Tag Archive for online communities

Good Community Management Helps Shine Rainbows Over the Stormy Twitterverse

The Case Study: When the Twitterverse Turns on You outlines a social media campaign on Twitter for Canadian Jet, a fictional airline with a lackluster reputation. The plan was to use the hashtag #CanJetLuxury for a Twitter contest that would reward the user who posted the most creative tweet with a set of round-trip tickets. It sounds innocent enough but those who work in the Twitterverse know that brand-sponsored campaigns are easy prey for trolls and disgruntled customers.

After a few short hours, the hashtag was hijacked with accusatory tweets such as “Arriving a day late to your daughter’s wedding #CanJetLuxury.” The team went into a panic. The article closes by asking if they should throw in the towel.

So, Should Canadian Jet Cancel the Contest?

Absolutely not. By definition, a campaign is a systematic course of aggressive activities (dictionary.com). It is not a Twitter announcement followed by second thoughts.

online_community

When you bring your branded message into Twitter’s public stream of consciousness, you should not expect sunshine and rainbows. You expect to create the sunshine and rainbows.

After all, isn’t that what community management is about –bringing dazzling experiences to people? Helping them discover why they love you, over and over again?

The problem posed in this case study is only a problem because the company’s conversation about what to do when faced with negative tweets was supposed to happen long before the campaign launched. This failure to plan raises questions about their Twitterverse aptitude.

Want to check your readiness for the Twitterverse?

Here are Five Diagnostic Questions About Your Twitterverse Aptitude

  1. Are you energized by the opposition? Andrea Kemp, the company’s account manager from Wrigley & Walters who advised Canadian Jet, thrived in this high-pressured environment.
  2. Do you know what you are getting into? Critics can reduce your beloved hashtag into a mere “bashtag” if you mismanage the campaign.
  3. Do you see the glass as half full or as half empty? Do you disregard positive tweets when faced with a negative one? (Warning: In cases like  #AskJPM the glass was quickly emptying. Recognizing that shows your realism, not pessimism.)
  4. Do you give the silent treatment? Social media is inherently social so if you are not prepared to respond to what is in front of you this might not be the best venue.
  5. How is your agility? Be responsive to changing conditions when sailing through the Twitterverse. This does not mean that you cannot plan. It simply means that your plan needs to account for the possibility of inclement weather.

What Can We Learn?

There are three lessons to be learned from this case study.

  1. #CanJetLuxury was out of touch. While the campaign was a great way to breathe life into their brand, it seems like organizers expected the announcement  of the Twitter contest to absolve them of any hostility that had developed in the previous years.
  2. They gambled. They did not have a plan in place for negative tweets, even though they were aware of the risk.
  3. They held a meeting when they should have been tweeting responses. They should have countered the negative tweets immediately, rather than reassessing the campaign as a whole.

Have you ever suspended a campaign? We would love to learn about your experiences in the comments below.

Online Community History

Today online communities as we know it has became a huge way of communicating with others. In the 1970s when the Internet was created by ARPAnet E-Mail was created. Although, basic E-Mail allowed for user interaction as one could send and recieve messages. “Message Boards” were soon built into email or websites allowing for others to create a string of content that others can respond to. Message boards are quite common even today allowing for a user to interact with others on one topic. Interactions are in the form of message strings that other users are also able to see.

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) developed in 1988 by Jarkko Okarinen was one of the early Instant Messengers. Popular in the 90’s Instant Messaging started to occur. Both users had to be online; and could send each other short messages instantly. This later emerged into AOL Instant Messenger, and Windows Live Messenger.

Today online communities are built off of the innovations that we had in the past. Users that are participating in communities have increased steadily in recent years. Back in a 2001 Pew Internet & American Life Project report, 84% of all Internet users indicated that they contacted an online community and 79% identified at least one group with which they maintained regular online contact. Due to user increases many communities have sprung up in recent years that may relate to user interest, health, shopping and even travel.

Sites like TripAdvisor are an example of an online community where users are able to post photos, comments, and links about a particular place. People who do post about their experiences get responses from a manager or other appointed user. There are also interest communities such as WebMD a community relating to health and wellness. Users are able to get health advice, and learn about news and other resources available to them.

Facebook and Twitter today are two types of platforms that allow users to customize a profile and communicate with others. Facebook has incorporated many great features that were popular in the past into its site. Users can instant message; email and make their Facebook unique with a profile picture (avatar).Twitter allows for an avatar and almost encompasses a forum feature but instead lets users write a post on a news feed of 120 characters.

Online communities today would be drastically different if it were not for many of the previous developments on the web with features such as email, forums, and instant messaging.

Last Google+ Hangout of the Semester

Greetings CMGR Class! Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the Google+ Hangout for class due to an unfortunate family matter. I’ll spare everyone the details, but I truly regret not being able to participate in the last hangout of the semester. This week we’re discussing scaling a community and how to make it more manageable, which I will be moderating. I believe this is a very important topic because it ensure that a Community Manager isn’t overloaded and can adequately maintain their community.

Last week we discussed analytics, metrics, and ambassador programs. I find metrics to be very interesting because it is something that I use every day at work. We have a multitude of SaaS providers that we use to monitor the performance, up/down time, and various other aspects of our web portals. Ambassador programs are important because it can expose your community to a new audience therefore improving the discussion between your participants.

outreachAmbassador Programs

Kelly mentioned Wegman’s food stores for ambassador programs, emphasizing the endless possibilities for implementing them. I think this is a great example because Wegman’s has a great, well-known brand (in certain areas) that can be used to generate a lot of interest among consumers. Depending on the location, Wegman’s could benefit from an ambassador program embracing an online community that may be a bit foreign to their own. The new audience would definitely prove to be useful when they are attempting to expand their market to a new city or state.

Justification for such an ambassador program requires detailed metrics, which may include the following:

  • # of consumers participating in community that convert to sales
  • Overall social media activity – # of tweets, posts, likes, etc…
  • Feedback from surveys sent to your audience
  • # of unique visits between major social media networks (Twitter vs. Facebook vs. Tumblr)

The most important of all metrics is conversion – how many participants on social networks turn into actual customers? How much revenue am I gaining for each of these new consumers? Questions such as these must be answered to justify any type of spending by a company to support a program.

Metrics

I listed a few metrics that I use for my job that assists me with assessing how we’re doing when meeting our customers’ needs. These include metrics such as average load times, browser usage, down/up times, server load / bandwidth and Google analytics. Metrics assist me with determining how we can improve our process to make our audience happier. If they are waiting over a minute for a page to load, obviously a person won’t be happy and might leave.

Overall, last week was great and I’m looking forward to this week’s moderation assignment. I wish I could have made it to the last class… this was a truly valuable experience and I appreciate everyone’s feedback.

Brand Ambassadors as Champions

This week, #CMGRclass learned about brand ambassador programs.  In 10 Things to Remember When Creating a Brand Ambassador Program, Mack Collier outlines key considerations when establishing a brand ambassador program.  I’ve paraphrased them here, grouping them into the themes of program planning, administration, and sustainability.

  • Planning: up-front planning is key to a successful brand ambassador program.  Identify brand ambassadors using both online and offline communications (#2).  More does not equal better: a small number of passionate advocates is more powerful than a small number of fans (#3).  Internal communication within the brand is as important as external communication to brand advocates (#1).
  • Administration: brand ambassadors are motivated by access.  “Make membership exclusive” (#4).  Reward your advocates with exclusive perks (#6).  Provide your ambassadors with access to high-level executives (#7).
  • Sustainability: Facilitate connections with and between brand advocates (#5).  “Create a feedback loop between the brand abmassadors and the brand” (#8).  Empower ambassadors to identify other potential brand advocates (#9).  Transfer ownership of the program from the brand to its ambassadors (#10).

Brand Ambassador Wordle

Royal Champions

One of the central themes of #CMGRclass has been “the who.”  Just as considerable time should be devoted to identifying the audience of an online community, time must be invested in determining who a brand’s ambassadors should be.

Previously, I wrote about how Royal Caribbean cruise line could more effectively engage its customers online.  Despite recent headlines (Carnival Triumph, anyone?), the cruise industry is growing and extremely competitive.  While many repeat cruisers hop between different lines, others are extremely loyal, sticking to one cruise line or even a particular ship.  Surely Royal Caribbean would benefit from developing and nurturing a brand ambassador program, right?

It turns out that Royal Caribbean has already done exactly that.  In 2007, Royal Caribbean partnered with Nielsen Buzz Metrics to identify 50 frequent supporters in online communities.  These individuals, dubbed Royal Champions, received exclusive benefits, including access to company executives and free cruises on pre-inaugural sailings.  Here’s where subsequent reports and analysis seem to vary, though.  Some sites applauded the move, applauding Royal Caribbean’s move to understand online sentiment and potentially influence online conversation.  Others called foul, saying Royal Caribbean crossed the line by granting incentives in exchange for positive reviews.

This is sticky.  As Tamar Weinberg writes in her positive post, When is Brand Evangelism a Crime? Exploring the Royal Caribbean Promotional Marketing Strategy, Royal Caribbean (most accurately, its consultant) did the work to monitor online channels, listening to supporters and detractors alike, identifying its most “ardent supporters.”  However, as Anita Dunham-Potter explains in Paid cheerleaders: Does Royal Caribbean’s viral campaign cross the line?, there was significant backlash among online community members not tapped for the elite Royal Champions group, claiming the posts were planted by the cruise line.

Improving Royal Champions

Not knowing whether or not Royal Champions still exists (the most recent search results are dated 2009), Royal Caribbean could evolve the program based on the principles of loyalty and transparency.

  • loyalty roomLoyalty.  As Collier writes in 10 Things to Remember, one key to a brand ambassador program is exclusivity.  Potential brand ambassadors should be identified not solely based on frequency of online posts, but completion of Royal Caribbean cruises.  RCI’s Crown & Anchor program, comprised of repeat cruisers, would be an ideal starting point for identifying potential brand advocates.  These cruisers have demonstrated loyalty to the brand with an important factor: their wallets.
  • TransparencyTransparency.  The extension of benefits to ambassadors should not be predicated on positive endorsement.  Royal Caribbean should want to hear positive and negative feedback from the perspective of their most loyal customers.  As Collier writes, “make special note of the customers that go the extra mile … even if they sound negative.”  To combat potential backlash from consumer sites, brand advocates should openly identify themselves as such in online posts to anticipate accusations of “pay-for-play.”

What do you think about Royal Caribbean’s Royal Champions program?  Was it ahead of its time, as Weinberg suggests?  Or, was the program too opaque, as Dunham-Potter argues?

(“Loyalty” image by Flickr user untitledprojects; “Transparency” image by Flickr user jaygoldman.  Featured image and Wordle by author.)

Tips to Gain Brand Loyalty

So you want people to get to know and love your brand. Creating a reason to be loyal is the first step. Traditionally, PR and Advertising have carried this load but the internet has brought a new dimension of contact and influence with online marketing and outreach via social media. We all want to know how to get a big slice of that pie, don’t we? Creating brand loyalty is a giant step towards getting help from your following. Some keys to this are trust and confidence in you and your brand.

 

  •  Do some research to find out where your ambassadors are. Where are people talking about you and what are they saying? This will give you an idea of what motivates them. Ask them about their interests.
  • Encourage your community to give input and state opinions on posts and shared information. Make it relevant to their lives and they will continue to return for more interactions.
  • Find interesting topics for them to interact with each other. This will help in building relationships within the community. We all like to hang out “where everybody knows our name“.
  • Be a part of the action, reply to comments and encourage members to engage.

 

Value by alshepmcr

 

Words of wisdom from Britt Michaelian  – “when the facilitator of the community is thoughtful about making the community about the group and not their own need for a “flock”, the group will respond to the space that the community leader creates for each member of the community to flourish.” This just plain makes sense! Think of your own experiences in an online community and I am sure you will relate to this. Don’t you value being heard and acknowledged, I know I do.

Loyalty comes from a feeling of connection.” [BM]

As the community grows, you will easily identify frequent commentator, brand advocates that are destine to become ambassadors for your brand. These are people that talk to others in the community and out of the community. You will hear and see them on other platforms singing your brands praises and sharing that love with all the world. These are the people you want to recognize and reward. Be sure to thank them publicly and frequently. They will be engaging with other community members (or members to be) and you want them to to nothing but good to say about your brand. You can also have offline meetups where the relationships can grow and the community will become more connected with these vocal brand advocates/ambassadors.

brand ambassador

Find brand ambassadors within your community is one way to get the word out, but there are others. Connecting with communities that share a common interest is another. Take time to chat in be interested in their community and they may very well look into yours. You can also recruit people that blog or write for online publications to become brand ambassadors after you have spent time creating a relationship and finding a fit for both of you. Most importantly, don’t forget the rewards. Rewards don’t need to be extravagant, but they should be meaningful.

 

rewards str8 ahead

 

Be a giver to your community. Offer meaningful rewards and watch your community respond.  Here are some suggestions for rewards:

  • Offer free tickets to an upcoming event that you are having
  • Offer a badge after they recommend people to your community.
  • Create an “ambassador” program that has special events of chats by invitation only
  • Create a points system for referrals to the community

There are many ways to reward you brand ambassadors, just be as creative as you can. If you need more reasons to do this take a look at what this article has to say. Remember, communities are all about relationships. Be yourself, introduce interesting topics and interact with with everyone who comments on your post. This is a sure way to create the experience you and your community are looking for.

Book Review: Humanize: How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World

Humanize - Notter and Grant“Humanize”: this word is scattered throughout the digital landscape.  So, quite appropriately, I selected “Humanize: How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World” by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant as the subject of my mid-term book review.  Notter and Grant, while having different backgrounds (he is a leadership, conflict, and diversity speaker and consultant; she is a blogger and co-founder and Chief Social Media Strategist at SocialFish), both have experience with association management, the practice of governing and leading a membership comprised of dues-paying members.  This was my primary reason for my interest in “Humanize,” as nearly all of my volunteer commitments are with dues-paying and volunteer-based organizations.  That, plus the word itself has an aspirational quality for any future community or social media management professional.

“Humanize” provides a detailed explanation of the key characteristics of a human organization along with actionable steps to how the reader can move his or her for- or non-profit organization toward effective practice of those attributes.  The chapters in “Humanize” are aggregated into sections.

  • Humanize - Notter and GrantThe beginning of the book (chapters one through four) provides a 30,000 foot look at the social media revolution.  This section goes on to discuss the natural tension between the forward progress of social media and lack of change within many organizations, while also identifying three critical factors in that tension: organizational culture, internal process, and individual behavior.
  • The “meat” of the book (chapters five through nine) sees Notter and Grant identify four key elements of being human: open, trustworthy, generative, and courageous.  They purposefully select a trellis as a basis for representing an organization’s culture, its process, and its behavior, stating that these elements together “support the cultivation of more powerful organizations – ones that will thrive in a social world.”
Culture Process Behavior
Open Decentralization Systems Thinking Ownership
Authentic Transparency Truth Authenticity
Generative Inclusion Collaboration Relationship Building
Courageous Learning Experimentation Personal Development

The Trellis

Humanize - Notter and GrantEach of these four elements is addressed one-by-one.  Challenges of and opportunities for introducing each into an organization are discussed, and each chapter concludes with a worksheet designed to assess an organization’s current position and identify future work in building a particular characteristic.  (The worksheets, shown at right, can be downloaded at the Humanize website.)  Each chapter ends with a closing designed to prompt action: “Ultimately, the changes we advise in this book are necessary, they are possible, and they start with you.  Don’t wait for permission or the perfect timing.  Are you ready?  Go.”

Gardening in Your Community

I would not hesitate to recommend “Humanize” to any aspiring or practicing community or social media manager.  Notter and Grant strike a good balance between heft and levity.  “Humanize” is weighty yet readable; their writing style is clear and the text is infused with a sense of humor and wit.

Just as #CmgrChat member @doctorcrowe indicated in his review in the @TheCMGR Reading List, Humanize is not a book about how to implement a community management or social media program.  Rather, Humanize is a book that breaks down important organizational factors that, when correctly aligned, will facilitate the successful implementation of such a program.  For example, in chapter six, “How To Be Open,” Notter and Grant emphasize the need to understand an organization’s culture on all levels – its walk, its talk, and its thought – before beginning to transform it from a hierarchical centralized culture to an inclusive decentralized one.

As Notter and Grant say on page 114 as they prepare to kick off chapter 6, “Whatever you do, do something.”

I’m going; will you?

Conflict Resolution Takes Great Communication Skills

angry customer

We have been looking at many aspects of community management and while the position can be full of exciting experiences, inevitably you will run into a difficult or angry community member. What do you do when your peaceful, friendly, cooperative community is upset by an angry person? You know the type. They start with rude comments and remarks and continue to escalate while they suck your community into their negative vortex. Conflict resolution entails a journey into the unknown. No matter how much we prepare, we can never know for sure how another will react to us or respond to our message. Not surprisingly, this uncertainty leads many to avoid conflict rather than venture into the unknown, but as a community manager you will need the skills to resolve conflicts.

Olivier Blanchard has 15+ years of marketing management experience and gives us some rules to follow in his book  Social Media ROI. He offers us some practical advice that is relevant to the position a community manager may find themselves in. Lets take a look at a summary of what he offers –

THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT – this is the Golden rule of any business. Even if the customer is wrong, they are right. This is where you begin the journey into conflict resolution. When you come up against an angry customer, you never, ever engage in an argument with them, especially online. Imagine the scenario, you post one inflammatory comment to an angry person, what happens next? Don’t think for one moment that an online argument is about finding a resolution or point of agreement. It is a smack down, pure and simple. There will be no victor and you will certainly lose creditability.

no winners

Conflict resolution online is very different from the real world experience. If you were face to face with a customer, you would have the opportunity to use your body language as a tool to deal with the situation. You do not have this tool available in an online scenario you are faceless. A best practice would be to take it offline and speak with the customer directly without an audience. Remember to always be polite and treat them with respect regardless of how they behave.

By Campbell Addy

By Campbell Addy

Blanchard states – “Unreasonable customers are not the enemy.”  This is a great message to keep in mind. They will help you to grow and develop your communication skills. Take the higher ground and be thankful for this opportunity. We all need to keep practicing to be the best we can be so embrace the challenge. This also gives us the opportunity to practice humility. Blanchard shares that we should not be afraid to apologize, even when we don’t have to. How do you feel when someone is compassionate and apologetic towards you? This is what your customer needs. Reach out to them!

reach out

 By acknowledging the customers dispute and engaging them in the process to resolution you are well on your way.  This would be the time to recruit your customer as a partner in creating the solution. Blanchard suggests that you use this phrase, “I understand your frustration. How can I help?” By asking this question you have engaged them in the process by “shifting them from complaint mode to solution mode.” These best solution will come when the customer is involved. If the customers solution is not reasonable Blanchard suggests that you “apologize and say you can’t do that, but offer another solution.”

Online conflict resolution:

  • should always be done calmly and politely
  • should be done offline if it will require a more sensitive approach
  • should be managed in a professional manner (crowds tend to take sides)
  • should use the individuals name when possible
  • should recruit your customer into the resolution process

By following these simple guidelines and using your own communication skills, you are on your way to becoming a master of conflict resolutions. What are some ways that you have learned to resolve conflicts? We would like to know so leave a comment.

Until next time, “Happy Trails”!

My First Twitter Chat Experience – #CMGRChat

On March 13th 2013, I participated in my first ever #CMGRchat by using TweetChat.com. The experience was unique and very beneficial for someone such as myself that is being exposed to community management for the first time. Participants of the chat ranged from community managers to bloggers and enthusiasts, all having a great deal of knowledge in the creation and management of communities.

question markWhat is it all about?

#CMGRchat provides a means of discussion and collaboration between community managers from around the world. Hosted by Jenn Pedde and Kelly Lux, the chat concentrates on the discussion of topics related to the emerging field of Community Management, and how professionals in the field approach day-to-day problems. The hosts present several questions to the group to stimulate discussion, which seems to work pretty well with achieving a meaningful conversation about Community Management topics.

My Experience

I thought that the chat was very interesting and provided some great insight on topics such as testing within a community, handling changes and managing UI / UX testing. I never knew that Community Managers would be involved at the user interface or user experience level, but according to David Spinks, “often, CMs (community managers) should be involved in those projects.” Prior to chat, I always believed that Quality Assurance specialists or web designers would handle the testing of an interface, but this was not the case based on the feedback provided in CMGRChat.

The general consensus during the chat was to ensure user acceptance of any change in the community through extensive testing. The communities in question where such extensive analysis and testing was performed, varied by size and audience. Change affects everyone in a community and regardless of how large or small the size, it can impact the potential growth, thus making it vital to keep as many active participants as possible.

One of the questions that was presented to the group was how to implement a major change to the community. I personally believe any major enhancement which may alter the way a user does something should be gradually implemented over time. Major feature releases can be done in smaller “chunks”, ultimately making the new/changed features transparent to the end user. In my own experiences, I’ve always used a phased rollout with a detailed action plan on how to handle end user acceptance of any changes being made.

Closing Thoughts

Based on the discussion between the participants of CMGRChat, testing is a crucial part to the pursuit of an online community’s continued growth and response to a changing industry. The Community Manager (CM) role itself is still undergoing change and continues to be crafted throughout the various companies that have established the position. Discussions that #CMGRChat provides weekly, creates a useful discussion that may allow CMs define their role effectively themselves.

What’s the plan? Steps involved with planning a community

This week we’re concentrating on the necessary planning involved with online communities. There are several things that must be planned prior to the implementation of the community such as your goals, objectives, member conduct policies, software and supported platforms. Will your community require expensive monitoring software due to the amount of resources being invested? Are you a smaller shop and only require minimal investment to succeed? These are some of the questions that must be taken into account when planning a community.

Where to begin?5524669257_ab67585fd0_m

After reviewing several articles online and the readings for this week, the first step is to identify your target audience and establish what you are attempting to accomplish. According to Joshua Paul’s article the first step is to identify a problem that your audience is facing. Your audience can include customers, businesses, fans or other parties. You must fully understand what they are looking to achieve through their participation in your community and how it will benefit them in the immediate future.

The purpose of your online community may be defined by both internal and external parties that are willing to change their behavior to solve certain problems. A business plan for the community may also be necessary to clearly define the goals and key performance indicators (KPI) to determine success. These indicators are needed to justify the resources that the business is committing to the development and continued support of the community. KPIs can include banner clicks, RSS subscribers, increase of sales, participation in company-led events or increase in overall traffic of physical storefronts.

In order to assess the success of the online community and attempt to calculate an approximate return on investment (ROI) calculation, there are several suites available that can monitor across several social media platforms. Dustin Betonio’s article lists some popular software services that provide a detailed view of an online community that can be used to assess its success. Most packages include pre-packaged reports that can give a view across multiple platforms and the activity on each.

Establishing Policies

Aside from understanding the purpose and KPIs for an online community, a Community Manager must have a clear idea of what policies each member will follow. What will happen if your community gets infiltrated with spammers, racists, or generally negative users? Do you want to allow messages of hate on your community? Obviously, this isn’t something you want in your community as it most likely will result in a loss of active, meaningful members.

In order to prevent abuse, a Community Manager must implement guidelines for users to follow. According to ManagingCommunities.com article, you must be impartial and apply the same rules to all participants of the community. Regardless of how a Community Manager may feel about a particular member, they are the impartial entity in the oversight of the interactions that occur between members. Do you want to eliminate any kind of negativity in the dialog? Should community members be allowed to “hate” politicians or other people that are in the spotlight?

These are all questions that a Community Manager must be mindful of when creating an online community. The justifications of resources spent on the community are extremely important because a company may have limited capital and needs to see tangible results in order to continue support of the initiative. How will you approach the planning process for your online community? Are you going to have a formal approach or something informal?