Tag Archive for user-generated content

Agency Advice From a Community Manager “Lens”

Have you ever had your favorite brand reply to you on Twitter? Have you then taken a screenshot of this tweet and posted it to Facebook where over 100 of your friends liked it? Well then maybe you have a community manager to thank for the best part of your week. Now, you may think the man or woman who responded to your brand-praising tweet is an in-house community manager, but these days more companies outsource community management to agencies.

Who’s the Subject?

This week I had the chance to speak with Emily Maupai, an agency-based community manager in New Jersey. Emily currently works at 3E Public Relations, which is an affiliate of SGW Integrated Marketing Communications, one of the Garden State’s leading integrated marketing communications firms. After receiving a B.A. in Advertising from Rowan University, Emily now manages many consumer and B2B clients in industries such as health and beauty, restaurant, food and beverage, franchising, automotive, telecommunications, broadcast, and financial services.

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A screenshot of my FaceTime interview with Emily

I was actually able to intern for this marketing communications company a few years ago, and I know first-hand the hard work and dedication she has put into her work to build communities for her clients. Specifically, I spoke with Emily about one of her clients that she describes as a “professional lens company.” (For privacy sake, the company asked that specific information about their clients be withheld)

Why User Generated Content is the Best Kind of Content

As Emily has been growing the brand of this client for two years, the brand has become an opinion leader of the professional broadcast and cinema community. But what kind of content does she post to keep her community engaged? As discussed in class, it is important to decide if user generated content is the right fit for your website. For Emily’s client, the answer to that question is yes. Because her community is very heavy in content creation she always asks them to share what kind of projects they are working on and to share any behind-the-scenes shots they are legally allowed to post, and she says they normally do.

Author Richard Millington of Buzzing Communities supports this method as he says, “The best content for a community is content about the community.” When users are sharing these personal, behind-the-scenes shots it makes the page about the people in the community, instead of a solely a big advertisement for the brand. It also provides a reason for members to visit the page every day; to see if their content was featured, or just to see any new content from their online friends.

(2012, 01 03). Calendar-Clip-Art-Free [Web Photo]. Retrieved from www.schoolforlittlepeople.com

(2012, 01 03). Calendar-Clip-Art-Free [Web Photo]. Retrieved from www.schoolforlittlepeople.com

Plan For Success

Emily and her team emphasize the role of an editorial calendar. Specifically, they try to plan out a month’s worth of content so that they are always prepared, but also they leave room for timely and relevant news breaks.This allows the brand to embody all of Social Fresh’s benefits of an editorial calendar by being timely, organized, and professional. Emily also values having a positive relationship with her client, and she has noticed that the brand team appreciates seeing what you are going to put on the web on their behalf before it goes live.

What’s the Best Part of Being a Community Manager?

To end the interview I thought it would be fun to ask Emily what her favorite part of her job is. She summed it up nicely by saying she enjoys connecting people and helping them more easily find the information they are looking for on the web.

Questions for the Audience

  • Is the community management industry moving more towards agencies?
  • Do you believe it is helpful to have a community manager that is removed from the all-consuming, in-house brand environment?
  • Do you agree with Emily’s client approval process, where they send the planned posts to the brand before they hit the web?

Let me know in the comments below!

Walk in the Shoes of a Social Media Manager

If you want to know what it’s like to be a social media manager, just as Maren Guse, Assistant Director of Digital and Social Media at Syracuse University (SU). She’s one of the brains behind the operation that keeps SU tweeting, posting, and sharing.

Introductions First

Guse is responsible for content across SU’s main flagship social accounts including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, among others. I had the chance to sit down with her and pick her brain about what it means to be a social media manager to her.

“What I do is oversee the accounts on social media under the flagship accounts, so everything that is branded “Syracuse University.” What we do is provide content on those channels and then develop conversations around that content that relates back to our brand.”

The Brand

Yes, SU is a brand. After all, they have an image to uphold, and social media can either be a blessing or a curse for any brand. When done right, social media with the help of an effective social media manager can have large and positive impact on a brand.

The first thing that I learned from Maren is that in order to do your job well you need to understand both your brand and your audience(s). Most of the time you will have multiple audiences, and that is important to recognize too.

The Audiences

What do I mean by multiple audiences? Well, for instance, Maren monitors and interacts on multiple social channels, like the ones I mentioned above. They don’t all have the same audience, so Maren needs to recognize those unique audiences and tailor content on each platform to best fit the needs of the users. Facebook has a more alumni based audience, where Twitter is made up of mostly current and prospective students. See what I mean?

The Job

Maren explained her job as a social media manager well,

“It means to develop conversations with people and foster dialogue around a brand, but also to get the University into those conversations.”

Sometimes it is starting conversations, other times its joining in on conversations, and other times it just means listening. All of these are important, and all of them require planning. Any effective social media manager knows that you can’t just sit down in front of a computer and start tweeting. Maren explains that content calendars help plan day-to-day content, and regular meeting help create long-term plans too.

Yes, it is social media, which means it can be unexpected at time. That’s where listening becomes important, and then thinking on your feet comes into play.

Maren also spoke about using tools to help you collaborate and manage. Tools like Google Docs and Tweetdeck are Maren’s go-to, but anything that helps a social media manager listen and interact across multiple channels, and to collaborate with their staff will do.

The Take-away

The biggest take-away from my conversation with Maren was to always be listening, always be adaptive, and always be human. By being human, a brand can make connections, create a community, and build meaningful relationships.

Are you a community manager, do you aspire to be? How do your experiences compare? Comment below or tweet me @JaredMandel

Creating a Community with Downy

Downy sells fabric softener, dryer sheets and other products that will make your life softer and smell better. But Downy’s online communities haven’t always reflected that. According to 360i strategist Nicole Hering, who now works with the brand, she and her coworkers took over a “crummy situation” when 360i took over this past July.

Nicole took the reigns from Procter & Gamble, one of the largest consumer products companies in the world. According to Hering, years ago the size of the community was the most important metric and P&G still believes that. “When they first launched the community they had a lot of media dollars they could put behind the growth of the community,” Hering said. “What they had actually done is buy the cheapest fans they possibly could and then put a lot of coupons on the page.”

Building the community

P&G was taking pride in the fact that they had built a huge following. But when Hering took over, she tried to help them understand that there’s one metric far more important than reach — engagement. Engagement has been the key word for Hering and her crew, whether it be with creating a content strategy or calculating the ROI. P&G built a superficial community of people Hering referred to as “coupon trolls” but since then, after focusing on the target demographics, the Downy community has turned into an interactive, engaging community that actually advocates on behalf of the brand.

Getting the users invovled

The best way to advocate on behalf of a brand is through user generated content. But does Downy have a community that will embrace UGC? Yes. It’s large, it’s well-established and Hering has the wheels turning on ways to get them more involved. One way has been to ask them which hard parts of their lives need softening as a part of their #softside campaign. Using user-suggestions, Downy has posted visuals of life’s hardest moments being softened, like crossword puzzles. But Hering could be doing more. She’s currently just taking suggestions from users rather than actually using content they create themselves. It says a lot about a community that is willing to go out and create something for a brand.


Study the data

Hering is all about the statistics. P&G has kind of forced her to be, since they rely so much on data to make decisions. “We are trying to have the numbers almost tell a story,” Hering said. And what’s the most important stat to Hering? Shares. She says that in her opinion, shares are currently the most important metric out there because it means so much more than a like or a comment since it’s like wearing “a badge on their social shoulder” and saying “I am an advocate of this brand.”

On the right track

Hering knows she still has a long way to go to convert the community from a coupon hungry, shallow audience, to an engaging consumer base that’s ready to advocate for Downy. But she’s on the right track. Using metrics, demographic targeting and user generated content, she is establishing a community based on engagement rather than size.

User Generated Content: Who’s Doing it Right?

User Generated Content (UGC) is crucial for the success of most blogs and websites, especially those that are community-based. To put it simply, UGC is content that is contributed by non-moderators of a site–it may include images, videos, guest posts, product reviews, and more.

Who’s doing it right?

When creating a blog, you have to establish whether or not you will incorporate UGC. Sites with a large following would benefit from UGC–it creates a stronger sense of community among the followers! Giving your members the opportunity to contribute allows them to feel like they are a true part of the community and not simply reading or watching from the outside. Let’s take a look at some brands and communities who have successfully incorporated UGC into their sites/communities.

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon



What are they doing?
Late Night relies heavily on community interaction via various social media platforms. The show (and website) uses many forms of UGC, but the most prominent is “Late Night Hashtags”. Each Wednesday, Jimmy Fallon creates a hashtag and asks followers to tweet based on that topic. The following Wednesday, his favorite tweets are read aloud in a segment called “Late Night Hashtags”. This content is also posted online.

Why is it successful?
When someone sends a tweet to @LateNightJimmy, his or her followers can see it. With just one tweet, the show is reaching a wider audience than the night before. Also, the use of a common hashtag gives the show the opportunity to trend nationally (which happens almost every week). Now, even more people can see the hashtag and participate if they’d like.

Our book in class, “Buzzing Communities” discussed community blogs acting as local newspapers. Mentioning specific people is a great way to make members feel like an important aspect of the community. The “Late Night Hashtags” segment displays personal Twitter handles which encourages people to participate week-by-week. When followers tweet using the hashtag, they are more likely to watch the show that night to see if they will be mentioned on-air.

Content category repetition is also a great tool for any blog. Repetition allows your audience to know what’s coming. Followers of Late Night can expect a new hashtag announcement every Wednesday.

NOTE: While Jimmy Fallon may be a television show, his community and presence online is very strong. Online brands can learn a lot from his team’s use of UGC.

Free People

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On www.freepeople.com, customers help sell the clothing!

What are they doing?
Free People is receiving high praise for its recent campaign. They asked customers to post photos of themselves wearing Free People clothing on Instagram. Each picture is tagged with the clothing item’s name (given by the website), and the photos are featured on their website underneath that article of clothing.

Why is it successful?
The pictures are linked from each customer’s Instagram profile. When anyone visits the site and “likes” one of the pictures, it gets sent directly to that person’s account. This is a way to reward members for participating and for buying their products. The site promotes personal profiles and the photos promote the site. Everybody wins!

Being featured on the site allows featured customers to feel like they are a part of the brand. They are no longer simply buying the products… they’re helping to sell them!

More UGC-friendly Sites

Check out the following links for more sites I found using UGC to their advantage:

1. Steam – Gaming Community
2. Major League Baseball

Now that you know what to look out for, check out the sites you visit most frequently and see if they are using UGC (and if they are successful)! What are some of the sites you found?


SU Graduate Tackles Blogging

The Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician logo.

The Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician logo.

Sean Keely is a Syracuse University graduate who has a passion for all things Syracuse University sports. He started noticing sports blogs and channels were not covering sub-topics such as soccer. They also did not have the type of content that he was looking for. When it was time for Sean to take matters into his own hands, he decided to just create his own sports blog. Now Sean’s blog, Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician has many readers and brings in revenues.

A popular question that occurs in the blogging space is, “How do you attract reoccurring readers?” Although there may not be a “right” answer, bloggers typically have an idea of how they gained their audience. For Sean, his focus was simply writing for himself. However, using key words and amping up SEO are also beneficial to gaining traffic. There are many factors that are taken into consideration when using SEO. Blogger, Victoria Edwards lays out some key points to enhancing your SEO. In Sean’s case, he puts a focus on key words. Especially when a large or breaking news event occurs.

During our time with Sean, we were wondering if he had a relationship with the University now that his blog has many readers. Sean stated that at first the University was not involved, but he was okay with that. Now, SU is well aware of his blog and will invite him to special events or let him in on new news. Sean reached out to the University himself because he realized that he needed special access. From the panel, we also learned that Sean credits job offers from his blogging experience. One of these jobs includes his teaching position for a blogging course in the iSchool. This tells us that building a community is a valuable asset in the working environment.

At this point, it is safe to say that Sean Keely has built a name for himself in the blogging space. He has readers, access, and a “secret society” (if you know what Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician means, you’re apart of this society). He also has user-generated content, that he calls “Fanposts” and reader interactions. All of this has built a strong community made up of Syracuse University sports fans. Don’t forget to check out Sean’s blog here!

Creating and Curating Content with Ally Greer and Sean Keeley

CMGRclass had the opportunity to hang out (okay, Google+ Hangout) with Ally Greer, community manager at Scoop.it, and Sean Keeley, creator and blogger at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician.

Ally and Sean were a great choice for this stage of our class. We’ve covered community management through the lens of SEO, engagement, blogging, and user generated content (UGC) – great topics for them to cover.

Throughout the hangout, the biggest similarity between Ally and Sean’s job is the way they rely on content created by people other than themselves.

Using UGC is a common practice, and Ally and Sean use the idea in different but effective ways. Ally’s brand relies on UGC, and the interactive nature of Sean’s community breeds strong opinions – it’s clear they’ve easily determined that UGC is right for them.

"You can give context and meaning to further engage your audience." - Ally Greer

Scoop.it’s entire platform is built around the idea that people can find what interests them, add their insights, and publish. The nature of scoop.it is user-driven, and new content is created every day by users. Day to day, Ally combs through the content and looks for the best posts and writers.

Ally also strongly focuses on creating lean content, or, content that makes a big impact with few resources. Like Ally said during our hangout: creating content takes a lot of time. Lean content means Ally can repurpose content and help her users learn from Scoop.it content better and faster.

Meanwhile, Sean uses similar tactics in a different strategy. Sean writes for his blog because he loves to, but he still wants to curate additional content. In order to do so, he’s created a fan section of his blog where fans can write and publish their own content.

"Most people are writing because it's something fun to do." - Sean Keeley

Although Sean doesn’t run a platform like Scoop.it, he’s created a section of his blog where readers can contribute. Through this fanpost section, he’s able to find good writers that match the style of his blog. In some cases, fan blogs will be posted to the main blog, and in rare cases, consistently good fan contributors can become regular main blog contributors.

Both Ally and Sean create content, but in order to better use their time and take advantage of quality writers, they had to become skilled content curators as well.

In the CMGRclass G+ community, we’ve debated the best ways to do UGC. Some communities have depended on or currently depend on UGC with varying degrees of success – like Bleacher Report or Reddit. I’ve seen UGC increasingly become a part of other blogs – the Gawker Media blogs use Kinja to generate and help curate content from users.

It seems as though the successful blogs that use UGC are one of three things:

  1. The blog is the platform, and the best rise to the top (like Scoop.it or Reddit)
  2. The blog is fully integrated with a platform, and content is curated (like Gawker network blogs and Kinja)
  3. Provide an alternate platform for people to use, and content is curated (like TNIAAM)

Do you agree with these categories? Whether you do or not – are these methods really the best ways to curate UGC?

Is User Generated Content (UGC) right for you?


Content Syndication by Chris Heiler.

One thing fans know how to do is create content for something they love.

If you spend ten minutes combing through Tumblr’s search engines looking for anything, and I mean anything, you will find gifs, well-written reviews dissecting a scene, character or entire franchise, hand made drawings and paintings, fan fiction and in some cases, songs composed for a product.

In a similar way to Amazon reviews, Tumblr allows for a space for reviews to be posted and seen by a large audience. With Amazon, the feedback typically stops with a review and with a photograph of the product; whereas with Tumblr, the review can turn into GIFing commercials and dissecting actors.

Taylor Hawes, a blogger for Host Gator, discusses the pros and cons of user generated content (UGC) in his post, “Is User Generated Content Right for Your Website?” In the article, Hawes mentions that sometimes the content that’s generated isn’t always of the highest quality and that one should think about how to address the low quality content or negative reviews but one of the pros to UGC is that it can “significantly decrease the amount of content your team is directly responsible for creating.” Hawes also suggests that if you are going to use user-generated content that you make it as easy as possible for them to contribute.

One of the benefits to UGC not really talked about by Hawes is that if you manage a popular TV show, movie or book series, over time users might create content for you without being asked. Hawes does say that some brands can also encourage fans to create content from scratch but the fans I’m thinking of don’t need encouraging – they do it because they love the product. Tumblr is a great site to find this kind of response. For example, the last Harry Potter book was published in 2007, the last movie came out in 2011 and even though there is no new material, no new photographs from set – fans have been creating their own content based on the books and movies without being prompted by Warner Brothers or JK Rowling.

One thing Hawes discussed that had not initially occurred to me was the legal concerns for generated content. Hawes is referring to a situation where the company will have a user sign a terms and condition statement that releases the company (or brand) from any liability relating to a post that is inoffensive or inaccurate.

One of the last things Hawes talks about is figuring out when UGC is right for you. He acknowledges that all user-generated content is good for business but if you don’t have a strong fan base, it wouldn’t be a good time to launch a campaign asking for submissions.

I will leave you with one last piece of advice from Hawes, “User generated content vastly increases your reach, creates positive buzz for your brand and can be a lot of fun in the process. If you’re looking to increase your web presence, it’s likely that user generated content is a good fit for you. Laying out your strategy and addressing any legal concerns before you get started will allow you to experience this new marketing strategy as a fun, innovative way to promote your business.”

User Generated Content & Amazon

User generated content is a currently a hot topic. Taylor Hawes’ blog Is User Generated Content Right for Your Website? goes on to explain the basics. In simple terms, user generated content (UGC) comes about when businesses opt to have users generate content for them, either in place of or as a supplement to the content they already have. Such content can be: product reviews, guest posts, and customer images, along with others.

My Amazon Experience

Amazon is a prime example of using user generated content, most popularly in the form of product reviews. Every college textbook I have ever gotten along with 99% of items I order online comes from Amazon. While this blog isn’t to brag about them, I can commend them for the way they handle user generated content and it is easy to see that they benefit from it.

Let’s face it, most of us read reviews when we are looking to order something. Some even base their decision whether to order something or not solely off the reviews. In my experience, I have found that Amazon benefits from this. Not only does  Amazon offer quality products, but they also cater to the users. They always want users input on their products.

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So here, these product reviews are a good example of user generated content. Amazon breaks down these reviews with “most favorable” and “critical” so that you can get two different helpful reviews. Here is another example of user generated content. Many different vendors offer products on Amazon, and Amazon fulfills those orders. When users provide negative feedback, Amazon jumps right on to address it.

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In this case, there was a bad experience and Amazon was there to take responsibility. Without this user generated content, Amazon would not have any clue that this vendor sold a defective item. Amazon in my experience is one of the quickest to resolve these negative posts. They have one of the best customer service departments I have ever dealt with.

Why is UGC benefiting Amazon?

It is easy to see that Amazon, the company that sold 306 items per second, or 27 million items on Cyber Monday has a lot of content. These product reviews act as a supplement to the content that they already have. These reviews give them valuable information about their products and promote more business. You can’t tell me you won’t buy a product when you are contemplating buying it and you see a review for it saying that it shipped in one day and was better than advertised. Ultimately, UGC is beneficial for Amazon. They have a loyal fan base (when I look at a product it generally has over 200 reviews) and the content is generally spot on. If for some reason there is a negative review, you can be sure Amazon will resolve it within a few hours.

A few questions to consider:

  • In terms of quality of content, how would you deal with user generated content (in this case product reviews) that was not true? How do we know if users are just lying to give the product 5 stars?
  • Are there any downsides of UGC for Amazon?

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.


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


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?