Author Archive for Zachary Prutzman

Being More Than Just a Representative

Monitoring Social Media is One Thing… Being a Community Manager is So Much More

Social media and community managers seem to be closely affiliated; however, their roles are drastically different. Some companies need to have a community outside of social media, while others would simply be wasting their time and money. But how do you decide whether or not to have a community, and where do you get started?

 

What should a social media manager or an online community manager be doing for your company?

Vanessa DiMauro, in an article titled “Social Media Manager vs. Online Community Manager: Same or Different?,” talks about the different roles of a social media manager and an online community manager within an organization.

Social media is tied to sales & marketing. Online communities are tied to product development & customer service. In the end, it all equates to money. Photo taken by Zachary J. Prutzman. All rights reserved.

Social media is tied to sales & marketing. Online communities are tied to product management & customer service. In the end, it all equates to money.
Photo taken by Zachary J. Prutzman. All rights reserved.

Social media managers can be tied closely to marketing and sales – they try to drive leads, raise awareness of products/services, give visibility to the company and its products, increase sales, and increase event attendance. They are trying to have as many people know about the company as possible.

Online community managers take on a role that can be tied more closely to product management and customer service, with a little bit of sales as well. They take feedback from customers and implement it into product development. They increase the utilization of the products. They answer customers’ questions and seek to reduce call center traffic by allowing customers to help each other. And they promote events and achieve customer retention/satisfaction.

 

Does your company even need an online community?

For most companies, social media itself is enough – there is no need for a larger online community. The key indicator is complexity; is the market and/or your product complex enough to deserve a community?

Simple, cheap products -- such as Sharpies -- do not need a community outside of social media.  Photo taken by alecs apple. All rights reserved.

Simple, cheap products — such as Sharpies — do not need a community outside of social media.
Photo taken by alecs apple. All rights reserved.

When it comes to low complexity markets, social media is king. An article by The Community Roundtable, titled “Differentiating Between Social Media and Community Management,” uses Sharpie pens as an example of a low complexity market. The product is simple, and the company just needs to create awareness and a sense of connection to the brand. Sharpie’s business model does not support spending hundreds of dollars to create a deep relationship with a customer who buys five bucks worth of product. Also, customers rarely do background research on products that are relatively cheap, and do not need a “How to Use Your Sharpie” pamphlet (it’s pretty self-explanatory).

On the other hand, high complexity markets and complex usage markets need to develop an online community (according to The Community Roundtable’s article). In these types of markets, the decision-making process is much longer and it is tough to achieve conversion. An example of this would be the Adobe Creative Suite, which is extremely complex (and expensive). Customers benefit greatly by interacting and building relationships with other customers, along with being recommended towards affiliated product and service providers. And in these markets, the price point is much higher – meaning that the business model supports this type of community engagement.

 

So you need a community… where do you get started?

If you’ve decided that building a community via social media the way to go, there are a few things you should know to help you get started. Megan Berry, formerly of Klout, has put together a great list of how to get your social media community off the ground. You can find it here.

If you’re trying to build an online community platform separate from social media, Stephanie Gehman has produced a nice article that looks at the approach that JetBlue has taken towards developing their community. You can find that article here.

Moderating Is Cool… If You Have Time

Moderating is Anything but Moderate

I quickly discovered that moderating is not easy. The amount of posts that come in every day can quickly get overwhelming, especially if you have other things on your plate. It was difficult to keep up with all the comments that were being left on the page.

By the middle of the week, I realized that I needed to change something about my approach. I set up alerts for the Google+ community on my phone so that I could reply to posts if I was free. If not, I scheduled a time period every day to check back in with the community. One scheduled daily check-in + alerts = success.

 

Contests Work

Using contests - such as having community members post their Klout score - promotes user-involvement.

Using contests – such as having community members post their Klout score – promotes user-involvement.
Screenshot taken by Zachary J. Prutzman. All rights reserved.

One thing that I discovered while moderating this week is the fact that contests work. Janine McElhone had mentioned on the Google+ community that she used Klout to measure some metrics on her social media pages. I checked out the website myself and found that it was very interesting to see the metrics on your own personal social media sites. It displays the impact that you have on your friends or followers through a variety of graphs and statistics, then sums it all up in a Klout Score.

I thought that visiting this site could be beneficial to everyone in the class, but it is repetitive to keep saying “Hey guys, you should really check out this link.” Since no one had used a contest before, I thought this might be a good way to get people to visit the site and post their score for others to see. By offering a free dinner to the person with the highest Klout Score, I had a plethora of people posting their scores.

But I soon found that the contest turned dry because Janine had posted such a high score. I found a way around this, however; I told the community that I would post an embarrassing photo of myself if 10 people reported their scores. I think that this truly got more people involved in the competition, regardless of their Klout Score. The key wasn’t the score – it was to get people to visit the site and learn something about metrics.

 

Difficult to Change User Behavior

Changing user behavior is incredibly difficult, no matter who the user is. All rights reserved by homecaregiverstore@gmail.com.

Changing user behavior is incredibly difficult, no matter who the user is.
All rights reserved by homecaregiverstore@gmail.com.

One thing that I noticed throughout the semester thus far is the fact that our class has been using the Google+ community much more than it has been using Twitter. I tried to post some information on Twitter, but it seemed to be going nowhere.

It is very difficult to change user behavior – this is something I have encountered when it comes to application design. Unfortunately, I did not come up with a creative way to get the community to use the Twitter hashtag. I challenge future moderators to achieve this.

How a Community Pays Off… So You Can Buy a Robot

Building an online community can be incredibly frustrating. Getting people on board with your community is a difficult task, especially when there are no other members. However tedious the process of acquiring members may be, it is well worth it in the end. As Dino Dogan points out in his article, “How To Build a Community of Fanatics,” community members will actually start doing your job for you… for free!

 

You’re Not a Robot

One huge thing to remember when dealing with the online world: you’re not a robot, and neither are the other members.

“No one wants to interact with a brand, a logo, a picture of your dog, a cartoon, or worse,” Dogan said.

People are starting to talk behind your back, saying that they think you're a robot... Show your face. Use your name. It makes a difference. Photo uploaded by Dan Coulter. All rights reserved.

People are starting to talk behind your back, saying that they think you’re a robot… Show your face. Use your name. It makes a difference.
Photo uploaded by Dan Coulter. All rights reserved.

People want to interact with other people. By doing two basic things, you can convince that you do not have robotic arms:

  1. Use a picture of yourself (a close-up of your face)
  2. Use your real name.

By adhering to these two simple rules, it will have a subconscious effect on others. It shows that you stand behind your words and actions; you’re not hiding behind a screen name and a puppy dog. You’re Zachary Prutzman, and you have something to say.

 

… Seriously, Though. You’re Not a Robot.

I don’t think I’ve stressed the whole not-a-robot thing enough. So I’m going to talk about it some more.

When starting a community, you need to reach members on a personal level.

David Spinks proposes a fool-proof community building strategy in his blog post, titled “How to Build a Community From Scratch.”

Step 1: Pick up the phone and call a community member. Ask them about themselves and their experience with the company.

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 discussion.

This sounds difficult, I know. But building a community will pay off in the future (keep reading – you’ll understand soon enough). You don’t have to call all your community’s members. Start with one, then the next, then the next. Making a personal connection shows that you value their opinions.

 

It’s Pay Day 

Finally, you’ve escaped the talk of robotics. It’s a relief. But not nearly as big a relief as building a successful community… cause now you can sit back and relax. Have a beer (I recommend having multiple beers, but to each his own).

***Quick side note: The rest of this article is only true if you have built a community of “fanatics.” Members must be active and willing to participate. If you have not reached this point, you need to read some more things on “How to Not Be a Robot.” Sorry.***

So, how will these “fanatics” make your job easier? Well, Dogan points out a variety of reasons:

  • Engaged members are the ones that will market for you while you sleep (… robots don’t need sleep. Maybe I should be a robot.).
  • They will field technical questions from other members.
  • They will fulfill your help-desk tickets.
  • They will recruit others to do the same.
  • They will do it all for free!

One thing that Dogan stresses is that members must be enthusiastic about your community… and this enthusiasm cannot be bought with money.

… but you could buy a robot. Just saying.

Keeping Things Organized and Fresh

This week, I sat down with Morgan Johnston from JetBlue, David Yarus from MRY, and Nick Cicero from LiveFyre to discuss how each company handles their online communities. The guests gave insight as to who truly handles the community and ways to keep your company moving in the right direction.

Office structure

Community managers are unique because they work with a variety of teams. Yarus said that at MRY, community managers are daily community monitors, working with the creative, strategy and analytics teams to decide which direction the company should head with its product.

David Yarus explained how community managers impact a variety of departments within a company. Screenshot taken by Zachary J. Prutzman. All rights reserved.

David Yarus explained how community managers impact a variety of departments within a company.
Screenshot taken by Zachary J. Prutzman. All rights reserved.

“The community manager represents a very valuable piece of the puzzle in collaboration and conversation,” Yarus said.

All three panelists stated that their respective companies have a flat-structure when it comes to dealing with the community. Roles are divided in order to stay structured and organized, allowing employees to specialize in certain areas and gain the trust of their co-workers.

Having fresh ideas

Bring in a fresh mind can help your company reach new heights. Johnston suggested hiring people who do not have experience as a community manager.

“Those people who don’t necessarily know what the rules are provide phenomenal ideas,” Johnston said. “They push community managers to question what they are doing or how they are doing it.”

Sticking to the plan

When building and executing campaigns, it is important to have a plan… but finding a balance between customer service and campaign execution can be difficult.

“Its a tough process because you have this one thing that you’re working on right now as opposed to the millions of other things that are happening every day in the background,” said Cicero.

Having specific campaign strategies in place before execution is key.

What does a canary have to do with anything?

One thing that JetBlue has done extremely well is putting sentiment analysis into action.

“[We’re] watching every social mention,” Johnston said.

Morgan Johnston said that JetBlue uses sentiment analysis in real-time. Screenshot taken by Zachary J. Prutzman. All rights reserved.

Morgan Johnston said that JetBlue uses sentiment analysis in real-time.
Screenshot taken by Zachary J. Prutzman. All rights reserved.

The customer support team is hand-tagging posts for JetBlue, which means that they are actually reading what you are tweeting.

“Because they are so tied into the operations, we have the ability to not just address customers and what we see via social, but to help move that within the organization,” Johnston said. “How did we take that information that we’re gather to make operational changes…”

As a result, customers view JetBlue as proactive. When customer support teams identify a problem at a specific location, they alert employees in the area ways to solve the problem. Sentiment analysis allows you to make real-time changes.

“We tend to think of them as the canary in the coal mine,” Johnston said.

VSnap – Personalizing The Community

I sat down with Trish Fontanilla, the Vice President of Community and Customer Experience at Vsnap. Fontanilla has built a community from the ground up; she started working with the company before its product was launched.

Since Vsnap is a startup company, Fontanilla is a one-person team in regards to handling Vsnap’s social media feeds and overall customer experience. As a result, Fontanilla has acquired a lot of different skills when it comes to handling an online community.

 

You have value in every aspect of the business

Fontanilla said that she participates in almost every company meeting. As a community manager, Fontanilla has insight as to what the customers want.

“I think that in every department, someone needs the voice of the community,” Fontanilla said. “Someone needs to talk on behalf of the customers.”

Vsnap's Trish Fontanilla says that a community manager provides value to every company meeting. Screenshot taken by Zachary J. Prutzman. All rights reserved.

Vsnap’s Trish Fontanilla says that a community manager provides value to every company meeting.

The use of sentiment analysis provides Vsnap with an understanding of how customers feel about its product. Fontanilla uses this information to shape product development, and enhance the customer’s overall experience.

“[I] could easily pop into any meeting and have a valuable perspective,” Fontanilla said.

 

You get to hear the news first

A great part about handling the community is that many customers reach out to Fontanilla about their experiences with the product. Relaying this feedback to the product development team helps shape the application.

I’m pretty much the first person that gets to hear really awesome customer stories,” Fontanilla said. “On the flip side of that, I also get to see when people are not happy with us.”

 

Know why you are apologizing

It’s no surprise that customers use social media to voice their displeasure with a product.

“One of the reasons people lash out on social media is because they feel like no one is listening,” Fontanilla said.

While it is important to apologize, Fontanilla said that you first need to listen. It is important to know why you are apologizing, and how you can help the customer. Simply scanning an email for keywords and giving a bland response is not enough; the reply needs to be tailored to each individual customer. Make sure that you are alleviating the customers’ needs.

 

Your social media sites are not PR

Realize that your community is not simply public relations for the company. Fontanilla stressed the importance of promoting other local businesses and events through her social media feeds. The value is that the favor could be reciprocated in the near future.
Also, try to take these relationships offline as often as possible. When Fontanilla was working for Bands In Town, she would meet up with local, active community members at concerts. The more you can interact with your customers, the better.

The full interview is available here. Enjoy.

How to Make Your Blog ‘Visible’ via SEO

When it comes to driving new traffic to your blog, search engine optimization (SEO) is a very important aspect. SEO allows content managers to match blog posts with what a user is searching for. But choosing the right keywords takes a bit of skill and varies depending on what type of content is being produced.

There are four areas on a webpage where keywords should be utilized:

  1. Title tags
  2. Description tags
  3. Page’s content/text
  4. Alternative tags on images
Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 5.10.23 PM

Although build for advertising, Google’s AdWords is very useful when it comes to search engine optimization.
Screenshot taken by Zachary J. Prutzman.

This also represents the order of importance. Search engines will place priority on keywords within the title over keywords located in the page’s text.

 

Deciding on Keywords

As you’re deciding which keywords to use, there are a few things to consider.

First, make sure that the keywords are relevant to your post. Keyword spamming is a technique that many bloggers use, thinking that by typing in popular terms it will direct traffic to their page. Blogsuccessjournal.com states that keyword spamming will give your blog “a ticket to nowhere.”

Also, using 50-100 keywords is not a good idea. Less is more. Keep the keywords as specific to your post as possible. This lets the search engine know that the content is what the user is looking for.

Be aware of how long your keyword phrases are. One word (such as ‘SEO’) is going to have a lot of competition; seven or eight words (such as ‘Optimizing Your Blog For Twitter and Facebook’) is going to be very specific. Positionly says it’s good to find a balance in the area of 2-3 words; this way, it is relevant to your website and does not have as much competition as a one-word search.

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Even when typing “breaking news,” make sure to slow down and optimize your post.
Photo taken by HansKristian. All rights reserved.

One way to measure your competition for keywords is by using Google’s AdWorks. This was created for advertising, but can be utilized for any website. By typing in keywords, you can see how many global and local searches occur each month for that specific keyword. For more on how to use AdWorks, visit Today Made.

When talking to Sean Keeley, creator of Nunesmagician.com, he noted that not all posts should be treated equally when it comes to SEO. Keeley stressed that when writing about breaking news, he is very concerned with having keywords in the right place (such as the title). But, when Keeley is trying to be funny (the tone that a majority of his blog-posts use), it is necessary to keep a voice that represents this. Keywords should no longer be forced into your posts – it needs to feel natural.

While keywords are important in bringing new users to your site, remember to maintain your voice. Optimize your posts when necessary, but do not let it dictate your writing style. Stay original.

User Generated Content: Enhancing Your Online Experience

People always want to fit in – even if it means standing out. That is the philosophy behind User Generated Content (UGC). This content allows users to be a part of a community, while still being able to voice their opinion. It encourages interaction and the distribution of information – all of which better the users’ experience. And UGC is constantly growing… but does it have any drawbacks? And how can it be improved?

Going Up?

Statistics show that UGC has been skyrocketing in recent years. A study by eMarketer shows that 70% of internet users are consumers of UGC. Most of this UGC is composed of blogs and social media.

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Social media sites have allowed people to voice their opinion to the masses, no matter where they are in the world.
Photo property of Zachary J. Prutzman. All rights reserved.

According to the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, there are three main returns that the content’s owner is looking for:

  1. connecting with people
  2. expressing oneself
  3. recognition of the owner’s work

Blogs and social media fill these returns perfectly, as you are posting and receiving feedback, which is why they are the most widely-used forms of sourcing UGC.

UGC is powerful in drawing new viewers to a website. This is because the content’s owner is promoting their work outside of the site that is hosting the content. Telefonica Research conducted a study on a variety of video-hosting sites and found that 47% of all videos having incoming links from external sites. This serves as a form of advertising for a site, and it’s free of charge.

Different Forms of UGC

User generated content can take on a variety of different forms. As stated earlier, the most popular are blogs and social media; however, there are other forms that are much more useful. Almost every website can provide a form of UGC that will be beneficial.

One manner in which UGC drives eCommerce is through product reviews. As mentioned in the article “User-Generated Content” by Niroshan Balasubramaniam, product reviews have becoming a staple in the eCommerce field, as they provide the consumer with some trust as to whether or not the product they are buying will meet their expectations.

The consumer is no longer looking at advertising distributed by the producer; rather, the consumer is receiving unbiased reviews from other users. And with the rise of sites like eBay, consumers are no longer dealing with companies shipping products; rather, they are dealing with other consumers. Reviews on sellers nullify any worries as to whether or not the seller’s product will actually reach the consumer.

More people found out about the 2004 Tsunami via blogs and social media than through conventional media such as CNN and BBC. Photo property of paragthink. All rights reserved.

More people found out about the 2004 Tsunami via blogs and social media than through conventional media such as CNN and BBC.
Photo property of paragthink. All rights reserved.

This was a problem that I ran into back when eBay was just getting started. Sellers did not have feedback, as the site was only running for a couple months. Thus, I was hesitant to purchase products until a seller had a vast amount of positive feedback. Luckily, the growth of user-involvement means that this is no longer much of a problem.

Also, UGC has been successful in producing content. Allowing guest posts on a blog provides a wide variety of content, coming from different voices, and keeps the blog fresh. No longer is there a couple of authors trying to produce content; instead, there is a whole community that is uploading information.

The success of these types of communities was evident in 2004 when a tsunami ripped through the Indian Ocean. The National Geographic found that more people were informed via blogs and social media than by CNN or BBC.

There are drawbacks to allowing guest posts, however, which will be addressed in the next section.

Things Are Running Amuck

There are many problems that are associated with UGC – some of which can invoke legal implications.

One problem with UGC is the fact that anyone could be publishing the information…
Photo property of Crezalyn Nerona Uratsuji. All rights reserved.

Users are constantly posting illegal material. Vidmeter found that nearly 10% of videos on YouTube are uploaded without the content owner’s consent. This can result in legal ramifications towards both the website and the person that illegally uploaded the content.

Also, many people have issues trusting UGC – especially when it comes to blogs. Users question whether or not those providing information on a certain topic are experts or an amateur. This is especially true for those seeking information on science and medicine, as mentioned in Balasubramaniam’s article. By only allowing experts to make guest posts, it provides higher-quality content and a sense of trust for the consumer.

These types of blogs, however, can still provide UGC without allowing guests themselves to make the post. Incorporating tweets, comments and pictures from viewers into a post makes them feel as though they are contributing. It is important, however, to make sure that you acknowledge the user for providing the content.

The Future… Don’t Be Scared

As UGC continues to rise, its future seems bright. That being said, there are already many areas that are being identified for improvement.

As companies become more and more concerned with product reviews online, a shift is being made by PR departments to curtail bad reviews. By allowing users to only see reviews from people they trust (such as their Facebook friends or experts in the field), it would drastically improve reliability.

Also, users are becoming concerned with private information posted on social media sites becoming difficult to control. Other users can tag pictures of someone, thus having it become attached to your name.

Many companies have found it difficult to monetize sites that provide UGC, as most of these sites are trends that eventually phase out. Improvements are being sought as to how monetizing these sites is possible.

Have no fear, however. UGC is improving vastly every day, and is making your online experience much more pleasurable. By finding which form of UGC will best complement your website, you can improve your customer’s experience and drive more traffic to your site.