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What IS a Community Manager, Anyway?

A few weeks ago I was invited to talk on a panel for My Community Manager‘s #CMGRHangout. The topic was how community managers survive their day-to-day. It was a really interesting topic, and I learned some good stuff from my peers.

But, back up a sec – WTF is a community manager (hereon referred to as cmgr)? Well, that’s kind of a loaded question that has a lot of different answers, depending on who you talk to. Generally, when people ask what I do, I just say I work in “social media”, which conjures up its own ideas of what I do all day.

Image Credit: MISSELIAH 2.0

So I decided to put together a list of things that cmgrs are, because I think it’s important that people understand the scope of what social media entails. And also I like lists.

1. We are data nerds

When you’re working in social, you need to have a strategy. To formulate that strategy, you define goals. And how do you know if your strategy is working towards those goals? DATA. And lots of it.

I use a couple tools to track the performance of my social media efforts, and I track them weekly, monthly and quarterly in a spreadsheet. At the end of the month/quarter, I make a super kickass PowerPoint (star wipes FTW) to show my boss where we were, where we are, and where I think we should be going with our social strategy.

You need to be able to look at raw data, analyze it, and draw conclusions based on the trends you’re seeing as to how you should proceed. It’s pretty cool, actually. *pushes glasses up nose*

2. We are copywriters

Social media is about WRITING. Getting people to pay attention, click, engage – the number one way to do that is based on your wording. Just like a content marketer does their best to write eye-catching headlines, we work within character limits to get our story across as succinctly as possible, while still keeping it interesting.

And not all platforms are the same, either. What works on Twitter in 140 characters may not work on Facebook (a.k.a. PLEASE STOP USING HASHTAGS ON FACEBOOK).

Not my best work, but you get it.

Not my best work, but you get it.

Different audiences, different ways of delivering information – if you don’t have good writing skills, you’re dead in the water. Sorry kids.

3. We are content creators and curators

When you work in social, whether for a brand or yourself, there’s a level of etiquette around how much you self-promote. Think of it as a cocktail party: if you’re in a group constantly talking about what YOU did last weekend and how YOUR job is going and OH did I tell you about (insert latest accomplishment here), no one is going to want to stand around listening to that. They’ll probably stop inviting you places – and then you’ll be on your couch on a Friday night drinking red wine from a bottle, telling your dog how great you are. But I digress.

There’s what we call the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time you promote other people’s stuff, and 20% of the time you talk about yourself. I’m not going to get into the specific reasoning for that, however, it does equal quite a bit of work for a cmgr.

Generally, you have a content calendar of stuff you want to promote/share/talk about for the month (created content). I tend to work with our content specialist/blog writer and editor extraordinaire/my personal cheerleader, Emma, on this.

In addition, you have the task of finding other stuff from other sources (blog articles, videos, interesting tidbits) to share with your audience (curated content). It SOUNDS easy, but sometimes it can be really, really, REALLY hard. Especially when everyone is writing about the same damn thing over and over. Which happens pretty often.

4. We are designers

Ok, so not designers in the TRADITIONAL sense. And I don’t mean to take anything away from the super talented people I know who are designers. But, sometimes you need a graphic really quick, and you don’t want to bother your super talented but also SUPER BUSY designer. That’s when you take matters into your own hands.

Luckily, there are a lot of web apps that make designing halfway-decent looking stuff insanely easy (my fave is Canva), which lets me whip up Motivation Monday or Fun Fact Friday graphics in less time than it would take for me to run a mile.

….I’m a really slow runner.

5. We are researchers

You know how people are always complaining every time Facebook makes a small change to your newsfeed? WELCOME TO OUR LIVES, EVERY OTHER DAY.

There is so much stuff that happens behind the scenes of your favorite social networks, and a lot of the changes (mainly in Facebook’s case) work against brands and marketers trying to use them as advertising channels. What does this mean for a cmgr?

Reading. Lots and LOTS of reading. I scroll through social media blogs every day to make sure I keep up to date on any changes happening anywhere, learn new methods of circumventing those changes (or just ideas on how to do my job better), and just to stay current on other stuff happening in the social media world.

And finally…

We’re a pretty cool bunch. I mean, @JakeStateFarm is handled by at least one (probably more) of us. We’re creative, funny, and pretty fun to go get a beer with. So go ahead, applaud your local cmgr!

There’s probably a lot that I’m missing (it is a Sunday afternoon), but that’s what the comment section is for! What does the cmgr title mean to you?

Image credit: MISSEILAH 2.0

What to Do When Someone Says a Competitor Is Better Than You on Social Media

Welcome to my first social media-related post! Since I work in social, I decided I should probably start writing some educational stuff. So sit back, relax, and enjoy!

A couple weeks ago I had a pretty interesting experience on Twitter with a brand I was considering doing business with, and it got me thinking – there’s a lot of tricky situations that happen in social every day, and there’s a lot of different ways to deal with them. I want to share MY methods of working through this particular situation, in hopes that it can be a help to others.

All Companies are Not Right for All People

When someone is comparing your product or service with someone else’s saying they’re better, your first reaction is probably to get defensive. After all, this is YOUR company they’re talking about. You’re the best for everyone, right?


Generally, all companies are not right for all people. Unless you’re a bacon factory. In which case, carry on. You’re fine. But in most cases, what is right for one customer may not serve another. That’s why we have competitors – they (usually) offer something you don’t, or claim to do whatever you do, better.

So what should you do when someone says, “I think that X company is the same if not better than Y,”? First, take a look at the actual conversation. If it’s on Twitter, look at the previous tweets. Is this in response to what someone else said? Usually tweets or comments like this are part of a larger conversation. The original tweet tends to be someone asking an opinion of their followers, or advice from other people who use yours or a similar product or service. Stepping back and taking a minute to survey the landscape can can help save you from a faux pas in your response.

What Might Happen if You Call Out a Competitor

When you see someone comparing you to another guy, your first thought may be, “They’re so wrong! They don’t understand my company! I need to change this!” That’s basically what happened in my exchange. They called out their competitor by name, and asked their community to try and change my opinion.

Oh boy.

Oh boy.

How did it turn out? It started a FIRESTORM. Customers of this brand were tweeting at me left and right, and some of them weren’t so nice. Not helpful, not constructive. Is that really how you want your business represented to potential customers? Didn’t think so.

The one positive point of the situation is that this company clearly has a really passionate community. Harnessing that passion can be a great tool, if you use it correctly. In this case, it wasn’t done so well.

So, How Could This Have Been Handled Differently?

In this particular scenario, I have a two-pronged approach.

1. Leave your competitor out of it. – I am VERY against calling out a competitor like that. It isn’t helpful, and it’s bad form. Like I said before, what you provide isn’t right for everyone. So don’t make yourself look bad by trying to put down other companies who are also in your industry.

2. Let your community help. – Any time someone is looking to do business with you, the best thing you can do is BE HELPFUL. Instead of trying to change someone’s opinion, direct them to your community in a way that encourages constructive conversation.  After all, they’re the ones who are using your product or service!

For example, you can retweet someone and say “Can anyone help Joe?”, or “Anyone have experience with this?”. It will be far more well received by the potential customer, and your audience, and is more likely to lead to a sale.

The one thing I want to drive home here is that your first interaction with a potential customer is the most important one. How you treat their questions and comments really reflects back on you as a company, and can really influence their decision one way or another. Taking a few minutes to step back, take and breath, and create a thoughtful response can really make a huge difference.

What’s your strategy for dealing with this type of situation?


How To Get Fired. Fast.

First off, I want to say that my thoughts go out to the victims and their families in Aurora, Colorado. I don’t want to get too into it, but I did want to lead off with that.

Now, on to the subject of this post. This has been a topic that has made many a social media professional want to crawl under their desk the past couple of days (as well as beat me to writing blog posts on it). A company called Celeb Boutique (@celebboutique) made a huge mistake. One that they most likely will have associated with them forever.

On Friday afternoon, their social media person hopped on Twitter and saw that the hashtag #Aurora was trending. Hmm, they said. That must be about us! So they went ahead and posted this little gem:

Well, all hell broke loose. People went nuts, all over Twitter and their Facebook account. Who knows how many followers they lost. (One blog I read said it was about 5k in an hour, but I don’t know how accurate that is.) Plus, they made no response for over an hour and a half. When they finally realized that they effed up, they tweeted this haphazard apology:

Seriously? Let’s look at the problems with this.

First, their PR is not US based. Well, CNN is international news. The BBC was reporting this. Many other international news stations exist. No shortage of sources for this information. A little reading outside of the fashion blogs in their feed would have done them good.

Second, their social media team was “unaware” (capitalized for emphasis) of the situation and thought it was another trending topic. Well, here’s a thought. CLICK ON THE HASHTAG TO SEE WHAT IT’S ABOUT (also capitalized for emphasis). Takes two seconds. This is social media 101, kids. If that was me, I would have been fired AND disowned by my manager. It’s common sense, really.

Third, and this is personal opinion, they’re just idiots. Anyone who has a social media team who doesn’t use due diligence before they post something is not a social media team. They’re a bunch of people who use a twitter account to try and sell their stuff. And now those people have seriously damaged the brand.

Good luck to them, getting their following back. I hope they’re working on disaster recovery. They’re going to need it.

Follow me on Twitter. I read hashtags before I use them: @marymallard

Gut Check.

That is a new phrase I’ve learned from my boss (I’d really rather call her my mentor, but for the sake of understanding boss will have to suffice) uses when she’s talking about checking herself if she’s questioning something we’re doing at work. I’ve realized its been about six months since I started this blog, and at the beginning I had a list of goals I wanted to reach this year. I decided it’s time to check in and look at my progress.

1. Find a new job

COMPLETED. I finally found my dream job. Well, a version of it. Can you ever really attain your dream job? I have no idea. Interesting question though. Another post for another time. Anyway, I work in social media at an online start-up. Short version: I play on Twitter and Facebook all day and wear jeans to work. It’s really so much more than that, but I’ll go on and on and get really intense and no one wants that. So just cross this one off the list.

2. Go back to school

About that. I keep saying I’ll go, and I keep not going. I procrastinate. I also rationalize. Like me saying that now I have the job I wanted so I don’t need to go back to school. But in all honesty, one of the things that is really holding me back is the insane amount of debt I’ll be coming out with. I know, I know. If I really wanted to go I could make it happen. Well I do, but I can’t. This stays on the list.

3. Register to vote

I have the paperwork on my kitchen table! I just need to fill it out. And mail it. And also knowing who the eff to vote for. Honestly, at this point I’m voting Romney because he’s attractive. So maybe registering should be put on hold.

4. Stop worrying about “The Clock”

Pretty much achieved. I’m in a totally different place now than I was six months ago, and I could care less about being married right now. I’m in a good spot with my relationship, I have an awesome job, and I’m still kind of broke. No reason to be worrying about getting married, or having kids. Everyone who knows me knows my opinion of kids, anyway.

5. Have a hobby just to have it

This one is kind of difficult. My work week is filled with, well, work. And I’m trying to be more active and not sit around all day, so my weekends are filled with other fun stuff. I was focusing on photography, which I still am, I’m just enjoying my suddenly found weekends, and I’m not feeling as stressed that I NEED a creative outlet. I definitely still want one, and I will work on it, just probably at a more leisurely pace than I originally planned.

6. Stay positive

I’ve been doing a LOT better at this. It’s much easier for me now to have a bad day and say “Oh well, poop happens,” than it was six months ago. That also has a lot to do with the progress I’ve made in other parts of my life. It’s just something I’ll have to continue to be aware of.

Well…two and a half out of six isn’t bad, right? It’s a hell of a lot better than I expected when I first told myself to write this. BIG PLUS: I’m still writing! And people are READING! And you LIKE it! Those are all things I did not expect when I started this blog. So that’s pretty awesome. I hope you stick around for another six months and see where I am then. Maybe I’ll be rich and famous and hanging out with Pete Cashmore….probably not. But we’ll see.

Big thanks for reading! Happy six months!

Follow me on Twitter: @marymallard

Let Me Google That – How Our Vocabulary Has Changed in the Digital Age

Back in the day, before computers, we used books. Remember, those things with words printed on paper? Dictionaries, thesauri, and – wait for it – encyclopedias. Now our lives have been made faster and easier (open to opinions) with the digital age. We can look up baseball stats, find old friends, and order a pizza, all in a matter of seconds, and usually from a handheld device like a smartphone. Thomas Edison has nothing on T-Mobile.

With the introduction of these digital devices into our lives, our vocabulary has slowly changed. I’m talking about brands and services that have now become verbs. It’s really kind of fascinating when you think about it. When things were introduced before, say, the phonebook, we never used to say “Oh, let me Yellow Pages that.” But we have managed to incorporate brands into our everyday language, as normal to use now as “LOL” or “BRB”. Here’s a list of the most common ones.

Google is probably the most common brand that has become a verb. Have a question about your computer? Google it. Need the address of your doctor’s office? Google it. Want to know something about anything at all? You get the idea. Google is the most popular database for fact-finding that’s out there.

Wikipedia is an extremely large collection of user-generated content. It works like an encyclopedia, except people can edit the posts, which can lead to erroneous (and sometimes just outrageous) information. Advice: don’t use it for your history report. But if you want to find some useless information about a celebrity, you can Wiki it and you’ll find pretty reliable information.

Yelp is probably one of the most used apps I have, aside from google. When you want to find out what’s close to you, you Yelp. Food, entertainment, activities, pretty much anything you can think of. It includes information about the place, and user reviews. You can also write reviews to help others in their Yelp quests. One of the more functional brand-verbs out there.

With it’s recent IPO (epic fail), Facebook has been in the news a lot lately. But for those of us that have been using it since it became available in 2004, the action of Facebooking is a normal activity. We use it when gossiping: “Guess who Facebooked me the other day!” Or when talking about sharing what we’re doing: “Oh, I totally need to Facebook this.” Everything in our daily lives goes on Facebook, which has generated the verb out of the name. I actually wrote a post about this a few months ago, completely unrelated to this, but check it out anyway.

Ah, YouTube. Probably one of the most entertaining sites out there. Search for any video, and you are able to find it. Generally within minutes of it even happening. For example, celebrity snafus like Madonna tripping in the SuperBowl halftime show. Or, entertainment like The Bed Intruder song. Or, user generated content like my best friend Sam’s channel. Whatever you’re looking for, you can YouTube it and you’ll most likely find it.

With new technology emerging all the time, I’m sure we’ll have more brand to verb words in the future. I’m interested to see how our language evolves in the future.

The Art of Social Media

Social media. It’s quite the hot topic these days. It’s also something I’m very passionate about. Gen Y’ers are thriving on it. Gen X’ers are hopping on the wagon, too, a la your mom on Facebook. It’s also causing some huge debates. Where has the art of conversation gone? Why can’t people just, god forbid, pick up the phone and call someone? What’s with all this texting and Tweeting and FaceBooking? Well, friends, I’m here to – once again – help you understand it all.

I’m not saying I’m a social media expert by any means. I’m just throwing my opinion out there, as usual, and you can do with it what you will.

I feel as though people misunderstand the point of social media. It’s not meant to replace face-to-face communication; although some people may use it that way. I think it’s meant to augment it. There is so much technology available today that allows us to instantly share pieces of our everyday life, for better or for worse. We can snap a picture of our dog on our phone and immediately share it on Facebook and Twitter, and almost as soon after get comments and shares on our content. It’s a very faced paced way of communicating, and many people don’t (or won’t) grasp the scope of how beneficial it can be.

For example, I got my current part-time job because of this blog and my presence on Twitter. I also didn’t have any skeletons in my Google searches, which is a big help. But my boss was able to see my personality through my social profiles before she even met me. The other side of this, though, is that you create a personal brand, whether you like it or not. Putting content out on a social channel may not seem like a big deal, but you have to remember that anyone can find you. This includes potential employers. If you’re in high school, this obviously isn’t’ as important as if you’re a recent grad or even in your mid-20s, but it’s definitely something to consider. How do you want to present yourself to the world? Sure, posting that picture of yourself drunkenly passed out in a trash can at 3am seemed funny at the time, but unless you’re careful (and have your privacy settings in check), that could go everywhere you don’t want it to be.

Connecting with people is another pro for social media. Think about how easily you can find people you went to kindergarten with using a simple search tool on Facebook. You can share personal milestones with friends and family. Let Aunt Susie know you ran the Boston Marathon yesterday and finished…she doesn’t have to know the time. And she just as easily give you kudos back. Of course, nothing beats face to face visits, or even phone calls, but when you’re super busy, like me, its an extremely helpful tool to have around.

Overall, I feel social media is going to become a bigger part of our lives than anyone knows right now. We are such a mobile society that we can’t help but use it – we just need to make sure we keep it in check and don’t let it completely take over our lives.

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