Author Archive for Sarah Ostman

The Anatomy of a Great Post

In my second week of moderation, I wanted to take a closer look at the types of content that succeeded in sparking the most smbuttonconversation. If a community exists to spark conversation, one of the measures of a good CM is showing that they can get that conversation started. This week, the two pieces of content with the most comments were one by me on SU’s FixIt’s Twitter account, and one by community member Jared Mandel on a NYPD Twitter hashtag hijacking. I tried to experiment with different types of content, from best practice articles to job resources, but these two similar articles were the most successful, and had a lot of similarities with other types of content that have been successful in our Google+ group. Without further ado, the anatomy of a great post:

  1. Current Events Current events are always successful, maybe because they give something of value to the community: knowledge about a topic that they can discuss with their other communities, be they virtual or real-world. This is especially true in the face of current events-driven communities such as Twitter, where information is plentiful but fleeting. Your community may have heard of a current events story in passing but not pursued it, and sharing the story in a community is a way of helping them filter the noise and get the top headlines in any given area.
  2. Localized Another theme was localization; both these articles were within the state of New York, with one of them being actually in Syracuse. If a story takes place in your area, your community may have more context or knowledge on the topic, which helps spur conversation. It’s also interesting to note that the distance learners who weren’t in Syracuse offered an interesting perspective on FixIt’s Twitter presence because of the fact that they weren’t on-campus.Colouful speech bubbles
  3. Room for Improvement/Debate Both these articles were controversial and had room for debate. If you were NYPD, what would you have done differently? Do you think FixIt’s unconventional Twitter strategy is effective? There was room to weigh in, versus just listing a favorite “best practice” from an article.
  4. Summarize Google+ is an interesting platform in that it cuts your post off after the first couple of lines. It’s good because it sort of forces you to summarize, but you need to be conscious of this caveat and make sure you’re making important points right at the beginning. Best practice is to summarize at the beginning to draw your community in, and then go onto specifics later on.
  5. Give Credit Where Credit is Due If you borrowed some content from your community, give them props! They’re more likely to contribute to the conversation if they’re tagged. Also, if you know someone who is particularly interested in a topic, tag them! The more you tailor content to specific members, the more likely they are to step up and participate.

What do you think makes a great post?

Being a Foursquare Campus Ambassador

Syracuse's 44 Badge

Syracuse’s 44 Badge

Throughout the panel, we had the pleasure of hearing from Tracey, Support Director at foursquare. Towards the end, she spoke on foursquare’s ambassador programs, and briefly mentioned the Campus Ambassador program, which foursquare transitioned from. I was actually a foursquare ambassador before they ended the program, and looking back, realize how healthy and thriving of a community that was. In speaking about the superuser user, she spoke about how excited they were to sort of “own” a part of foursquare. I’d say that that was generally the feeling among the campus ambassadors, and while I’m sad our community has been shut down, I’m glad that it served as a great model for lessons learned.

  1. Use the right platform – Our community was hosted on Facebook, which was great. Since we were all undergraduate college students, we all had Facebook accounts that we were very active on. It definitely boosts participation when notifications about activity are already embedded into your daily life.
  2. Meeting Dennis Crowley!

    Meeting Dennis Crowley!

    Make them feel special – We had an application process to become a campus ambassador. I’m not sure how competitive it was, but once you got in, you got a box of swag, including an official foursquare campus ambassador t-shirt and lots of stickers. The official shirt definitely made me feel like I was important to foursquare, which is important for an ambassador. I also had the opportunity to meet Dennis Crowley (SU alum!) when he came to campus as a result of being an ambassador, which was an awesome experience.

  3. Give them tasks – The campus ambassador team would give us tasks occasionally, like putting up window clings, or hosting an event for Foursquare Day. This definitely made the entire experience more structured, and ensured that we were having a real impact on campus.
  4. Let them learn from each other – A lot of the posts on the page were not from foursquare staff, but rather other ambassadors showing off the cool stuff they were doing on campus. This helped other ambassadors see the creative ways other people were using the platform, and also made the person posting feel that their efforts were being recognized.
  5. On the quad during Foursquare Day

    On the quad during Foursquare Day

    Be helpful –  Whenever we posted, Ray, the foursquare guy, always answered within five minutes. One time the SU team was doing something that required a venue being opened right at 10am on a Sunday morning. Ray was there for us. When you have a dedicated community manager who is willing to go the extra mile for ambassadors, all the better.

Eventually foursquare transitioned off the program without much warning– there was never any closure on group, and some ambassadors recently expressed disappointment that there was no real ending. While the closing out of this community could have been handled better, I think the real mark of a thriving community is when members are genuinely upset that it’s over. Thanks to all the panelists for the time and input on community management!

Lessons Learned from a Week in Community Management

Community management is hard.

I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be when I went into it. I’ve been involved in social media (and dabbling in community management) since my freshman year of college, when I started managing Twitter for the SU chapter of PRSSA. Since then, I’ve managed social media for many different startups, crafted tons of social media strategy plans for classes and projects, and, most importantly, been a part of the SU social media team 44Social for three years.

When I sat down to start doing community management for this class, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I work anywhere from 8-15 hours for SU each week; social media is a part of my routine. I kept wanting to compare my  44Social experiences to managing this Google+ group, when in reality, they’re completely different. When I sit down for a 44Social shift, it has my attention (or at least my divided attention, if I’m working on other projects for the team) for three hours. Managing this community, however, was a 24/7 job. Managing the community, on top of schoolwork and exams, plus being home for Easter, was a major feat. Sometimes I would dismiss the notifications on my phone vowing to answer in five minutes, and forget about it for eight hours.cmgr

Here’s what I learned from my week spent managing the Google+ community:

  • Make time: In a real-life situation, you’re going to want to monitor the community in as close to real-time as possible, because that’s when the conversation is happening. Carving a couple dedicated chunks of time into your day to check and respond to your community is crucial. You can’t rely on yourself to do it on the fly.
  • Medium is key: I’m probably not the first person to say this: I hate Google+. I’m terrible at navigating it, I hate that notifications pop up when I’m on my Gmail (when I’m on my email, I’m trying to get something done, not be distracted by a notification), and there’s no native way to schedule posts. That being said, I would probably choose a different medium if this were my community, but sometimes you have to suck it up and learn how to make it work for you. Also, it was way too easy to forget that we had another community happening on Twitter, so that fell by the wayside during the week.
  • Find a content source: I started trying to just find content that was interesting on the fly by scrolling through my Twitter feed. My Twitter feed is an odd mix of reality stars, PR pros, high school friends and motivational ACL reconstruction accounts (don’t ask). It’s better to find a couple hashtags or create a list of accounts that you can go to for content in a pinch.

Some of this I learned through 44Social and managing other communities, but I forgot how important they were (shows how easily we can slip into patterns and forget lessons learned). Overall, my community manager experience was definitely an interesting one, and I’m definitely glad to get another shot at it this week and apply some of the things I learned.

The New Blog / A Case Study

Blogger Joy Cho putting the finishing touches on her Target collection, via @ohjoy on Instagram

Blogger Joy Cho putting the finishing touches on her Target collection, via @ohjoy on Instagram

Blogger outreach is an important part of community management activities for any brand. There’s nothing more credible than an outside source, especially when that source is a place where thousands of people go solely because they want to.

Recently, I’ve noticed the emergence of Instagram into a pseudo-blog. I follow almost 400 accounts on Instagram, a large portion of which are lifestyle, fashion and event-planning bloggers. Most of them have blogs that tie into their Instagram accounts, but I would venture to guess that, like me, not all their followers read their blog. Their Instagram account becomes a second place where they can showcase their content to followers who maybe just want a few seconds of content in their timeline every day.

Brands need to pay attention to these types of people because while they might not as be as highly-engaged with one blog, they are minimally-engaged with many blogs. This requires a different strategy than, say, just partnering with one blogger. That being said, the same tried-and-true guidelines about bloggers still apply here: you need the right bloggers, the right content, and the right time. Research is key.

via @OhJoy on Instagram

via @OhJoy on Instagram

One of the most interesting blogger outreach efforts I’ve seen recently was a collaboration between blogger/designer Joy Cho (a Syracuse alumna!) and Target. Joy designed an exclusive party collection (Oh Joy for Target), full of bright colors and happy details. Joy is already an accomplished blogger, but instead of relying on her reader base, they expanded to other lifestyle bloggers in a big way. They hosted a brunch in celebration of Oh Joy, and invited several event and lifestyle bloggers to participate.

The brunch was gorgeous in all the right ways, and as you can imagine, totally Instagram-able. The next morning, my feed was filled with images from the brunch, and I didn’t even know that all my favorite Instagram accounts knew each other. Talk about six degrees of separation! Beyond Instagram pictures, there were also several blog posts, all in addition to Joy’s blog posts and Target’s blog posts. And, as a bonus, the brunch was a highly visual event, and Target has been able to re-purpose much of that content on platforms like Pinterest.

via 100 Layer Cake

Bloggers Instagramming, via 100 Layer Cake

This strategy created a ton of different relationships. It created a strong relationship between Oh Joy and Target, who will be creating three other lines for Target this year. This cements the relationship with Oh Joy’s readers and Target. It also creates a relationship between all the bloggers invited to the brunch and Target, who will be much more likely to cover Target launches in the future. Finally, it creates a relationship between all the bloggers’ Instagram followers, who then got a quick taste of the collection in an organic way.

Key takeaways from Target’s Oh Joy strategy:

  • Invest your time: Target’s investment was evident in this blogger outreach, which meant a lot more than simply spamming bloggers with a press release

  • Cast a wide net: Your audience isn’t just paying attention to one thing. They’re paying attention to many things. Make sure you’re hitting many (but with purpose!)

  • The new blog: Blogging isn’t limited to WordPress accounts anymore. Right now, Instagram can act as a blog. Pay attention to the next big thing!

What do you think about Target’s creative Oh Joy blogger outreach?

Qualities of a Successful Startup Community Manager

Startups are hard, there’s no doubt about that. Building up something from nothing, where the main resource is yourself and your time, is no small feat. Once you’ve gotten your startup off the ground and running, it might be time for a community manager– or, at least, for someone to take on that role.

I recently spoke with Giselle Gonzalez, marketing manager for doggyloot and startup social media extrodinaire. Giselle has been in the business of startup social media for over three years, and here are some of the things that prove her to be successful in this area.

A little about doggyloot: doggyloot is a daily deals startup for dog products. The company was founded in early 2011 and now boasts over 700,000 active subscribers, as well as a robust Facebook community.

  1. the-80-20-ruleThe 80/20 Rule: Make sure you have an idea of the balance of content you’re aiming for. Giselle aims for 80% general dog-related content (which can range from funny images to news articles) and 20% doggyloot-related content, advertising recent sales. Too much of either can throw your community off. Figure out what works for your customers and aim to stick to it!

  2. Platforms: Sometimes it seems like a new social media platform is debuting every day. Don’t get caught up in the noise; for doggyloot, Facebook is where most of their community lies, so that’s where they spend most of their time. If you’re a B2B marketing firm, your best bet might be LinkedIn. Prioritize those platforms that actually contribute to sales and community, and think critically before jumping into the noise of yet another. Your bandwidth isn’t unlimited!

  3. breakIt’s Okay to Take a Break: This is similar to #2. If you’re not sure if a platform is actually working for you, it’s okay to step back for a few months and critically evaluate what’s working and what’s not, as well as conduct research on your competition. Although doggyloot’s blog had good engagement, it wasn’t driving sales. The team is stepping back to see what they can do better.

  4. Look at Your Org Chart: Where does your community manager sit in the organization? Is she a summer intern who’s just getting into the swing of the business? Giselle is close with top management at doggyloot, which allows her to see both sides of the story: management and community. She’s a pro at communicating between the two.

  5. Giselle's Dapper Dog

    Giselle’s Dapper Dog

    Passion: Nothing is a substitute for passion. If you’re passionate about your community and its subject matter, it will shine through. Giselle loves dogs (just check out her Chihuaua’s Facebook page) and it makes her all the more qualified to answer questions and find great, relevant content.

What are your top tips for a startup community manager?

Giving Your Blog a Facelift

One of the overarching themes of all the articles and posts on blogging is to make sure that you are producing useful content. Whether the author is talking about constructing an editorial calendar or finding content, the main message is to make sure that you’re writing about a topic that is useful or informative to your readers. Sometimes we start off blogs without thinking about the concept all the way through– here’s one way a company I interned for gave their blog a facelift.

Two summers ago, I interned for startup Lab42, a market research firm. I worked primarily on communications and marketing, which Consumer Insights meant that the weekly blog fell into my hands. Lab42 pools its respondents from social games, blogs, and applications; as someone who’s always been interested in social media, I decided to capitalize on this part of Lab42’s brand identity, blogging on topics like Instagram and live-pinning. While this was a good start, it wasn’t exactly tailored to Lab42’s offerings, and didn’t tell readers too much about the quick, professional research we were able to conduct.

After an in-office workshop on blogging, we decided to give the blog a much-needed facelift. Here are some lessons learned throughout the process:

  1. Find your value Figure out what you can offer your readers that no one else can (or almost no one else). There are tons of blogs about using social media, but not too many about conducting your own market research… that’s where we found our niche.
  2. Leverage your experts You have smart people in your company… use them! You could assign blogging responsibilities to a different team member every week, or at least have them give some input on content and posts before they go to press. And don’t forget about guest bloggers! guest-bloggers-welcome
  3. Have a point person While you do want to leverage everyone on your team, blogging is still a branded tool. A marketing or communications person should be responsible for making sure posts are contributing to the overall brand.
  4. Have a variety of content Solid, writing-heavy posts are nice, but you can post other kinds of collateral. Lab42 produces really great infographics, so we used the blog as a home to post those so that we could link to them later, like this SuperBowl infographic. We also posted information about events we were hosting.
  5. Use an editorial calendar They really do help! A half-hour brainstorm session with your team could be all you need to fill one out for a month or two. You might not have all the ideas hammered out, but at least you won’t be scrambling when Blog Day comes.
  6. SEO is everything SEO is especially important on blogs, where you’re able to update  content often. Even just skimming a few articles online will help you learn how to link and keyword your way to success.

Now, the types of blog posts you’ll see at the Lab42 blog are informative and tie straight back to their service offerings (good example: Infographic Best Practices: 3 Ways to Shape Your Story). Have you ever gone through a transition period with your company blog? How did it go?