Monday was Community Manager Appreciation Day (follow #CMAD on Twitter). I celebrated by eating half a jar of Nutella with a butter knife. We know how to party around here.
I wanted to post on the day, but being a busy Community Manager myself, I didn’t have time because I was busy connecting, advocating, researching, promoting, listening, and responding!
All self-congratulatory binging aside, it’s a great week to consider what a Community Manager can do for your organization, and how the role has evolved with the maturity of many social networks, and the growing understanding of the importance of online outreach and participation. Community Managers bridge many roles, but:
- the Community Manager is not a marketing specialist
- the Community Manager is not tech support
- the Community Manager is not customer service
Rather, the Community Manager plays a tune that’s a bit like a one man band (a good one man band). The Community Manager:
- manages the editorial content of your initiatives, ensuring that content is appropriate, engaging, and available through all channels through appropriate messaging
- knows your website and message as well as they know their own sibling
- connects people, be they “influencers”, “squeaky wheels”, or your run of the mill evangelist, and connects them to the information they need or to others who can help them advance their interests
- manages the “voice” through social media channels and monitors them effectively, responding to Tweets, Facebook comments, comments posted on external blogs, and all other social networks
- listens with ears wide open for opportunities to thank and connect with engaged online audiences, and to solve problems, slay trolls, and monitor sentiment
It’s an evolving, but critical role, and the list of responsibilities above is not exhaustive. Non-profit Community Managers will experience a much different day-to-day than their big brand counterparts. Community Managers in the middle of a move from beta to big time won’t mirror the work that goes on in an established initiative.
I’ve compiled some of my favourite Community Management reading out there. Have suggestions? Put ‘em in the comments, friend!
…aaaaand the Community Roundtable is chock full of nutritious advice for Community Managers. Check it out.
The SpaceRace vibes were streaming through the airwaves today. You might have noticed that the wind changed, or that your hair stood up for a few minutes. Don’t worry. Don’t hide under your desk. It was only me, in an interview with CJAM-FM‘s Cameron Wells.
Cam’s weekly show, Handilinks, focuses on disability issues, and features interviews with a variety of people involved in advocacy, support, and community initiatives. Cam and I had a chat about the amazing Totally ADD. I’m very proud to be their Community Manager, a role that involves managing the website, connecting with the ADHD community, and performing all of the social media management, execution, and point of contact for the entire online space. Yep, the whole internet. Did someone say ADD?
Totally ADD is in the midst of a pledge drive on over 80 PBS stations in the US. Their award-winning documentary, ADD & Loving It?! is screening in living rooms all over the continent, and it’s an absolutely crazy time for the entire team. The volume of incoming email has easily tripled, and our Facebook page is buzzin’ like Studio 54, and Twitter? Well, let’s just say that that particular birdie is definitely not flying south for the winter. Because of our success, the essential services that a Community Manager provides have become that much more essential. People are reaching out to us through channels not previously available, and we (I) have to be there to intercept problems, concerns, kudos, and opportunities to make connections. It’s a great problem to have, but it does underline the importance of flexibility, access, and patience. In good times and in bad, it’s not a role for the energy deficient. We’re about to hit 10,000 members. What a ride!
Here’s the interview. I hope you enjoy it.
Scarlet Guy, my 7 year old, recently did a school project where she had to research a notable Canadian. Being a rabid book-lover, she chose Robert Munsch, the author of many of her favourite stories. She found Munsch’s website and eagerly composed a little message telling him about her project. Within a day, she received an email response. From Robert Munsch (or at least a reasonable facsimile). The joy was palpable.
Earlier this year, she read several Judy Blume books and went to Blume’s site, eager to share her enjoyment. Same thing. Within a day or 2, Judy Blume herself, the GREAT Judy Blume, sent her a personal response thanking her for her comments.
And her tweets to former Toronto Mayor David Miller? He responded almost instantly, although her suggestion of a dedicated Dog’s Day in Toronto might not make the agenda of any council meetings.
Scarlet will never forget these meaningful digital encounters.
I think it’s fair to say that the personal effort made by these “brands” have consolidated Scarlet as a loyal fan and customer. Another thing has happened – she now has no doubt that if she reaches out, she will be heard and responded to.
I’ve waited weeks for a response from certain service providers. I’ve joined so called “communities”, and never heard from the moderator or any representative of the company. I have seen a lot of “join our community” calls to action, which only result in frequent spammy marketing emails. Community can be defined in a lot of ways, but the prospect of joining one is not made enticing with junk mail. My faith, one could say, is shaky.
Companies like Starbucks, Dell, Scholastic, Zappos, and FlipVideo differentiate themselves by being present in the communities they foster. They build trust. They breed loyalty. And they do it out in the open.
Many companies make excuses like “nobody has time for that”, or “we can’t have these conversations in public”, or “our audience isn’t online.” Closing the door on providing service out in the open looks like you have something to hide. Showing that you’re responsive, and that you understand that social networks and the online medium are important to customers is a win-win. And yes, someone needs to manage it. Someone who is an effective communicator and cares about customer service. And someone who enjoys being online and interacting in the digital space. I bet there’s someone who’d relish the opportunity. Can you find them and empower them?
In our web development practice, we regularly consult forums and discussion boards. Response and sharing is de riguer. It’s a very give and give back community, and we have formed amazing relationships through this network of shared contribution. The thing is, these faithful responders aren’t company reps. They’re human beings with a belief in the sharing economy. They likely rate highly on any social technographics measurement. They provide an excellent example of how relationships with brands could be, if brands weren’t so concerned with building the numbers of their email list.
I invite you to conduct your own research. Fill in a contact form with a positive comment and see what happens. Search for your chosen service provider on Facebook. Send them a tweet. Is anybody out there?
I was shown a potential affiliate site for an advertising campaign. They claim that a huge number of our “target” market visits their site every month. *cough*
I took a wander through the “community”. All of the video content came from one advertiser. There might have been 6 videos, all introducing the staff of the advertiser. All from the same company.
Hmm, I thought, why didn’t they post this on their own website?
The other content was of the extremely thinly veiled sponsored type. And to make things worse, it appeared that the publication had only managed to sell this coveted space to two or three businesses.
And to make things even worse, the content stunk. Stank?
A gigantic number of our target audience are frequent frequenters of this site? Really?
And best of all, the publication would send out an email BLAST to this audience (on our thinly veiled behalf).
I capitalized the word BLAST because that’s exactly how I view this type of spam. Like people who capitalize their online communications for effect, email blasts, in my mind, are obnoxious, abusive, and scream-y. Stop yelling, eh.
In other, related news, I unsubscribed from a whole lotta junk this week. Community initiatives that sounded good at the time, but revealed themselves to be BLASTERS of the same, boring, market-y sponsored content. Sure, they’d promised to be my “one stop shop” for resources and information, but most of them could only manage to rope together a boring, amateur list of links (back to their site, of course) with stuff I couldn’t read/open on my cursed Blackberry (always on me though, BTW) to product promotions and testimonials that the sponsoring companies had obviously paid for. Yeah, we know that customers didn’t write those.
I don’t believe that email marketing is dead. I just get a lot of it, and as an informed consumer, I’ve learned to separate the shit from the champagne. Same with “community” websites that are really little more than a community of desperate advertisers. For parents, for athletes, for readers, for teachers, for rich stay-at-home Pilates mums, for web designers. When someone trusts you with their email address, you must take that trust and vow to not throw poop at them. Step up your content, people, or don’t be surprised when the punters run, en masse, holding their noses.
To end on a positive note – I came across some excellent content-based campaigns this week. Here they are:
Hunter Shoots A Bear, NSFW from the makers of Tippex.
How to Build Your Workday around Focus from the fine folks at Lifehacker. Yep, they’re helping sell a book, but the content is juicy and fresh-smelling.
How to Leverage Social Media for PR Success from Hubspot, who are selling their service, but always give great content.
Last night I had the amazing good fortune to present for the good folks behind Cause2Mkt, which is a really neat initiative that presents technology training topics for agents of social change. I’d highly suggest checking out their upcoming events. They rock.
We gathered at Toronto’s Centre for Social Innovation, in a beautiful hardwood and brick studio room. CSI is a luvverly place to host a meeting, present, hang out, work, eavesdrop…. We did some filming for another project there earlier in the week and the experience was top notch. Be sure to sign up for their newsletter, as they host a ton of great events.
My workshop focused on the need for online community builders to consider the importance of great content in their outreach strategies. I presented my work as the Community Manager with Totally ADD, among other examples of innovative community initiatives.
And, as promised to the attendees, I’m pleased to provide my deck. I’ve included some of the links at the bottom of this post, since some weren’t embedded in the slides.
And here are some of the links mentioned above:
The inaugural Old Spice video
The much more entertaining Totally ADD version
Cystic Life: A social network for the Cystic Fibrosis Community
Classroom 2.0: a worldwide social network for educators
CommunitySpark: a great site for aspiring community managers
The Community Roundtable: A peer network for community managers and social media practitioners
To the participants – thank you so much for being amazing people to talk to! And to Donnie and Maureen – thank you so much for the opportunity (and the cookies).