Talking to customers. Understanding their needs. Brokering disputes. Learning what’s best for the community as stated by the members of the community. And communicating that to others. These are some of the things that the best community managers do (online and offline) to build a great community. But what do they do, really? Community is a messy thing and not well understood – primarily because participants in a community perceive that community differently based on their life experience and their goals for participating in community.
How does a great community manager behave?
When I say ‘Enthusiasm’ – I’m not just talking, walk into the job interview smiling, laughing and using the words ‘I’m really passionate’ an excessive number of times. I’m talking SHOW the interview you’re enthusiastic about the role. An relativity easy task is to take a look at the companies website. From your point of view, does it harbour community as it stands? If not. Print off a screenshot and DRAW all over the damned thing! Don’t just “Tell” the interviewer how you’d help develop their platforms, physically SHOW them. A good CM would look around their competitors and other community eco-systems, pick up on where the company is lacking a little ‘something’ extra, and show the interviewers your plans and YOUR ideas. I did just that and fought off people with tons more experience than myself to land here at Sumo today :) -James M.
It helps if they’ve done the job before. If they haven’t done the job before, look for evidence that they know how to write, how to express their ideas, how to speak in front of people without freaking out, and that they have *fun*.
Also, look for a person who exhibits “lazy programmer” characteristics – meaning that they go out of their way to automate a problem that annoys them so that they can spend more time being “lazy” and thinking about the next problem to solve. -Greg M
We’ve talked about how to know that you might need a community manager and how to identify them by the behaviors they demonstrate. But where do you find the real people? An obvious answer might be: “engage in a community and you’ll find the community manager.” And it’s a bit more than that. You need to find people who are already doing community work – and they might not be in the tech field – and to engage with the people who best match the style of your brand and your customers.
Look in the most unexpected places. Look for people who don’t know they’ve been a community manager all along. Someone who’s a natural event planner, someone with a personality that people flock to, and someone that’s entrepreneurial and starts groups based on hobbies or interests. -Jenn P.
What questions should you ask to evaluate a Community Manager?
How is community management different in a B2B or B2C world?
We have a content publishing problem
Hey you there. The one with the combination of WordPress, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Twitter, Buffer, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Slideshare, Excel, Word, and a Google Docs mishmash of information ending in Google Analytics, Mixpanel, Apptentive and others. You and I have the same problem. We want to be better at what we love – publishing valuable content for audiences that appreciate it – and we want to measure it. We also want to know which content published by which person at which time was effective. And we need to do this without the compendium of technical knowledge and project management skill that it takes today to get this done.
Consider this exchange and you’ll get the idea of why this is difficult.
There has to be a better way
You need a better content calendar (and so do I.) You’d like to have the ability to make a campaign, syndicate information to multiple channels and to track analytics in the same place. You need to schedule this content for days or weeks or months in advance. You’ll need to do this for multiple authors and also have a big red STOP button to make this information cease when bad things happen in the world.
I send apologies in advance to those people think that content calendars and scheduled publishing is bad. I think that it’s better to publish live than schedule, and I also feel that it’s better to set ideas in advance and follow through on those ideas when you are trying to drive sustained, measurable success. So perhaps these two goals are at odds, and perhaps not. In the meanwhile, we all need a better content calendar than just dumping everything in a Google Spreadsheet.
There are good signs – when I asked this question on Twitter – I heard from Meshfire, Relaborate and Brightpod. I also asked a group of about 5400 community manager types and got some great answers. And I also got the feeling that there are few people out there who are managing the publishing of multiple content authors in multiple channels in multiple campaigns having a simple workflow for approval with the precision and information that they are using to manage their email marketing campaigns.
What does this mean overall? Two words: Market Opportunity. Someone needs to build a content calendar and management service for normal people that is as easy as managing your blog posts in WordPress. That service needs to handle scheduling, analytics, and content funnel management for multiple people and campaigns across multiple channels. If this service already exists, I’d love to know about it so that I can use it.
Imagine you are a community manager and today is your first day promoting the brand. How should you use Twitter? You might be overwhelmed with the river of information and wonder what are the “right” answers to questions like these:
- How often should you tweet? And should you retweet?
- How do you decide to follow people on Twitter? And should you unfollow?
- Should you care about your follower to following ratio?
- Will people share and discuss your content?
The Best Twitter Strategy (doesn’t exist)
I think the best Twitter strategy (and really, the best content strategy overall) for a community uses metrics like these and doesn’t live by them either. It’s important to measure your activity, and you should explain why you are participating in a channel.
Here are three core beliefs I think are important to build community on any channel:
- That you should share relevant, interesting content with your community and your industry;
- That the best content is sharable by nature because it teaches and informs;
- And that you build an ongoing community by writing and sharing that content.
Community=Actions + Beliefs
You can’t build a community on beliefs alone, so here are some tactics that are useful to consider when you are engaging on Twitter and elsewhere. The act of engaging in conversation means that you should do more than just share your own posts or your own news. You should ask questions. You should always respond to conversations, even when they feel difficult to start or to continue. And you should understand that Twitter is a fluid, changing medium.
The “rules” for engagement are changing constantly as well. Here are some ideas to consider to help you build the kind of community you want. Post as much as you want to – and understand that this may drive some people away. Follow as much as you want to do – and understand that the dynamics of Twitter favor a high follower to following ratio. For your next 10 posts, tweet 1 about yourself, 2 about your firm, 4 about your industry, and 1 just for fun.
Be A Human.
When you reinforce your brand message in the style and tone of the communication channel, people come back. And they talk to you. You should talk back to them and engage in real conversation.
So are all of those metrics up top important? Yes, and they are not the only thing you should consider. You should build real relationships offline with people whom you meet online when you building a community on Twitter or elsewhere. That interaction at a conference or an event brings a community to life. In the meantime, share great content and make sure you talk to the people around you (offline and online.)
About 18 months ago I wrote a post on generosity, the secret weapon of a community manager. And since that time one of the best places that has emerged for conversation about Community has been the Facebook Community Manager’s Group.
The conversation above is a great reminder of the power of community, of the obvious (and not-so-obvious) tricks of the trade that allow community-minded people to provide great service to their customers and to maintain their professionalism at the same time.
The suggestions from community managers (and like-minded folks) fall into two main camps:
- Understanding and communicating with the people involved in a conversation;
- And having a plan that extends beyond the hair-trigger time of clicking “send” or “post.”
Communication doesn’t involve just making sure the right words are in place; it also includes “listening”, “patience”, and “assuming good intentions.” I’d add to this list “placing yourself in the customer’s shoes” and “trying to look for the solution, not the problem.”
And tactics need to include something beyond what you’re doing at the moment. This group suggested “Planning”, “Work-from-home”, and “Strategy” as important tools in the Community Manager’s toolbelt.
So what’s the secret weapon for a Community Manager, really? The willingness of the community of other community managers to provide advice, friendship, and suggestions.
Dear Twitter Friends (Tweeps):
We’ve all done it – thought of a clever idea, jotted down
140 120 characters and then clicked “send.” Yet, as Dan Zarrella and others have noted, now is not always the best time to publish content. There are a million (or at least, as many as you can think of) ways to publish content (to Twitter or another channel) at a time of your choosing, and I don’t use any of them. Why?
Enter #lazyweb. I love to have conversations and to share content with people. I don’t love having to schedule when the updates appear, what time they should show up, and from what Twitter handle they should originate. I manage 5-6 handles – so this might be a problem specific to the very socially active – but I think it’s a challenge (and a response to that challenge) that more software companies should address.
Timely gives me three things I can’t seem to find anywhere else:
- The ability to schedule content updates from the browser and not have to specify which time they are published;
- Publishing content to multiple twitter handles and scheduling the frequency and publication of that content automatically;
- And (this is most important) the outstanding product UI/UX, easy editing of that content and good-enough analytics that let me know when I have shared or written content that others care about.
Sharing Relevant Content to Different Audiences and Segments
Timely helps me to publish content at a time in the week when I’m more productive (Thursday Mornings, Saturday Mornings) and to spread out that publishing activity for an entire week. That way, I can spend less time gathering content I think my different audiences might want to read or share (whether that’s for a personal blog, a professional feed, or #justbecause) and more time engaging in conversations with my friends (and future connections I don’t know yet.)
Timely is also excellent at allowing me to schedule content I find from a discreet audience segment. I find great content sources from Email newsletters, from @Gist, from Google Alerts, and other sources, and it’s a quick bookmark action to schedule something in Timely (and then to get right back to what I was doing.)
There are some cool updates dropping soon for Timely, chief among these the improvements you see in the screenshot for this post:
- See the entire conversation around the post, without having to go to Twitter;
- Enhanced analytics to tell you more interesting things about your content.