Tag Archive for planning

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.

Community Building is like Making Friends

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

It’s making friends.

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

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

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

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

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

GET OUTSIDE

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

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

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

PICK A PLACE

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

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

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

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

HAVE A PLAN

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

Simple: you didn’t plan ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IT’S ALL ABOUT CONNECTIONS

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

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

Starting from the bottom: Tips for building a community from scratch

Building a community isn’t something that happens overnight. But with a roadmap, realistic and goal-oriented expectations, and a good attitude, a well-developed brand community may not be so far out of reach.

Make a plan and stick to it

The key to community building is putting effort and value into a strong foundation. Even if it’s brick by brick, a community with a carefully thought-out strategy is going to come out on top. Cement between bricks takes a while to dry, and if you stack your bricks higher too quickly, the structure is likely to collapse. In his article “How to Build a Community From Scratch,” David Spinks offers a one person at a time strategy:

Step 1: Pick up your phone, and call a user/customer.  Ask them about themselves.  Ask them about their experience with your company.  Make a personal connection.

Step 2: Invite them to a private facebook group for your customers.

Step 3: Introduce them to the group and help them get involved in the discussions.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Although tedious, it’s this type of focused strategy that will produce results.

It’s also helpful to create a design persona of your target audience in order to always keep your messaging focused. Dino Dogan (@DinoDogan), co-founder of Triberr, wrote a piece for Business 2 Community, in which he describes the process of creating this avatar. The purpose, he notes, is to become one with the consumer—get into their head and know their fears, problems, and passions. It also ensures that your messaging is always human in nature, because in essence, your community is speaking to this avatar that you have created.

Richard Millington’s book Buzzing Communities also outlines various types of communities that help focus your content: communities of interest, place, practice, action, and circumstance. Considering the type of community you are looking to build, in addition to the demographics (geographic location, age, gender) and psychographics of the audience gives your new community a better chance for success. 

Expectations

One of the most important things to remember when building a community from scratch is that you cannot expect the community to appear instantaneously. This is a problem that according to Spinks, both large and small companies face. Startups just want to scale as much as possible and grow as quickly as possible, but that is not the nature of communities. Larger companies feel entitled, established, and as if they have strong brand recognition that their community will grow instantly. As Millington describes, creating long and short term audiences helps remind us that we need to reach critical mass (via a well-developed plan, of course) before we can think about reaching as many people as possible.

All the tedious work is worth it

Remember, as Dogan carefully points out, a successful community will create fanatically engaged members. These fanatically engaged members will market for you while you sleep — and they’ll do it all for free. I can’t think of a better reward.

If Drake can do it, so can you.
(via “Eapatty01” on IGN.com)

Have you started your own community from scratch? Go ahead, what are you waiting for?!

Don’t Panic! Being a Prepared Community Manager

PANIC buttonBeing a community manager is a 24/7 job, and can be unpredictable. This past week, #CMGRclass learned about how to handle crises. While every community manager will have different needs, there are some basic ways to understand how to approach crisis communication from within a community.

Be Present.

The biggest lesson learned from Heather Whaling’s presentation was that Community Managers need to be present and attentive. In her presentation, Whaling details how a community manager was able to detect a situation happening between another branch of his organization and the community, get in touch with all parties, and diffuse the situation by understanding the problem and guiding the parties to a better solution.

Be Relevant.

We’ve seen it countless times: people trying to get exposure by taking advantage of current events. It might work for a little bit, but before you try it for your community: is it a strategy that makes sense for you?

Before you join a conversation, make sure you and your community a place in it. Understand if the topic is relevant to your community before your add your two cents or speak for your community. Generally, attempts at leveraging real-time events for your community won’t go over well if you don’t have anything of value to add.

A good tip from this article is to respond to actionable conversations. Creating guidelines for what counts as an actionable conversation within your community is a good idea, so that you can avoid both getting too personal or reaching too far in a conversation topic.

Be Right (Not First)

Everyone has a first impression or reaction to new, surprising, or controversial information. The key to reacting from a community manager point of view is to approach all new information with skepticism. Always ask questions about the source of information, even if something is labeled “confirmed.” It’s better to be right than first.

In the past, I’ve attended CERT (community emergency respond training) sessions as a social media manager for a small college. My team went through a hypothetical emergency: a dorm catching fire.

As the exercise went on, we were told different information from various sources. Sometimes the information was emotionally heavy (rumored student fatalities), and it was difficult to keep information like that aside – on the chance it’s true, you want to let people know.

Although the practice situation was dire, the safety officials emphasized that in any situation the communications team should only release information confirmed by law enforcement officials or any other kind of official source.

For organizations, releasing only official information protects the credibility of the institution as a whole, as well as the communications team, and avoids the spread of rumors.

As a community manager, it’s important to know how to identify rumor and truth – and understand what level of source or confirmation turns a rumor into a credible source of information.

Be Prepared.

You know Murphy’s Law? It’s the theory that what can go wrong, will go wrong.

Do you know your community? Do you have a plan to follow if it turns against you?

As a community manager, there will be issues that make you community go absolutely crazy. No matter the likelihood, always have a Total Disaster Meltdown Plan in place. Know who’s in charge, who you can count on to deliver the right information (even if it’s just yourself) and know who you can call on to provide the right information. Have a plan before things go wrong, so that when they do, you’ll be prepared.

Have more advice to add about crisis communication? Have you been through a communication crisis yourself? What helped you, and what do you wish you had known before the crisis hit?

Lessons in User-Generated Content from … College?

In the past, I was lucky to work in two marketing departments at two excellent colleges. In one, I was a student worker, which helped me gain experience to become a salaried employee at the other. Both schools used the same tactic to gain user-generated content (UGC): an annual photo contest.

Photo contests are a common to collect UGC, and they seem like an easy way to get people to contribute. The logic:

  • People take pictures all the time, so there’s no shortage of material out there
  • Submitting a photo is easy; just attach it to an email
  • Who wouldn’t want their awesome photos promoted by their Alma Mater?!

After reading about UGC, I realized I have already learned a couple lessons in UGC from watching these contests.

procrastination

Plan for procrastination

For both of these contests, lots of the submissions would come in the last week or even on the last day. Knowing this, would you make the deadline for a photo contest the day before you announce the winners? Probably not. So why would you set up the same schedule for any UGC?

People, not just students, procrastinate, so it’s necessary to plan ahead. If you you want to post your UGC on one day, make the deadline well before that. That gives you wiggle room to edit the content if needed, and even if the submitter is “late,” they’re not really leaving you high and dry.

Bigger audience does not always equal better UGC

quality over quantity

One photo contest was run by a bigger school and open to everyone, while another photo contest was run by a smaller school and only open to students who studied abroad in the pervious year. While the former contest got more total submissions, the latter contest got, in my opinion, higher quality submissions.

I believe that by targeting only students who studied abroad, it implies that the contest is searching for photos from exotic locations, and by requiring a narrative, it emphasizes the importance of storytelling from a unique perspective. Yes, it narrowed the entries, but those few entries were of very high quality.

For example: Would you rather receive ten guest blog posts but only one or two are good, or only get three guest blogs, all of high quality?

Make the incentives work for you, too

win-win

One contest offered a cash prize along with press release and a gallery showing on Alumni weekend. The other offered no monetary prize, but along with a press release, incorporated the photos and photographer’s names into the study abroad website. Both incentives worked, but I think one worked better. Can you guess which one?

Giving students the chance to have their photo immortalized for several years on the website not only provides incentive to submit, but it also provides the school with gorgeous photos to showcase on the website. It’s the win-win scenario that I believe makes the second contest smarter.

These are just some lessons I’ve learned from my professional experience. Do you agree? Do you disagree? Have you experienced moderating UGC before? What worked for you? What would you have done better?

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?