Community Manager Appreciation Day

Your online presence is often the first “place” customers go to talk to your company, and the first “place” potential customers meet you. The people managing those communities fulfil a very important role for your company, and there are lots of reasons (I wrote about five) to show your appreciation for them, and Monday is the day to do it.

It’s Community Manager Appreciation Day (CMAD) on Monday so if you manage community managers here are some ways you could show your appreciation.

1 Say Thank You

Include some specific examples of posts that have been important, significant discussions/events or initiatives that have helped the company. You could, particularly in internal communities, post in your thanks to the community.  You could also make a public notice to go on the water cooler/coffee machine. If you don’t want to do this publicly, an email of face to face thanks also works.

2 High Level Recognition

You community is delivering value to business, find a business leader who can say this in email to your community managers. Many community managers take on the role as an “add on” to their usual job, if this is the case include their managers in the email list.

3 Buy coffee/tea

Not every company has free coffee on tap, your social media/community managers will appreciate the coffee/tea of their choice. Ask the barista to write “thank you” on the cup.

4 Invite them to join the CMAD webathon

The group behind CMAD has a day long programme of speeches and lectures all relevant to the role of a community manager. You can see the whole agenda and sign up on the site.

5 Run Your Own Web Event for Community Managers

I have done this, we ran an online meeting in two sessions (to cover Asian and American time zones), we had expert sessions on webcare, content calendars, and examples from round the world on local challenges (this was the most popular session).  If it’s too late to pull this together for this year how about announcing it on Monday, and making it a showcase for other colleagues to understand the role of the Community Manager.

6 Bring Cake

Yes, I have done this. It might be my colleague’s favourite  😉

If you make a small occasion of cake with coffee and say a formal thank you it’ll be a very personal way of showing your appreciation.

7 Small Gift

Put a card on the community manager’s desk with gift or an appropriate gift voucher inside, your thanks will have more impact if you add a written acknowledgement of specific achievements. If you’re not in the same place look for an email option – there are plenty of online gift voucher options.

8 Join the Community Manager Roundtable

The Community Manager Roundtable has a wealth of resources, training and research that can help your community managers improve their work, and professionalise their role. They can also contribute to the annual survey on the state of community management.

If you’re a member of a community you value take time to post a message thanking your community manager. If you can, ‘@’ their manager in the message to increase the recognition for their hard work.

If you’re a community manager pat  yourself on the back, and take a moment to reflect on how your community has evolved and grown in the last year, then plan one thing you want to improve in your own arsenal of awesome community manager skills.

Big personal thank you to the wonderful community managers I’ve worked with, it’s been a pleasure and I’ve learnt from you all!

Image: Thank You  |  Pierre Metivier  |  CC BY-NC 2.0

More than a Tweet; People

It takes more than a tweet to make a company social. This is part 5 of a 7 part series.

There are two aspects to explore in relation to people, one is finding the right people, the second is creating a culture that supports your strategy. There will be some links to help you go further, and we’ll see how the NewArt Museum faced the people questions.

Inspired team

I have this weird idea that when people like what they’re doing and are inspired about it they’ll do a much better job. This is even more important on social media – after all it’s increasingly where our customers first meet us. For the team working on social media there is a diverse set of skills needed. Here are my top five;

  1. Communication skills
    The social media team will be talking, albeit in text form, to customers and stakeholders. They need to be skilled communicators, able to understand online comments, and react in a productive way.
  2. Writing skills
    Someone needs to create all that great content, that person needs strong writing skills.
  3. Design skills
    Increasingly social media is a visual medium, with images used on many tweets and almost all Facebook posts, so you’ll need some design skills in your team (note; installing photoshop on your computer doesn’t make you a designer).
  4. Analytics
    Improving your performance in social media relies on someone crunching some numbers. Major platforms give you feedback on likes, shares etc, but you will want to analyse which posts perform best.
  5. Company knowledge
    Your social media team need to know your company, the history and the brand (beyond the visual identity). They need to know your audience and what will work for them, and they need to understand how the social media strategy connects with the company’s vision and strategy.

You’re unlikely to find all of these skills in one person, but equally I’m not suggesting you need to hire five people. If you have the luxury of a bigger team look for people with a mix of skills that overlap. If it’s just one person – you –  then focus on the first two skills, force yourself to learn enough analytics and outsource the design. If you cultivate a good relationship with a freelance designer they’ll soon understand your brand and deliver great graphics. Even larger companies often end up outsourcing a chunk of the design work.

Hire interns. In the past I’ve seen excellent contributions from interns as designers, content creators, and community managers. I would advise against simply handing over social media accounts to interns and giving them free rein – interns new to the company are unlikely to have the company knowledge needed. But equally the interns I’ve seen have come with great ideas and given solid input, so don’t assume they’ll just be posting automatons for your social media plans.

Personally I want to work with people who are self-motivated, interested in what they do, forward looking and positive;  I do recruit for attitude. In addition for social media roles I look for an opportunist mentality, someone willing to experiment.

In my experience the good ideas for content creation and use cases for new platforms don’t come out of long meetings, they come out of a conversation that sparks and idea.  The good ideas and the exploration of new platforms comes naturally to those who are inspired by working in social.  I accidentally caught two of my team making a vine about the circular economy; it took about fifty post-it notes and an afternoon but no out of pocket costs. Just their willingness to try something.

Committed Leadership

It’s almost impossible for a project to succeed in an organisation without the support of the leadership.

Commitment is different. Think of a plate of bacon and eggs; the chicken was supportive, the pig was committed.

So the leadership not only need to support the execution of the project they need to be visible on social media as well. This could be a small role – eg short video interviews onto Facebook and twitter, or it could be a highly visible role – eg; Richard Branson. But their presence on social media removes a lot of internal discussion, and it is a credibility point for the organisation externally.

Organisational Culture

The organisational culture needs to support the use of social media. There needs to be a culture of openness and sharing with collaboration as the norm for the “social” part of social media to really fly. The social media manager cannot create content in a vacuum, and the community manager cannot respond to customers without the support of the organisation.

This means as few rules as possible, make it easy for people to share content within the company, celebrate and reward great uses of collaboration. Find some ways to cultivate the building of a social media presence – it’s probably going to change how you work inside the company.

CASE STUDY; NewArt Museum

So far the social media accounts have been looked after by the communications manager with a little secretarial support. For a relaunch and the campaign they’re planning this is clearly not going to work.

Two interns are chosen; one from a design course to focus on visual elements and developing assets for social media, and one from a journalism course to focus on the written content and doing some community management work. The interns are both avid social media users themselves and the designer has a reasonable following on instagram already. Some analysis of the accounts of other museums and the NewArt Museum’s own accounts gives them ideas to share and their enthusiasm energises the other content developers who have struggled to see how social media content can be developed.

They start brainstorming about running events; supporting “wiki loves Art“, holding a “Night at the Museum” event with instagrammers, inviting influential instagrammers to curate the museum’s instagram account, children’s art classes, a “child artist” lecture series. They’re looking forward to the next content development meeting to discuss all these ideas.

Did you thank your community manager today?

Today is Community Manager Appreciation Day, known by the hashtag #CMAD.

Why are community managers so important? Do they really deserve their own day?

Community managers are the people your customers first meet online, they are the ones;

  • solving the offbeat questions your customers ask with humour and good sense
  • building relationships with customers and other stakeholders through supporting discussions online
  • providing reputation management, particularly during a crisis
  • embodying your brand

“It’s more than posting cat videos” as one of our community managers put it. I believe the role is important as social media becomes the way our customers want to reach us. So important that I announced last week that we would do more this year to help our community managers build their knowledge in 2015. We’ve also created some little “thank you” messages for them to share online (as shown above). See if you can spot them on twitter.

Done well community management builds your company’s reputation, it doesn’t seem too much to ask to thank them once a year. Please take a moment to thank your community manager today.

5 Reasons to Love your Community Manager

Image: Collaboration /Richard Yuan/ CC BY-NC 2.0

Many companies, particularly larger companies, often suffer the curse of “re-inventing the wheel”. But strong networks can nurture the development of good ideas, the transfer of knowledge and faster solutions. Good community managers connect people and foster effective collaboration.

Image: Deaf Bible Translation Team /Elyse Patten/ CC BY-NC 2.0

This is perhaps more evident in internal communities, there may be communities with a goal that relates to employee engagement – sharing the CEO’s vision, induction programmes or specific communities on organisational culture. Your community managers will play a big part in building these communities. But there’s another way successful communities help employee engagement; we know that “recognition” is a motivating factor at work. Managers and community managers can provide that recognition via a community, but so can peers. If community managers build a culture of appreciation they’ll be setting up that peer-recognition.

Image: Occupy Detroit /Cocoloco Photography/ CC BY-NC 2.0

In a crisis or an incident fast accurate answers are really important, and a strong community can amplify your responses. I’ve seen companies overwhelmed by questions during a technical issue with their site, other followers of the twitter account were re-tweeting or answering questions directly. But this will only work if you’ve trusted your community manager to build a community first.

Image: Victoria and Albert Museum Info Desk /Mark Hogan/ CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Service is now provided online and in real time, this can be a cost cutter and time saver for a company. Community managers work to find answers or experts, and provide the service

Image: Twitter On The Rocks con Cris Alcazar /Camom/ CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

As customers have moved to using their computer/tablet/mobile phone their first view of your company is your website, and the first person from your company they meet may well be a community manager. Your customer service frontline is now conducted across the internet and you are relying on your community manager to provide the service and convey the brand values of your company.

Community managers are increasingly important as the use of social media grows both inside and outside companies. If the community managers in your company are doing their job well, today is the day to thank them – it’s Community Manager Appreciation Day.

The Role of a Community Manager

Community Manager is a role that did not exist when I started my career, but it’s a role of growing importance as the usefulness of social media continues to rise and rise. There’s even a “Community Manager’s Appreciation Day” (it’s on the fourth Monday in January – put it in your agenda). There’s an ongoing discussion on the role of a community manager, most often in relation to externally focused activities of a company, but I’ve been thinking about it more in relation to the work we do with community managers working on our Enterprise Social Network (ESN).

What does an ESN community manager do? Here are the four main areas the Community manager makes a difference;

  1. Aligns with Business Purpose
    Communities formed within a company should be supporting a business purpose, it’s up to the community manager to maintain the alignment between the community and the business purpose. We have communities that are about sharing knowledge, others provide a service channel, some are related to specific projects or events. In all those cases the community managers are working with all community members to make sure the community supports the business. Of course we also have some more “social” communities, I’m the CM for a travelling community for example, these are considered the “water cooler” of our ESN.
  2. Maintains Community Culture
    Community managers are there to help new members find their way, encourage contribution and make sure behaviour within their community remains respectful. In a mature community all members will take this on, but we’ve seen that it’s up to the Community manager to lead by example.
  3. Manages Content in the Community
    Content feeds a community, and it’s the community manager’s role to develop or curate content that will build a community, to encourage contributions and discussions from all community members, and to moderate/mediate any discussions that get out of hand.
  4. Represents Community
    The community manager should act as an ambassador for the community within the company, showing the value of the community to colleagues and managers, and working to attract new members.
  5. Platform Development
    This might depend on how you’ve implemented your ESN, for us we’re looking for user input to help the development of the platform to meet future needs. We give this as input to our supply company or make our own customisations. For bigger needs we have to start a new development project, in which case the community manager might be securing a sponsor and working with us to develop and test a solution.

Some ESN experts advocated having full time community managers, with specialist expertise. We have made a deliberate choice to train subject matter experts on community management and support them as they build communities. We believe this helps connect the community to the business purpose. I’m not aware of anyone who has a full time job as a community manager in our company (yet!). The successful community managers tend to be a great communicators, unflappable, generalists and have some geek genes – for the right person it’s a fun role to play.