Who’s In Charge Here?

This question has been coming up for me lately: who’s in charge of my communities?

Some days, I think it is me. I write content. I engage fans. I help them when they ask. And sometimes when they don’t. I listen. I learn. I’m the head honcho here, people.

But then there are other days. Days when I get sent a post idea from one of my colleagues that isn’t bad, but I know think won’t resonate well with my fans. Or – even worse – when someone sends me an email asking me to do something that violates the terms of use of a social media channel. Or is straight up illegal. (host a giveaway on my Facebook wall, anyone?)

Who’s in charge then?

In my current organization, all social media properties are “owned” by our PR team. Almost everything I post to a social media channel is seen and approved by my PR manager. So, technically, he or she is in charge. If I have something I am questioning, I can easily go to them, plead my case my case and argue for my community.

But there I go again. Calling it my community. The fact of it is that if my PR manager says I have to post something then I have to post it. They own the channel. I report to them. And they get final say. No matter how much I argue, if they want me to post something – or don’t – I have to listen.

There have been many times when I have had to take the hit. Post something I didn’t want to or not respond to a fan when I did want to. On those days I land on the decision: I am definitely not in charge here.

The plight of a community manager is this: we spend our entire day in the weeds, work on weekends, and deal with crazy cat ladies, but we aren’t really in charge of anything.

There are those beautiful times, though, when not being in charge is about as good as it gets. That post that the VP of Marketing saw on his daughter’s Twitter and didn’t like? Wasn’t me! PR approved it. I happen to be one of those lucky community managers who works with a PR team who will take the heat. And man oh man do I love them for that.

I have built trust with my PR managers through increased engagement and overall performance on social media. They believe I will do the right thing and don’t breathe down my neck.

But I can’t stop one thing from nagging me, though: if I was in charge, would my communities be better? Or (even more nagging) would they be worse?

Tell me: who is in charge of your communities? Does it work for you?

Advertisements

Data for Data’s Sake

As a community manager, I always feel that I have a general sense of my community’s health. I spend the majority of my day within my community – posting, responding and moderating. Because of that, I can tell someone when people are overall happy or overall pissed to the point of rebellion and/or mass rioting.

Feelings don’t get management’s attention, though. And they definitely don’t get you money to increase budget. Data does.

But data can be tricky when it comes to measuring social. We are going through mass growth when it comes to data that is available today for analysis. Between Facebook Insights and listening platforms like Radian6 and Sysomos, it can be hard to know what numbers to pay attention to and what really doesn’t matter at all.

(Warning: This post does not give you answers to that. Sorry, dudes.)

I’m here to warn you not to make the crucial error that so many community managers are making: sharing data for data’s sake.

It’s happened to me and it will happen to you: A manager wants you to make a presentation on how successful your community is. You’ve been telling them about how engagement is up and now they want to see it. You collect all the numbers, like reach, virality and total fans. You even pull some pretty little graphs into your presentation to show demograhics. You’re going to look like a star…right?

Wrong.

You’re going to look like a rookie who is just shoving numbers onto a slide for the hell of it.

No one wants data that is meaningless.What you and they want are actionable social insights. What are social insights? Social data you can do something with (love, Captain Obvious).  

I want to present my management team with numbers I know I can improve upon – with or without a larger budget. For a community manager, these are numbers are related to interactions.

Another key part of social insights is presenting numbers you fully understand. If you don’t know why a certain number is larger than the previous month, don’t present it. Even if it looks big, pretty and successful. Someone will ask you what it means. Trust me…

So let’s come together and start sharing more meaningful, actionable social insights. What is the most meaningful, actionable insight you use?

5 Tools and Apps I Can’t Live Without

I’m what some people may call a stubborn person. And I generally fear change. When I have a “system” of doing things I like to stick with it, no matter how much people try to tell me I should switch things up.

In recent months, though, I’ve started adapting more tools and apps to streamline my work and personal life. Mostly because I’m so freaking busy I barely have time to eat. But also because I have found some really amazing stuff. From social media tools to stuff to keep me organized, here are the top 5 tools and apps I can’t live without.

1. Evernote. I was definitely a late adaptor of this tool. My dad said it was the greatest thing ever, so I told him I downloaded it when I actually hadn’t (sorry, dude!). But recently I discovered the web clipper portion of the tool for Google Chrome. And my life has never been the same. I can “clip” anything I find on the web with a click of a button, organize it and store it.

Instead of emailing stuff that I want to remember to my own email account, I now keep everything in the cloud accessible in every device. If you haven’t yet, get Evernote!

2. Awesome Screenshot. It may seem ridiculous, but sometimes people are too busy to click a link or open an attachment. So when I need to send someone on my PR team a consumer’s post I need input on, it is best to make it a picture within an email. 

Enter Awesome Screenshot. You can clip, crop and save images of whatever you want in no time. The best part is that the image doesn’t include everything in your browser window or on your desktop. Which basically means my boss won’t see I’m chatting with my friends.

3. Readability. My good friend Ross Goodman introduced me to this excellent tool. It makes any web page “readable.” It clears out the ads, enlarges the font and organizes it to look like a page straight out of your Kindle. When you’re reading what seems like hundreds of blog posts per day it is great to have a more uniform look. Go ahead. Use it on my page right now.

 
See? Much better.

4. Instapaper. The goodness of Evernote and Readability combined. Instapaper let’s you save articles and blogs you find to “Read Later.” Anything you add is accessible on any device and is in that great, readable view. You can also organize by folder so you don’t get lost in a reader-like oblivion. It’s great for saving things to read on-the-go during your morning or afternoon commute (i.e. perfect distraction from the fact that you’re riding public transit).

5. Buffer. I’ve become obsessed with this tool and have been trying to spread it to my brand pages. Buffer analyzes the best time for you to send out social media updates based on your followers behavior. You just load the “buffer” up with updates and it will automatically send them out throughout the day.

 
If you don’t have time to be updating your personal social media all day like me, this is the tool for you. Spend some time each day loading up your buffer with interesting content and you’ll never have to check it again.

What are some of the go-to tools that you can’t live without? Share in the comments!

I Don’t Get Twitter

how to use Twitter for brands

Yes, I said it. I don’t get Twitter. To be more specific: I don’t understand why I use Twitter.

There was awhile about three months ago when I thought I was finally figuring it out. I was participating in chats, sharing interesting information, getting RTs and finding people who provided insightful information that I enjoyed.

Flash forward to now: My Twitter follower growth has gone stagnant (except for the occasional robot or porn star) and RTs are hard to come by. To top it off, I’m overwhelmed. I follow way too many people, but I don’t want to unfollow them for fear they might unfollow me and then my follow count will go down and people won’t consider me an influencer and AHHHHH! I’m freaking out, man.

Along with my personal issues with Twitter, I have no idea what I am doing on it when it comes to my brand accounts. I’ve read the articles, tested the theories and tried to be “useful” to fans. But it isn’t working.

So I’ve come to the conclusion: some people and brands aren’t meant to be on Twitter.

My conclusion really came about a few weeks ago when I read this article from the Atlantic. The title? “Be Better at Twitter: The Definitive, Data-Driven Guide. “Sign me up,” I thought.

To the Atlantic’s credit, the info was great. They looked at about 43,000 unique tweets and asked users for their feedback about them. What they found useful, what they found funny and what pissed them off to no end. The result of what we should all be doing on Twitter?

“Do be useful. Do be novel. Do be compelling. Do not, under any circumstances, be boring.”

Well, hell. I’m trying to be all those things – for personal and my brand accounts – with little success.

Here’s my edited conclusion:

Do be useful. Do be novel. Do be compelling. Do not, under any circumstances, be boring. If you can’t do all these things, don’t do it at all!

Every community manager gets the question from a higher up about why they haven’t put a brand on a certain social network. “Why aren’t we tweeting? Why aren’t we on Instagram?” Sometimes they answer should be: Because consumers won’t get any value from us there.

If you can’t provide value to consumers, don’t use it. And if you can’t provide value to yourself and others, don’t use it.

I’m going to take a step back from Twitter in the next few weeks and see if I can’t find and provide more value on other social channels, like G+, Pinterest and Instagram. Then I’m going to take what I learn and do the same for my brands. Maybe if I finally leave Twitter, I’ll get it.

So tell me folks – do you get Twitter?

How to: Tap Into Your Social Audience

I’m always trying to think of ways to engage my audience. What do they want from me? How can I best get them to interact? How do I make them like me?! But I don’t always think about how my audience can help me.

Many companies are starting to not only listen to their audience, but tap into them for help. I have briefly mentioned the idea of using your community as a focus group. But you can also use your audience as a source.

This is an obvious step for news outlets, like NPR, who often asks their fans to contribute to stories that they are working on. They ask for volunteers to come forward and tell their story. Those fans are then featured in radio interviews. This is an invaluable resource for a company like NPR. It saves them money (less time paying reporters to track down the perfect person for a story) and makes their listeners feel important. Which they are!

But how can this work for brands? We use our audience as a source every day. We just don’t realize it. Community Managers need to take it one step further by listening to their fans and outright mining for content.

How? Here are a couple of examples:

 
1. Straight up ask them. Want to know what magazines your audience is reading? If they are using a certain product? If they like a topic you are thinking about writing about? Ask them! Use their responses to (or to not) drive and create content.

2. Fan interviews. A sure fire way to get more readership to your blog is to interview the people you want to read it. Pay attention to what your fans are saying, who is commenting most on posts and retweeting your content. Then ask that fan if they want to be interviewed by the brand. And bada-bing – you’ve got yourself a blog post! Not to mention all the friends and family who come along with that fan to read it.

3. Polls. One of the brands I work on recently created a promotion that would highlight some of our best Facebook fans. But what to call the contest? People were throwing around lots of ideas, and all of them were great. Who gets to decide which is best, though? The head of the brand team? No. The people you want to enter and participate – the fans! We asked our fans which title they liked best and chose which received the most votes.

4. In their own words. Another easy way to mine content? Use your fans’ own words. We all have those amazing fans who say exactly what we want to be saying about our brand, but better than we ever could. Quote the fan in a post and ask others if they feel the same. Or use them as inspiration to create your own new content.

But these are just a start. What other ideas do you have for tapping into your social audience? What has worked in the past? What hasn’t? Share in the comments!

Social Media New Year’s Resolutions

A new year is upon us! And with it comes my one year anniversary as a Community Manager. Hoorah! So even though I’m not usually a fan of new year’s resolutions, I’m going to make a few for myself.

It’s strange to think that I’ve been doing this for a year. There was a time when I thought I would never find a job I enjoyed and that anyone who said they actually enjoyed their job was a bold faced liar. But things changed.

Two colleagues were nice enough to show me the social media ropes and set me up with some great contacts (thanks DB and Josh!) Now I’m starting the new year with a job I enjoy (not lying).

But things can get hairy out here in the social media world. Sometimes I am the person who hates my job. So my new year’s resolutions aren’t just goals – they’re tips to help me avoid burnout and remember why I enjoy working in this ever changing industry.

– Let creativity in. Between my Instapaper, Google Reader, Amazon reading list and job in general, I sometimes feel like everything in my day has to do with social media. Staying on this one topic can actually stifle creativity – both inside and outside my job. My resolution is to read one non-social media book a month. Oh, and more cooking blogs everyday! Lots and lots of cooking blogs.

– Laugh at myself and my job. Remember that mention of hating my job? Well, it generally happens when someone says something outrageous or ridiculous to me on a social network. Instead of getting angry or frustrated, I’m going to laugh. Laugh, damnit. Because if I can’t derive some humor out of people getting angry at me for my grammar, what can I laugh at? Dont answer that…

– Take more risks. Many community managers have a tendency to find something that works and stick with it (Facebook polls, anyone?). I want to take more risks with my content. Try something that I never have before and step outside of the realm of “what works.”

– Enjoy it. When people see me browsing cat videos and photos, looking for interesting things to post, they say, “That’s your job?!” My first reaction is to get defensive and explain that it is a lot more than browsing for fun content. But they aren’t being rude. They’re jealous. And they’re right to be. My job kicks ass. Not just because of the cat videos (big bonus), but because of all the other every-changing things I get to do. And this year I am going to enjoy it while I still can.

Happy 2012, everyone! Share your new year’s resolutions – social media or otherwise – in the comments!

Social Media Wish list

The holidays are upon us! Since it is officially December, I can now admit that I’ve been listening to Christmas carols for two weeks already (thank you, Pandora). I’ve also started my holiday wish list – all the things I want relatives and friends to buy me in lieu of the crap lovely things they got me last year.

While I was adding three pairs of riding boots, v-neck sweaters and a new tote for work to the list (in case you needed ideas) I thought: What do I wish social media would give to me this Christmas?

– Better insights. Measurement is the bane of most Community Manager’s existence, myself included. There is no right or wrong way to measure social and every boss you have wants it done differently. Everyone is always asking for benchmarks that don’t exist and then blames you for benchmarks not existing (Thanks a lot, Zuck). I’d like to see more comprehensive and clear insights from Facebook* along with any insights at all from Twitter.

*Since I started this list, Facebook has rolled out a new and improved suite of insights. I’m still figuring them all out, but things look promising. So let’s make these other wishes come true, people!

– A one stop shop social media monitoring system. I use a paid SMMS service, bit.ly, Hootsuite and Buffer every single day. And on any given day you can add another tool-of-the moment to that list. Is it too much to ask for them all in one? Post scheduler, link shortener and analytics puller (you know what I mean). And I want it to be fast. Really fast.

– Mobile optimization. For the love of god, please make my tabs optimized for the Facebook mobile app! I can’t tell you how many complaints I get from fans saying they can’t see the tab I am directing them to because they are on their phone. According to the recent State of Social Marketing report, Social Consumers are checking Facebook more than ever from their phones. It’s time for Facebook to up its mobile game. And help a community manager out!

– Better customer service communication. I often have to use Facebook’s messaging platform to send out correspondence to fans. For example, if a user has a customer service question that I need personal information to answer (like his or her email address) I prefer to send the user a DM. Problem? I can only send DMs from my personal Facebook account.

Many Facebook users do not trust that I am actually from the company. They think I may be spamming/scamming them and don’t answer. Also, Facebook automatically directs these messages to a super unnoticeable and super annoying “Other” folder. Fans don’t see the message and think our brand is ignoring them. When they finally find the message 3 months later, fans may have missed out on an opportunity to receive the support they asked for.

I’d like to see Facebook allow brands to send DMs as brand pages and give leeway who they can communicate with, like fans of their pages.

– Stop overwhelming me. I understand competition, trying to improve on a product, innovation, blah blah blah. But man alive, people! I am becoming completely overwhelmed by social networks. Twitter, Facebook, G+, LinkedIn, Quora…can’t one of you make it right and just shut the others up? And stop creating so many new features so suddenly! It just makes things worse. And I’m a community manager! Imagine how a regular user feels?

I realize this is the most unrealistic wish on the list. But it wouldn’t be Christmas without asking for something you’ll probably never get!

I hope the Social Santa comes through in 2012. Happy Holidays!