What makes a good community manager?

May 8th, 2009

Community manager at work One point from the Q&A roundup from Marketing Now bears deeper exploration: Online communities require investment in people.

Technology is necessary, and beneficial. But it’s only the beginning.

Nothing will happen if you set up an online community platform and expect a community to form and manage itself.

In 2008 the Tribalization of Business survey found that this was the case – businesses were spending up to a million dollars on community platforms that were then becoming ghost towns.

It’s not because the concept isn’t valid; it’s that the job has been half done.

Communities, movements, any collection of people for a purpose, happens because someone makes an effort.

So what skills are required? In our years of observing and participating in this space, we believe a good community manager is like a:

  • Magazine editor , who pulls together information from various sources and makes it easy-to-consume.
  • Orchestra conductor , who brings the best out of a group of diverse people.
  • Counsellor , who listens to people and helps them solve their own problems.
  • Improv actor , who uses the situation at hand to create a completely new experience with his audience.
  • Parent , making sure that no child is left behind, and that everyone treats each other well.
  • Exploration leader, taking the community down new and exciting paths.
  • Publican , whose job is to provide a convivial environment for conversation and entertainment, with the minimum of distraction.

Any I’ve missed?

(Thanks to Chris for publishing his photos under a Creative Commons licence!)

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Marketing Now part 3 – Q and A

May 7th, 2009

(This continues our coverage of the Marketing Now Conference. Also check out my posts on day 1 and 2 , and the three iJumpTV episodes devoted to the conference)
How would a blind man describe an elephant?

"Social media reminds me of the story of the five blind men and the elephant. Asked to describe the elephant, one said ‘it’s long and thin’, because he could feel the tail. Another said, ‘no, it’s flat and thin’, because he was feeling the ear. Yet another said ‘you’re crazy! It’s like a tree trunk, thick and round’, because he was feeling the leg.

"They all could see different aspects of social media, yet none of them could see it in its entirety. That’s the same kind of situation we’re in now – there’s a revolution beginning and we haven’t begun to see all the potential effects.

Yet on this panel we have some of the most expert elephant gropers in the world. They’ve been feeling the elephant for years. And they’re here to answer your questions."

That’s how I introduced the panel of speakers – Sharon Crost , Stephen Johnson , Jim Stewart , David Meerman Scott and Chris Brogan – in the final session of Marketing Now. It was an action-packed session, with almost as much commentary from the audience as from the speakers. Here are some of the highlights.

Greig Buckley, CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau , had a very interesting question about the future of ad-supported online services. To paraphrase his question, how will paid advertising online survive if marketers are shifting their efforts to free social media marketing ? (In fact, the word he used was "parasitic", but he was at pains to point out he implied no judgement in using that word)

The answers from the panel tended to say the same thing: we don’t see the solution yet, but it was strongly in the interests of media owners (and the owners of services like YouTube) to figure out a solution soon. None of them are in it for love, they are all in it for commercial reasons, but at the moment we are at an experimental stage.

Another question was about how to start an online community . One audience member had budgeted $25,000 to develop a Facebook-like community. Another audience member recommended Ning.com , pointing out that it did most things an online community platform needs to do, for free (or US$25 a month for an ad-free service). But that’s only half the story.

The other half of the story is the need for a community leader or manager. The technology is just the beginning; communities need nurturing and leadership, and that can only be done by a person. So the panel’s advice: invest that money in a person and/or people to lead that community .

The last story, and by far the most common question we hear at iJump, is "where do we start?"

Of course, there is no one answer, so the next best thing was to ask people in the audience to share their plans and next steps. Most next steps included an exploration of Twitter and Google Alerts , as well as developing buyer personas (as per David Meerman Scott’s presentation ).

This session was also the beginning of the NZ Social Media Network – where socialising means business . Established by Siobhan Bulfin and ourselves, this is a place for business people to learn from each other about social media, with a New Zealand focus.

Even if you weren’t able to attend the conference, we’d love to see you at the NZ Social Media Network .

(Thanks to digitalART2 for the fantastic Elephoto)

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Marketing Now day 2 – social media gets practical

April 22nd, 2009

Social media gets practical at Marketing Now
You thought day one was great, just wait for day 2!

It started with balls.

Before Sharon Crost even began speaking, she was throwing beach balls into the crowd.

As you might expect, the balls got tossed around and much laughter ensued.

Sharon challenged us to consider the beach ball as our brand or idea. Why did the ball stay in the air? Because it was fun, because everyone else was doing it. Great analogy!

Up out of your seats

To demonstrate how easy it is to spark a conversation online, Sharon put an opinion up on the projector. If we agreed strongly with the statement, we had to come to the front. The neutrals went in the middle (I heard someone mention they were "strongly neutral!") and those who disagreed went to the back. We then passed the microphone around to those who wanted to explain their permission.

It was kind of like an altar call (if you know what I mean, say amen!) in that it broke up the speaker/speakee relationship, and made everyone decide where they stood – literally!

The day before, Sharon had told me she didn’t think of herself as an expert. To my mind, that’s what makes her such an expert! Because she came from the same background as many in the room (marketers schooled in direct and database marketing), Sharon a) can relate intimately to her audience, and b) works extremely hard to grasp – and convey – the concepts of social media.

In our interview with Sharon , she said her three tags were interactive , enthusiastic and value-add . Sharon, that’s exactly what you gave us!

By the numbers

Next up, DraftFCB ’s Stephen Johnson blew us away with a) some sociological/psychological insights into social media, and b) the Orion software that he’s developed with DraftFCB.

Orion helps you visualise the key influencers in social media. In a cautionary tale, he showed us how the San Lu milk powder scandal was evolving on social media for months before the mainstream media got hold of it.

Stephen said many wise things – fellow speaker Jim Stewart called him a brainiac! – but my favourite was this:

"In the new digital economy a recommendation from a total stranger is entirely acceptable"

Ain’t that the truth.

Get Found

Jim Stewart took the stage next, giving what David Meerman Scott called the best presentation on Search Engine Optimisation he’s ever seen.

I tweeted the details of Jim’s presentation (you’ll have to trawl for them – don’t worry, you’ll learn lots). It was really interesting seeing how Jim’s perspective weaved into the perspective of the other speakers.

What do I mean? A lot of social media marketing comes from the PR discipline, where the measures are softer, and the emphasis is on good content and building relationships. SEO, on the other hand, comes from the world of direct marketing, where the measures are rock-hard, and the emphasis is on one thing: driving traffic.

In many ways, Jim echoed the key messages of the previous speakers, especially about creating great content, but he emphasised the SEO benefits of it.

For marketers, it’s reassuring that the same strategy -

  • creating great content,
  • building communities,
  • linking generously,
  • giving stuff away -

…leads to both good overall marketing results, and good search engine rankings.

That’s it for now. The Q&A session will warrant it’s own blog post! Coming soon.

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How to promote an event through social media

February 9th, 2009

As we’re gearing up to promote this Thursday’s Twestival and the Marketing Now Conference in April, I’ve been thinking about how best to get the word out about an upcoming event.

Here’s what I’m learning:

Add intimacy to reach and frequency.

Traditional media rely on reach (how many people hear your message) and frequency (how often they hear it). This gets a little annoying (like those TV ads you like the first 5 times, and hate thereafter).

Adding intimacy is something you could even do on traditional media, but few people do. It’s a sense of letting your audience in behind the scenes, so they know and are a part of the event, before it happens.

It could be as simple as me twittering: "Going to the printer’s to pick up the nametags for Thursday’s Twestival. I hope we don’t run out; we printed 100!"

This communicates a subtle reminder of the event, while also communicating other information (there will be nice printed nametags, there will be about 100 people – we hope!). It also lets the audience know what’s happening behind the scenes, and the live, real-time nature of Twitter/Social media somehow helps this.

Get your audience involved

If you’re running the event, maybe you can crowdsource suggestions on different aspects of the event.


  • Better ideas
  • A greater sense of involvement from those who have contributed ideas – and therefore greater likeliness that they’ll attend and encourage others to come.

Sometimes event organisers do this the old-fashioned way, through a competition. But instead of inviting the feedback of potential attendees, they just bribe their way through with a prize.

Sure there’s value in prizes and incentives, but sometimes as an event organiser you can offer great value, without paying a cent. Being heard is increasingly valuable in a busy world where the biggest dollars usually have the loudest voice.

Variations on a theme

Twitter promotion can be like radio advertising – you need to promote your event at different times of the day to reach different audiences. Yet some people will be on there all the time, and since they’re likely to be quite influential you do not want to annoy them.

What to do? Variations on a theme. In other words, don’t just tweet the same old message. Find all its different flavours, and explore them. Are there different speakers? Promote each one and the message they’ll be delivering.

Share your learnings

As you go, maybe write a blog post about … um, "how to promote an event through social media"!

How do you do it?

If you run and promote events, how do you use social media to promote your event? We’d love to see your comments below.

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