Tag Archive for Buzzing Communities

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

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

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

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

  • Content Creation

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

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

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

  • Administrative Rights

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

  • Access to the Company

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

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

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

5 Tips to Grow Your Community – From the Experts

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

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

  • image by artofdieting.com

    image by artofdieting.com

    Research Research Research

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

  • Make Your New Members Feel Special

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

  • Diffusion of Ownership

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

  • image by lyved.com

    image by lyved.com

    Don’t Get Stuck in a Bubble

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

  • Plan Your Future

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

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

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.

Community Building is like Making Friends

We’ve all done it. It can sometimes be difficult, but the rewards outweigh the effort.

It’s making friends.

Probably not the best way to build a community. Courtesy of Toothpaste for Dinner.

Probably not the best way to build a community. Courtesy of Toothpaste for Dinner.

Not everyone has built a community, but most people have made a friend or two. It’s tough, but in order to do it right, you have to put yourself out there, meet new people, figure out if you want to hang out again, and repeat.

Just like making new friends, there’s a lot to consider when starting a community. There’s no one answer, and there’s no wrong answer. It all depends on what is right for you and your community.

The readings this week, however, did give some great advice for community managers just starting out, and I think that across communities, these factors will hold true.

GET OUTSIDE

The key to making friends is that you need to get out of the house to do it. People can’t talk with your RSVP, just like a community can’t talk to your website updates. You need to be present for things to happen.

You are your community’s biggest asset – a human face, a personality, and a lot of passion. David Spinks hits the nail on the head when he says the key to building a community is doing it one person at a time.

Reaching out and making personal connections may take time, but there’s no point to being a community manager if you have no one in your community. So go out and make some friends.

PICK A PLACE

You can go to the club, the pub, or anywhere in between. Where you go depends on what you want, but it’s probably best to start small and make friends at the pub. Community building is like that, too.

In Buzzing Communities, author Richard Millington echoes Spinks when he says:

“A community should not target its entire possible audience in its launch.”

You should, however, target people with whom you know you’ll have something in common. The more focused your audience in the beginning, the faster and more clearly you will understand the dynamic and direction of your community.

HAVE A PLAN

It’s no fun to get to the pub and realize no one you can make friends with is there. Where did you go wrong?

Simple: you didn’t plan ahead.

When you’re making friends, you have to communicate with them to make plans. You can’t just show up at a pub and expect them to come to you.

Once you’ve made plans, next you need to execute and figure out how it went:

  • Did they show up?
  • Was it fun?
  • Did your new friend throw a drink in your face?

If the answers are yes, yes, and no … then you probably have a solid friendship starting.

This kind of thinking is equally important for community managers. At the beginning of the community lifecycle, it’s important to talk to people, but it’s also important to understand what your following wants. Having a focused audience not only helps you focus your community, but also lets you figure out data fast.

You already know the audience because that’s what you targeted – now look for what you couldn’t before.

  • Are people spending more time on your pages?
  • Is your audience growing?
  • Are they participating?

Use the answers to guide what you do next. If your friend gets drunk and throws drinks in your face every time, it’s probably time to hang out with her at the coffee shop for a little while.

Apply that same logic with your community. If they don’t respond to blogs about [relevant topic X], try posting about [relevant topic Y].

IT’S ALL ABOUT CONNECTIONS

You might not be a community managing pro yet, but odds are you’ve made friends in your lifetime. Stop over-thinking it and put those friend-making skills to good use. As a community manager, it’s all about making connections. Get out there, be yourself, and find others like you. Community will follow.

Do you think starting a community can be this easy at first? Also, what about personality types – are introverted community managers at a disadvantage in this respect?

The Similarities Between an Online Community and Non-Profit Development

Most of the examples provided to us in the books that we are reading for #CMGRclass showcase for profit businesses.  Since I work in Higher Education, I’m trying to figure out ways to translate those examples to be helpful for non-profits.

buzzing communitiesIn Buzzing Communities, Richard Millington writes, “For non-profit organizations, a community may often serve no other purpose than to directly support the organizations mission”(Millington, page 214). Although this is often true, I believe social media and online communities can also be directly related to donor dollars for non-profit organizations.

After reading Chapter 5: Influence and Relationships, the similarity between growing a successful online community and non-profit development really stood out to me. Receiving donations is based around the relationship a person has with a certain institution, organization or cause. The job of a development officer is not only to develop new relationships, but to also maintain them, so that they do not fade away, and as a result, the donations don’t fade with it.

Screen Shot 2013-04-07 at 11.43.54 AMIn this chapter, Millington does a good job explaining how to build, maintain and strengthen relationships. Topics he covers include: relationship criteria, building insider groups, volunteers, and recognition. However, the information is not new; non-profit organizations have been using these tactics for off-line relationship building for years. It is almost as though non-profits have done what Millington has done with online communities reversed. Non-profits develop relationships off-line first, and then organize an online community to grow those relationships and continue the conversation.

donate now buttonsWith my experience in Higher Education,  it appears as though some non-profits are struggling to find successful ways to cultivate online relationships and having a hard time proving that they are aiding in bringing in donations. But just because a relationship is formed online, it does not make it any less powerful than an in-person relationship and should be treated equal.

This is the list of relationships criteria that Millington lays out in his book. Your online community will most likely be with members who fall into one or more of the following categories:

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

This is the same exact list that a development officer would use when forming in-person relationships with potential donors. Cultivating people online is really no different.

Do you work for a non-profit organization? Do you find community building to be beneficial to your non-profit’s financial goals? I’d love to hear!

Disclaimer: I encourage online relationships to turn into in-person ones. Social media is a tool to make relationships stronger, but does not replace the importance of in-person relationships.

Content Drives Community (Drives Content)

“Content is king.” – so goes the oft-uttered saying.  While the phase seems to be derived from an article by Bill Gates, I’ve come across the phrase in #RotoloClass, #NunesClass, and now #CMGRClass.  Although the specific venue within which this rule is most applicable may be debated – websites vs. blogs vs. SEO vs. online communities vs. social media sites – the importance of creating compelling content that resonates with audiences should not be dismissed on any platform.

In Chapter 3 of “Buzzing Communities,” Richard Millington addresses the role of content within an online community.  Millington compares an online community to a much older communications medium, the local newspaper, by discussing three ways the latter serves its community:

  • Establish a social order and narrative: identify the news items and individuals that are most newsworthy of readers’ attention
  • Inform and entertain: balance news and events with entertainment items
  • Develop a sense of social community: serve as consensus and determinant of community opinion

A local newspaper has a critical role in informing its community while establishing context among news items and individuals within the community.  Millington goes on to argue that online communities would be well-served in using local newspapers as a model for developing content.  He provides the following goals of content: create a community narrative, encourage regular readership, develop a sense of community, establish social order, and influence action within the community.

Whereas a content site may deliver the latest information about a topic or organization, prompting visitors to read or consume the content, Millington states that a community site “will provide information for members, establish a social order and facilitate strong bonds and heightened sense of community”, encouraging readers to participate and engage in conversation around the content.  It is content about the community that most resonates with members.

#MeetTheJLS

In July 2012, I became the first Online Engagement Chair for the Junior League of Syracuse.  Earlier that year, while serving as Communications Vice President and recognizing the increasing importance of an online presence in today’s world, I had lobbied for the creation of the role.  Personally, I was struggling to balance my duties at VP while managing the organization’s website and social media properties.  Around the same time, I was a #RotoloClass student, learning all about the importance of social media in engaging in two-way conversation.

Out of #RotoloClass, the idea of a blog post series entitled “Meet the JLS” was born, in which Junior League of Syracuse leaders would be profiled to demonstrate the spectrum of women who make up the JLS and humanize the organization as individual faces behind its logo.  (Little did I know at the time that this series would help to further many of Millington’s content goals, including developing a sense a community, aspirational spotlighting, and influencing activities and behaviors!)

JLS on TumblrI entered the current JLS year completely jazzed about the new blog post series.  To date, five interviews have been conducted and three profiles published (example at right).  Feedback was good, including from the organization’s leadership and membership, as well as from sister Junior Leagues who saw the posts on Twitter using the #MeetTheJLS hashtag.  However, to say that “Meet the JLS” has stagnated since the fall would be a kind understatement.  What happened? – any number of things, on a range of organizational to personal levels (competing priorities, lack of enthusiasm from participants, scheduling difficulties…).  As the time increasingly grew since the last post or interview, frustration slowly turned to indifference.

Moving Forward

The best content for a community is content about the community.  When I read Millington’s quote about the importance of community-based content, it was like a huge light bulb illuminating over my head and an Oprah “aha moment,” all rolled into one.  I immediately flashed back to the excitement of completing my first profile.  Now, I hope to reshape some of my priorities and elevate the blog post series within them, knowing that the content will add to members’ sense of place within the community, and perhaps even promote aspirations to be one of the women profiled in the series.

Do you belong to a community that is particularly inclusive?  What makes you feel part of that community?

(Featured image by Flickr user Cubosh.)

The Importance of Creating a Content Calendar

I will admit, I have not been proactive in creating a content calendar. The community I have been managing has been fairly small. They were very much consumers of the information I was spewing out at them, not conversationalists. But as we have started to grow, there is more and more interaction and more of a structure to our community of people. Which means I need to be more organized.

Google Calendars

With growth, I have noticed that I need to spend my time focusing on a lot of things, not just content; Analytics, reports, meetings, etc. Having a content calendar will not only help me keep organized for myself and for my community, but it would also help my coworkers have a better understanding of what my goals are and what I post about on a day to day basis.

But starting to create this calendar hasn’t been easy! The article Content Calendar 101: Tips and Tools, by Shai Coggins of Vervely suggests finding an approach in between being too organized and planning every single Tweet and Facebook post versus flying by the seat of your pants. How can I find that balance between scheduled tweets and making sure my community knows there is someone who is actually monitoring and is there when they need them?

buzzing communitiesRichard Millington, of the book Buzzing Communities, has a helpful chapter about ‘Content’ and how to develop a content calendar. He writes:

“Many community managers fall victim to reactivity. As the community grows, urgent issues increasingly take priority over the community manager’s work. Time spent on initiating activities, building relationships, recruiting members and creating content gradually diminishes in favor of responding to the urgent issues of the day.”

And this is true– it is what I feel like I am experiencing now. I need to develop a content calendar to be of benefit to both me, my community, and my organization.

Here are some of the tips for creating a content calendar I have come across:

  • Choose the categories that you will talk aboutcontent types

By monitoring your community, you will know what kind of content they respond the most to. Is is news? Interviews? Images? User-generated content? Job Postings? You might think your community wants a certain thing, but they will show and tell you by the way they react to what you post.

  • Establish  Intervals (Millington, 103) 

Millington says that your content calendar will repeat its categories at a consistent interval. This can be daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc. Intervals will be entirely based around your organization, there really aren’t any rules on what types of intervals you should establish. However, they should be consistent, otherwise it is confusing for your community. If your audience expects you to post job opportunities once a week on Fridays, keep it that way; your community will then know what to expect.

  • Get Help

It’s okay to ask for help from your coworkers. Maybe other departments in your company keep monthly calendars of events (or for other things such as meetings or interviews) that are going on. Ask if you could be on their distribution list. That way you can pull from what they are already doing so you are in the loop.

Do you keep a content calendar for your community? How did you get it started? What tools do you use? Please share your suggestions on the best ways to start a content calendar and how to keep it updated.

 

Tracking Your Community’s Growth From the Very Beginning

buzzing communitiesIt is no secret how important it is to track your online community’s growth from the very beginning. In the book Buzzing Communities, by Richard Millington, Chapter 2 is about growth and how to analyze it. But there is no way to analyze growth without capturing specific data. And the amount of data that can potentially be collected is overwhelming… so where on earth should you begin?

Last week for my blog post, I wrote about looking beyond superficial measurements (e.g. follower numbers). I mentioned that follower numbers only go so far if an organization is not interacting and engaging with them.  However, tracking follower numbers and the growth (or lack of growth) of your new community can be very useful to you. As your community gets bigger, you will eventually need to look at other data. But when starting a community from scratch, you should capture your community’s growth from the very beginning.

tracking numbers image 1When I first started managing social networks and building an online community for Syracuse University graduates in New York City, I would track how many new followers we gained each month across all of the social platforms we were on. This allowed me to put together a monthly report. I found tracking follower numbers helpful for two main reasons:

  1. I could visually see our growth. After tracking from month to month, you can make snazzy spreadsheets and charts. You can compare the growth of one social network against the other– is Twitter growing faster than Facebook? Did Pinterest have a slow start, but then did it pick up speed? Or conversely,  if you are losing followers, you can see when you started to drop and figure out why.
  2. You can’t argue with numbers. If they are going up, they are going up and if they are going down, they are going down. Easy enough. Is there that someone in your office who doesn’t believe in social media yet, who doesn’t think that you can reach your audience? Well, now you can actually show them that it is working and that your community is growing.

Now of course, these only apply to having REAL followers, not bought ones. Never buy followers. Do you buy fake friends? I hope not because they would be no fun.

reporting templateCapturing your growth from month to month is just the beginning. Start small to not overwhelm yourself. Once you see where you are growing, you can then begin to dig deeper and analyze why you might be getting certain results. You can track follower numbers first, then start reporting traffic and then work on reporting on content. That is what the article “10 Free Essential Resources for Community Managers” on Social Media Today suggests to track. You can even download this simple template to help get you started.

Now, of course, what was helpful to me, might not be what is best for your new community. But capturing that data from the very beginning might help you get your community going where you want it to be.