Don’t Hire a Community Manager for Their Network

Photo cred: Paul Walsh

I’m not going to get into the debate about the definition of a “community manager”. For the sake of this post, lets consider it someone who’s job is to product content for an audience, interact with that audience, and take care of the internal community.

There’s a trend in who’s being hired as community managers. They’re usually young, they “omg love love love” social media, they’re already active in the company’s target market and they have already established a large network.

I’m going to talk about the last part.

Now I understand why having an established network can seem appealing to a company. Let me address some of the assumptions that I see pretty often.

“If they can build a strong network around their personal brand, they can do the same for our brand.”

  • No. Well, maybe… Building a personal network is very different from building a company’s brand. The core difference is the motivation.  You don’t have a boss demanding that you show results when you’re building a personal brand. You’re not doing it for anyone but yourself.
  • “By hiring this person, we automatically get their network to become part of our community”

  • No. Well, maybe… Sure, since the person you’re hiring is passionate about your company, they’ll want to share it with their network. They can’t just automatically convert their friends into fans of your brand though. Their network might be an “in” for your brand, but it will have little long term value for you if the person doesn’t give their network (and the rest of the brand’s audience) something to share and support (aka they don’t do their job well).
  • “But their network supports them so much now. They think the world of them!”

  • That could certainly be a good sign. It could also be a sign that this person is reliant on their network to get things done. “Community management” isn’t calling in favors to your friends. It takes a lot more business knowledge.
  • “They speak at a ton of events! Now they can go talk about our company at those events”

  • No, well sort of. They can’t just go up and talk about your brand the whole time. It will however, bring great credibility to your brand as they’ll be representing you, as an “expert” voice in the field. I’m sure they’ll slip a couple plugs in there too. Just don’t think that you can replace their usual content with information about your brand.
  • There are just a few of the common misconceptions about the value in hiring a community manager with a big network. Remember, you’re hiring for a position that requires as much business know-how as it does “social” know-how.

    Having a large network is a good sign that the person knows how to connect with people, and that they’re committed to their career.  If you hire a community manager strictly for their popularity however, you’re making a heavy investment for a very short-term gain.

    Home Away from Home: Building Community OFF Your Blog

    This is a guest post from Matt Cheuvront and is part of the Guest Blog Grand Tour over at Life Without Pants (an epic journey of over 75 guest posts). Want to learn more about Matt & see how far the rabbit hole goes? Subscribe to the Life Without Pants RSS feed & follow him on Twitter to keep in touch!

    Photo cred: Poe Tatum

    I talk a lot about building community, and then I talk about it some more. David, as the community manager of Scribnia, has probably talked your ear off about community as well. But, you know, there’s always room for just one more “building community” post – and this time, I won’t focus on what you should be doing on your blog – but instead, giving you a few ideas to cultivate community elsewhere.

    Get active on other networks

    Now we all know the big three (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) – those are no brainers. But what about Brazen Careerist, Twenty Something Bloggers, and (wink wink) Scribnia? You’ve probably heard of them, but are you really using them? These networks are out there for a reason – and they’re a great resource to tap into if you’re looking to discover new bloggers and network with new people. Everyone doesn’t hang out in the same place – so if you’re only hanging around Twitter and Facebook, you’re missing out on a huge untapped resource of amazing people. Invest some of your time building relationships around the web and leave some breadcrumbs that will lead folks back to your neck of the woods.

    RSS Subscribers

    Have you ever thought about this one? We’re all constantly urging people to subscribe to our blogs through e-mail and RSS reader. Why? Because it helps us build “loyal” community of readers. This is obviously an imperative goal (that you should be measuring regularly) throughout the development of your blog. But RSS subscribers can be both a blessing and a curse. They may always read your posts, yet they might not ever visit your actual site – thus missing out on that big ol’ community thing you have going on.

    What’s the point? You need to invite and entice your RSS subscribers to click through. How? ASKING QUESTIONS is a good place to start. Make an effort to objectively ask questions in your post that instigates a response from your readers. In other words, force them to come to your “hood” in order to see people’s responses (and hopefully leave one of their own). The only way to get people to click through their Google Reader is if you give them good reason to.

    Email

    With Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, and a plethora of other social networks, e-mail seems to be a dying trend. But it shouldn’t be, at least not for a rock star community builder such as yourself. Every time someone leaves a comment on your blog, you are blessed with an email address – or as I like to call it, a “gateway to a relationship”. Use it (wisely – not spammy) to your advantage. A blog can be a great place to start a discussion, but email can be a beautiful way to keep it going. Your friendships and connections don’t have to stop in the comment section – and taking the time to follow up via email (when it makes sense to do so) shows that you are really committed to building a relationship with that person.

    IRL

    Ah yes, three letters that we are starting to fade away: IRL or “in real life” – there’s still that distinction between our online lives and the ones we live when we’re not in front of a computer screen – but it’s fading fast – the two are quickly becoming one in the same. So when we talk about building community, it would be stupid not to mention the great connections and friendships that can be found over a cup of coffee or an ice cold Black and Tan.

    The beauty of blogging and Social Media is it provides a gateway to opportunity – whether it be personal or professional, making friends or finding clients – it may all start with a blog or a tweet, but it doesn’t ever have to end there. Focus on building community and relationships everywhere – and your blog will become a much more fulfilling place for you and your readers to hang out.

    Social Media Has No Borders

    This is a guest post from Grace Boyle, a 20-something adventurista. She lives in Boulder, CO and does Business Development for the tech startup, Lijit. She blogs at Small Hands, Big Ideas where she writes about the startup world, career and daily inspirations.

    This last weekend I took a trip back East, to Burlington, Vermont. It’s the last place I called home and where I attended college.

    Before the epic reunion with my girlfriends began, I had to stop by my beautiful campus of Champlain College. My marketing professor, Elaine Young, who taught me about Twitter, internet marketing and blogging in college asked me to speak in her Marketing 250 class. Of course I obliged.

    Elaine began her class; it was informal, real and honest. Elaine began to talk about #u30pro. I giggle to myself, as I just spoke with David Spinks on Twitter and in my inbox I have the #u30pro newsletter, where my recent blog post was featured. The students enthusiastically talked about joining in on the conversation (tweeting is part of their homework, Elaine is so smart) and what they learned.

    Furthermore, as I tweeted I was in the classroom presenting on blogging and transparency a Twitter and blogging friend (who also happened to live in Burlington, Vermont) sent me a DM for an impromptu coffee date.

    I immediately told David the students in this very class were talking about him and #u30pro. Right away, I thought to myself, it’s a small (social media) world. Here I am, Friday morning in Burlington, Vermont with a small group of students passionately talking about blogging and social media. We talk about the same blogs, the same people and many of the same ideas. Only difference is the filter to our lens and place in life.

    worldismyfamily.jpg

    Photo Credit: WeHeartIt

    It’s Like the Social Media (Verizon) Network

    We get caught in our world – tweeting and blogging from your favorite coffee shop or the same desk each day. We forget, we’re enabling a worldwide network and everyone you’re talking to really is real! More than likely, your paths will cross and you will meet.

    It’s interesting, because my gratification aha comes at a time when other blogging friends have been talking about blog crushes and the blogger is real. It’s like the Verizon Network always behind you, available if you need them. This is your own Social Media Network, tiptoeing behind you, smiling, holding their smart phones and laptops.

    Making It Real

    Starting this year, I have had the privilege of meeting up with blogging and Twitter friends in real life (IRL). It’s exhilarating because some are just as you imagined, some surprise you. It keeps you on your toes and gives way to more layers. I even had a blogging friend who moved to Boulder stay at my apartment before she got settled and found her own place. That’s right, social media has me welcoming a “stranger” into my home (yes, I’m being facetious).

    It sounds cheesy, but the line, “The world is my family,” really holds true. Think about how special this is. You can interact with these people every day. Share stories, ideas and thoughts, regardless of their geographical location. You can talk through e-mail, skype, chat, groups or Twitter. This means, you are never really alone. This means you can travel virtually anywhere in the world and find a connection. This shouldn’t feel claustrophobic; this should feel enlightening as it broadens our senses and connecting capabilities.

    These tools (we use every day) are bridging the gap to great connections. Borders don’t exist and barriers dissipate. I owe many friendships and my current job to social media. There’s something to be said about a connection and whether it’s 140 characters worth or a 500-word blog post that makes you smile, it’s worth it.

    I will end with this quote by Charles Eames. It speaks measures on how powerful a connection really can be: “Eventually, everything connects-people, ideas, and objects. The quality of these connections is the key to a well-lived life.”

    I’m Not Here to Be Your Friend

    The other day I read a great post by Carlos Miceli titled “The Media Attention Whores“. The post brought up the issue of media professionals that put more value in talking about what they’re doing, than actually doing it.

    The post was spot on and the phenomenal (and heated) discussion in the comments provided even more insight.  It got me thinking about a common misconception that has been brewing.

    I think perhaps we’re forgetting why we’re all here..so let me tell you why I’m here, why I blog, why I tweet, and why I engage in this community.

    I am a business person first.

    My activities and interactions in this “social media community” have the primary goal to succeed as a professional. If my time spent here doesn’t help me to perform my job better, and to benefit my career, then I am wasting my time.

    Does that mean I can’t make friends during the process? Of course not.  I have made amazing friendships along the way. I consider people like Lauren Fernandez, Arik Hanson, Keith Burtis, Gloria Bell and Stuart Foster to be some of my closest and most trusted friends.  I didn’t engage with them to become friends though.  I engaged with them to benefit my career, and the friendship resulted from the process.

    Don’t forget why others are here.  YES, most people are participating in this community for the sake of “conversation and networking”.  But conversation and networking aren’t a result, they’re tactics.  The purpose of building these relationships is to drive more traffic, build more opportunities etc…we’re building relationships for business purposes.

    Maybe I’m the one being naive.  Maybe I’m selfish, and I should stop being so “self-promotional”.  If I don’t promote my work to the network that I’ve built, however, then why am I here?

    Remember…a community manager is still a manager.

    Return on Interaction: Understanding Your Audience

    Photo cred: David Sim
    Photo cred: David Sim

    There’s a lot of focus on the return on Social Media Engagement.  If we invest into social media, what will we get in return?  Usually the answer utilizes metrics, metrics, benchmarking, goal alignment, and metrics.  That’s great and mostly true.

    Some business practices, however, are completely immeasurable.  There aren’t always metrics to track the amount of return.  Many aspects of the return on interaction are not measurable, but still essential.

    Ultimately business is about people.  It is identifying a need, or want, that people have and solving that need in a manner that is more efficient than the previous method, or lack thereof.

    Social media helps you understand people.  By interacting, conversing and engaging with your customers, you are able to understand their needs.  It’s not fast, it’s not easy, and it’s not something that you can necessarily track, but it’s vital to any business that intends to be successful beyond the current status quo.

    Things change, trends come and go, and along with it changes the needs of your customers.  No traditional market research method will help you truly understand the changing needs of your customers as well as legitimate, sincere interaction.

    Don’t lose sight of your customers’ needs…

    1. Look for any feedback customers have about your product or service. Encourage it.
    2. If you can’t get any feedback, look at what your customers like about your competitors…are they fulfilling their need better than you are?
    3. Ask questions, answer questions, start conversations and partake in ones that already exist…but be real.  Lose the agenda. Just learn.
    4. Stay involved in the community in any way possible, and that means contributing, not just seeking information.
    5. The best way to understand a community is to be a part of it.  It’s not always about being the community leader.  Sometimes, it’s better to just blend in…you’re just another member.

    If you’re not interacting with your customers, in their community, you’ll slowly lose your understanding of their needs and become irrelevant when someone else applies their service to the current needs of your customer

    People may not always tell you want they want or what they need.  Sometimes, they don’t know what they need, they just know they need something.

    If you’re consistently active in your customers’ communication channels, they won’t have to tell you, you’ll already know.

    Perhaps this is why companies that once seemed to rule the world (Microsoft) end up losing momentum to companies that seemed like niche, small players early on (Apple).  Apple is currently doing a lot of things right, but if they don’t continue to recognize the changes in their customers needs, and adapt, the same will happen to them, as it did to Microsoft, as it’s happening to MySpace, as it did to every company who lost sight of their customers’ needs.

    A company that’s doing a great job of learning their customer’s needs and applying them to their service is Seesmic.  They pump out updates before you even realize you needed them.

    The Balance Act

    Balance
    Photo cred: DirkJan Ranzijn

    Here’s a thought I’ve been struggling with lately…

    It’s not all about community, relationships and engagement.  To focus only on these things was naive and idealistic.  These things are vital in the long-run, but in terms of building a large userbase (a.k.a. making money).  In order to scale, these ideals sometimes have to take a backseat to impersonal, systemic approaches.

    Now I don’t necessarily agree with that thought…hence me struggling with having it.  As if they were reading my mind, both Chris Brogan and Dave Fleet recently shared relevant thoughts on their blogs to get me thinking even more.  Then to top it off today, I enjoyed an extremely interesting presentation by Gabriel Weinberg (Scribnia’s Dreamit mentor). He shared his story of how he found success by doing nothing in terms of human engagement or community building, but rather by developing a deep and thorough understanding of the system.

    I know different approaches work for different situations, but I’m quickly coming to the realization that these social media concepts do not scale, at least not at first. We get caught up on the “success stories” of companies that have done nothing in terms of marketing, and have grown solely from word of mouth.  While nice to think about, to plan the same for yourself is usually idealistic and unreasonable.

    So much focus have been put on these tools lately, and I pretty much soaked it all in, not quite seeing the limitations…understanding, but not quite grasping the concept of breaking down silos, as Beth Harte would explain.

    I’m learning that the only thing that really matters in the end is numbers…number of users, of customers, of traffic.  Regardless of how you get there, that’s the game.  These are harsh realizations but realizations nonetheless.

    So I guess in the end, all you can hope for is a balance. I will never sacrifice my passion for community building and human engagement, but it’s looking like there’s a lot more to it.

    I’m sure many of you already know this, so help me through this one…what are your thoughts?

    The Musician’s Social Community

    Photo cred: Angelo Cesare
    Photo cred: Angelo Cesare

    Music is passion. Music is everywhere. Music is everyone. That’s why musicians have so much to gain from social media. Where there are people, there is a potential community for your band.  Chances are, unless you have a completely new and outrageous sound, a community based on your genre already exists.

    How can musicians and bands utilize the power of social media? Bands have been using social tools more and more over the past few years, changing the focus of Myspace to music, and providing free tracks on sites like purevolume, blip.fm and last.fm.  For the most part however, many of these musicians have used these platforms as a broadcast tool, and haven’t been using tools to build a community.  Similar to many businesses, musicians aren’t taking advantage of this great opportunity.

    Contribute to the community

    Like any business, you can’t just join myspace or another community online and start broadcasting your songs and concert dates. You want to engage and connect with your fans.  As an active musician, you’re probably knowledgeable about other bands in your genre.  Share their music with your fans, connect with their band members and build a relationship.

    A beautiful aspect of the music industry is that there isn’t really any rivalry, or a threat of substitutes.  Getting your fans to listen to other bands with similar sounds will not make them listen to you any less.  It will encourage other bands to also share your music with their fans, ultimately combining and expanding your communities.

    “Hey man, check out this band… I know the drummer!”

    The same way a CEO and employees can use social media to create a “human” or “personal” image, bands can use these tools to create a personal relationship with their fans.  As someone who has been very involved in music scenes in the past, I can attest that knowing a band’s members on a personal level makes fans a lot more loyal and more likely to become “evangelists”.  Knowing a band’s members is something to brag about, and fans will recommend a band that they’ve connected with personally.

    Share your experiences, your goals, and anything else that’s on your mind.  Call on your fans for their contributions.  Start a blog and encourage your fans to read by mixing in some inside info/backstage footage. One of my favorite bands, Incubus is a good example with how they use their blog. They post news and events about the band but also write personal posts to their fans and to call on their fans to contribute.  You can take it a step further, and start using twitter to connect with your fans in a live, more direct manner.

    Your product isn’t limited by geographic constraints and social media allows you to tap into communities anywhere.  Whether you’re a small local band or you’re considered “mainstream”, drive the passion of your potential and current fanbase into a collaborative social community and get your sound heard.

    I’d really be interested to hear about smaller, local bands you know using social media.  If you know of any bands using online tools to build/engage the community, be sure to share them in the comments.

    Bookmark and Share To share specific article, click on the post title so that you’re only looking at individual post, then share.