Tag Archive for social media

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?

“What Is In It For Me?” – Creating An Online Community

community manager orange

We as humans have an age old question – What is in it for me? Let’s face it, we all like to feel part of something. We all like to feel that we are reaching out to others of like mind or interest. Think about the show “CHEERS, where you want to go because everybody knows your name.”  We are motivated by “self interest”, even if all we get out of it is “satisfaction” or a “sense of community”. Other ideas to contemplate while building a community are:

  • ROI – return on investment. How will you know when your time has been well spent?
  • KPI – key performance indicators. Decide what is worth measuring (just because you can measure something doesn’t mean you should).
  • Creating a respectful atmosphere where everyone is treated fairly (inside and outside the community).
  • Choose topics that encourage conversations. You want to get people engaged so they want to return.
  • Take a position on the topics so your community has a base line to start discussions. Make it easy for them to comment.

These are ideas to keep in mind as you start to build an online community. The foundation of your community will be a deciding factor on your success or failure of community development.

community talk

So, let’s take a look at some basics of community building. One of the first things you need to do is to determine what your goals and objectives will be so can create a system to measure your progress. It is imperative to do this early so you can measure every step of the way. Measuring your progress is important for many reasons, but primarily helps you to identify areas of success and opportunity. These goals and objectives should be in line with existing business goals. (Olivier Blanchard gives advice in his book – SOCIAL MEDIA ROI) Check out his infographic here. KPI will help you to track what topics get the most “action”.  See what is shared internally and externally to help choose future content. Rotate these topics in a content calendar with established intervals to keep people interested and talking.

If you plan to work for a company, Blanchard suggests that you create a “Social Media Policy” and a  “Bill of Rights” for employees and external partners that will define the framework of  responsible use of social media. This is an excellent idea! Clear guidelines and transparency will help the community to begin and remain on track. It also helps to protect members of the community by setting guidelines of conduct and creating a respectful atmosphere.

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One last thing to think about is how you view negative events that will happen. Even the best of community managers will encounter an occasional negative comment. I found an interesting article by Debroah Ng, author of Online Community Management for Dummies, on how to handle negative comments or reviews. She shares 3 main ideas:

  1. Every complaint is an opportunity to improve
  2. Even the most disgruntled person can become an advocate
  3. You can become a case study of how to do things right

You can read the full article here. This is all good news!

 

I’d like to leave you with one of my favorite examples, CHOBANI. They have fun with their community and products, but this site shows that there is something even more important … BENEFITS! The community actually “feeds the needs” of its members! One of the things that Chobani does well is make it clear that there are a whole range of EXPERIENTIAL benefits that come along with membership of their community. How do you see your community growing?

Until next time, “Happy Trails!”

Social Media Managing with Olivier Blanchard (@thebrandbuilder)

Olivier Blanchard

The #cmgrclass had an opportunity this week to hear from one of the top professionals in the Social Media industry, Olivier Blanchard (aka @thebrandbuilder on twitter). It was a very enlightening occurance. Blanchard has over 15 years of experience working in the realm of social media and is considered one of the foremost experts in the field. He shares his experience in lectures, on his blog and in books. In a statement from his bio – “Oh, and I also wrote a little book titled “Social Media ROI,” which is pretty much a blueprint for companies looking to build social media programs that will actually yield results, not just fans and followers,” you may understand how exciting it was to have an opportunity to interact with him.

social media ROI book BING

Blanchard’s unique and powerful insight into the workings of social media ROI and community building have great value for those that will take the time to study it. His pearls of wisdom that were shared helped me to gain a better insight. Let me reveal a few of the golden nuggets now.

Blanchard starts out by identifying the fact that social media is frequently thought of like a “fifth wheel.” Companies “know they need to have it” but may not be sure what to do with it. Starting with internal factors that could benefit from social media use, and working with the decision makers can be a good place to start. Another way to initiate a SM campaign would be to start with internal workings by department. By focusing on each departments needs, SM can help to create dialog between the members of that department and then integrate the individual departments into a company wide support system. For example: Public Relations, Marketing and Product Management may currently be operating independently without much interaction, but they may share some of the same obstacles in regards to reaching out to the consumers. Through the use of social media,  good online community involvement could help to alleviate this impasse by connecting to the community.  There are times when social media is not properly coordinated, though. When this happens, there may be an eminent #FAIL on the horizon. This #fail can be avoided with the buy-in from the top down, sharing of information and support and direction from a position of influence within the company. (Olivier Blanchard has done a video that talks about what a Facebook “LIKE” is really worth. Isn’t this something you always wanted to know? To find out what he has to say take a look at this video.)

roi

 

Using solely KPI  metrics and not looking at other returns on investment can lead to artificial readings of success without a true measurement of capital return. It is important to the value and possibilities that SM can bring to a company when it is properly managed. In Blanchard’s book, he states ” A fully deployed social media program is a completely  integrated communications mechanism that amplifies the impact of every function within an organization by leveraging the power of human networks via social networking platforms.” This is great advice!  You must sell the value of a SM campaign internally. Only then can you understand the true value and the possibilities that may be there for the asking.

What questions would you like to ask of Olivier Blanchard? Would you like to understand how to “put the puzzle pieces together”? If so, take a look at his website for the answers.

 

Understanding the Value of Social Media with Olivier Blanchard

As a first year Information Management graduate student looking to pursue a career in social media either as a social media strategist or a community manager, I found our class talk with Oliver Blanchard, author of “Social Media ROI” to be very informative. One question in particular which Oliver was asked that was most intriguing to me dealt with the idea of “how to make companies understand the value of social media.” Furthermore, as a low-level worker involved with social media, when reporting metrics and success of your work to higher-level authority, how do you truly convince and explain that social media is important and leading to success?

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Oliver Blanchard’s response to this question was very interesting. He explained that it is very stressful trying to sell the value of social media, however he believes a good place to start is internally. Blanchard suggested meeting with decision makers within the company, and asking them what you can do to help them. He continued to explain that by listening to their answers to this question, in most cases you will be learning how you can help them sell things using social channels and your community. Blanchard goes on to say that in understanding what everyone wants and wants to accomplish within the company, they will have to start thinking about social media and your social activity as a tool and driver for whatever they are chasing. Therefore, they will start to come to you with questions and requests and in the end you will start looking at data and content differently.

I found this suggestion to be very accurate and a great way to start in convincing your company that social media is of value. In an article from the Wall Street Journal, entitled “Measuring—and Capturing—the Value of Social Media” three other ways in which you can show the value of social media are outlined.

1. Going with the Flow

2. Forming R.E.A.L Relationships

3. Getting Engaged

The first way the article describes that is useful is called, “going with the flow.” Essentially what this means is that by looking at the flow of information, social media “can actively express brand value through the newly visible flows of non-monetary economic value that traverse social networks. Perhaps most important, these flows can now be identified, measured, and converted into financial equivalents, thus enabling organizations to aggregate the disparate forms of returns into a more traditional view.” The flows of information suggested to watch for include, data, labor, capital, and customer’s attention which all represent flows within a business system.

The second way, “forming R.E.A.L. relationships,” explains that it is important for companies to “strive for relationships with customers that are “R.E.A.L.”: Reciprocal, Empathetic, Authentic, and Long-lasting.” Relationships that contain these values, help a company provide efficient and consistent communication and collaboration, and can therefore provide better opportunities to increase profitability. The third and final way, “getting engaged” relates to forming relationships. Essentially, the more engaged your company is, the greater the ability to “win the hearts, hands, minds and wallets of its market.”

To truly express the value of social media, start internally, as suggested by Oliver Blanchard. Once this step is taken, work on developing relationships with your clients which will ultimately lead to a better understanding and grasp on your market.

 

 

History and Evolution of Community Management

Quill Pen & Letter

Image courtesy of Simon Howden FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Were there communities before Facebook?

The primary focus of our Google+ hangout and our theme for this week was the “History & Evolution of Community Management.” One of the questions discussed was what “platforms” we personally used in our earliest community participation. AOL Chat, ICQ chats, and LISTSERVs were mentioned. My personal earliest memory is of a private bulletin board service put up by a friend in 1992 that a group of us used to discuss the software we were developing for a non-profit group. This conversation also reminded me of a story that my mom told me about her early “community group”. When she was a teenager, she would write a paragraph about what was happening in her life and send it to one of her friends. The friend would add what she was doing onto the letter and send it on to another friend, and so on, until it completed the circle and came back to my mom, who would add onto it again and repeat the cycle. Consequently, I believe community groups have been in existence for a long time even though the underlying supporting technology might seem very primitive by today’s standards.

The State of Community Management Today

The proliferation of communities over the years has created a much more diverse set of communities. Today there is a group for almost every niche topic. It is much easier for “birds of a feather to flock together”; however, it is also more difficult for a single community to meet the needs of all of its constituents as it grows larger.

Outsource or Hire

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sourcing Strategies for Community Management

Building a strong Community Management team is not as easy as it may appear. A small sole-proprietor in a start-up company may need to do everything him/herself out of necessity. A large brand may find it easier to outsource community management duties to a company specializing in these tasks, but may risk losing the authentic “voice of the brand.” Steve shared examples from his internship with a community management company where he had to spend several weeks studying up on the businesses he was to represent. Early on, all of his posts were reviewed before they could be released. While the best way to learn about a community is to actively participate, there is a great deal of upfront work that goes into getting to that point. Reviewing the Social Media Maturity Model can also help a new community manager understand where his company or brand is in the life cycle and provide guidance as to how to best engage the community.

Communities for Brand Mascots

Brands with mascots bring their own challenges. The community manager must “become” the character for which he or she is speaking. Being “in character” as Captain Crunch or the Geico Gecko every day can be difficult, but creating a mascot with a strong persona can lead to audience growth and help build an energetic community for the brand. Customers tend to become more engaged and enjoy interacting with the mascot. Keeping the brand in the forefront of customers’ minds can lead to increased sales.

Community Management

Image courtesy of Simon Howden FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Who should be a Community Manager?

Are Community Managers born or made? While community manager capability can be improved by the right training and on the job experiences, there are certain characteristics that good community managers are born with. Chiefly, a desire to interact and connect with people, not just via social media, but face-to-face as well. In this respect, my natural inclinations cause me to gravitate more toward that of social media manager than community manager. Social media managers are more likely to enjoy developing marketing strategies and measuring results with analytics than spending most of their day interfacing with people.

Listening to the “Voice of the Customer” using Social Media

Listening Ear

Image courtesy of Ambro FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What does it take to Hear the Voice of the Customer?

When I was working on six sigma process improvement projects, one of our first steps was to gather the “voice of the customer” or VOC, as we called it, for short. This involved gathering documentation on the current process and interviewing the appropriate stakeholders (a.k.a., customers). From reams of paper and hours of testimony we would develop a short problem statement of what the “customer” wanted to improve about the process. Listening to the customer was not always easy. Some had personal axes to grind, others feared changing the process would complicate their lives, and still others found it difficult to articulate their issues with the process. Today, social media promises new ways to determine the VOC for true customers. Unfortunately, many of the same obstacles still remain and some are even amplified by the same social media that is promising to be our savior. Fortunately, there are steps we can take to overcome these obstacles and make social media work for us in our search for the authentic VOC.

Where does your customer “hangout”?

While I thought the volumes of data associated with developing the six sigma VOC were large, they are nothing compared to the universe of customer data available today via the internet and social media. Most companies have fairly well-defined target market segments. By knowing the demographics of the target market segment, we at least can develop a starting point. In “Buzzing Communities: How to Build Bigger, Better, and More Active Online Communities”, Richard Millington states that the first step toward finding your audience is to determine what platforms they use. Based on some simple demographics, we can make some good guesses as to where our customers and potential customers will hang out. We know from the PEW Internet poll that the 65+ crowd has the smallest presence on social media, but that this is growing as the baby boomers age into this category.  From this Mashable infographic we know that students and engineers, especially males ones, are the primary users of Google+. While in the past Twitter has had a reputation of having a more early-thirties to mid-forties demographic, currently the 18 to 29 year segment has a larger representation. Simple Google searches can help you find where your target audience is most likely to reside.

What does your customer care about?

Once you know where your customer “hangs” the next step is to determine what they care about. Millington suggests asking these questions:

  • What issues does your customer care about?
  • What do they aspire to be and do?
  • What do they know and want to know?

There are many tools that can help you determine the issues that your customer cares about most. Packaged software by the likes of SAS, IBM, and Salesforce.com (current owner of Radian6), can parse your customers words and phrases to determine which topics come up the most frequently. Digging deeper into what your customers aspire to be usually requires a more human touch. While tools my give some insight into the deeper workings of your customers minds, nothing can discern the aspirations of their hearts better than actually reading their thoughts and interacting with them. By taking the time to do this, you will gain insights into their needs and be able to develop content that can help them meet these needs.

Human Touch still Needed

While social media “listening” technology is evolving quickly, actually engaging customers in a conversation and listening for their answers is still the best way to determine their needs. Social media has opened up a larger window of public access on their conversations, but the technology still can’t “feel” and decipher the customers innermost needs and desires. It still takes the human touch.

What do you think? How much of customer listening can be delegated to software? What are some examples you’ve seen where it took a human to discern what wasn’t discernible by software?

An Accidental Community

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

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

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

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

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

A Community By Chance

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

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

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

FacebookEngagement_UNYforNE_080411_1

What Next?

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

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

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

(Featured image from Flickr user SalFalko.)

Community Managers Put the “Community” in Social Media

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

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SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER

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

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

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

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COMMUNITY MANAGER

 

Now, a look at Community Manager roles:

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

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

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

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Community Manager by kommein

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

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

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

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

Social Media Manager vs Community Manager

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

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

So What are They?

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

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

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

These roles are similar:

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

Yet they are different:

Social Media Managers…

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

Community Managers….

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

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

10 Qualities of an Effective Community Manager

6 Must Have Attributes of Social Media Managers

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