Tag Archive for interview

Qualities of a Successful Startup Community Manager

Startups are hard, there’s no doubt about that. Building up something from nothing, where the main resource is yourself and your time, is no small feat. Once you’ve gotten your startup off the ground and running, it might be time for a community manager– or, at least, for someone to take on that role.

I recently spoke with Giselle Gonzalez, marketing manager for doggyloot and startup social media extrodinaire. Giselle has been in the business of startup social media for over three years, and here are some of the things that prove her to be successful in this area.

A little about doggyloot: doggyloot is a daily deals startup for dog products. The company was founded in early 2011 and now boasts over 700,000 active subscribers, as well as a robust Facebook community.

  1. the-80-20-ruleThe 80/20 Rule: Make sure you have an idea of the balance of content you’re aiming for. Giselle aims for 80% general dog-related content (which can range from funny images to news articles) and 20% doggyloot-related content, advertising recent sales. Too much of either can throw your community off. Figure out what works for your customers and aim to stick to it!

  2. Platforms: Sometimes it seems like a new social media platform is debuting every day. Don’t get caught up in the noise; for doggyloot, Facebook is where most of their community lies, so that’s where they spend most of their time. If you’re a B2B marketing firm, your best bet might be LinkedIn. Prioritize those platforms that actually contribute to sales and community, and think critically before jumping into the noise of yet another. Your bandwidth isn’t unlimited!

  3. breakIt’s Okay to Take a Break: This is similar to #2. If you’re not sure if a platform is actually working for you, it’s okay to step back for a few months and critically evaluate what’s working and what’s not, as well as conduct research on your competition. Although doggyloot’s blog had good engagement, it wasn’t driving sales. The team is stepping back to see what they can do better.

  4. Look at Your Org Chart: Where does your community manager sit in the organization? Is she a summer intern who’s just getting into the swing of the business? Giselle is close with top management at doggyloot, which allows her to see both sides of the story: management and community. She’s a pro at communicating between the two.

  5. Giselle's Dapper Dog

    Giselle’s Dapper Dog

    Passion: Nothing is a substitute for passion. If you’re passionate about your community and its subject matter, it will shine through. Giselle loves dogs (just check out her Chihuaua’s Facebook page) and it makes her all the more qualified to answer questions and find great, relevant content.

What are your top tips for a startup community manager?

Librarians and the Community Management Profession

The life of a library is their community.

In David Lankes book The Atlas of New Librarianship he believes “the mission of librarians is to improve society though facilitating knowledge creation in their communities,” (p.83). His book argues that knowledge is created through conversation that is fostered by librarians and it’s the librarian’s job to facilitate for their community, inspire participation within the community, and calls librarians into action to advocate for their libraries to their community.

Oliver Blanchard writes in his book, Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization that a community managers, “…four principal function [are]: representing an organization in online forums, being the voice of ‘the community’ inside the organizations, mediating disputes in online forums, and helping manage the development, publishing, and curating of the organization’s digital content,” (p.137).

On the surface, librarianship and community management do not seem to have much in common.  Yes, both involve a community but librarianship is said to be a dying profession while community management is a new one. However, after interviewing Meg Knodl I found the role of a community manager can align itself with librarian and help the profession move forward.  Meg is currently the community manager for Hennepin County in Minnesota.  She posts for the Hennepin County twitter and Facebook accounts as well as coordinates with other department’s social media.  However, Meg started off as a community manager for a library.

In the interview Meg discussed ways of how community management and librarianship work well together.  One point she makes is a community manager has to be able to advocate and cheer for whatever brand or organization they work for.  A librarian needs to fight for their library not only for their own benefit but for their community and for society.  The tools and theories used by community managers are a perfect fit for librarians.  The use of social media to get messages to the community and to build relationships is important.  Community managers are there to connect people with others who have common interests and librarians can facilitate in the same way.

What works best within a community should be determined by the community. This idea fits both with a librarian’s job and a community manager’s job.  Meg said a community manager has to be aware of what types of platforms their community is willing to participate in.  The same is true with librarians.  They have to create programs their community wants.  For both profession it does not need to be online. For example Meg mentioned literacy programs for a library and capturing marriage photos for the Hennepin County community.  Both examples show how each profession brings together the community.

The community is what makes a library special.  Librarians have always been community managers and worked for and with their community.  Librarianship does not have to be a dying profession. One of the ways to insure this does not happen is to incorporate the modern techniques of the community manger profession to what librarians have already been doing.

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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

 

Interview with Ashley Shaw: Political Community Manager

I recently had the opportunity to interview with Ms. Ashley Shaw (@AshleyMoriyah) who is the Community Manager for Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla who represents California’s 14th District. Over the past years, Ashley has worked in several district offices where she focused on Community Outreach and advertising for numerous community events. During the interview we had a chance to discuss her current role as a Community Manager, how she stays so passionate about her job, and advice she has for those new to a Community Manager role.

The Life of a Community ManagerAshley Shaw

Being in the public eye is never an easy task, and when someone is the Community Manager of a political office, there is never one day that is like the rest. Each day offers something completely different and it is the responsibility of Ms. Shaw to keep the Assemblywoman’s community up to date and informed through different social media outlets. She also spends time planning different community events that help in relaying Assemblywoman Bonilla’s message as well as facilitating conversation about the needs of the community.

Love What You Do

Although Ashley has been working in the community for several years, she is still more passionate about her job than ever before. She takes pride in listening to those within the community and being an advocate for those who may not be heard. She truly enjoys hosting various events and talking to people to receive their input. One way to meet new people within the community was a budget forum event hosted by the office. Ashley and her team ran a social media campaign that invited people out to the event and provided free giveaways to those who participated. I thought this was a great way to get members of the community to participate online and in person and provide a sense of unity within the community.

Advice for Newbies

When Ashley first started as a Community Manager she was not familiar with all of the social media outlets available to her. She understood how Facebook and Twitter worked, but did not know how to utilize other outlets. One suggestion that she provided that really stood out was to not be afraid to experiment with different tools or social media sites. In her experience she has used a lot of different tools and she was able to learn the most effective ways to use them to relay different messages.

I am really glad I had the opportunity to interview Ashley and gain a stronger understanding of a community manager. It was great to learn about the different strategies she uses to reach members within her community and how she takes the time to address the needs of members.

 

Be A Community Manager Extraordinaire

What happens when your employer wants it all but only has the budget to hire one person for three or four jobs?

If you are Janise McMillan, they hire you. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Janise for a paper about working as a community manager. While Janise makes it look easy, I soon learned that her smile and professionalism hid a secret that many not-for-profits keep—a vision beyond its budget. In other words, too many plans and not enough resources.

What started as an interview about community management became a story about how to do it all. From social media management to marketing to public relations and other priorities along the way, those who work for not-for-profits in a mid-sized city need keep many plates spinning.

Here are three ways to make things happen when you are a one-person team:

  1. Work smarter, not harder. When you have so many responsibilities, it is essential that you get value from each project.
  2. Stay accountable. Understaffed teams (or solo artists, as is the case with Janise) are bogged down in the day-to-day hustle. In order to keep projects moving across practice areas like social media and community management, make sure to talk about your goals and timelines to others. This could be a supervisor, a trusted colleague or even a friend. Make sure that your plans are made public so that you keep your accountability and focus.
  3. Come up for air. Studies show that taking a quick break can increase productivity. Make this your mantra, even when you are swamped—which might be every day!

An example of how to put these tips into practice was an open house for Janise’s company after it relocated to its new headquarters. She was able to keep active on her social media accounts, targeted the guest list and created invitations, as well as issuing all of the press releases  for the event. In the midst of this, she kept focus on her goal of community management for the event and incorporated a real-time feedback video that allowed guests to discuss their impression of the new headquarters.

This added a fun factor to the event and engaged the community. If Janise had not used the three tips above, she might not have pulled all of this off, all while keeping up with routing operations.

Do you have a secret that helps you do it all? Please share that, along with your feedback, in the comments!

Vsnap’s Trish Fontanilla on Being Human

If you ask Trish Fontanilla what Vsnap means to her, she’ll mention the word human at least five times in under one minute.

Which makes sense, since Vsnap is in the business of connecting people. In the words of its website, Vsnap believes “customers are not people.” People, more than anything, are the building blocks of any company, and their feelings and input are as important to any enterprise as hard facts and revenue. As the vice president of community and customer experience, Trish deals directly with making Vsnap—an already personable brand, especially when compared to other business in the marketplace—that much more user-friendly.

And fortunately, I had a chance to speak with Trish and, in turn, got to learn firsthand what it means to be a community manager is, what it isn’t, and what she does to make Vsnap what she’d like to call “a lifestyle brand.”

A conversation with Trish Fontanilla over Google Hangouts.

A conversation with Trish Fontanilla over Google Hangouts.

According to Trish, the confusion between social media managers (SMM) and community managers (CM) is understandable. To clarify, however, she wanted to make the distinctions apparent.

Therefore, in her eyes, a social media manager:

  • Deals explicitly with social media.
  • Exists solely in an online workspace.
  • Often get restrained by email and social media.

A community manager, on the other hand:

  • Uses social media techniques.
  • Reaches out and (physically) goes out.
  • Has greater, personal investment in a company.

As a community manager for a company that already has greater visibility compared to most, Trish turns to people in other communities to help build her own. Aside from being an active member of #CMGRChat, she travels frequently and often shouts out to her followers to see if anyone is available for a real-life meet-up. In a professional capacity, she spearheads Customer Love meet-ups, which focuses on the stories and narratives—not the “slides” and “pitches”—of other CMs and marketing people who, as she says, just “get it.”

Stories, she says, are integral to Vsnap. Since she doesn’t work directly with search engine optimization (SEO), Trish relies on stories from users and other CMs to help gauge “grand sentiment metrics.” After all, Vsnap deals with users on a person-by-person basis; Trish even sends daily Vsnaps to users who respond on Twitter, celebrate anniversaries for involvement with the company, and any other reason to keep people engaged. Putting a face to the conversation, she says, is the whole point.

And she’s not worried about potential competitors, either. I’ve used Vsnap myself, and the difference between a business-oriented video platform and a social one is apparent. In fact, she says Vsnap supports its contemporaries, since it both increases social media activity and also trains users ahead of time in video before they turn to Vsnap. Which, if the brand’s accessibility and functionality is anything to go by, should be sometime soon.

Follow Trish at @TrishoftheTrade!

Learning from Community Manager Tim McDonald

I had the pleasure of interviewing Tim McDonald, former community manager and now currently Director of Community at Huffington Post. Questions that I asked Tim corresponded with the topics that we have been studying this semester. Topics ranged from: differences between social media manager and community manager, search engine optimization (SEO), blogging, and metrics & analytics.

Tim’s Comparison of Social Media Manager vs. Community Manager

During the interview with Tim

It was very interesting to get Tim’s take on the differences. We have learned thus far that a social media manager is more focused on the brand, whereas a community focuses more on relationships and the community. He refers to a social media manager as a “social media marketer”. An excellent quote by Tim is as follows: “, “Social media marketing to me is more of a bulldozer- you are pushing information out. Community management is about being a magnet and attracting people and drawing them in.” This was a great takeaway from the interview and I felt as if it was a great yet simple way to explain the differences.

 SEO 

It was interesting to see that in such a large organization like Huffington Post, they have people that are solely dedicated to SEO. He states that even though that are people that are simply focused on SEO, it’s important to at least have an understanding and an awareness of it when working on Huffington Post. At Huffington Post, he doesn’t have to implement it, but he has to have an awareness of it. It might be different at a smaller company, where you don’t have particular people delegated for this particular thing. You may in fact have to be the implementor at a smaller company. It reminds me of an IT manager. You do not have to be extremely technical, but you should at least have an understanding of the concepts and processes.

 

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Blogging

When it comes to blogging, Huffington Post is practically one big blog, so obviously, blogging is extremely important to them. Tim states that there is a huge emphasis on blogging there, but he also emphasizes that personal blogging is extremely important and allows your to establish your brand. There wasn’t too much to say, other than blogging is extremely beneficial and important to not only the company, but to you. Seeing how successful Huffington Post is when it’s practically a blog goes to show how important and beneficial blogs really are.

Metrics & Analytics

This was an interesting topic during the interview, since Tim stated that they are very fortunate and actually have people that build tools right at Huffington Post to monitor trends. So far, we have learned different kinda of metrics, such as audience metrics, engagement metrics, social listening & monitoring, customer service, demographics, etc. Some examples of the kinds of metrics that are studied at Huffington Post are: when posts are being shared, what the engagement will be on the post (how many re-tweets, replies, clicks), and  how many active registered users month after month and week after week. While there are many more, those are the few that he touched upon. One of my favorite quotes throughout the entire interview was when he was talking about metrics & analytics. He stated, “We need to stop looking at the big numbers, and start looking at the little numbers that create big results.”

Conclusion

It was really great to get a community manager’s perspective on the topics that we have discussed so far this semester. It was great to get a real-world example of the importance of these topics as well. Tim provided great insight and allowed me to learn a great deal not only about Huffington Post, but about the role that a community manager plays. Lastly, when speaking about a community manager, Tim states, “We are the experts of nothing, yet we know the experts of everything.”

The entire video can be viewed here: Interview with Community Manager Tim McDonald

Interviewing Community Manager – Adam Britten

Adam Britten has an amazing job. He gets to go to work every day and interact with happy people, engage an active and supportive community, work with a team that is receptive of his ideas, and best of all, he gets to work with froyo. There’s something about frozen yogurt that just seems to make for an incredibly rewarding job, and I can’t say I’ve ever met somebody who represents a frozen yogurt brand on social media who isn’t incredibly satisfied with their job. It’s this perfect combination of a fun treat that’s fairly good for you, the happiness it brings to customers, a delightful lifestyle and a product that basically sells itself, which opens up a world of marketing possibilities. Those possibilities apparently lead to fun and engaging social media campaigns and active communities around the brands. What’s not to love?

Camera fail. I'm the black square in this shot.

Camera fail. I’m the black square in this shot.

I interviewed Adam for my final assignment in #CMGRClass, to get a sense of his work life, and how he approaches community management. He’s the community manager for 16 Handles, a small chain of self-serve frozen yogurt shops based mainly on the East coast. His brand – and his work – is notable for being the first to adopt the popular picture sharing app, SnapChat, where picture messages can be viewed for only a few seconds before they disappear forever. Adam used the platform to offer a promotion to Handles fans, which got picked up by social media news outlets, trade magazines, even Wired. Innovation like that is just one way he works to make his employer look awesome on social media.

16 Handles is more than a yogurt company, which is apparent in all their online media. Their web site describes their mission to help make the world a better place by participating in green projects, planting trees, and improving communities. On Facebook, they share photos of their staff’s Earth Day improvement projects, on Instagram you’ll find pictures of the office dog (a frenchie named Handles) decked out in his very own 16 Handles hoodie. On Twitter, every fan gets a personal touch, whether they have a question, a complaint, or just want to say hello. Adam has ensured that online, 16 Handles is more than pictures of froyo, and is instead a very approachable and human brand.

Blog16-Handles

When you’re competing with giants like Red Mango and Pinkberry, and you’re established in a crowded city and a saturated market, it’s tough to stand out. And yet, here’s a brand who is recognized by Quick Service Retail Magazine, a trade publication focused on retail operations with small footprints and in-and-out service, as a company to keep an eye on. If social media were the judging criteria, 16 Handles would be high on the top of the list, posting engaging content and very plainly valuing its fans. In contrast, Pinkberry, Red Mango, and TCBY all share more product shots than anything, and often ignore their customers on Twitter, only responding to a few each day.

Speaking with Adam, it’s plain that he’s not only a social guy who loves making people happy, but a talented and driven community manager. He’s forward-thinking and proficient at marketing, he fully understands his business’ goals and works hard to attain them, and he’s on the lookout for every opportunity to be at the forefront of digital marketing. He loves his fans, and he goes out of his way to make sure they’re engaged and positive, while striving to get more bodies into their stores, get more franchisees interested in the company, and get 16 Handles’ name on more headlines. He’s certainly a model #CMGR.

Adam’s favorite froyo flavor is salted caramel. What’s yours?