Manager? #CMGRClass

During the week of February 24 through March 2, I acted as the moderator for the #CMGRClass’ Google+ Community, as well as the class twitter account. Throughout this time, I learned many valuable lesson, but also had a lot of fun! The main theme of the week was SEO & inbound Marketing, and although I didn’t really have much experience in this topic, or moderating nonetheless, I jumped right in!

My Research

Before beginning my week as the CMGRclass moderator, I decided to research the roles and responsibilities of a community manager. I looked to one of our class books Buzzing Communities, written by Richard Millington, and found that it is important to always encourage participation by directly or indirectly stimulating and sustaining activity within the community.

I also looked to the experts to see how they manage communities much larger than the one I would be working with. The Huffington Post handles 70+ million comments a year without collapsing, so I made the executive decision to look to them as an expert in the field. One of the main points this established company made was to create “a safe, enjoyable space, and help people find content that is relevant to them.” I tried to apply this motto to my week as a moderator for the CMGRclass community.

My Content

One of my top priorities for the week was to contribute appropriate and meaningful content. I tried to post a timely, relevant, or just fun news article every day in order to spur conversation. After seeing some of my fellow classmates do their parts as moderators for previous weeks, I thought I had an idea of what kind of content to post. I started off by jumping off the topic of SEO, and shared with the class the article 20 Free Social Media Monitoring Tools You Should be Using. Many students shared what tools they use currently for managing different social accounts, as well as what they hope to try out in the future.

As well, early in the week I posted an article that focused on the similarities between design and community. I was shocked to get such a thought out response to this article by an alumnae of the class, Steve Rhinehart. Although many other classmates did not respond to this post, I think the thoughtfulness of Steve’s response made me feel like this post was successful.

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Some of the twitter activity during my time as moderator

One of my favorite moments from the week was the conversation around the change in tagline from “Got Milk” to “Milk Life.” Although this did not directly relate to the topic of the week, we are always discussing brands, and I thought this was a big change for an iconic brand. I liked that my classmates shared their opinions and then even offered a solution for the brand to evolve without alienating their current market. I think this exemplified how a community can work together to solve problems.

During the week, I also started tweeting from the #CMGRclass twitter handle. During this time I tried to share our internal conversation with the online world by using hashtags to attract those with similar interests. During this time the account gained new followers, and one classmate interacted by retweeting and responding to tweets.

At the end of the week, I handed the moderation position over to Elaina Powless, and am excited to see how she leads the discussion within the #CMGRClass community.

My Community Participants

I was so appreciative of all the contributors I had throughout my week as moderator. Many people put in the time and effort to create thoughtful responses to my posts, as well as contribute their own posts to really enhance the community discussion throughout the week.

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A list of Google+ activity on the Got Milk post

My Reflection

During this process I learned significant lessons about being a community manager, as well as talking to a community of people in general.

  • Community Managers do not get enough credit. I felt myself constantly thinking about what my next post should be, and if people will find it interesting enough to start a conversation about. This makes community management much more than a typical 9-5 job.
  • Relevant content is key. As a writer for InfoSpace, we operate off the basis write what your friends are talking about, as this is what is popular among many groups of friends, as well as what is being searched on the web. I learned that the same principle applied to my time as a community manager, but with a much fast turnover. The posts that seemed to entice many participants were events that were getting a lot of buzz offline as well.
  • Patience is a virtue. Moderating takes patience; patience to find the best content to post, patience for others to see it, and patience for others to respond and even post their own content branching off the topic. I learned to have patience in the process, and that was a hard lesson to learn.
  • “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Not everything I posted to the community stirred up an intense conversation, but that’s okay. If a post didn’t seem to be appealing I would switch to an opposing topic because forcing responses does not create a successful community. I wanted to get to a place where people wanted to respond and thus their responses would be more personal.

What’s Left to Say?

After the whole week, I am still left with a question. I know all communities are not the same, so how do you interact with your community? What are some of the most popular posts? Who are the most active contributors? Let me know in the comments below!

Agency Advice From a Community Manager “Lens”

Have you ever had your favorite brand reply to you on Twitter? Have you then taken a screenshot of this tweet and posted it to Facebook where over 100 of your friends liked it? Well then maybe you have a community manager to thank for the best part of your week. Now, you may think the man or woman who responded to your brand-praising tweet is an in-house community manager, but these days more companies outsource community management to agencies.

Who’s the Subject?

This week I had the chance to speak with Emily Maupai, an agency-based community manager in New Jersey. Emily currently works at 3E Public Relations, which is an affiliate of SGW Integrated Marketing Communications, one of the Garden State’s leading integrated marketing communications firms. After receiving a B.A. in Advertising from Rowan University, Emily now manages many consumer and B2B clients in industries such as health and beauty, restaurant, food and beverage, franchising, automotive, telecommunications, broadcast, and financial services.

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A screenshot of my FaceTime interview with Emily

I was actually able to intern for this marketing communications company a few years ago, and I know first-hand the hard work and dedication she has put into her work to build communities for her clients. Specifically, I spoke with Emily about one of her clients that she describes as a “professional lens company.” (For privacy sake, the company asked that specific information about their clients be withheld)

Why User Generated Content is the Best Kind of Content

As Emily has been growing the brand of this client for two years, the brand has become an opinion leader of the professional broadcast and cinema community. But what kind of content does she post to keep her community engaged? As discussed in class, it is important to decide if user generated content is the right fit for your website. For Emily’s client, the answer to that question is yes. Because her community is very heavy in content creation she always asks them to share what kind of projects they are working on and to share any behind-the-scenes shots they are legally allowed to post, and she says they normally do.

Author Richard Millington of Buzzing Communities supports this method as he says, “The best content for a community is content about the community.” When users are sharing these personal, behind-the-scenes shots it makes the page about the people in the community, instead of a solely a big advertisement for the brand. It also provides a reason for members to visit the page every day; to see if their content was featured, or just to see any new content from their online friends.

(2012, 01 03). Calendar-Clip-Art-Free [Web Photo]. Retrieved from www.schoolforlittlepeople.com

(2012, 01 03). Calendar-Clip-Art-Free [Web Photo]. Retrieved from www.schoolforlittlepeople.com

Plan For Success

Emily and her team emphasize the role of an editorial calendar. Specifically, they try to plan out a month’s worth of content so that they are always prepared, but also they leave room for timely and relevant news breaks.This allows the brand to embody all of Social Fresh’s benefits of an editorial calendar by being timely, organized, and professional. Emily also values having a positive relationship with her client, and she has noticed that the brand team appreciates seeing what you are going to put on the web on their behalf before it goes live.

What’s the Best Part of Being a Community Manager?

To end the interview I thought it would be fun to ask Emily what her favorite part of her job is. She summed it up nicely by saying she enjoys connecting people and helping them more easily find the information they are looking for on the web.

Questions for the Audience

  • Is the community management industry moving more towards agencies?
  • Do you believe it is helpful to have a community manager that is removed from the all-consuming, in-house brand environment?
  • Do you agree with Emily’s client approval process, where they send the planned posts to the brand before they hit the web?

Let me know in the comments below!

How to Avoid A Social Media Crisis, While Encouraging User Engagement

image by dashburst.com

image by dashburst.com

Did you see what they posted on Twitter, #Fail? OMG, that twitter chat took a turn for the worse. Everybody loves talking about a good social media fail (ie: 2013’s Most Cringeworthy Business Social Media #FailsThe 18 Biggest Social Media Fails Of 2013), but nobody likes to be the culprit behind one. That’s why it is important to think before you tweet, and for community managers to take the time to plan out any potential social media brand efforts before launching.

The Case

A fictional case study written for Harvard Business is the perfect story to exemplify how to avoid falling down the slippery slope of social media #fails. This study discusses a woman named Charlene and her position as head of public relations for Canadian Jet. We find her in the midst of launching the airline’s first ever twitter contest on the basis of, the person who posts the most creative tweet using the hashtag #CanJetLuxury wins two round-trip tickets to any of the company’s destinations.

This campaign started as an effort to restore Canadian Jet to a good name, but quickly attracted more haters of the airline than fans. The slew of negative tweets caused the airline to begin trending worldwide, and the CEO was ready to shut the whole operation down. Other members of the team offered suggestions to start a new hashtag, or issue a public apology. This left Charlene unsure of how to continue…

What Went Wrong

It is clear that this company did not do enough research on twitter contests before launching one of their own. It seems they knew of a few social media fails, but did not read enough to learn from past mistakes. By nature of social media, negative comments are bound to occur in large numbers because of the anonymity hiding behind a screen provides. The company mentioned that they just dealt with a large public relations crisis, so clearly there are customers who recently had a bad experience with the airlines and are looking to take revenge. Maybe they should have held the contest elsewhere besides twitter, where they could have put all the contest entries on an approval system, or just accepted all entries but only showcased the finalists.

Another thing that was not brought up in the article, but occurred to me was the lack of a measurement system. The company did not state how they were going to measure what the most creative tweet was. Who was judging the contest and based off of what criteria? If the contest went on longer this would have surely enticed more negative tweets.

image by mybillboard.net

image by mybillboard.net

What Went Right

The fact that Canadian Jet looked to the community for their social media content was a great idea in theory. In chapter 3 of Buzzing CommunitiesRichard Millington provides support for user contributed content by explaining that “the best content for a community is content about the community.” This idea could have been achieved by the Canadian Jet twitter contest if there were more rules and regulations to keep the conversation about an idea such as a favorite flight memory. User generated content also keeps people interested in a brand page by providing relevant and interesting content, as well as an incentive to come back. The idea of being feature on a brand page with many followers provides a reason for members to visit the community every day or at least frequently.

Taylor Hawes also writes about user generated content in a HostGator company post where she states, “Users are most likely to continue to create and share content for you if they feel that you’re engaging back with them.”

What Should Happen Next

As far as what Charlene should do in the midst of a crisis, I believe she should:

  1. Acknowledge and engage those that are positive and thank them for entering the contest, as she does not want to get lost in all the negative tweets and forget those who are producing the desired result.
  2. For the Negative Nancys, she should feel free to engage them in a discussion publicly or privately and encourage them to reach out to a customer service representative. Sometimes people feel that they can be negative or even mean to a brand without a concrete reason because they forget that there is a real person behind the screen. If you remind them that you are human as well, it can produce changes in opinions. Almost immediately, I think the naysayers would change their minds or be buried in a sea of more positive posts. At this point though if the posts do not subside, I would just pick a winner and focus on featuring some of the best posts on the page.

How would you have handled the Canadian Jet case? Do you have any other tips to avoid a social media crisis?

5 Tips to Grow Your Community – From the Experts

People always say “Build It and They’ll Come,” but that’s not necessarily the case when building an online community. An interactive and successful community does not grow overnight, but rather it takes time to form a community in which users post independently post content and interact without moderation.

Author Richard Millington of Buzzing Communities offers the following tips to Community Managers:

  • image by artofdieting.com

    image by artofdieting.com

    Research Research Research

Do you want to know who is using your products in your industry, or rather what motivates them to buy it? Do you want to know where they shop, or what media they like? The answers to these questions and many more requires collecting data about the audience and the status of any current communities out there. A brilliant strategy can only be conceived through extensive qualitative and quantitive research.

  • Make Your New Members Feel Special

It is important to develop a relationship with your community members right out of the gate. If you invite people individually, it seems less like a mass invite, and more like an exclusive invitation to join a new community. You can send these invites through email or social networks, but it may also be more meaningful to present these invitation in person at events or other community meet-ups. This is a reliable way to jump start your community in its early stages. By forming these relationships early on, you have members that are dedicated and will more likely help you improve community later on through constructive feedback. Individualization is an ongoing process that should continue even as your community grows. Reach out to individual members to learn what they are interested in, ensures a higher rate of community member activity.

  • Diffusion of Ownership

As time goes on, you should be straying away from direct invitations and encourage the existing members of your community to invite their friends. You can create a collective goal to gain new members that can only be met when everyone gets involved. This puts the responsibility and ability to grow the community in the hands of everyone, not just the community manager. As well, you should create relationships with the media in order to make your community known to those in your target market.

  • image by lyved.com

    image by lyved.com

    Don’t Get Stuck in a Bubble

Remember that life is going on outside the realm of the internet. You are still talking to real people, and you have to remember to treat your community members as such. Once your community is more established, have a “tweetup” or an event relating to the interests of the community members.

  • Plan Your Future

Once you have everything in place, you need to put your plan into action. Millington splits this way of planning into a three-month calendar, as well as a 12-month plan. In order to break this down into more manageable chunks of work, it is helpful to make to-do lists at the beginning of each week.

Do you have any other tips? Leave them in the comments below!