Tag Archive for CMGRclass

If You Build It, They Will Come

Taken by realbruts in August, 2009

Taken by realbruts in August, 2009

This week in #cmgrclass one of the key concepts discussed was the importance of authenticity behind building up a brand name and presence. In this kommein piece written by Deb Ng, the author laments over the intrusive and forceful tactics some organizations employ to grow their online communities.  Namely, she lambasts certain organizations for using DM and inbox on Twitter and Facebook, respectively, to ask individuals to “like” a certain page.

Soliciting likes via private messaging is akin to insurance companies soliciting products via knocking on your front door. It’s intrusive. It’s mildly uncomfortable. And the receiving party feels unduly pressured to endorse a product or service he probably doesn’t want.

In her post What Not to do When Using Social Media for Business, Alyssa Gregory dedicates four of her seven “what not to dos” to items related to Ng’s initial pet peeve. Gregory suggests:

  1. DO NOT Spam Your Fans, Followers, Circles
  2. DO NOT Share Too Much
  3. DO NOT Self-Promote All the Time

By following these three commandments, an organization may avoid being absolutely horrible and learn to build trust authentically.

So if you’re not supposed to directly ask for people to like or endorse your online brand representation, what exactly are you supposed to do? This question leads me to my theory of If You Build it, They Will Come (yes I took poetic license with the name adaptation, but it’s applicable as much here as it was in Field of Dreams).

If you manage the community for a brand, the best way to build up a community around that brand is to identify the target demographic of your brand and then create content and conversation that appeals to that demographic while also properly representing the brand. If you can accomplish this, community members will organically be drawn to the brand in question. Aka, if you build it, they will come.

Let’s use Zappos as an example here. In her blog post How Zappos makes social media a part of its company culture, Susan Rush opens with “When it comes to social media,Zappos.com just gets it.” And get it, they do. As a company that started as a small startup with almost no community, as it grew it built its presence by engaging in authentic conversation and creating content that not only had to do with its own product and overall brand, but also appealed to its demographic.

“But how did they do it”?, you may ask. According to Zappos’ Thomas Knoll, their success comes from implementing the “social media policy [of] be yourself and don’t be stupid.” No inboxing strangers. Not DMing Twitter users with a high Klout score. Just plain old authenticity. And from there, a community was built.


Shhhhh… Listen

listen first with social media

Image appears on: http://www.therenegadeblog.com/using-social-media-to-listen

The theme of this past week’s #CMGRClass was “Listening to Your Audience or Community.”  In Buzzing Communities, Richard Millington talks about the crucial need to understand key aspects of a community and its members, including

  • who its members are and what they do (“who”);
  • the social media platform platforms used by members (“where” and “how”);
  • the knowledge base, edges, and gaps of members (“what”);
  • the issues cared about by members (“what” and “why”); and
  • the motivations and aspirations of members (“why”).

These community characteristics will help drive the determination of its audience, tools, content, and more.  In his book, Millington says, “The important step is to understand what members want and know how to take that information and apply it to practical activities within the community.”  In other words, knowing the “five Ws” “four Ws and the H” will better inform the delivery of effective content and assist in its application to audience engagement.

Another quote from Millington particularly struck me: “Too many communities launch and then struggle to grow their audience, attract members, and sustain high levels of participation.”  He goes on to explain two possible causes, an inaccurate concept resulting in a meager audience, or lack of engagement by existing community members.

Reflecting on these concepts, I couldn’t help but relate them to experience with a local non-profit organization that I nearly wrote about last week, but edited out for length.  In my discussion of the differences between social media management and community management, I characterized Upstate New Yorkers for Nebraska as an accidental community, but originally had also classified the Junior League of Syracuse as a reluctant community.

Case study: The Junior League of Syracuse

The Junior League of Syracuse, Inc. (JLS) is a volunteer-based women’s leadership development and community impact organization.  As part of its overall communications strategy, the JLS has slowly waded into an increasing number of online outlets and now has a blog and a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Storify, Pinterest, and Instagram.  The JLS has multiple audience segments for its social network sites, including current and potential members, community partners (e.g., local not-for-profit organizations) and supporters.

I manage the JLS’ social media sites and am occasionally stymied with audience response to posts, particularly from members.  The JLS is in the business of doing good: delivering training and education opportunities to allow its members to develop as civic leaders, and collaborating with other non-profits on efforts that promote health and wellness for at-risk families.  To raise funds for its mission, the JLS holds an annual holiday market, Holiday Shoppes.  When reviewing recent engagement on the JLS’ Facebook page, I realized that the highest degree of engagement had to do with Holiday Shoppes, not mission-critical activities like its member development programs or community partnerships, because it was a shared experience across all audience segments.

The Path Forward

About a year and a half ago, the JLS brought in as member training a Junior League-affiliated speaker.  Janet Wieland of Solutions Provided identified volunteer organizations as a prospective “third place”.  This term was coined by urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his 1999 book The Great Good Place to characterize locations where people gather outside the traditional environments of their homes and workplaces (the first and second places, respectively).  Janet challenged the JLS to make itself a third place, meeting not only the social needs of its members, but also delivering a sense of personal fulfillment.

This week I was struck by how Janet’s challenge can extend beyond the physical spaces in which the JLS operates to its online communities as well.  If its community managers can listen to members – understanding the platforms they use, the issues they care about, their aspirations to help build a better Syracuse – the JLS’ online communities have an opportunity to become more vibrant and fulfilling to members.

Tips on Listening to Your Community

An online relationship is fundamentally no different than a “normal” relationship with a friend, significant other or a family member. The most successful types of relationships are built upon good communication, and the most important part of communicating is listening.

Beth Kanter and Allison Fine are the authors of The Networked Nonprofit, a book about using social media in a nonprofit organization. This is what they have to say about the importance of listening to your community:

The Networked Nonprofit quote 

Don’t you just love when people listen to what you have to say and value your opinion? Your community members are no different.

I work in higher education and run social media sites for my University’s office in New York City. Our community is made up of our alumni who now live in NYC. It is really important for me to listen to what our alumni are interested and what they are looking for from their Alma Mater after they graduate. Below are some tools that I find helpful when monitoring our community.

Tools to help you listen:

  • Google Alerts: Google alerts are extremely useful to track what other companies and blogs are saying about google alertsyour organization, product, service or company. You can set up email notifications that will be sent to you when your search term shows up on other blogs, articles, websites, etc.
  • RSS Feeds: RSS Feeds (Real Simple Syndication) allow you to get the headlines and summaries of blogs, newspapers or other publications that relate to your industry. Since I am in higher education, having RSS feeds of the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Chronicle of Philanthropy help me stay updated with what universities and nonprofits are doing around the world.
  • Blogs about your industry: Following blogs about your industry is a great way to network and learn from others in your same line of work. You can see if other communities of people are interested in the same topics you are covering or if they run into the same issues within their community. Reading other blogs could also give you ideas of what to talk about with your followers. Engage Alumni and social @ edu are two blogs that help me lead my community better.
  • Comments on blogs: It is important to read comments on blogs because you are getting opinions right from your own community members. They have something to say and they are telling you what issue or accolade they have publicly.  Kanter and Fine point out that it is especially important to listen to your critics, even if it is painful to hear, “criticism is an opportunity to learn and build relationships with the critics themselves.”


    Monitor Hash Tags and Key Words

  • Key word searches: Do a quick key word search in Google every now and then to see what comes up. Since I’m interested in how higher education institutions use social media, by typing in “higher education and social media” articles, blogs, and discussions that could be useful to me pop up.
  • Hash tags: Like key word searches, searching for hash tags on Twitter, WordPress, Tumblr, etc. will bring you to what your community members are talking about. It can also lead you to potential new community members.

These are just a few of the tools that I find helpful. Listening to your community is the first step when trying to build your community and it is also the key maintaining it.

What tools do you find most helpful?

An Accidental Community

This week’s readings discussed the key distinctions between social media management and community management.  The following table shows some of the similarities and differences (the size of the “x” and accompanying comments describe the scope of that facet):

Social Media Management Community Management
Strategy X (campaign objectives) x (community health)
Content X (blogs, social sites) X (blogs, forums)
Engagement X (one-to-many, transactional) X (one-to-one, many-to-many, relationships)
Analytics and Metrics X (campaign ROI) x (community health)

Clearly, these functions have some overlap.  A social media manager (SMM) sets strategy, creates and curates content, drives engagement, and assesses results; a community manager (CM) may collaborate with a SMM on developing content and identifying engagement tactics.  As Jenn Pedde describes in What a community manager is not, “A community manager does work on social communities some of the time.”  However, “‘managing accounts’ is not the sole responsibility.”

These two roles also have important differences.  A SMM manages an organization’s perception by engaging individually with members on a social platform.  In contrast, a CM manages relationships between an organization and its constituents by facilitating conversation among community members, often strengthening online encounters by hosting offline events (Vanessa DiMauro, Justin Isaf, Jenn Pedde).  In other words, a community manager builds, develops, and sustains relationships.

In this post, I’d like to discuss in the context of an organization with which I volunteer whether the management of its primary social site can be categorized as social media management, community management, or both.

A Community By Chance

Upstate New Yorkers for Nebraska (UNY for Nebraska) was chartered by the University of Nebraska Alumni Association in 2011 to help connect and engage alumni, friends, and fans of the University.  Its primary online properties are a Facebook page and Twitter account.  Facebook has been the primary vehicle used to inform and engage followers about chapter and University news and activities.

UNY for Nebraska has a core group of 50 people who regularly attend chapter events and have opted in to email communications.  This modest audience is far exceeded by the chapter’s 180 individual Facebook fans.  Consequently, response to and engagement with site content can vary widely depending on an individual’s investment in the group.

    • Typical posts receive a like or comment or two, while photos tend to be shared more often by Facebook fans.
    • Not surprisingly, posts representing shared experiences garner more engagement (example below).
    • Community members also post their own content to the page, and fellow members frequently respond.


What Next?


This week’s readings differentiated the outcomes of social media management from those of community management.  While a social media platform serves as a basis for an organization to connect individually with constituents, an online community provides an environment for participants to authentically connect with each other.  In You may not actually be a Community Manager – and that’s ok, Justin Isaf writes that community managers “‘win’ if they put themselves out of a job because their users are talking to each other…,” whereas social media professionals “‘win’ if they maintain a conversation with every person who touches a brand…”

Upstate New Yorkers for Nebraska is not yet truly engaging in community management.  The very fact that this post discussed metrics such as likes, comments, and shares underscores this assessment.  However, individuals’ alignment with UNY for Nebraska is self-selective based on their affiliation with an institution; this should be considered a powerful driver for future potential community engagement.  UNY for Nebraska’s Facebook page has organically become an ad hoc community where fans interact with others’ content (example at right).  Going forward, it would be strategically advantageous to tap an appropriately-skilled volunteer to serve as community manager to cultivate and encourage engagement between fellow Nebraska fans.

Have you ever managed a social site that seemed to be on the brink of becoming an online community?  What did you find successful in encouraging members’ engagement?

(Featured image from Flickr user SalFalko.)

Community Managers Put the “Community” in Social Media

Many of us have heard the terms Social Media Manager and Community Manger in reference to handling online presence and communities of businesses. But very few of us are clear about the differences in each position. This confusion may be a result of the blurred line of duties for each position. Let’s take a look at what each position includes.



First, Social Media Managers roles are key to some specific roles:

  • they reach out to a wide variety of social media platforms and choose the best ones for their brand
  • they work on Brand Management and promotional campaigns
  • they work on the outer edges of the company to make a presence on social media platforms
  • they are responsible for analyzing metrics and measuring stats
  • usually they are connected to Marketing, PR, and Sales.

The role of the social media manager takes place on the “outer edges” of the business to facilitate an online presence.




Now, a look at Community Manager roles:

  • The voice and face of the brand
  • Connects the community and gets them involved
  • Operates within the company
  • Manages brand by creating a positive experience for community members
  • Focused on flow of information
  • Customer service (by way of getting people to answers) and interaction
  • Shares community concerns and ideas (the voice of the community)

The key to this position is COMMUNITY!  The relationships are nurtured and innovation suggestions are cultivated from those relationship. The CM facilitates the members connection to each other. Building these relationships create trust for the brand and value for the community.

Some of the best advice on this topic that I have read was published by Jenn Pedde on TheCommunityManager.com in her description of Community Manager and the importance of their influence. Pedde stated, “One of the biggest differences between a Social Media Manager and a Community Manager is the offline component of the day to day jobs.  A Community Manager should know how to find their influential members on the usual social media tools, but they should also know how to find their influential members offline.” This statement shows the importance of a Community Managers ability to interact with people on many different levels.


Community Manager by kommein

The key to being a good Community Manager lays in a person’s ability to communicate with their audience. Here are some sound words of advice from kommein –  “Online community management is perfect for those of us who have the gift of gab. Our primary job is to communicate. We communicate with our brand and we communicate with our customers and potential customers.” Using our gifts to create the best experience for our community is a great way to be good at what you do and to love what you do. All of that will be reflected in the community members experience.

This brief outline of each position may start to give you a feel for the differences between these two positions. There certainly could be overlap in some of the work that is done by both, but it is important to recognize the differences of each position.

Remember, social media is about RELATIONSHIPS.  Being genuine is a must.

Now that you have heard from me, I would like to hear from you. What do you think? Share you thoughts about the differences of these two positions and enlighten me with your knowledge and passion with Social Media!

Community Manager or Social Media Manager: Is There Really a Difference?

Community Management

(2012). [Image of photograph]. Retrieved February 1, 2013, from http://www.flickr.com/photos/evanhamilton/7042524993/

It’s easy to confuse the titles community manager and social media manager. Employers often make the mistake of inaccurately describing the duties of a community manager and social media manager when they post job listings. No wonder everyone’s in an uproar! According to Justin Isaf, author of You may not actually be a Community Manager – and that’s ok, “If your job is primarily to talk to lots of people, you work in Social Media” and “If your job is primarily to get lots of people talking to each other, you work in Community Management.” Simply put.

Still confused? Social media managers manage the brand outside of the company’s website, incorporating the use of other digital platforms such a Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Instagram, FourSquare, etc. Social media managers can be credited with building brand awareness, producing promotional materials, and developing campaigns to bring traffic to various sites. Social media managers are responsible for boosting the number of Twitter followers, getting more ‘likes’ on the company’s Facebook page, encouraging customers to check-in to locations using FourSquare. Although they are interacting with their clientele, social media managers aren’t aiming to strengthen existing relationships and foster brand loyalty. That’s where the community manager comes in. Depending on the needs of the company, community managers are responsible for responding to customer questions and concerns regarding products and services, include feedback (positive and negative) into product growth and development to adapt to the requests of community members, ensure customer satisfaction, and so on.

When it comes to social networks, content producers must understand that not everyone is interested in the information they’re providing. Community management is about engaging in conversation to impact social and personal experience with a brand. For example, a man tweets that he’s looking for a particular type of cheese, but cannot seem to find it in most grocery stores. Wegmans replies to this tweet by saying they do in fact have the product he’s looking for. Wegmans even suggested he provide his zip code so they could search the nearest location and forward the address. That’s not it, the Wegmans representative even offers to call the location to make sure they have the product in stock before the man travels to the destination. Community managers are taking part in conversations like such on a daily basis, this can also be in the form of blog, newsletters, and forums as their role as includes content creating. However, community managers also like for their customers to create dialogue amongst each other. The membership discussion helps community managers become more aware of the issues both good and bad facing the brand.

Now that the functions of community managers and social media manager have been clarified, what’s your role?

Social Media Manager vs Community Manager

Social Media is not Community Management (says Justin Isaf in his article You may not actually be a Community Manager).

This topic has been dissected and discussed in numerous articles that we have read this week.  It has been interesting to see how these roles have evolved as you consider articles from two years ago to ones written more recently.

So What are They?

I see it as content versus relationships;  internal vs external; large audience vs small group of people with a common interest.

Social media managers have a multi functional role, touching on so many areas including marketing, PR, communications, analytics.  Their reach extends more externally – or to people outside of the community.  It’s a bit easier to measure the success of social media with metrics (# of users).  They are leading the effort company wide to be social and engaged, leading the way to expand to new platforms, and leading the growth of the channel.

Community managers understand the member base, help the flow of information between members, provide a good user experience.  Their reach is more internal – or to people who already have an interest.  Measuring the success of community management is a little more challenging (how engaged are users).  They are managing the members, conversations, educating  and engaging users.

These roles are similar:

  • Content creation
  • Conversing with followers
  • Responding to comments, reposting comments,
  • Measuring and reporting
  • Strategy to grow engagement and conversation
  • Passion for the brand
  • Need a sense of humor and to be a people person

Yet they are different:

Social Media Managers…

  • Talk to lots of people
  • Brand – talk to everyone, personalize the brand, create an audience, manage perception outside of the community
  • Utilize Social Media platforms – they manage all the networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc)
  • Handle complaints.  Implement Crisis Management
  • Need to be technology savvy
  • Grow the channel & target market
  • Promote events and communications

Community Managers….

  • Get people talking
  • May use social media to converse with the community (or they can create their own platform for connectivity)
  • Develop and moderate conversations; encourage topics for discussion; join the conversation
  • Listen!!!
  • Grow the network
  • Create events/conferences/meetups relevant to the community

The key is to understand what each role does, what the skills are necessary for the role and what you want to accomplish.  Some examples of traits you may seek in either role:

10 Qualities of an Effective Community Manager

6 Must Have Attributes of Social Media Managers

 Do you see the difference between a Social Media Manager and a Community Manager?  Is there a need for both?

Bulletin Boards and Discussion Forums: Then and Now

In History and Emergence of Online Communities (2003), Jenny Preece, Diane Maloney-Krichmar, and Chadia Abras define an online community as “a group of people who interact in a virtual environment.”  In an earlier publication (2000) Preece et al. offer an online community’s key characteristics: they have a purpose, are supported by technology, and are guided by norms and policies.  The authors go on to differentiate communities by whether their participants are co-present in time (asynchronous or synchronous).

In this post, I’d like to explore one type of asynchronous technology: online bulletin boards and their modern-day cousins, discussion forums.  First, some basics: how do they work?  A moderator (community manager) is constantly present, often in the background, to enforce adherence to the board’s or forum’s policies and ensure appropriate etiquette.  While it’s possible to view posts without logging in to a site, registration is required to contribute to a discussion or post a question.  Posts are grouped into threads to organize responses to the original poster’s (or OP’s) question.  Each site typically has a frequently asked questions page outlining its rules of the road.

The Truth Is Out There

My first introduction to online communities was through a friend with whom I watched a television show, The X-Files.  In 1997 the show was in its heyday, and bulletin boards dedicated to the show abounded.  Its underlying mythology stymied new and die-hard fans alike, and “the boards” were the place to dissect (often ad nauseum) the previous week’s episode and speculate on upcoming eps.  I never posted, but voraciously read others’ threads on the plot twists of the week.  (Yes, I was a lurker.)

  • Have a purpose?  These bulletin boards allowed fans of the X-Files (X-Philes) to congregate online to discuss the show.
  • Supported by technology?  Yes: asynchronous bulletin board.
  • Guided by norms and policies?  The X-Files bulletin boards had moderators and site etiquette and also featured inside references to the show, including an extensive set of acronyms.

As the internet evolved, so did forums.  Instead of being standalone destinations rendered in text, they were often embedded into websites dedicated to work and leisure topics.  I tend to refer to forums when I have a specific question which would benefit from collective intelligence.  Just like in the X-Files days, I lurk more than actively participate, but I have used them to post threads about health questions, automobile issues, and technology questions.

Trust (Almost) Everyone

MacOS X Hints ForumFor example, five years ago after I applied an update on my iBook, I experienced a technical problem.  I searched online for assistance but without any luck.  So, I took a breath, posted a thread on the Macworld MacOS X Hints forum, and waited for a reply.  Within 12 hours three different users had posted responses.  (Discussion forums may be categorized as asynchronous, but with users scattered across the globe, oftentimes the OP doesn’t have to wait long for a reply.)

MacOS X Hints Forum

  • Have a purpose?  Have a question?  There’s most likely an online discussion forum dedicated to that topic.
  • Supported by technology?  Yes: asynchronous discussion forum.
  • Guided by norms and policies?  When posting my Mac question, I searched (and re-searched) the discussion forum, not wanting to break a cardinal rule of posting a question that had been previously answered in another thread.  Forum participants were friendly,  informative, and encouraging.

Online bulletin boards and discussion forums are still very much present in internet culture, although their user interfaces have evolved as their supporting websites have done the same.  Although they might not be the sexiest technology, discussion forums still serve a valuable purpose, whether the participant is a consumer or contributor.

What do you think?  Have you ever used an online discussion forum?  If so, when and for what?

Community Relations Past and Present



Our initial course readings have caused me to think about what contributes to the development, cohesiveness, and maintenance of an online community. My questions include:

  • What makes a diverse range of people want to spend time together online?
  • What elements truly bond them?
  • How does a community manager maintain their interest?
  • How do connecting bonds serve the community itself, or an organization that has developed the community via ongoing conversations and outgrowths?

I’ve related these new concepts to my earlier work of one-on-one, face-to-face, individual and group community-building and advocacy, functions that comprised “community relations” for the organization where I once worked.

Community Relations is typically part of an organization’s public relations, and my varied efforts then had definitive goals:

  • We sought improved understanding
  • We hoped to gain friends (and “acceptance”)
  • We sought better relationships than what existed

One of these CR initiatives was “Community Appreciation Day,” a block party event of vendors, crafters, food trucks, music and dancers (and the perceived chance to build good will and provide recognition through an official celebration of affinity and mutual recognition).

Today, a new technology showed me a much more effective and efficient way to convey that same type of sentiment online. VSnap has instituted a weekly “thank you,” using its 60-second video technology to reach members of its community. The effort was sincere, convincing, and it was easy to see how it could replace other efforts.  Click here for the thank you blog to find out more.

So it seems my work then was somewhat akin to that of online community managers, in developing and sustaining affinity groups or communities. It’s a discipline that’s played by ear, person by person, towards an end goal.  But it’s not easy or simple work. This infographic  depicts the many hats and the multi-faceted elements that go into the complex array of tasks involved in online community management work:




So what really makes a community of diverse folks want to “hang?”

Our course readings provide some answers:


When the online community is connected to an enterprise, the opportunity to provide consumer feedback may be enticing. For an enterprise, obtaining ideas from the community that embraces its products/services may also be a smart idea. The advantage that businesses can obtain from consumer input, through open source communities, is described in this article from Taylor and Francis online.


 The opportunity to belong to an interest group (sociability) attracts participants. In Grace Lau’s article on World of Warcraft, Lau cites elements that WoW creator Wegner says are ingrained in that community of practice: mutual engagement, a joint enterprise, and a shared repertoire.

Lau says, “Communities of practice describes the kinds of learning networks that people build over time in pursuit of a common goal.” Learning opportunities are in themselves an attraction for online grouping. According to Lau, Wegner cited these elements as evidence that a community of practice exists:

  1. Sustained mutual relationships – harmonious or conflictual
  2. Shared ways of engaging in doing things together
  3. Rapid flow of information and propagation of innovation
  4. Absence of introductory preambles
  5. Very quick setup of a problem to be discussed
  6. Substantial overlap in participants’ descriptions of who belongs
  7. Knowing what others know, what they can do, and how they can contribute to an enterprise
  8. Mutually defining identities
  9. Ability to assess the appropriateness of actions and products
  10. Specific tools, representations, and other artifacts
  11. Local lore, shared stories, inside jokes, knowing laughter
  12. Jargon and shortcuts to communication as well as the ease of producing new ones
  13. Certain styles recognized as displaying membership
  14. Shared discourse reflecting a certain perspective on the world.

Do you believe that your organization can support a community of learning, and therefore an online community of practice?

How can your organization benefit from developing a virtual community of interested consumers and advocates?