Tag Archive for social media

Community Managers vs. Social Media Managers: What’s the Difference?

In today’s media landscape, the terms “community manager” and “social media manager” have more or less become synonymous. This practice of interchanging these two roles, however, is highly inaccurate. Let’s investigate this unruly phenomenon and hopefully, by shedding some light on it, we can change our behavior (yes, I mean “our,” as in, I’ve fell victim to this, too).

Back to square one

Let’s bring it back to basics. If you talk to a lot of people, you work in social media. Social media managers want to reach every person who participates in a conversation with the brand, and truly make for an engaging experience.  If you try to get a lot of people to talk to each other, you work in community management. Community managers essentially look to eliminate their own jobs — they want the brand to come to the point where users are talking to each other, so they act as the brand’s own personal defense.

You know you want it…


After reading through this article, even though I thought I was “bringing it back to the basics,” I found myself more confused. I see the clear distinction that is being made here, but I asked myself, “Don’t community managers use social media to get lots of people talking to each other?” It’s safe to say that these roles have become blurred.

Especially in the consumer space (versus the business-to-business space), the audience is a lot larger and broader, and it is not always as easy to decide which person — the social media manager or the community manager — should be the one to jump in first. This idea brought up another thought in my mind: we often generalize social media, much like the roles of social media manager and community manager, and clump it into one big responsibility. However, the nature of the content produced and the platforms used truly depends on the nature of the brand. B2B brands need strong community managers and social media managers, just like consumer brands do.

So if both comm. and social media mgmt. involve social media…

What’s all this “other stuff” everyone keeps referring to that community managers are also involved with? It’s never made clear that community managers have both online and offline responsibilities. Jenn Pedde (@JPeddesums it up best:

So what does a community manager do?

Communication, moderation, guideline writing, engaging day to day online (forums, owned communities, blogs, newsletters) and offline (events, conferences, meet-ups), strategy, working with the social teams/marketing/support/product/PR/management, surveying, customer service, and a variety of other activities.

Living and learning in a digital era, it’s easy to forget that communities offline are just as — if not more important than — communities online. A lot of the conversation about the brand happens online, but we see the results of such conversations take form in an offline realm. These conversations are only really worth it if the audience can translate what they’re saying into real actions in the “real world.”

Everyone loves examples
@Sharpie benefits from a social media manager, who's engagement with the audience makes for fun content that speaks to the brand identity.

@Sharpie benefits from a social media manager, who’s engagement with the audience makes for fun content that speaks to the brand identity.

Just incase it’s not entirely clear, here are two examples of work done by a community manager and work done by a social media manager. Community managers are more focused on socially or conversationally enabled content and responding to comments. Sharpie (@Sharpie) is great example of a brand that does not necessarily benefit from a community manager, as the business model cannot support deep relationship development, but benefits highly from unique user-generated content that social media managers would create.

The online web store Etsy is a great example of a brand that is well-supported by a community manager. In order to get users conversing with one another, the community managers at Etsy hold events, create webinars and curate collections. By doing so, Etsy is giving users opportunities for users with shared interests, etc. to collaborate. Thus, if the collaboration is successful, users feel a new sense of loyalty to Etsy because they owe this newfound success to the brand itself.



Etsy community page

Etsy community page 

Now that you know how to spot the difference between a community manager and a social media manager, which do you think your brand could benefit from best? Maybe you’ll even want to pursue one of these roles as a future career!

Social Media Manager vs. Community Manager: What’s The Difference?

Social media has become such an integrated part of our world that it almost expected that everyone knows how to use social media. However, there are professional roles designated for brands and companies that allow social media and community management to intertwine. The two roles, social media manager and community manager, often get confused between one another. However, there are distinct differences between the two that must be noted. In an article by Vanessa DiMauro, the differences between the two are shared. 

The Social Media Manager

According to DiMauro, a social media manager is someone who “operates from the edges of the company, managing brand recognition and reputation outside of the scope of the brand website.” By acting as someone who oversees the company rather than someone who is directly communicating with users, a social media manager can provide followers with an overview of the company while also marketing, managing public relations, and working with sales. As someone who has to coordinate with different departments so much, it is important that the social media manger is well informed about higher level aspects of the company.

The Community Manger

Conversely, the community manager “operates from deep within the company, managing customer relationships with a brand or product, and each other.” As opposed to a social media manager, a community manager is much more involved with the actual people who associate with a brand of project. It is important for a community manager to know the people who interact with a brand so they can make connections, share ideas among others, and connect people within a community when necessary. A strong aspect of being a community manager relates to allowing others to collaborate and relate to one another.

A chart DiMauro uses in her article to illustrate the differences between a community manager and a social media manager.

A chart DiMauro uses in her article to illustrate the differences between a community manager and a social media manager.

Do The Lines Overlap? 

In her article, DiMauro acknowledges that although the two roles do have different responsibilities, there is certainly some overlap. However, she tries to dissolve that confusion by creating a chart that outlines the differences between the two jobs. I cannot help but still feel that  distinguishing responsibilities between the two can be confusing. Although I can see that social media managers really manage the brand while community managers manage the people and relationships, I do sense that there is a sense of overlap between the two roles. Both positions utilize similar tools in order to accomplish their jobs: social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter allow both people to monitor the people that are interacting with their company. Both may also use similar analytical tools to monitor how their community is growing and who is interacting a brand. Although this information is used in different ways, both people work with these tools to efficiently do their jobs. The social media manager and the community manager may ultimately have different goals, but the overlap between their methodologies can certainly be confusing.

Do you agree there’s a difference between community manager and social media manager? Is there anything else to add? Share in the comments below! 

Social Media Manager and Community Manger – Difference?

This week was all about differentiating between a social media manager and a community manager. Initially, like I’m sure most people did, I thought they were the same thing. One will often assume that since a community manager uses Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, they must be a social media manager as well. That is where they are wrong. There are different duties for each manager and this week we really got to dive into the main differences.


Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 3.04.13 PM

What’s the Difference?

My biggest takeaway from this week regarding the difference is that social media managers are generally more concerned with their brand while community managers focus more on relationships with members of the particular community. This is not to say both do not utilize social media, but they utilize it in different ways. A more simple explanation in my opinion is that social media managers are most concerned with their product or service, while community managers are more concerned with the users of that product. In an article by Vanessa DiMauro titled “Social Media Manager vs. Online Community Manager: Same or Different?”, she discussed some of their roles. According to Vanessa, social media managers are more focused on:

  • raising awareness of the product or service
  • visibility of company, products, or services
  • drive leads
  • increase of sales
  • event attendance

On the other hand, she goes on to explain that community managers are more focused on:

  • customer questions on how to use product or service
  • learning from the customers through feedback
  • customer satisfaction/retention
  • increase utilization of products
  • improve customers’ ability to get help from one another

So it seems that a Community Manager is more of a people person?

My answer would be yes. That is not to say social media managers don’t take the customers’ into account. I just think after all of the readings and comparisons this week, it is safe to say that community managers are more focused on exactly their title: the community. While both titles manage tools, a community manager is more focused about using these tools for engagement within the community.

Are there similarities?

I think so. One aspect that I believe is similar in both a community manager and social media manager is that they both create content. In an article by Deb Ng titled, “5 Things Community Management Isn’t & 5 Things a Community Manager Is”she emphasizes that a community manager is a content creator. She states,

It’s our job to communicate with the community and we use a variety of channels to do so. You’ll often see community managers creating videos and blog posts. What we post on the social networks is also considered content and we take great care in crafting these messages. You have to have a way with words and be well versed in grammar and usage to be a successful CM.

Another article from this week is by The Community Roundtable titled, “Differentiating Between Social Media and Community Management.” In this post, they go on to discuss that social media managers are in fact the content creators. So, while these two articles seem to contradict each other, I think that it shows both community managers and social media managers can create content. They may create content for different reasons, but regardless, they both do.

Questions to consider:

  • Do you think it is necessary for companies to have both a community manager and a social media manager? Can they have one person that acts as both?
  • Are there any other similarities between the two?
  • Is there an easier way to explain the differences?

Meshing with Mashable


Mashable is the go-to brand for all things social-media related and has established itself as a well-respected news blog. For the #cmgrclass final paper, I had the opportunity to interview Meghan Peters, Community Manager for Mashable. Meghan oversees social media strategy and reader engagement projects for Mashable, which has distinguished itself as the largest independent website dedicated to providing the latest news on social media for the “connected generation.”

Mashable’s Approach to Community

One thing that resonated with me was Meghan’s approach to managing and responding to her audience’s feedback both negative and positive. One thing she made sure to stress was killing them with kindness. Community managers always have to be mindful of their outward expressions. Anything they say or do has the potential to negatively impact the community. Even if you do not agree with what one of your users has suggested or said about your brand, this is not fair ground to retaliate. Without active members and users, there is no community. Meghan recognizes this. She always understands, which we’ve discussed in class, the importance of acknowledging relevant content posted by members of the community. Not every post warrants a response, some members are intentionally provoking brand officials. This type of commentary should be ignored, which Meghan mentioned as one of her tactics. I find this to be important as I take interest in how companies and brands alike go about caring for their communities and if they’re actually delivering what they promise.


I asked Meghan if Mashable had a formal brand ambassador program. Unfortunately, they do not. I do feel that if I were granted the opportunity to be an asset for a well-known brand such as Mashable, I’d vouch for a brand ambassador program. During my moderation week for the #cmgrclass, I did a lot of research on brand ambassador programs and how they are deemed beneficial for companies. Since Mashable has such a strong connection with its users, I certainly see value in launching a brand ambassador program to enhance the brand’s image and evoke brand loyalty and awareness amongst future and current members of the community. Mashable already knows who their most loyal users are, according to Meghan, the brand should utilize the outside help of people who are eager to spread the word and spark word-of-mouth marketing. Additionally, Meghan mentioned events, in which Mashable personally interacts with its members. As Jenn Pedde said during one of our Google+ hangout sessions, “have something for your brand ambassadors to do.” Since Mashable solely exists online, I think humanizing the brand would be a great strategy to attract more attention and drive traffic to the site’s homepage. The ambassadors could host social media learning labs and skills building workshops on behalf of the brand. Since the site seems to be a popular choice among professors within the iSchool and communications-related fields, articles published to the site can be reference during the sessions conducted by the ambassadors.

To learn more about my interview with Meghan Peters, send your thoughts to the #cmgrclass!

Building Community with Content

Wednesday’s #CMGRchat was about using content to build a community. I found this chat particularly helpful and the questions that Jenn and Kelly asked to the participants insightful. Here are some highlights:

Question 1: What’s your primary content type? Trust Building, Educational, User-Generated, Conversational, or Filtered? – Why?

cmgrchat a1For my community, most of my content is about events or news about our community/community members, so most of my content is educational/informative. But the answers to question 1 were diverse.

Many participants say that they prefer user-generated content and that they try to post things that are conversational. However, user-generated content comes with time, your community needs to grow and mature before you can have this type of content. Some community managers also agreed that it is good to have a combination of different content types to keep things fresh and interesting.

Question 2: What are some integral components of a content strategy?

The following is a list of the most talked about integral components of a content strategy:

  • Creating a content calendar
  • Knowing your community
  • Following the values of your brand
  • Keeping in line with the goals of your community
  • Listening to your community and the feedback they give
  • Using the proper platforms to help you post, track, and analyze
  • Consistency in curation and moderation
  • Clear business goals
  • Planning ahead

Question 3: In what ways do current community members contribute to your owned content? (Blogs, Newsletters, web pages, etc.)?

Currently, my community members don’t actually write newsletters, emails, blogs, help with our web pages, or anything like that. However, they contribute by letting us know what they are up to, by sending us links to shows, projects or informing us of other things they are participating in. Since I help manage a community for Syracuse University graduates, it is really helpful when our alumni notify us and keep us informed– they are our eyes and ears.

cmgrchat A3

Many partipants in #CMGRchat had more experience with community members contributing to their content. Their advice included:

  • Being open to guest bloggers/posters
  • Making sure your community members know they are valued
  • Encouraging community members to comment and give feedback
  • Encouraging community members to ask questions
  • Highlighting community members/showcasing talented community members
  • Making sure that it is a mutually beneficial relationship between the community and its members

Question 4: What companies make tools that have community building in mind? What do you use?

Tools that #CMGRchat participants listed as helpful included:

  • Email*
  • Twitter*
  • Google+*
  • Hootsuite*
  • Sprout Social
  • Crowd Booster
  • Storify*
  • StumbleUpon
  • Skype
  • OneTab
  • Marketo
  • Sales Force
  • Buddy Media
  • Radian6
  • Blogging sites such as Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress*

(* denotes tools that I also use/find helpful)

cmgrchat 1Question 5: How often do you evaluate an owned/onsite content strategy? And what does evaluation look like?

This was a pretty loaded question, and for most in the chat, they said it would vary depending on the type of community you are managing. It was also a common answer that you can never do enough evaluating since your community is probably constantly changing and growing.

Participants suggested:

  • Weekly and/or monthly reports such as key performance indicator reports
  • Evaluate and adjust based on feedback and user engagement
  • Listen to your community
  • Follow trends

*     *     *

It was amazing how much I learned in just 60 minutes. This chat could have gone on for hours since there is so much to talk about when it comes to managing an online community and developing content. I’m looking forward to participating in even more #CMGRchats in the future.

Finally, a job description for Community Management!

Time has certainly flown by! This is the last weekly blog post for CMGR Class and we’ll be concentrating on the job description of a Community Manager (CM). Based on the various materials that we have read throughout the semester, there seems to be a lot of confusion in the industry as to the specific responsibilities of a Community Manager. For the last readings, we concentrated on the definition of a Community Manager and what they should be doing in a company.

The Community ManagerStandard Definition of a Community Manager

Some companies in the industry have a very difficult time with defining a Community Manager’s responsibilities. According to Erin Bury’s article, a Community Manager is the face of the company and handles managing both incoming and outgoing communications. Depending on the company, this may or may not be beyond the expected roles that a singular person will take on. The Community Manager will work with existing Marketing, HR, and “Digital-Savvy” employees to ensure that the correct voice is being portrayed across all platforms.

Erin goes on to list some common responsibilities that a Community Manager may face, I believe the most important of which being content creation, customer relations and communication/marketing strategy for the company. Content is king and without it you have nothing to show for your efforts. Check out Lindsay Stein’s article that explains the trend of content being used as a valuable asset in the industry. Interacting with customers through major social media platforms is important for public relations and the sustainable growth of the community.

Social Media Manager vs. Community Manager

Based on the various articles that we have come across for the past 13 weeks, there is a difference between a Social Media Manager and a Community Manager. Many companies seem to use both titles interchangeably, which can be confusing to people attempting to enter the industry. There is no solid defined way to approach either position, but generally the main difference between Social Media manager is the concentration on only handling a company’s presence on major social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Community Managers should be handling the connection with people and the creation and sustainable growth of a community. There needs to be a clear definition of what your target audience is and how you will be measured for success. SMART goals are key when defining the role of either a Community Manager or Social Media Manager in your company. The role also needs to be scoped correctly; don’t overwhelm the position with random responsibilities that would fall more into a Marketing-specific role, such as creating print advertisements or creating internal correspondence for the Human Resources department.

Final Thoughts

This class has taught me what a Community Manager does and how they can add value to an agency. I believe that the role will be more clearly defined as companies implement it. Only time will tell if there will always be this mixture of social media / community management in a singular role.


Our reading on brand ambassadorships coincided pretty perfectly with the Syracuse Orange’s win in the Elite Eight and the mass exodus of ‘Cuse fans, students and staff to Atlanta, Georgia. In looking at the general buzz around the Final Four game against the Michigan Wolverines, there are thousands of examples of people advocating for the “Syracuse University” brand (whether because they are paid to do so, or just want to be a part of the hype and anticipation).

I’ve been following the #CUSEtoATL feed (now #CUSEinATL, as they’ve arrived) on Twitter, and keeping an eye on the RebelMouse site (if I’m not mistaken, set up by our own Kelly Lux), and have noticed that it has taken some of the advice in our online readings to heart.

Membership is exclusive.

On a wider scale, the membership can include students and fans all over the world. But this particular journey and discussion is focused on the travel logs of a small group of SU staff members. There is an athletics and multimedia focus, because both are so centric to the tournament and its web presence. But a member of the Alumni Relations office was also along for the ride, and as she made her way south, she met with SU alumni about the “Orange network,” why they chose Syracuse, and their individual career paths.

As an aside, students were not involved on this trip, and hundreds, if not thousands of students wanted to go to Atlanta. While they did eventually get the funding and support to organize a university-sanctioned bus trip  to the Georgia Dome, it would have been awesome to see them directly involved in this social media campaign. I know it was a limited time frame, but I would have loved to see contest held for students with multimedia or social media skills apply to cover the #CUSEtoATL trip, in return for transportation.  And how awesome it would have been for them to meet alumni and fans along the way?

Connect with advocates. Provide ways for them to connect with each other. 

This is a given in the trip’s use of social media, but it’s also unique in the planning of the trip’s stops. Some of these included Eric Mower and Associates (an advertising agency with a satellite branch here in Syracuse, NY), a variety of restaurants, and other attractions. Connections were both in person and via social, and involved a variety of topics, from rats at a science museum to fun historical facts about each town visited. And the times and locations of the #CUSEtoATL team were announced beforehand, providing events for people to look forward to and post about in anticipation.

Don’t try to control the community’s message.

While it’s true that this topic was already rather specific, it’s important to note that submissions were allowed from a wide variety of people, in a variety of locations. Some moderation is always necessary, but as events occurred at different TV stations, places of employment, or involving the very youngest fans across the country, a diverse and interesting set of variations on “Go, ‘Cuse!” made it to the website.

In summary, a job well done for the members of Athletics, Marketing and Alumni Relations who went on the trip. Enjoy the game, one and all, and GO ORANGE.


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?

What About When the Customer is Wrong?

Call me a boat-rocker, but I don’t personally subscribe to the notion that the customer is always right. I happen to love customer service, it’s a topic I’m very passionate about and I’m always out to find shining examples of service done right. But I think it’s folly to go in thinking the customer’s needs are paramount – rather, I think it’s important to go in thinking that you’ll be interacting with a person who has needs, which may or may not align with your organization’s products, services, or mission. Sometimes, the person who gave you money, or is prepared to do so, is actually somebody else’s customer, and it’s your job to help them figure that out.

"We don't have that, but let me help you find somebody who does."

“We don’t have that, but let me help you find somebody who does.”

I’ve worked in a variety of service positions over the years, from a snowboard instructor, to a barista, to an IT helpdesk consultant, and a small handful of social media roles. My opinion years back, when I was teaching snowboarding, would have been that the customer needs to be fluffed up and treated like royalty, otherwise they won’t tip you. As a barista, I felt the same way. As an IT consultant, my opinion changed slightly, as there were no tips, and my customers were not charged for our services. These were people who simply needed my help to maintain their status quo, and while a minor network issue may take me two minutes to diagnose and fix, they may come to me belligerent, accusing us of running a sub-par organization. That position was draining, but I knew exactly what the perspective was on the customer side; I was the expert in this matter, not them, so they were dealing with a problem they had little to no capacity to fix, and thus I needed to be not only a mechanic, but an instructor. To help stem the tide of repeated problems that have quick fixes, I had to show our customers that really, they didn’t need to be our customers sometimes. A problem with your network can be as simple to fix as switching off the network switch under your desk, then switching it back on. A problem with your computer being slow can be fixed by restarting it, and freeing up some of the memory. These customers weren’t wrong to not know how to address their problems, but they were rather innocently wrong in that they couldn’t possibly handle the problem themselves.

This was an important lesson for me to learn – sometimes the customer isn’t right, and sometimes they don’t need to be anybody’s customer. Then, in spring 2011, I took a trip to New York City that I will never forget. I was there for Coffee Fest NYC, a coffee-and-tea industry event, but I also took the opportunity to hang out with some local baristas, most of whom I had never met before. One such barista, Sam Lewontin, was a revelation to talk to. He was absolutely passionate and outspoken about customer service in coffee, holding both customer happiness and product quality to high standards. However, he would be the first to tell you that sometimes a person walks into a café thinking they are your customer, when in fact they are somebody else’s, in the wrong place. As a coffee professional, and an ambassador to an industry, Sam felt that it was his job to make sure that person got something that satisfied them, even if it meant directing them to a café which serves a caramel macchiato – which cannot be found on his menu at Everyman Espresso. This, to me, was everything I felt about service, summed up beautifully.

This week, we read a short section in Olivier Blanchard’s book, Social Media ROI, all about customer service on social media. The reading started off with nine rules of online conflict resolution, the first of which was of course “The customer is always right.” Reading through the list (and the rest of the section), I agreed with everything Olivier wrote – be polite, apologize, an angry customer isn’t an enemy – with the exception of rule number 1. I don’t think this mindset is productive for everybody, because it can lead to an organization making unnecessary concessions for a single person, or even a small subset of people. I would personally be left more impressed by a service professional helping me solve my problem at somebody else’s business, rather than bending over backwards to make sure I gave them my money. The former demonstrates humility and respect, whereas the latter makes me wonder if my wallet is more valuable than my wants and needs.


And that’s what it’s all about – good old word of mouth.

It is always important to be polite as a professional in customer service, always treat that person with respect and humanity, but keep in mind that sometimes the customer isn’t right, and sometimes they are lost. Sometimes you have to do the right thing and help them understand that their business can be directed elsewhere. And who knows, they might be so impressed with the level of service they just received that they stick around to give you their money anyway.

Do you agree with my premise, or is the customer really always right?

Building a Brand Around a Common Name



I was cursed when I was born. This curse came in the form of my name, as gifted by my innovative parents. Jessica. Lynn. Smith. Because Twitter was just a twinkle in Jack Dorsey’s eye, and the concept of domain names were completely irrelevant to either of my parents’ lives, the volume of people with the same name as me was of little to no concern to Kevin and Beth, who did not foresee the online woes it would present to me as I grew up alongside the internet.

Last week in #cmgrclass we had Olivier Blanchard, renowned maverick of brand building in the social sphere, join in on a Google hangout with the class. While this particular Olivier Blanchard is a U.S.-based author of the book Social Media ROI, he shares a name with French Olivier Blanchard, a world class economist who is well known for his work with the International Monetary Fund and has published a book on macroeconomics.

Identifying that we both shared name-based woes, I inquired how one can best build a brand when a name makes it uniquely difficult to gain the assets necessary to grow a self-oriented brand.  Using answers provided by Blanchard (the social media guy, not the economist) and outside resources, I’ve compiled a list of some tactics that can be used to distinguish yourself in a sea of name-sameness.

  1. Work with what you’ve got.

Blanchard recommended to first and foremost take a look at methods outside of a name that can be leveraged to strengthen your brand. One would be to use a consistent profile picture across all online accounts. Another would be to design and implement a consistent graphics scheme to use as backdrops and, when optional, icons, in order to build a readily identifiable image to strengthen your online brand.

  1. Use a variation of your name.

 In her post 6 Personal Branding Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for People With Common Names, Kimberly Bordonaro, a branding consultant who realizes that “..you must stand out if you want to be noticed. You get it. Your mom didn’t. She named you something so boring, so original, so blah…” recommends throwing some twist on your parent-given name to give it a little distinctive umph. I’ve done this, with my inventive and truly visionary adaptation of my name to create the twitter handle @j_lynn_smith, but have seen much better, more effective variations that don’t require the inclusion of not one but TWO count ‘em TWO underscores. There’s the option to add hyphens to names, or choose different extensions for domain names.

  1. Change your name.

Drastic? Maybe. Effective? You betcha. Erik Deckers, owner of Professional Blog Service, created this post on how to brand yourself with a common name in response to a request from a Twitter user. He uses Chad Johnson, #85 for the New England Patriots, as a prime example. Filled with dismay over his #3 most common last name (which, let’s be real, is a cakewalk compared to Smith), Chad opted to change it to something a bit more distinctive, and went through the legal process to change his name to Chad Ochocinco. While he likely didn’t make the name change to acquire his ideal domain name, or get that Facebook extension he’s been lusting after, this seemingly drastic measure can be quite effective to social-media-minded individuals as well.

While I have no immediate plans to change my name, and my Twitter handle is pretty much set unless Twitter wants to go ahead and repurpose @j_smith for me (c’monnnnn guys), I’m going to take Blanchard’s tip on working with what I’ve got. And, in spite of the fact that there are 6,805 Jessica Smiths in the United States (according to HowManyOfMe.com) I plan on building my brand and hopefully, making myself the most distinctive Jessica Smith out there.