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Spring14 Semester Starts Monday January 13!

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Seeing Something New While Looking at the Old

I have to be honest. Having participated in social media since the chat room days on AOL in the 90’s, I came to the point of questioning the importance of participating in the whole social media world.

I am not one of those folks who likes to broadcast my every waking moment and I do not feel the need to post every thought that enters my mind.

That being said…

I have accounts on most of the popular social media sites; Pinterest, LinkedIn, google+, twitter and I even made the reluctant switch from Myspace to Facebook when everyone seemed to have jumped ship.

But again, I asked, what is the point of it all?

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A Shift in Purpose

It was not until I started my master’s program in Library Science that I started to understand that social media is more than just a place where people share pictures of their kids, what they had for dinner, their current vice, or crazy drama that really should be kept private.

People can use social media as a tool to connect to companies and organizations that are important to them. From a business perspective, companies and organizations can use social media as a tool to make their customers or participates feel important and involved.

Oliver Blanchard’s book Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization makes a clear distinction between what social media is and how it is different from social communication.  Social media is the platform that can be used, while social communication is the actual connection between people in the community and people working within the organization (pg.7). It is not enough for a company or business to just start up a social media presence and think the social communication will just appear.  Blanchard stresses the point there needs to be actual value for the company to have a social media presence and it is important to define the purpose of being on social media and set goals (pg.13-15).  The management of the online communities is to be taken seriously because the creation of the connection between people and the organization is not guaranteed.  It is the social communication that is the key and changing factor for me.

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A New Value

I apply Blanchard’s teaching to the profession I aspire to be in.  I am going to be a librarian. One of the key responsibilities of a librarian is to connect the library users to the library resources.  Social media can be an incredibly valuable tool to make the library’s communities members have a connection to their library.  Without a community, a library would be irrelevant.

I am now starting to see a new value in social media.  The value can really be seen when we stop focusing so much on ourselves and the mundane details of our lives and start using the tool to connect with people and organizations we are truly passionate about.

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?

Social Media Goes Down in History

We tweet, we like, we follow, and we share. But it wasn’t always that way. If you tell your parents to tweet about something, they might look at you like you have three heads. It speaks to how new social is and where its biggest impacts lie. But the fact is, social has been around for a really long time – just not in the same way that we think of social today.

Here’s a brief timeline of the evolution of social to what we know it to be today:

1950s Phone Phreaking —> 1960s Email —> 1969 ARPANET —> 1970s MUD —> 1978 BBS (Bulletin Board System) —> 1990s Modern Social Networking

So what is all of that? Let’s start with phone phreaking. Sounds phreaky, but it’s not. The term refers to Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 11.40.26 AMpeople who used go rogue on the telephone lines to try and use circuits to make free calls. Many phreaks ended up hacking into corporate unused voice mailboxes to host the first forms of blogs and podcasts.

Next came email. Okay, we all know what email is, but in the 1960s, email was very exclusive. The Internet was not publicly available until decades later, but a basic infrastructure for email did exist in which both computers that were looking to exchange communication messages needed to be online at the same time. Email has certainly evolved since then, but think about it, aren’t we almost always connected now on our smartphones?

ARPANET in the late 60s refers to the Advanced Research Projects Agency. ARPANET was an “early network of time sharing computers that formed the basis of the internet.” Two key words jump out in that description: “time” and “sharing.” Isn’t the basis of modern social media based around real-time sharing? Hmm, we’re on to something here.

By the 1970s social started to become more sophisticated with virtual worlds like MUD and real-time information sharing platforms like the Bulletin Board System, which allowed people to upload and download files as well as post and share information and news.

Finally came modern social networks and social media in the early 1990s. By 1991 the Internet was publicly available, and that created a rush to be the biggest and best social network out there. Many failed, few still exist.

The history that social has painted is an interesting one. It shows us that being social is in our nature. We want to interact with others and create communities where we can be social. So now that we have taken a peak at the past, let’s look into the future. How are you social now, and how do you imagine us being social in the future? Share you comments below or tweet me @JaredMandel!

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.

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    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!

Off-Page SEO

Search engine optimization, SEO, is a key element of building a brand and creating a recognizable online presence. While SEO’s primary focus lies in practices used to increase a brand’s chances of surfacing amongst search engine queries, one cannot and should not ignore “off-page” SEO. Where traditional SEO works within a brands website to increase its overall SERP rating, off-page SEO works externally to achieve the same goal. Building links back to your site from other online sources, aka link building, is central of off-page SEO. One socialmedia today post on off-page SEO writes that “the only thing you can do outside your website is bring links back to it.”

The Introduction to Search Engine Optimization ebook contains an excellent chapter detailing techniques that should be kept in mind when working on one’s off-line brand building. Off-page SEO, more challenging than traditional on page SEO practices, necessitates the creation of relationships with other websites as well as the individuals who run them. The process known as link building includes three fundamental pieces: who is linking to you, how they are linking to you, and how your content is shared through social media across the web. Lets break down these three components and see what they really entail.

 

Who’s Linking to You?

  • Determine what websites are already linking to you
  • The more inbound links a website has, the more influence or authority it has.
  • Not every link is created equal! One link from a major blog, publication, or educational website (ending in a .edu) could dramatically increase your brand’s authority.

 

How are they Linking to You?

  • When possible, opt for the keyword-rich anchor text for a link that uses your domain.
  • Use reciprocal links, but keep in mind that search engines recognize reciprocal links as such and may limit their overall value on a potential SERP.
  • Paying others to link to you is bad business and prohibited by search engines. All paid links must include a no-follow tag, allowing search engines to discredit the links.

 

Spread Your Content!

  • The amount of social network activity a webpage has, the better their ability to rank on the SERP.
  • Make content easy to share by implementing social network sharing buttons throughout your site.
  • Use email marketing but be weary of the multitude of other businesses doing the same. Make sure to have a clear message, or call-to-action, drive leads and convert them into customers, and lastly make email content easy to share.

Implementing the above strategies should be done after an online presence has already been created. And of course, this presence should be supplemented with an existence across the main social media networks. Social media accounts for the brand should be consistence and specific with the original website in message, especially with the use of key phrases and words. In a post about SEO basics, blogger Victoria Edwards reminds us to not forget to optimize our online presence for multi-channels with keyword-phrases. Platforms to keep in mind include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Linkedin
  • Blogs
  • Email
  • Off-line (TV/radio ads)

When building an brand presence, its just as important to consider off-page SEO as traditional on-page SEO. When used together, both strategies can dramatically increase a brand’s overall SERP rating.

You’ve Got the Community, Now Make it Stronger

Whether you’re an established brand or a start-up, getting your community up and running is by no means the end of the job. Once you have that initial foundation of return members and contributing users, what do you do next? Strengthen their connection to your brand of course! Now there’s a lot of wisdom out there on how best to strengthen your community, whether it be through comments, blogger outreach, or ambassador programs. Let’s look at the best words of advice for each of these areas.

To create a community is one thing, to make that community fiercely loyal to the brand, worthy of the title of brand ambassador, takes some practice. A post on brand loyalty offers this advice:

Fierce Loyalty

  • To get the community to be loyal to you, first you have to love them!
  • Loyalty comes from a feeling of connection.
  • Use social media to make sure members can connect with each other (on and offline)

To build that connection upon which your community will flourish into brand advocates, keep in mind that marketing today is all about the connection. This post by Britt Michealian highlights the importance of using social media to your advantage when building strong connections with your audience. You can’t simply rely on the occasional tweets and FB posts anymore. But rather, strategically reach out and build relationships with your audience.

Also, do not forget about social giving. As in, make sure your brand’s social strategy is not simply a broadcast one (think annoying TV advertisement), but rather one that adds value and relevant impact to your audience’s life.

And lastly, blogger outreach. There are many ways to approach the bloggers you want aligned with your brand. The inkybee ebook, The Best Practice Guide for Effective Blogger Outreach, offers some industry expert insight.

Step1: Research, Research, Research

Research the blogs you want to contact. It is essential for any brand building campaign to have a targeted audience. Once you have this, identify the blogs where your target audience hangs out. Also, keep in mind which blogs will have the most impact on your target audience. Read, learn, and understand what each blogger talks about.

Step2: The Relationship

Put in the work to become the blogger’s friend. The goal here is to turn the targeted blogger into your brand’s advocate and best champion. Build trust through honesty, transparency, and personality. Blogs are called earned media for a reason!

Step3: An Offer They Can’t Refuse

Most bloggers don’t work for money. So what gets them motivated? Top reasons include sharing their expertise/experience with others and being more involved in their passion areas. Start by offering them quality content with which they can grow their own audience base. Follow with appropriate incentives (small brand-related goodies, etc.) and most importantly, Always keep your commitments.

Step4: Quality Content is King

Make sure your content is current, crosschecked against other sources, and relevant to your audience. Talk about fresh stories with interesting angles. Quality content is the foundation of your relationship with a blogger.

Step5: Don’t Forget about the Relationship Once You Have What You Need

Successful blogger outreach is not a one-time event, but rather an on-going process. Continuous correspondence and timely appreciation have the potential to turn your sometime-blogger into a brand ambassador for life. Continue to treat the blogger like a valued partner.

 

Register for #CMGRClass Spring 2014!

The spring semester at Syracuse University starts on January 13th and there are still a few spots left in #CMGRClass. This online course is open to all graduate students and select undergraduates who have a significant interest in community building, online communications, online content, and social media. For undergrads, if you’ve taken #RotoloClass (IST 486) or the Newhouse Social Media Course you’re eligible to take #CMGRClass.  If you haven’t taken either of those courses, but have experience in an internship or student activity you may still join as an undergraduate.

#CMGRClassWhy Take #CMGRclass?

In this online class, you’ll use social media tools first hand and meet a number of professionals who are working on community management and/or social media for some of the best companies out there. This course is broken up into three parts that are designed to help you understand various aspects of community management.
1)  Content Management – Blogging is an art and different than your typical academic writing.   You’ll write blog posts about the topics in this course and learn some of the best content strategies.
2)  Social media – The tools are always changing, but there’s things you’ll walk out understanding such as important metrics and best practices.
3)  Community Building – how do you start a community from scratch?  How can your users help you to generate content? Where do you find your key influencers?

What’s new and exciting about this course?

This isn’t your typical online course. The class meets every other Tuesday at 7pm in a Google+ Hangout and once per month we’ll have guest speakers join us and tell us how they got into their roles and what their jobs are like.  Though if you can’t make the time due to work or other classes, the class is recorded for you to watch at your convenience. Students have the ability to network throughout the semester and they find out about excellent opportunities like internships and careers.

Last semester we had guests from Google Local, Cycle to Survive, MRY, JetBlue, Scoop.it, LiveFyre, Klout, and Moz, and students met community managers from a variety of different industries.

We also don’t use blackboard all too much! #CMGRClass primarily takes place in a Google+ Community group where it’s easier to interact and post fun content.

If you’re curious about this semester’s syllabus you can take a look on this site.  If you want to register, sign up for IST 600 by January 13th (or the add/drop deadline by January 21)!  And of course you can always contact the professors, Jenn Pedde (@JPedde / jmpedde@syr.edu) & Kelly Lux (@Kellylux / kalux@syr.edu) with any questions.

MRY, JetBlue, & LiveFyre: How they do social

During the fall semester of #CMGRClass we got to hear three varying perspectives from the field of community management. The companies represented were, MRY, JetBlue, and LiveFyre.

What began as the youth centered social media marketing agency known as Mr. Youth has today evolved into the larger global digital marketing and technology agency known as MRY. David Yaris, General Manager at Mr. Youth, described his role as one with “a unique take on community management.” Yaris currently manages influencer communities, such as the small yet highly engaged communities and brand ambassadors. Using best practices culled from traditional community management practices, Yaris works to “ignite advocacy and word of mouth across college campuses.”

The social component of MRY is setup around its central Distribution team. The Distribution team follows a five-pronged approach with its subgroups: the paid, owned, earned, experiential, and analytical. The Community Manager role at MRY includes daily community monitoring as well as strategy and creative. The MRY CM works with the creative, strategy and analytics teams to construct the foundation. Here they focus on everything from what it is they’re executing, to writing posts, to working with the analytics to track back on efficiency and optimization of efforts.

 

Morgan Johnston from JetBlue, transitioned into the social media role from a corporate video position. When he joined the company, there was nothing in terms of a coordinated social media effort at JetBlue, aside from the MySpace account. The company’s very first interaction with social media proper came at the time of a crisis. From there the company started building up and experimenting with social media platforms such as YoutTube and twitter. The first and foremost principle of social media—talking to customers—helped aid the easy transition for JetBlue into the world of coordinated social media efforts.

JetBlue’s social media approach today is split in between three teams: Corporate Communications, Marketing and Commercial, and Customer Support. Corporate Communications, where Morgan sits, handles the big picture and the overall message of content.  The Marketing and Commercial side deals with brand stories, customer conversion, and delve into some content creation. The Customer Support teams, working 24/7, do the lion’s share of day-to-day social engagement. Handling everything from the tweets that come in for JetBlue, to hand-tagging for sentiment analysis, the Customer Support staff helps move customers around the organization. Since their social efforts are closely tied in with their operational team, the Customer Support staff also uses the information they gather to help implement operational changes. With the aid of a fourth component, the Customer Insight team, JetBlue is able to take data gathered, as well as surveys for analytics, to build a voice of the customer. In this way JetBlue, as a customer service company, is able to ask the ultimate question: How likely are you to recommend JetBlue to a friend or family?

 

Nick Cicero, Lead Strategist at LiveFyre, also fell into social. Initially starting out in music production, Cicero found himself getting into important conversations thru early platforms like MySpace. From there Cicero started working with companies to develop music for their content campaigns and in that time worked with big name artists like Kanye West, to get their communities growing. Though he started out as an independent music marketer, Cicero today works at LiveFyre to create technology to execute campaigns for a variety of brands. Being the strategy side, Cicero works with members who are CMs for other businesses and brands. Together, Cicero and the members he manages, work to identify how they can create engagement opportunities and how to better talk to their customers.

LiveFyre, as a company, is in the business of product commenting on live blogs and chats. Like many large businesses today, LiveFyre has lots of different departments dedicated to social media efforts. The Marketing and Customer Service teams are focused on maintaining communities related to LiveFyre internally. Both departments work in tandem to lead generational opportunities by responding to customers. They also pay special attention on constant monitoring of social platforms, Cicero is a big fan of HootSuite for this.  There is also an emphasis on following the chain of command internally to work with external customers.

The Industry’s Biggest and Brightest: What they look for when hiring for community management

Community management comes in all different shapes and sizes and breaking into the field requires just as many different characteristics. This week’s CMGR class featured a panel of four very different community managers. They represented some of the industry’s most influential companies, such as Google, and some that are small but influential in their own circle, like Cycle for Survival. Each CM at the panel put forth their personal take on what you need to get hired as a community manager.

 

Jennifer Sable Lopez is Director of Community at MOZ, previously known as SEOmoz. Jenn currently works with a small staff that focuses on community at MOZ. Designed as a software company that makes software to help marketers, MOZ has since expanded its focus. Beyond the software, the organization is now more content focused, working on social and community focused tools. They also feature an educational resources component on the website that breaks down concepts like SEO and other community management based principles.

As a veteran of this industry, Jenn’s criterion for potential hires is valuable insight. The key thing Jenn looks for in a candidate is some who is able to “figure to what to do next.” This includes the following capabilities:

  • The ability to take something and make a decision
  • The ability to figure out what has to happen next
  • The ability to know whether something’s a big deal or not
  • The ability to think on your feet

 

Lea Marino is CM at Cycle for Survival, indoor team cycling event that raises money for rare cancer research. Marino primarily works on email marketing, social media, and any marketing that goes beyond social. A large portion of her energy is dedicated to peer-to-peer fundraising as well, due to the nature of her organization.

For Lea, the biggest factor she looks for in potential candidates in the CM field is empathy. Not a quality you can necessarily teach, Lea believes that empathy is a personality-driven trait that makes a community manager stand out. In this age of social where people constant communicate digitally, a seasoned CM will have an inherent ability to understand what’s being said behind the words. In this way, one has the ability to connect with people in way “where you can hear what they want you to hear in the moment.”

 

Sahana Ullagaddi works at Klout as their Community Manager. Klout is currently the premiere tool to help you understand and measure your online influence. Organizational goals include helping their community improve its online influence by being better educated about social media. Sahana’s job is directly related to content that supports the fine tuning of channels the company uses to communicate their content. For Sahana, there is a distinct list of attributes and qualities she looks for when hiring in the community management field.

  • A hunger to learn
  • The ability to receive feedback well
  • Being able to speak up and share your opinions and feedback
  • The ability to be perceptive so people feel comfortable enough to open up to you
  • Being able to prioritize well.

 

Topher Ziobro, Communtiy Manager at Google Local NYC, works on everything from online interactions to in person events, to working with partners, and even encouraging people to explore and share about the various places of interest in NYC.

When it comes to hiring potential team members, Topher ranks energy management above all else. For a job centered around maintaining an energetic social media presence, Topher feels the individuals managing those accounts should be especially adept at using their energy wisely so as to avoid burnout, and thus a lackluster social media presence. Specifically, Topher places value in the following aspects of energy management:

  • How you display your energy
  • How to plan things so you are not draining yourself
  • Constantly thinking about building energy reserves so as to avoid burnout

Best Scheduling Practices For Community Managers

Running a community is no easy task, especially when several social media networks are involved. Community management is demanding, and it’s important to meet the needs of community members while also posting relevant content for members to discuss. Because of the various activities that a community manager must keep track of, it’s important to know how to effectively use a calendar.

Author Richard Millington of Buzzing Communities offers the following tips:

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Calendars can get messy! Make sure to use a system that works best for your community

1. Don’t forget about offline content! Although lots of information is online, don’t forget to stay in touch with what’s happening around you physically.  Millington points out that “you can look at both online and offline content produced within the sector to identify…popular categories.”

2. Plan out your weeks – Millington discusses how different categories of news should be posted daily while certain categories of posts can be reused every week. This variation is okay, as long as it is planned out accordingly. Using a calendar to figure out which content should be posted on certain days of the week is helpful when determining to push content.

3. Don’t forget about subcategories – It’s not enough to put that you’re going to talk about something as generic as “news” on a particular day. Millington emphasizes the importance of subcategories, and to be specific when defining posted content. Eliminating ambiguity helps define clearer goals for you and your team.

Although Millington’s tips are helpful, he fails to mention different methods of keeping track of all these tasks. Some helpful tools to keep you in check with all of these tools include:

1. Google Calendar – If you’re an avid fan of Google, have a Gmail account, or like color coded calendars, Google Calendar is a great way to keep track of different schedules. Your calendar can also sync up with your phone which allows you to view and modify your schedule while on the go.

2. Physical Wall Calendar – Lots of companies like to see things written on walls rather than on small computer screens. If you have a lot of space in your office, utilizing the space on a whiteboard can allow you to write all over your schedule, which is something you can’t necessarily do in a digital environment. If you have a wall that you want converted into a large whiteboard space, that can be easier to create than you think!

3. Wiggio – Wiggio is an online calendar that allows you to create events that can also sync with your other calendars. With SMS alerts that keep you on track, you won’t have to worry about what you need to do at each point throughout the day. The calendars can also be viewed by certain groups, which can be incredibly helpful for when you are working with a large team.

Regardless of how you schedule your calendars or the medium in which you choose to update it, it is important to stay organized and stay up to date with the content that needs to be managed within a community. Using the tools and techniques above, you can be well on your way to effectively managing a community!

How do you keep track of scheduling within your community? Do you have other tips or advice? Let us know in the comments below!