G: How did you build your experience as community manager?
H: I started out in forums and IRC chat rooms, first as a user then as a volunteer mod and eventually moving into the role professionally. Over the past 8 years I've moved from moderation and moderator management through customer support and community management and then into social media, content and community management within the marketing industry. I'm currently Community Manager for Yell, overseeing the UGC and interactive elements of Yell.com, such as the Reviews section which we launched in October last year.
G: What platforms are you most active on?
H: Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for personal use, but they also feature heavily in my working life too. Most of the communities I was active in have disbanded over the years but there are a couple of Yahoo Groups I still use, or at least lurk in, including my local Freecycle mailing lists and an invaluable mailserv of fellow community bods, with a wealth of knowledge in the groups archives. I blog occasionally for various sites, most recently Zath.co.uk where I sometimes get to play with gadgets/toys and pretend it's work!
G: What are you top resources for community management?
H: The emint mailserv, mentioned above. It's fantastic to be able to throw a question out to your peers across the industry - both in the UK and around the globe. Specialist agencies like eModeration and Tempero's blogs and the Community Roundtable's State of Community reports and resources are great for keeping up to date with the industry. I'm also a fan of Howard Rheingold and Clay Shirky
G: Where is the best place to build the community?
H: It really depends on what you're trying to achieve and the audience your working with. And what you mean by community - no two CM roles are exactly the same. Facebook can be a great place for a community hub, particularly for B2C brands; Twitter is brilliant for sharing information and opinions, but it's less useful as a community stronghold as it can be hard to track conversations. Often a closed forum/community site is best for B2B companies looking for something for internal engagement and resource sharing/support. LinkedIn's another platform I really recommend to B2B brands - Facebook may have more users but I think the level of engagement is more relevant on LinkedIn for most B2B conversations/objectives. Wherever you choose to build, and with whatever platform I think it's key you ensure your community feels like an extension of the rest of our organisation/online presence, even if it isn't hosted in the same place. Consistency in branding and content, as well as clear and effective 2-way communication, is key to making a community feel like it's really a part of the wider organisation.
G: What do you have to provide the community to make it work?
H: Value. Again this tends to vary on each undertaking but ultimately if you're not providing something which enriches a person's experience, or gives them something no one else does (or in a format no one else provides) then you're probably not going to build a solid user base. Value doesn't have to be monetary; it could be experiential, a convenient alternative to an existing product or tool, or an insight into a company/product/person that they wouldn't otherwise get.
G: What kinds of content do you share and post most often on the community platform?
H: With Yell Reviews it's mainly blog posts and reviews of businesses I use personally. It's been a great excuse to go out and explore new businesses - I've never spent so much on lunch breaks as I do now! On the blog we've been featuring interviews with our 'Local Heroes'; the independent businesses our users really like, and some of our favourite food bloggers. We're hoping to extend the scope to interview businesses and bloggers from other spheres in the near future, but when we launched most of our users were focused on reviewing restaurants and cafes so that's been the focus to date.
G: How do you reward your community stars?
H: Recognition is crucial, if someone goes above and beyond they need to know you've noticed and you appreciate it. Visible status symbols, such as badges or greater visibility on site are always good. For Yell Reviews we have held on to the old TrustedPlaces 'Local Experts' badge; which users can earn by consistently write helpful content around a specific area or business type, and added our own 'Review and Reward' scheme; which allows members to earn points every time they take qualifying actions on site, such as adding new content, and donate those points as cash to selected charity partners.
G: Does the size matter?
H: Depends on what you're trying to achieve. The size of group you wish to attract should factor into your planning - different platforms and tools work best with different sizes and types of community work.
G: What are the most common mistakes in community management?
H: I think one of the most common is the Field of Dreams concept - 'if you build it, they'll come'. Building a site doesn't guarantee you a user base any more than writing a book guarantees it becoming a best seller. Also building a community isn't the same as building a site; there are tools and gadgets you expect to see in a community site which will help to make a community flourish but even with those in place you only have a venue for a community. To have a community you have to have people, and ways - and reasons - for them to interact. When I was consulting for clients my favourite analogy was the community as a party - The site/platform is just your venue, the community is your guest list. Both are vital components for a successful party.
G: How do you deal with social media crisis?
H: Always remain calm and try to be transparent about any issues. A prompt response, even if it's just 'I'm sorry we'll look into this and get back to you' is better than appearing to ignore something until you have a definitive answer. Last year's Nokia MoFilm competition is a brilliant case study of the effects of two different approaches in a social media crisis - Nokia failed to respond quickly or transparently while MoFilm appeared more upfront and eager to address the issues when they were contacted, as a result Nokia ended up with a much bigger problem. Any company working in the social space should have a crisis management plan in place from the start, which should be regularly reviewed - ideally as part of each and every campaign's development. If it's kept in mind at all times so you can achieve a consistent approach across all mediums of communication as a brand/organisation; if PR are planning a campaign around a new message they need to feed that in to the CM/SM team so they can then support that - either actively participating and spreading that message across their channels, or at the very least ready to respond to anything which comes up as a result.
G: How do you measure the ROI of your community?
H: It really varies depending on your objectives and chosen platforms. Community and Social media activity can have a wealth of benefits but one of the other common issues is the failure to treat is as you would other campaigns/tools. You need to decide what your objectives and targets are and find the community tools which will allow you to meet those. If I'm doing a push through social media I'm as interested in the types of people I reach as the numbers - I could do a sponsored tweet and hit millions of eyeballs but would they be the right people? Is the message relevant to them, will they get involved - and if so, do they bring value to the existing community? It's also important to monitor things like time spent on site and repeat visits, as well as interactions with content - replies/conversations threads, comments on blog posts, etc - which help gauge the level of engagement and the overall health of the community. If you have a healthy, engaged community you usually see an increase in time spent on your site/presences and an improvement in sentiment online. In the best case scenario your community become influencers and advocates for your brand, leading conversations and rising to defend you in conversations you might not be privy too - both online and off.