In honour of Community Manager Appreciation Day (Jan. 23rd), ICUC is dedicating the month of January to Community Management. This month we will be posting one article every day discussing tips, best practices and case studies on the topic. Today we are proud to bring you an exclusive interview with a notable Community Manager: Lisa Barone.
Snoo.ws: What community(ies) are you currently managing now:
Lisa: I’m lucky enough to write for several different industry blogs, however, I’m only responsible for the community at Outspoken Media. We’re fortunate to have a very vocal and engaged fan base so it involves answering questions about the brand, pointing readers to relevant blog posts (posts we’ve written and others), responding to comments, manning the company social media profiles, and other related tasks.
Snoo.ws:You’re known for being rather candid, speaking your mind. So be blunt with us – how has the role of Community Manager grown in recent years? …. Are CMs finally getting their due, the respect they deserve? (Has their value become validated?)
Lisa: Well, “grown” is probably the right word. With social media exploding in terms of the sheer number of engagement points, as well as the number of brands getting involved, it’s created a lot more work for the community managers out there. There are far more touch points these days than there were before so our eyes have to keep watch on a number of different forums. It’s not just about fostering a great community on your Web site or blog, it’s about being involved in satellite communities and those other networks where your community is engaging. You have to be everywhere your customers are.
Community managers are definitely getting more respect from people who understand social media, its importance, and everything that’s involved. More people have seen how difficult it can be to wrangle a community so those that do it well are earning props. I wouldn’t say it’s a totally legitimized career in everyone’s eyes though. I know my father is still waiting for me to get a job.
Snoo.ws: You live blog industry conferences, that’s intense. How are you able to do this? Is it your mad typing skills?
Lisa: Pretty much. I type pretty fast which allows me to not only get down everything the speaker is saying, but also add my own special breed of snark. It’s proven to be a popular combination. And more than that, I think it’s a great service our company can provide to the industry and help give back. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to go to all the different conferences that take place during the year. It’s nice to be their eyes and ears on the road.
Snoo.ws: What industry events are the most important for CMs to participate in?
Lisa: First, you should go to whatever events your community is attending. It may not be community manager-specific but it will help you meet the people you’re talking with online. We have the ability to create powerful relationships online, but it doesn’t compare to the kind of connection you can make with someone face-to-face. It’s important you meet your audience and the people you hope will someday be your audience.
Once you’ve got your fill of the industry, I’d really recommend community managers attend an event like <a href= http://www.blogworldexpo.com/>Blogworld Expo</a>. Even if you don’t blog as part of your community managing (which is probably rare anyway), you’ll find yourself surrounded by people who understand what you do, who love what you do, and who you can learn from. Attending Blogworld has been one of the best things I’ve done for my career because it really introduced me to a new community that I didn’t know existed. You’ll be able to learn about community management from people who do it every day for large brands and who do it very, very successfully. If you can make it to a Blogworld show, you won’t regret the experience. And I get paid absolutely nothing for saying that.
Snoo.ws: Is it the role of a CM that saves a brand?
Lisa: I think it’s the role of a community manager to create and direct a brand. You’re that outward face and the person people are going to associate the company with. If you can go above and beyond for someone and help them achieve a goal, they’re going to remember and the goodwill they have toward the company will be immeasurable.
Snoo.ws: Can brands exist in digital form without a CM team?
Lisa: I don’t think brands can exists without realizing that everyone on their team is really a community manager. Everyone who touches your product, talks to your customers or represents your brand is part of your community management team. Sure, maybe there’s one “leader” who is in charge of the outreach part of it, but everyone you hire really has the ability to build or destroy your community.
Snoo.ws: Who would you give a Community Management Appreciation Day card to?
Lisa: I say this every year and every time someone asks me, but Jennifer Lopez over at SEOmoz. I think she does just an incredible job managing their tribe of fans (and sometimes non-fans). Also timely, Jen posted a post over at SEOmoz about how they manage their community, which is definitely worth a read. She’d get my We Appreciate You card for sure.