Tag Archive for CMGRclass

How to Build an Army of Brand Ambassadors – Tips from the #CMGRClass Panel

When a musician or actor gets on stage to accept a big award, they often make it a point to thank their fans. Some even go as far as to say I’m nothing without my fans. This statement can also be applied to brands because they, as well, are nothing without their fans.

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 6.30.33 PM

This week #CMGRClass held a online panel over Google+. We were lucky enough to have apanel of experts from four companies: Gavin O’Hara from Lenovo, Alexandra Dao from Vimeo, Caira Conner from PolicyMic, and Tracey Churray from Foursquare. One of the biggest themes I saw emerge from this discussion was the need to build and nurture a community of super fans, otherwise known as brand ambassadors.

Know Your Community

The first step to building an army of brand ambassadors is to get to know your community. A lot of the community managers during this panel said that community for them started out as customer service and support. They needed to answer all the tweets when customers had problems, and soon community and support melded together. Each of these community managers had to go where their customers were and be available to them through these social sites. After spending all this time interacting with their consumers, they really got to know them inside and out.

getsatisfaction.com

getsatisfaction.com

Connect Your Community to Each Other

Tracey Churray explained that Foursquare recently launched a forum for their superusers. This mutually beneficial project allows about 40,000 of Foursquare’s most involved users to have an equal baseline of knowledge of the service, and chat with each other. This forum allows the users to connect with each other and bond, but also increases chatter about the service. This thus creates a greater brand loyalty to Foursquare in general because it is constantly the topic of conversation. Foursquare also has three levels of superusers, that all lead up to the hand chosen SU3s who actually get to interact with the Foursquare engineers.

aboutfoursquare.com

aboutfoursquare.com

Help Yourself

Foursquare sometimes taps into this loyal community to get feedback about how the service is functioning in different parts of the world. One of my favorite stories from the panel was when Tracey discussed how Foursquare contacted the superusers to improve the “Chinese Restaurants” tab of Foursquare locations in different parts of the world. Chinese restaurants as we know them in America take on a different meaning in China, and Foursquare was able to talk to their users about what categories of Chinese restaurants are necessary to have in each country. This made the service more targeted and meaningful in each part of the world, and was all made possible by the suggestions of their superusers.

Situations like this get users involved in the creative process and make them feel like valuable assets of the company. Gavin harped on this point by saying “casual exchanges make [users] feel like they are peeking behind a veil and are a part of something bigger.”

Even further than this, the panelists encouraged Gavin’s nurturing of a superuser community by providing examples within their own community. Vimeo offers around the clock customer service to their premium users, and makes it a point to hightlight 5 to 6 user videos each day. Another panelist said, “Don’t be afraid to give them some inside information, before you release things (people don’t like change after launch). They are often very excited and own it because they are a part of it.”

Bring Your Community Offline

The last important aspect of a superstar brand ambassador program that the panelists brought up, was the need to bring any online connections offline, to really solidify them. Creating and encouraging opportunities for the community members to connection offline with each other, as well as you, really allows people to connect on a human level. Gavin jokingly commented that “We need to throw parties,” and although he presented this in a joking way, the message still stands. Tweeting, emailing, and Facebooking are all nice, but your job is to manage a community of people, so you must treat them as such. Brand loyalty stems from this feeling of connection and unity.

What do you think about these tips for building a brand army? What brands do you think have the best “superuser” programs? Let me know in the comments below!

Knowing your Community: #CMGRClass Panel

This week I was able to sit in on a panel with four active Community Managers. It was a great conversation discussing the types of communities and engagement tactics used in their day-to-day work.

What was especially interesting was even though every person fell under the umbrella of community management, they had very different roles and objectives in comparison. Each focused on different categories of community management, such as content management, support, moderation and engagement. These distinctions seemed to be formed by the industry, brand’s strategic objectives, and the nature of the community.

Vimeo Staff Picks Banner, a curated channel for members

Vimeo Staff Picks Banner, a curated channel for members

For example, the tech manufacturer Lenovo’s community has a different atmosphere than Vimeo’s. People who are a member of Vimeo’s community are most likely passionate about producing creative content, or enjoy consuming creative content. This community has different values and ways of interacting than the tech-focused Lenovo community. The differences in the needs and values have an impact on how a community manager encourages engagement.

Gavin O’Hara from Lenovo drove this point home even further: “The first rule of community management could easily be knowing your audience…first, who is your audience in broad strokes, and then you dig deeper… you can’t define your audience by one set of people” This point was a common theme that persisted through the panel, all of the panelists seemed to agree of the importance of listening to your community, despite the industry.

 

Vimeo

Alex Dao is part of of a community team of 22 personnel, that works congruently on interconnected layers of the Vimeo community. They have many opportunities for members to participate in the community, holding events, weekend challenges, distributing lessons, and curating channels with highlighted videos in addition to support and social media interactions. This is a great example of engaging all streams of a community, with knowing what niche groups would enjoy engaging in a certain way.

 

PolicyMic

In contrast, Cara Conner manages her community solo, concentrating on twitter chats, email, outreach, and PolicyMic’s new fellowship. This fellowship is a part of the transition of PolicyMic from thought leaders to more regular, young journalists. She hopes that the fellowship shifts the focus from web traffic to the voice and stories of the target audience of PolicyMic—Millennials. In that way the fellows are the brand ambassadors, the actual voice of the community.

 

Few posts on Lenovo's blog

Few posts on Lenovo’s blog

Lenovo

Gavin O’Hara has been with Lenovo’s community from the start, growing the twitter following from 3,000 to about 2 million. He attributes trial and error a large part of the journey, but has a good handle on his community now. Something I found intriguing about the Lenovo community were the special Facebook group set up for the committed members of the brand. This group rewards the top-tier members by interacting one-on-one with the users, and making them feel like they are a part of something bigger. These tactics of recognizing passionate members of the community creates loyalty in addition to fostering engagement.

 

Foursquare

Foursquare Superuser icons

Tracey Churray of the Foursquare community team focuses more on the support side, and tapping into the community to build a database. Foursquare’s strategy is driven by crowdsourcing users for venue updates and tips, so they have unique relationship (and even reliance) with their community. They also have established a hierarchy within their community, giving increasing levels of power to more involved members. These tiers of Superusers are specially picked, and they get perks such as previews and special editing access. It’s a genius program, and plays well into Foursquare’s gamification M.O. Users are driven to reach the next status level of Superuser, and to reap the rewards.

Takeaways

  • Above all, you must have a clear understand of your community
  • Priority levels based on activity or membership establish loyalty
  • Community Management is not solely social media- creating strong relationships is a result of diverse touch-points

Are you part of a brand community with a hierarchy? Does this inspire you to be more involved in the community?

Building Loyalty- 4 Brands That are Doing it Right

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Building loyalty should be a priority to create a passionate branded community. In my opinion, it is one of the most important things to keep in mind when developing a strategy. People who are loyal to your brand become advocates and help you to promote the brand and broaden your audience. Having a small community of engaged core fans of the brand will be more valuable than having high visibility and an apathetic audience. When people are truly passionate about the company, the services, or the experience of the brand, it creates a community and is attractive to observers. This is where the role of a Community Managers comes in.

According to Work Smart Lifestyle’s post on strong social brands, to create this loyal following, you must connect with your audience and engage with them. It starts with a good product or service. You have to have a good product or compelling mission first in order for people to buy into your company. If they feel like your company values or brand vision aligns with theirs, they are more likely to champion your brand. This core idea ties into the concept of Lovemarks, where brands transcend the boundaries of a typical service and create a more meaningful connection to the people that follow them. This can be achieved by creating a brand experience and persona, and embodying it through social media outlets, blogs, internal services, and any other consumer touch points. A great brand will exceed expectations and provide value to their community.

Here are a few brands that have a very loyal fanbase:

 

Whole Foods

Whole Foods

Whole Foods, Whole Story

The core values of this grocery market is to provide its shoppers with high quality, organic food. The small grocery community crossed with national chain balances reliability with fresh food and a close community feel. They have established a strong brand identity, to the point where Whole Foods is associated with concrete attributes and characteristics. There is even a certain stigma of the people that shop at Whole Foods, though this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Whole Foods perpetuates the local, friendly community through their blog. They appeal to that niche target market and write posts on healthy, organic recipes. The website highlights issues such as sustainability, equal trade, and local community. In addition, the Co-CEO’s have blogs that support the vision, and sustain Whole Food’s image of a close community. Whole Foods uses blogging as a way to channel the mission of the organization and to support the community of Whole Food shoppers.

 

Chipotle

@ChipolteTweets reaches out to a tweeter with a complaint and makes a successful brand interaction

@ChipolteTweets reaches out to a tweeter with a complaint and makes a successful brand interaction

Chipotle taps into the trend of conscious fast food. They promote their use of natural ingredients and casual dining to create a brand identity. I know people who are obsessed-going to Chipotle is more like an event rather than a meal. Chipotle embodies the down-to-earth brand persona through their interactions on their twitter handle, @ChipolteTweets. They are one of the best companies for responding on twitter, in my opinion. They make everyone feel like their opinions are important to Chipotle, and builds strong relationships. This strategy engages the consumers the and creates loyalty with the fanbase.

 

YouTube

YouTubers on mainstage at VidCon Convention

YouTubers on mainstage at VidCon Convention

YouTube, the video platform, has progressed from the website people used to watch cat videos to a platform that supports rising YouTube personalities. YouTube is dependant on user content and user viewership, but they have become very smart in the way that they encourage loyalty and engagement. They now support content creators, certifying channels that have a large following and high quality content and even supporting them financially. These high-profile vloggers are then given credibility, which supports YouTube’s brand popularity. There is a sort of mutual benefit to the people YouTube chooses to support, and those people become YouTube’s Brand Ambassadors.

There is a definite hierarchy within the YouTube community, based on viewership and connections. The YouTube celebrities encourage viewers to create their own content to achieve YouTube fame, and to keep watching their favorite personalities on YouTube. The loyalty in the YouTube community is most apparent during conventions like Playlist Live and Vidcon, where masses converge from all over to meet their favorite YouTube stars.

 

Starbucks

Starbucks Reward Program App

Starbucks Reward Program App

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Like Whole foods, there is a stigma of frequent Starbuck consumers. People are crazy in love Starbucks, and this can be half attributed to the products, half to the community created through the love of Starbucks. They do amazingly well on branding and fostering loyalty with consumers.

An example of this is the Starbucks Reward Program, specifically through the app. The app notifies you when you are near your favourite Starbucks locations, and brings up your virtual card which you can scan to pay through the app. When you pay through the app, you are awarded a star, which accumulate to achieve different levels with increased rewards. This app rewards loyalists and enables an easy way for people to become loyal to Starbucks.

 

Moderation Week: My Chance in the Big Leagues

This past week, I was tasked with the assignment of being the #CMGRclass moderator. My job was to introduce new content to the class that would help us further discuss the topics we’ve been reading throughout. This week’s topic was listening and planning. Each member of our class has had a different experience with social media and community management both on a personal and professional level. My main goal was to not only create a discussion about the topic at hand but to also allow people to reflect on their experiences and teach everyone else about some new practices that we may not have heard of before. Once I had my goal set, I could finally start my moderating journey. While there are many things that a moderator is in charge of, three of the most important are the introduction of content, engaging with the community, and monitoring, not dominating, the conversation.

listening

Image via Flickr.

Finding Content

On my quest to find the perfect content, I tried to find articles that were informative, yet open ended. I wanted people to have the opportunity discuss some of the topics further without feeling like the article was right above all else. Each article explained a different practice used by community managers in either the listening or planning phase. In my opinion, each article brought up points that not only tied to this week’s topic but also tied into our previous lessons on community management vs. social media management and content curation.

What I learned: Just sharing any piece of content with your community is not worth much if it doesn’t relate to the topic of conversation at hand. Learn to find information that really matters, share it, and wait for the feedback.

Asking Questions

One of the golden rules when moderating and interacting with a company is to ask questions that will build on the current discussion and allow it to really prosper. While I did think that having the information from each article under my belt gave me a good starting point of discussion, I would have liked to have had more information in order to ask better questions. I was lucky enough to have community members who introduced everyone, including myself, who introduced new ideas and were able to keep the conversation going.

What I learned: You will never have enough questions going until the end of time and this is where your community’s engagement can work in your favor. In the end, it’s not about the quantity of questions, but the quality of each question.

Domination vs. Conversation

I am naturally a very talkative person. While I do consider myself to be an extroverted introvert, I can talk for hours about anything; especially if it’s something that I’m truly interested. One of the areas that I had a struggle with in the beginning was the difference between domination and conversation. Because I am so used to overtaking a conversation, I had to learn quickly that this type of verbal takeover is not conducive to fostering a good community. The members of the class didn’t sign up to hear me voice all of my opinions. They joined to really discuss different ideas and learn from one another. Rather than posting a piece of content and adding my comments, I would try to pose a question and like people’s comments as a way of continuing my engagement and not overtaking the entire experience.

What I’ve learned: When you dominate a conversation, it’s like you’re having it with yourself. Give your community the opportunity to really speak up engage with them without overwhelming them.

Takeaways

This experience taught me so many interesting things about the life of a community manager. In order to truly be successful, you must remember that it’s not always give and take. This type of black and white interaction can turn your community into one of the most boring situations in the world. However, if you pose a few questions and give the community time to actually engage using social media, you will see the transformation immediately. All in all, the overall experience was great and while I was nervous the entire time, I enjoyed taking that role within a community. Hopefully that won’t be the last time I’m in that role.

Thoughts on Moderation

GoogleCommuntiy

This was my first time moderating any sort of discussions. I am more comfortable as a member, commenting and sharing additional articles to the community. It was a unique experience for me to take control of the discussion, and a great way to be introduced to community management without too much risk.

Going into my moderation week, I felt fairly confident. Our group on Google+ was getting great activity, with awesome comments and thoughtful discussions. It was great to share articles with the class and hear their opinions on issues raised in those articles. I was ready to step in as moderator to continue the great discussion for CMGR Class.

Setting Goals:

I had one main goal I set for myself at the start of the moderation; to post one article each day that I had found to be especially interesting. Not only was that the minimum requirement, but looking back at previous moderation weeks, it seemed like posting more than one link each day overwhelmed the community. I also had the unique situation of moderating midterm week, the week before Spring Break. I had to be aware of the time that people were able to spend on the Google+ community, as they balanced projects and studying.

An objective of a community manager is to listen, in order to understand what the community is most receptive to. This is why part of my goal is to only post articles that I found to be useful and thought-provoking. My reasoning: if I enjoyed reading it, others would too. In the Moderation chapter of Buzzing Communities, Richard mentions the sharing of information is a way to drive discussion between members (Millington, pg 69). I aimed to focus on quality over quantity in order to drive activity.

Pros:

Since this was the week before break, I decided to focus on reinforcing the definition of community management and exploring the strategy involved. For me, it always helps to revisit what community building means at its core in order to apply new concepts/analyze strategy. Towards the end of the week I shared articles written that simplified the community building process. These articles were the ones that I found were the most interesting, and a result they received the most conversation and positive response.

It felt great that the articles that strongly resonated with me were helpful to others. Another topic that had a good discussion was whether Snapchat was an appropriate social media platform for a brand to spend time on. Members brought up great challenging points about the viability of Snapchat for a community tool, and that discussion was the highlight of my moderation week.

 Cons:

 While I understood that it was a busy week for everyone, I still didn’t get the level of activity that I expected. It was also hard to know when to step in the comments and when to step back. There was a balance between probing the conversation and dominating it, and I feel like that was a skill that needed to be developed over time.

Another obstacle I ran into was that there was no readings for my moderation week. This meant I was left to create my own theme for the week, which ended up being slightly more difficult than I thought. I had to trust that others were interested in revisiting the core role of community managers.

Twitter was not as active as Google+, which was my fault for not focusing on it as much. I posted a total of three tweets during the week, two from my personal account using the hashtag #CMGRClass and one from the @CMGRClass Twitter account. The tweet about Ellen’s phone use during the Oscars got three click-throughs and a reply. I tweeted an article about why community managers build community, and that got one click-through and two favorites by non-classmates. I wish that I had found more things to share on Twitter.

TwitterStats

Screenshot from Hootsuite

A unforeseen disadvantage to my goal was that I spent a lot of time finding articles. Since I was only sharing things that I thought would be worth posting, I had to read more than I posted. All of our readings always say that time management and scheduling is an important part of community management, and this week I glimpsed the scope of time and effort put in.

Takeaways:

I enjoyed being more central to the discussion and guiding the conversation. Everyone was very constructive and thoughtful in their comments, which is all you could really ask for.

Looking back, I know I could have done better in responding to comments and asking probing questions. I was too worried about dominating the conversation and that inhibited my ability to lead it properly.

A large part of moderating involves trial and error. I realized that the only way to truly become a great community manager is to actively apply the concepts to your community. This assignment was great since it gave a taste of moderating a community, but nothing compares to the adjustments needed when you are managing a community in the long term.

Chatting with Sunny

Syracuse Media Group

The inside of Syracuse Media Group, where Sunny works. Taken from Syracuse.com

When choosing a community manager to interview for CMGR class, I knew I wanted to talk to someone local. Syracuse has a great local community based around pride and support of the city. There is a core group of people in Syracuse who love the city and are doing great work to make it a great place to be. Sunny Hernandez is one of those people.

I first learned of Sunny through Twitter, appropriately. She seemed like the person to know, many of the people that I admire were following her and having conversations. I followed her to stay in the loop on local happenings and see how she managed her social media. Sunny gives off this vibe that makes you think that she is a good friend, and I perked up everytime I saw her in my Twitter feed even though I had never formally met her. It made sense that she works for Syracuse.com as a Community Manager, since she is able to easily engage with people through the medium of social media.

Sunny graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in Sociology. This degree came in handy in the future as she taught in the area. To raise funding for her program and to raise awareness, she ventured into the world of social media. From there she took off, becoming immersed in the local Twitter community, taking social media focused jobs, and learning about Community Management.

Her current job at Syracuse.com involves managing the Twitter and Facebook accounts, writing community blog posts, and moderating the comments section of the articles. Since Syracuse.com is the largest digital news organization for Central New York, it is up to Sunny and her team to manage the community. Syracuse.com’s digital strategy is transitioning away from solely broadcasting local news and towards being more engaging. With this in mind, Sunny is strategic about the stories that she shares on social media, thinking of what the community would respond well to. I thought it was interesting that she stated that a big part of her job is knowing the community. I never realized to the extent that Community Managers are always mindful of that, and how absolute it is. If you are not familiar with your community, then you will not be able to connect them in the best way possible.

I was also interested to hear that they do use featured posts, where they ask for photos from people in the community to feature. Sunny also will reach out to a community member who has posted a comment on an article, and ask them if they will elaborate on the topic. Sometimes they even have an article of comments that people have posted. These are all great ways to encourage discussion and promote engagement with the community.

Lastly, another interesting point that Sunny brought up was the community guidelines. These are in place to make sure that the comments that people are posting are constructive and appropriate. Surprisingly, it does a lot to help monitor the comments, Sunny refers to it when she has to talk to someone about their unacceptable comment to keep everything under control. She even finds the community self-moderating, politely pointing out the guidelines to each other. This is a sign of a great, constructive community!

It was a pleasure to talk to Sunny and discuss the community-building of Syracuse.com. The one thing that I would recommend, is to hold events to reward community members and foster a stronger sense of community. Making the community more visible and central will bring everyone in the community closer together, and humanize the people behind the posts. Overall, I think they are moving in the right direction towards achieving a close and engaged community.

Video interview

 

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.

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?

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!

 

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