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Community Management: Now What?!

Whenever things come to a close, I always ask myself “now what”? Now, as we’re nearing the end of the CMGRclass, I find myself asking that same question. I feel like it applies in a few situations based on this week’s readings as well as the course in general.

So… you’re a community manager with a strong, growing community. Now what?!

For new communities, a Community Manager must help create the community and build it from the ground up. Once it hits the ground running and gains some success, the responsibilities of a CM grow larger. It’s exciting when your community becomes successful, but sometimes it means that the CM responsibilities become too much to handle. At some point, you’re going to have to start thinking bigger.

This week, we learned about the importance of scaling and how it will be beneficial to the future success of your community. Once your community is growing out of your own reach, you have to start looking to your community members for help. Richard Millington (FeverBee) suggests implementing processes that scale. The 11 processes he mentioned are as follows:

  • Recruit, train, manage and motivate volunteers.
  • Rewriting guidelines if they are violated too frequently
  • Encourage members receive a prominent by-line in the news article.
  • Setup a community e-mail address which several volunteers can access and reply to.
  • Teach volunteers to recruit and train other volunteers.
  • Ensure members can identify and remove bad posts.
  • Automate members inviting their friends.
  • Let members apply to run various forum categories.
  • Allow members to create their own groups, initiate events, start live-discussions.
  • Start a tradition of regulars welcoming newcomers.
  • Write detailed guidelines for doing your job.
Now what? Be ready for opportunities, and don't be afraid to take them! Taken from http://thecommunitymanager.com/2012/04/23/the-best-and-worst-community-management-job-descriptions/

Now what? Be ready for opportunities, and don’t be afraid to take them!
Taken from http://thecommunitymanager.com/2012/04/23/the-best-and-worst-community-management-job-descriptions/

All of these posts revolve around the same idea: let your community members help you out. Your community members should become ambassadors of the community, and you can rely on them to post content as well as moderate it. It’s a community, so treat it like one. Give your members responsibilities, and reward them for their help. This has two benefits. The members get the sense of pride and accomplishment knowing that they are an influential part of the community, and you get the satisfaction of knowing that the weight is being lifted from your shoulders. Now you have time to focus on thinking of what the community can do next!

So… you just finished CMGRclass and you’re about to graduate. Now what?!

This is one of the best classes I’ve taken at Syracuse. In only a few short months, I feel as though I am prepared to step into the world of Community Management–or at least prepared enough to test the water. Before this class, I will honestly say that I did not know what Community Management was. Now, I’m expanding my job search to include positions in this field. The course has absolutely prepared us with the skills necessary to become successful, but it was also great to read the article dedicated to aspiring Community Managers.

A few of Vadim Lavrusik’s 10 tips really stood out to me.

Be authentic “it’s not just about having a voice, but having an authentic one”. A company can easily set up social media accounts and call it a day. Starting a community is about going the extra mile to be personable and make relationships. This is only possible if you’re true to yourself and you are authentic. No one is interested in joining a community or supporting a brand they cannot relate to. Be more about the people, and more about being yourself, and don’t become a “faceless” brand.

 

Comcast is a great example of "being authentic". They are personable and all about their members! Taken from http://mashable.com/2010/08/21/community-manager-jobs/

Comcast is a great example of “being authentic”. They are personable and all about their members! Taken from http://mashable.com/2010/08/21/community-manager-jobs/

Listen, add value, and build relationships — this goes hand in hand with being authentic. It’s incredibly important to listen to the conversations between members in your community. This is how you’ll gain feedback that can be used to make changes that will better your company or community. Even if you’re not a community manager, these three tips are crucial to success. Building relationships is so important. You never know who will need your help down the road.

Think like an entrepreneur and be quick to adapt — you need to have a vision and be ready for anything. Being quick to adapt was a reoccurring theme this semester and something I can definitely vouch for. This summer, during my internship, I was complimented many times for being ready for anything and able to fix or make changes quickly. A little bit goes a long way.

Lastly, the biggest “now what?!” of all — getting a job!

The job search won’t be fun (or easy), but now I know what to look out for. I know that the job description will reveal a lot about whether or not a company is right for me. If you’re an aspiring Community Manager, you should be confident that your potential employer knows what Community Management is and is utilizing it the right way. For example, if a job description for a CM says “manage social media accounts and that’s about it”, you probably would not be utilizing your talents and skills.

Now what?! For me, I’m not sure, but I’m excited to see where my CMGRclass lessons will take me!

4 Job Description Red Flags for Aspiring Community Managers

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

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

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

1. A lack of personality

BORING

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

2. Non-specific description

YOU-TELL-US

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

3. All you can see is “Social Media”

SOCIAL-MEDIA

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

4. Too good to be true

PERFECT

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

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

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

An Open Letter to Aspiring Community Managers

So you’ve decided you want to become a Community Manager. Congratulations! In this letter I’m going to talk about two things: you and your community.

Image Courtesy of Pablo Casuriaga.

Let’s start with you, ‘cause, hey, you’re pretty darn awesome. If you want an idea of what a Community Manager’s job is going to be like, read through Erin Bury’s blog post, “Community Manager Job Description, A Definitive Guide.” Bury goes into a lot of detail about what you can expect (content creation, social media marketing, event planning, PR, customer relations, marketing, analytics and business development) and what people who need a CM are looking for. It sounds like a lot, it is, but it’s worth it.

Since we’re starting with you, let’s use Vadim Lavrusik’s blog post, “10 Tips for Aspiring Community Managers” as a jumping off point. I won’t be covering everything he talks about so I highly suggest you check out his full post (there’s also a great bonus section at the end too).

1. Be an Expert, Love your Company and be the Community’s Advocate: Before you start as a Community Manager for a company you should be well-versed in everything they do and you should like the company and product. “Good community managers are ones that are genuine advocates and evangelists for their products and their users.” This also means you should understand where the user is coming from. If it’s hard to connect with them imagine it’s you and you’re giving advice to yourself or to friends or family. Be respectful and give as much information as possible.

2. Be Authentic, Listen and Brush Up on your Communication Skills: The key to being authentic is being you: don’t try to be someone you’re not. For example, I am an enthusiastic person by nature and when I write to people I tend to use exclamation marks a lot and smiley faces. Listening is a very important skill to have, especially when it comes to others. Like being authentic, people will be able to feel comfortable around you and won’t be nervous about sharing feedback. It will help you build relationships is others know you’re willing to hear what they have to say. Effective dialogue is important. The role of a community manager is to connect with others. This also extends to writing, being a good writer will help you when it comes to responding to your community members.

Image Courtesy of Elkokoparrilla.

Let’s skip ahead now. Congratulations, you’ve created a fabulous community and it’s growing! But now you’re feeling overwhelmed. You’re finding yourself checking every email, making sure no one’s fighting and making sure everyone’s okay when you realize: you’ve turned into a parent. You’re running around taking care of everyone but yourself. It’s good to check in with your children and make sure everything’s okay but make sure to let them shine!

So what can you do? You have a fabulous community but you need help. So where do you turn? To your oldest, most outgoing and motivated members, of course! They are the ones who care about this community just as much as you do and who will help you prioritize.

“But wait,” I hear you say, “Hannah, it’s my baby, I don’t want to hand over my responsibilities to others!” Relax. Take a deep breath. It’s okay to delegate responsibilities! No one can run a community all by themselves. It’s okay to ask for help. If you’re unsure where to start, Richard Millington founder of FeverBee has eleven suggestions on how to lighten your load that serve as, “both technical, administrative and personnel-oriented.” I’ve shortened and combined them below (for the full list, click here):

1. Volunteers: Get a hold of some of your best and make them ambassadors for you. (Unsure why you should have some? Click here.) This is will also help you when it comes time to recruiting new volunteers. One activity volunteers can do is greet the newest members.

2. Guidelines: Are people continuing to break guidelines? Maybe it’s time to change them. This is an exercise that works well outside the of Internet too – most of my classes spend the first day talking about class guidelines to make sure we respect each other. This also extends to administrative guidelines, like how to resolve disputes with your company’s best interest (be fair but make sure you don’t promise something you can’t deliver on).

3. Content: Let some of your most trusted community members be in charge of content. If they’re writing for you make sure their name is featured prominently, they’ll feel good about themselves and you’ll have less work to do. Make sure part of that responsibility is going through comments and approving or denying bad posts.

4. Administrative: Create a community email address that your ambassadors have access too that can allow multiple people to access. This way the email load is divided. If you chose to do this make sure there is a system to document which member responded to what issue. Responding to the same person twice or three times is nice, you care, but if it’s five times the member with the issue might get irritated.

5. Acknowledgement: We’ve covered it a little above but here’s something else you can do: if one of your ambassadors excels in an area your company covers, let them try running a program (a forum, Q&As etc.)

Image Courtesy of Enrique Martinez Bermejo.

Yay! You are now one step closer to becoming a community manager! All that remains is for you to go out and try it! It’s a lot of fun and I promise you’ll find it to be rewarding. It’s hard at times but don’t forget to take deep breaths, ask for help when you need it and remember: have fun.

Lots of love,
Hannah

For Community Managers: in the comments below share advice you wish someone had given you and if you’re interested in becoming a community manager tell me know why: were you inspired by something? Have you done something like this before?

Community Management: How to Get Hired

Land a job as a community manager! (photo via http://www.glassdoor.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/interview23.jpg)

The job of “community manager” hasn’t necessarily been defined before a few years ago, especially in the digital space. But students are flooding from colleges after graduation to potential employers in an effort to get hired as a community manager. But what are employers looking for? How can you prepare for your interview? Is this industry right for you?

Here are three skills/tips you need to get hired as a community manager:

1. Strong communications skills

This one seems obvious, but some people think that just because this job is “digital” but this job has plenty offline aspects as well. A community manager must be a strong writer, speaker and really understand people. A public relations background is always helpful, especially in time of crisis and dealing with the consumer. It’s a people business, so if you don’t like people then you probably shouldn’t be applying! The “management” aspect of the job also falls under this category. The best bosses and managers have employees that love them because they’re strong communicators and get their message across. We learn about the importance of transparency but you can’t be transparent unless you know how to get your message out there. The business is all about storytelling, which is why strong communications stills are so important.

2. Organized

Organization is key and your employer will be able to sense if you aren’t organized. If you aren’t organized you’ll probably be in way over your head in the business. A community manager deals with so much data and information. There are tons of numbers to analyze and make sense of and then apply to your strategy. One major aspect of community management is content curation. Bringing together a ton of different content from different platforms and making sense of it is another reason why community managers need to stay organized. Without good organizational skills, it would be hard to make sense of why you were curating the content and the message behind it.

3. Be a member of your community

This is the most important tip of all because if you aren’t a member of your community and truly engaged in it, you wont be successful as a community manager. You must be able to understand the community members and I don’t think that’s possible unless you’re a member of the community as a whole. So if you’re trying to get hired, don’t go into a job interview and have no idea about the company or community because you wont get hired. Research the community and start playing a role in it before heading into your interview. Show your employer that you care about the community, because if you can be a part of it, you can manage it.

Fore more great tips for prospective community managers, check out this article.

How To Get A Job As A Community Manager

“We’re in the age of social media.” How many times have you heard that before? It’s true! We are immersed in a world where social media has become part of our lives. The first thing some people do in the morning is check their phone and check their social media. It’s also the last thing some people do before they go to bed at night. Such a high dependence on social media has led to an increase in the need for a community manager, or someone to cultivate communities around products, brands, and services. When looking for a job as a community manager, it’s important to know what to look out for.

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 6.12.43 PMThe Job Description

In an article by Erin Bury, the typical job responsibilities of a community manager are listed. They include content creation, social media marketing, customer relations, and gathering analytics. A common misconception of community managers is that they sit on Facebook and Twitter all day and read tweets. It’s important to note that community managers do much more than that. Creating strategies, analyzing data, and connecting with the right people is all part of the job description.

What They’re Looking For

In addition to having the skills, it’s also important that you have the right attitude and work ethic for the community management position. Hiring managers and recruiters will be looking to make sure that you fit the part. According to Bury, it’s also important to have an outgoing personality, writing skills, social media experience, and an interest in the industry. When looking to work for a certain brand, it’s important to research that company and make sure you have what they’re looking for. Lots of companies will often have job descriptions on their website, making them easily accessible to those who are interested.

What Else?

Bury does a great job of outlining the different skills necessary to be a good community manager. In her post, she also shares examples of community management job descriptions. While Bury does a great job of covering all the bases of looking for a community management job, it’s also important to remember that a job/brand has to fit your personality too. While a company can list what they’re looking for in a community manager, it’s also important that you consider what you’re looking for in a company. Different brands have different tones and work styles. Make sure you find something that fits in well with you, too!

 

 

 

Top 3 Tips for New Community Managers

It is crazy to think that it is the last week of the semester. With all these wonderful topics we have discussed, it is a great idea to wrap up the semester discussing some last tips for aspiring community managers and potential jobs and the job outlook for community managers or social media managers. One of the articles this week titled, “10 Tips For Aspiring Community Managers” by Vadim Lavrusik really gave great insight into some “do’s” if you get the chance to become a community manager.

Lavrusik’s Top 10

Lavrusik’s top ten were as follows:

1. Be an expert of your product or company
2. Love the product and company
3. Work on your communication skills
4. Blog and have a social presence
5. Be authentic
6. Be multi-skilled and prioritize platforms strategically
7. Listen, add value, and build relationships
8. Engage online and off
9. Think like an entrepreneur and be quick to adapt
10. Empower your colleagues to be community builders

While I truly think these are all extraordinary tips, there are 3 that really stand out to me.

My Top 3

 

Photo courtesy of Dirk Bartels and Olaf Lewitz

Photo courtesy of Dirk Bartels and Olaf Lewitz

Be an expert of your product or company – This is a big one for me. There are so many instances in which I have personally experienced someone working for a company and doesn’t have a clue about their product. While this person might not be a community manager, I can definitely see how crucial it is to have knowledge of the product and company. I mean, you are trying to build the brand and influence the community. You should definitely know a good deal about it. I love the quote in the article stating, ” It’s important to research the relevant aspects of the company with a “fine tooth comb mentality” because you truly do have to do your homework. A community manager is very important to the brand, and in my opinion, if you don’t know the ins and outs of the product or organization, it can be a big disadvantage.

Be multi-skilled and prioritize platforms strategically – I always knew that you would have to be multi-task and be multi-skilled in order to be an effective community manager. But, I didn’t exactly know how important that would be until the last panel we had. Jenn Lopez who is a community manager at Moz, really opened my eyes to this. She discussed how it is so important to be able to do multiple tasks. In her department, she makes sure everyone has the skills to do any job. That way, if someone falls ill or someone simply isn’t there, other people can step up and help. Every day could be different for a community manager, and that is something I have learned in this class. Being prepared by having numerous skill sets is a plus because like already stated, you never know a skill that could come in handy when you’re engaging with your community!

Engage Online and Off – the more I research and learn, the more I find this important, especially for an aspiring community manager. It’s obviously crucial to engage online with the community, but it is also very important to engage offline. When we had the last panel, Topher, a community manager at Google discussed how having community manager hangouts and different meet ups have really influenced him and the people he has met in these hang outs have become his mentors. Meeting up not only improve your communication skills, but it can also build long-lasting relationships. A great quote from Lavrusik’s article is as follows, “Though online community is important, connecting with people in-person will help strengthen the relationships you build.” With someone seeking a community management position, relationships and communication are key and engaging offline may be able to help you get into that position that you are seeking.

Question to consider

While these are my top 3, they may not be yours. Ultimately, I think the biggest question would be:

Listen up!: Using comments, blogger outreach, and ambassador programs to build your community

When trying to grow or maintain your community, it is essential to provide your audience with unique opportunities to interact with your brand. Comments, blogger outreach, and ambassador programs are all paths through which a CM can better connect with the community. Read on to see what I’m talking about.

Comments
Read between the lines

As if it hasn’t been said enough times, Buzzing Communities reminds us that the customer is always right! ALWAYS. Take it from someone who has angrily reached out to brands on social media many times, I always remember which brands were pleasant to deal with, and which were not. Online conflict resolution is not only vital in that it calms dissatisfied customers, but the manner in which this resolution is dealt with speaks highly to the brand — and the reason why it’s included on this list.

Blogger Outreach
Why is this even necessary?

Unlike journalists, most bloggers are not constrained by traditional media models. In The Best Practice Guide for Effective Blogger Outreach, an eBook by InkyBee, it is noted that bloggers have instant and exponential reach. They are also a source of “earned media,” a relationship that is based on a real connection — both on and offline. PR professional Sally Falkow said that a BlogHer study showed that women in the US rank blogs as their “number one source of information.” That’s a lot of people. That’s a lot of power.

The first steps

Once you decide blogger outreach is the way you want to go, you need to devise a plan. First, consider all of the possible outcomes that, according to Jenn Pedde’s “Building Community in Blogger Outreach” presentation, blog outreach can yield:

  • SEO/link building
  • Increased sales
  • Engaged customers/users
  • Product testing
  • Being the dominant voice in your industry
  • Being the most trusted voice in your industry

Next, InkyBee recommends identifying the blogs where the target audience lives. And Pedde reminds us that not all blogs are created equal. In fact, according to a chart entitled “Blogger Outreach: Tiers of Blogging and Link Building” (Fig. 1) in her presentation, there are five tiers of blogs: news outlets, large blog outlets, influencers, specific subject, and everyone else.

Blogger Outreach: Tiers of Blogging and Link Building (via Jenn Pedde's "Building Community in Blogger Outreach")

Fig. 1: Blogger Outreach: Tiers of Blogging and Link Building (via Jenn Pedde’s “Building Community in Blogger Outreach”)

Perhaps the most important piece of advice offered from InkyBee is to remember to personalize your pitch to the blogger. Investigate how they prefer to communicate — Twitter, Facebook, Quora — and capitalize on it. You need to offer something that mutually beneficial; no one likes to walk down a one-way street.

Keeping it going

Once this mutually beneficial relationship is established, be sure to not let the relationship die. You’ve worked this hard – so keep it up! Thank them, continue providing them with good content, and maybe treat them to a nice lunch 🙂 Be sure to also store his/her contact information and maintain and updated blogger database.

Brand Ambassador Programs
Say what?

brand ambassador program, as defined by Mack Collier:

… allows for an ongoing, working relationship with special customers who are fans of your brand. Their job is to stay in constant contact with your customers, not only promoting you to these customers, but also giving you invaluable feedback on what your customers think about your brand.

As a result, as a CM, you gain a greater understanding of your target and can pass along valuable insights to your marketing and advertising teams. Brand ambassador programs are especially helpful for larger companies, who find it overwhelming to connect with their consumers.

Collier offers 10 tips for creating a brand ambassador program. Three of my favorites are:

  • Spread the world internally as well as externally
    • If you don’t have the entire organization behind any given initiative, it’s doomed to fail
  • Make membership exclusive
    • You want to ensure that you are giving “membership” to the customers who are true advocates to the brand and who are truly committed. No phonies allowed!
  • Give your advocates direct access to the brand
    • Be sure that your ambassadors have access to some executives or people of significance at the company. These people are the “brand’s biggest defenders and advocates,” so it is essential that their voice is always heard by someone who has the power to enact change.

Buzzing Communities also recommends that brand ambassadors meet at least one of these criteria:

  • High levels of activity
  • High levels of expertise or passion for the topic
  • Distinctive contributions
  • Interesting real-life positions
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Great contacts
  • Overall strategic fit

 

Many agencies and brands who are looking to reach college students are now targeting these same students to be their brand ambassadors (image via MrYouth http://mryouth.com/)

Many agencies and brands who are looking to reach college students are now targeting these same students to be their brand ambassadors (image via MrYouth http://mryouth.com/)

Choose wisely!

 

Which of these three avenues do you think best suites your brand? Try them out and let me know!

 

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.

5 Important Things to Know About Brand Ambassadors

Image Courtesy of Beth Kanter

As an undergraduate at Syracuse University I served as a Student Ambassador, Peer Advisor, Tour Guide and blogger for my home college (Visual and Performing Arts) and as a Global Ambassador for the SU Abroad Office. I was also approached to be a campus representative for a study abroad blogging site called Students Gone Global. I knew that through all these activities I was serving as an ambassador but that had never occurred to me, before the readings we had this week, was that I could also have been called a brand ambassador.

A brand ambassador is a marketing term referring to someone who promotes services or products for a company or organization. These ambassadors are meant to “be” the company: they are supposed to dress, talk and share the same values and ethics as the people they are representing.

Below is a combination of things I learned while serving as an ambassador and representative and insights from Britt Michaelian’s post, “How to Build a Fierce Loyalty for Your Brand” and Mack Collier’s post, “10 Things to Remember When Creating a Brand Ambassador Program”:

  1. Loyalty: If you treat your community well, people will want to become ambassadors for you. If you treat your ambassadors well they will do anything for you. Example: once I was given the title “Student Ambassador” I stopped complaining about showing up at events at 7AM and leaving after 5PM.
  2. Loyalty and Social Media: Michaelian brought up a really good point: “it is a beautiful thing that we can connect with people from all over the world in an instant on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ etc., but to meet face to face and connect in person brings the relationship another level. A level of loyalty that simply cannot exist when only online. Example: at the beginning when SGG asked if I wanted to be a campus representative I said “of course!” without really thinking about it because who would know if I wasn’t living up to those duties?
  3. Research: Collier mentions the importance of knowing who the advocates are within your company: researching who’s always commenting, liking, sharing, interacting and asking questions will probably give you a clue as to who you should grab as an ambassador. Another trick would be to mention applications, if the people you’ve been keeping track of take the time and initiative to fill them out, chances are they’re really invested in your company. Example: I wouldn’t say no to any task I was given. No matter how much homework I had or when I had to be at work, if there was a prospective student interested in a tour, I’d volunteer.
  4. Exclusivity: This is very important. Everyone wants to feel like they are important and valued by the people he or she works or volunteers for; but not only that, not everyone in your community would be a good ambassador. Collier sums this up perfectly, you want to weed out the customers that aren’t committed to the brand, or the program. The true advocates for your brand will already be doing much if not all of what you would require of them as members of the program.” This fits perfectly with another point Collier made, that it’s better to have, “10 truly passionate brand advocates than 10,000 members that are merely ‘meh’ toward the brand.”
  5. Acknowledgement: As Collier says, “we all love money, but for a true brand advocate they usually want other things.” Example: During the first year I volunteered for VPA I joked with family that what would perfect is if they started to pay me. Over time I came to realize that going to events was one of the best networking things I could do and it’s because of this that I was asked to be a Student Marshal for graduation.

These are just a handful of things that came to mind while reading about brand ambassadors. What are some other things people should know about ambassadors? Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever been an ambassador for a company and what were some of the pros and cons.

 

My Experience Building a Social Brand & Ambassador Program

This week in #CMGR class we read about social brands and building ambassador programs, which are two topics I consider myself being familiar with. In fall 2012, during my sophomore year in college, I enrolled in IDS (idea, design, technology and startups) 401. The IDS program is a hands-on experience that guides you through idea curation and execution. After completing all three classes, I now have a startup company, Soulscarf that focuses on giving back.

Each soulscarf comes with the above hanging clothing tag.

Each soulscarf comes with the above hanging clothing tag.

Soulscarf is a scarf company and we donate 20% of the proceeds to the charity that corresponds with the color heart on your tag. We just hit our one year anniversary (yay!). Although we are growing, we are no where near where we aspire to be. Each day, I learn more and more and I have a feeling that my learning process is going to be never ending.

While reading Britt Michaelian’s piece, I was able to connect with what he was saying. Michaelian brought up a lot of good points about how social brands connect with their audience and in my opinion, everything he said was correct. I found that not only do social brands connect with their audience, but we also connect with other social brands. We believe that helping others is the key to success. For example, TOMS recently launched the TOMS marketplace. A marketplace full of social brands where customers can shop their products. By creating this marketplace, TOMS has given social brands a new selling avenue as well as a new window of opportunity.

I have also learned that social brands are willing to share more information about their company to other social brands. When speaking with another social brand startup, we usually end up sharing every detail. Our “secret sauce” is not a secret. We want other social brands to be just as successful as we are.

As a startup, having an ambassador program is an opportunity that I jumped on. Mack Collier wrote a piece that explains how to build a successful ambassador program. I also agree on everything that Collier wrote. Here at Soulscarf, we have an ambassador program that we call “Campus Reps.” The Soulscarf Campus Representatives act as a liaison between their school and Soulscarf. They have their own email portal and are also featured on our website. When a new product comes out, they get a sneak peak and also a free sample.

When building the Campus Rep program, I wanted to start small and gather reps from a concentrated area. I started in my home state of Michigan and was able to work with a rep from every large university. Right away, I noticed that most of my sales were coming from Michigan. I believe that having a majority of our reps from Michigan as well as having grown up in Michigan gave Soulscarf the opportunity to have vast growth within those areas.

Building a social brand is something you need to be extremely passionate about in order to succeed.  Appropriate content and communication are a must and should not be overlooked. You are not just representing your brand, but you are also representing the cause(s) that you give back to.

Below are some of my favorite social goods. They’re perfect gifts that keep on giving for the holidays!

Flamboyant Body Cream from Tiossan. Price: $38.00

Flamboyant Body Cream from Tiossan. Price: $38.00

Cranberry Infinity soulscarf from Soulscarf. Price: $44.00

Cranberry Infinity soulscarf from Soulscarf. Price: $44.00

Charcoal Suede Pop Desert Wedges from TOMS. Price: $89.00

Charcoal Suede Pop Desert Wedges from TOMS. Price: $89.00

Poppy hat from Krochet Kids.

Poppy hat from Krochet Kids. Price: $37.95