The Deal Behind Online Community and Social Media Job Descriptions

The Deal Behind Online Community and Social Media Job Descriptions

Social Media Job Descriptions! This is a shout-out to Blaise Grimes-Viort, Community Manager extraordinaire. His older blog post still rings true today.

In 2010 (it was his most popular blog post), Blaise outlined some differences in Social Media job descriptions.

The Deal Behind Online Community and Social Media Job Descriptions

His thinking is: there are internal and externally-facing types of jobs. The internally-facing ones tend to look more like Community Management, e. g. what I do for Able2know. Those tasks include pulling spam, making peace among the users, interpreting site statistics and measurements, or scrubbing graffiti tags. They can also include adding correct tags to topics, and working on that site’s Help Desk. Those jobs tend to be called Community Manager, Head of Online Community, etc. Content Strategist and Content Curator seem to fit into this bucket as well. But those other jobs can be more about promoting content rather than serving those who make it.

Externally-facing jobs are more like what I did for Neuron Robotics. I that role, I attended events on behalf of the company, conducted product demonstrations, did outreach and sales, communicated with potential customers, etc. Those jobs tend to have words like Marketing or Marketer in their titles.

Blogging seems to be either external or internal. It all begs the question, though: what happens when you’ve got skills in both areas? Must you choose one or the other? See, this is what’s been bothering me, all along, about the whole Social Media career-changing experience. There seems to be a requirement that a person drop themselves into one pigeonhole or another.

I say, why can’t I be in both?

For more information, check out Blaise’s February 8, 2010 blog entry and make please help to make it even more popular. Kudos to him!

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Losing Control – Fear of Social Media

Losing Control – Fear of Social Media

Way back when, back when dinosaurs roamed the Internet, I became involved a bit with Usenet.

Usenet is not dead
Usenet is not dead (Photo credit: Alexandre Dulaunoy)

It wasn’t much, and it wasn’t much to look at. I was a lot less of a geek then than I am now (yes, really), and so the bare bones look didn’t do much for me. This was, after all, around 1997 or so.

Things have changed. A lot.

In me and, of course, online.

The thing that was compelling about Usenet was the sheer volume and breadth of conversation. People talked about all sorts of junk. There was a huge skewing towards Politics, but there were discussions about other things as well. And — ha! — some people even attempted a bit of a community.

Fast forward to now.

There are online communities in all sorts of places. Facebook is one. Twitter is another. LinkedIn is another. MySpace limps along and is a bit of another. The blogosphere is yet another. Forums — my big love — is another one. And there are, I am sure, more, including, even, the comments sections in news outlets. Communities seem to spring up, no matter what a company is doing or intending.

And that’s a pretty great thing. Human beings actually want to connect to one another. Now, there are a lot of trolls out there, and people who enjoy poking each other with pointed sticks. It happens — I won’t deny it. But there’s a boatload of good out there as well.

Enter companies. I think the biggest fear for them is a perceived loss of control. Well, it ain’t just perceived folks. It’s very real. You just can’t massage the entire message that’s going out about Acme Widgets. And — psst — you don’t want to.

Lack of control is, I feel, a grand means to creativity. It is a way to push new ideas up to the surface. It is — dare I say it? — a pathway to innovation.

Sticking a bunch of people into a windowless room and telling them to be creative is going to be about as effective as sticking a gun to their heads and commanding that they write a guaranteed hit song.

Communities — in whatever form they take in the Social Media space — are a means of letting in fresh blood and new ideas. People actually — amazingly enough — generally want to do this for free. They just like creating. Or they want to put their two cents in. Or they just want to sound off or complain, but sometimes there’s something in there, and it’s useful. After all, if you’re Corvair in the ’60s, you might think your car is dandy. Heh, it wasn’t.

You might think New Coke is a fabulous idea. It wasn’t.

You get the idea. Let in the community of ideas and innovation. They are gonna sometimes try to tear the company (or each other) a new one. Keep it as civil as possible without squelching the real creativity (and without driving off shyer or quieter members who might be getting shouted down by the more vocal mob) and keep it as on topic as possible without driving off people who are interested in not just the product or service or company, but also in each other — but who still have plenty to offer.

It’s not so scary. Really. For more on loss of control, see the February 6, 2011 edition of Social Media Today.

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Jell-O on the Wall: Social Media Perfection is Fleeting

Jell-O on the Wall: Social Media Perfection is Fleeting

Every few months or so, a new study comes out which provides what are purportedly the perfect times to post on various platforms.

Jell-O on the Wall: Social Media Perfection is Fleeting
The Damsel of the Sanct Grael, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti: medieval romance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Or it might outline the perfect number of words or characters or images. All of this relentless pursuit of social media perfection is, of course, is for the Holy Grail of social media, the conversion.

I don’t argue with the idea. Certainly everyone wants to minimize time spent and maximize conversions which, presumably, lead to profit or fame or some other personal or corporate milestone or achievement.

What amuses me, though, is that sometimes the advice is a bit conflicting.

Social Media Today posts a lot of articles like this, and here’s an example.

In May of 2014, four great and interesting (certainly helpful) articles appeared on that site. Let’s look at how they stack up.

The Ideal Length of Everything Online, Backed by Research – this rather helpful article indicates, for example, that the ideal blog post is 1,600 words long. This figure puts it into more or less direct opposition to Yoast‘s Social Media Plugin for WordPress, which, if all other conditions are ideal, starts to mark blog posts are having good SEO when they are 300 or more words in length. Now, the Social Media Today article is more about engagement, so I understand that this isn’t exactly apples to apples. But regardless of how ‘ideal’ in length a post is, it’s still got to be found. Fortunately, these aren’t mutually exclusive conditions.

In addition, that article lists perfect tweet length as 71 – 100 characters.

The Perfect Tweet  – speaking of perfect tweets, this article, posted four days after the first one listed above, spells out that tweets with images are ideal. Again, it’s not a true contradiction, but it is a bit of an inconsistency, particularly as this article didn’t talk about tweet length at all.

Yet isn’t ideal length a part of tweeterrific perfection? It seems like it should be.

How to Manager Your Social Media in 34 Minutes (or Less) a Day –  this article does a good job in outlining the basics and adding a bit of a reminder to try to engage the audience, provide good content, etc. However, they don’t include time blogging. And perhaps they shouldn’t, because if you prepare a 1,600-word blog post (or even a Yoast-approved 300 worder), you aren’t going to be writing it in less than 34 minutes. At least, you won’t be doing so if you want to (a) include images, tags, and other extras and formatting touches and (b) credit your sources properly and not even inadvertently commit plagiarism.

The idea of using HootSuite, Buffer, and/or Facebook‘s own post scheduler is, of course, a smart one.

9 Fresh and Effective Ideas for Your Social Media and Content Marketing Campaigns  – this article provides some quick tips on how to change things up, including an idea about engaging in a debate with competitors, and another about collaborating on content with customers.

I wish I knew how to do that in 34 minutes or less.

Be that as it may, we are all pressed for time these days, and it’s only going to get worse. Undoubtedly, a new study will come out soon enough with new standards and ideals and concepts that are touted as perfection. Will they be? Maybe, but probably not forever.

Community Management Tidbits – Wandering off Topic

Community Management Tidbits – Wandering off Topic

Wandering off Topic.  Even the most literal-minded among us rarely remain perfectly on message all the time. It’s hard to express yourself quite so linearly.

Wandering off Topic
English: A image related to Edvard Munch representing topics, associations and occurrences and the two layers of the Topic Maps paradigm: the information layer and the knowledge layer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s just not how we interact with our fellow human beings.

Most conversations meander; otherwise they become dull. There are just so many ways one can talk about the fact that there’s a 40% chance of rain over the weekend, even if you’re speaking at a Meteorologists’ Convention. Even very specific programs, such as This Week in Baseball or This Old House jump around. Our human attention spans aren’t what they used to be, but there’s more to it than just that. It’s also about creating a memorable presentation. A little memorable off-topic talking can save an otherwise limited conversation.

The same is true with communities. You are making and promoting conversations, not writing scholarly papers. Or advertising copy. Seriously, put down the company’s vision statement and step away.

Picture this: you’ve just started a forum, and you’ve got a modest group of users. But after only one or two topics, or five or so posts, they leave. Now, there are always going to be people who join a forum for one small, specific purpose and then depart. Plus you will always have a healthy percentage (often this can be a good 90%) of lurkers, no matter what you do. They are a part of every community, and they are a sign of health. Don’t worry about them!

But right now your issue is that there’s no traction. Users come in quickly, may or may not get satisfaction, and then disappear. And because they are not engaging with one another, there isn’t enough momentum to create cohesion among them.

Here’s where targeted off-subject conversations can work. Let us assume that your forum is about water softening. It may seem to be an esoteric topic. You probably won’t get people too emotionally engaged. Most will come in looking for a dealer, a part, a catalog or some quick advice.

But there are targeted, related topics you can try. Your users are virtually all homeowners (some may be landlords or superintendents), so what are typical topics that homeowners discuss? There’s mortgages, appliances, pest control, landscaping, and purchases and sales, for starters. The landlords in your community will inevitably have tenancy issues. Expand what you consider to be on topic to some of these areas by adding a few feeler topics like these.

Consider humor as well. Humor can fall flat, and it is easy to misinterpret, plus people from different countries, religions and cultures are going to find disparate things to be amusing (or offensive). So be aware that there are risks involved. However, in the water softening forum example, you can offer a topic on, say, a humorous battle or competition where the course is changed (the tide is turned, perhaps) on the presence of softened versus hard water. Absurd humor does seem to work better than other types, so this kind of a topic can offer a little less risk.

Another tactic is to begin recognizing great topics, posts and answers. Provide some promotion to people who are drawing in more users — you’ll be able to spot them fairly quickly. This can take the form of badges, up votes, sticky topics and special user titles. Mail them company swag if the budget allows (you know, tee shirts, baseball and trucker caps, note pads, branded flash drives, whatever you’ve got). Give these people a little more leeway than most when they do go off message.

Corporate may want you to stay on message, all the time, but that’s simply not realistic as it ignores normal human interactions. Furthermore, it tends to drive away users as they only hang around for the length of a few topics. But give your users more topic leeway, and they will be more inclined to stay and become customers — a trade-off that any Marketing Department should embrace with ardor.

Next: Superstar Users

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Community Management Tidbits – Superstar Users

Community Management Tidbits – Superstar Users

Some people just seem to be born with it. If you’ve ever spent some time on forums, you immediately know who they are.

Superstar users
Screenshot of phpbb in use on a games forum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Their topics rarely go without a response for long. Their contributions are routinely applauded (either using available site software or via written praise) by the other users. Their absences are lamented (and noticed!). Their returns are celebrated. Their birthdays and membership milestones are rarely forgotten.

They are the superstar users.

They can be made by the community or they can be nudged along by you, the Community Manager. The community can sometimes choose stars that don’t promote your company’s vision very well. But you can combat this by selecting some superstars of your own.

Converting Users into Superstars

How do you make a superstar user? Almost the same way that the community does, but you may have some added tricks up your sleeve. First off, choose a few likely candidates. Go into your member list and sort by number of posts, from most to least. Select your top 20 posters. It’s likely that you know who they are already. But if you don’t, if you have a posts/day statistic, copy that down. Put all of this into a spreadsheet. Add in the dates that each user joined the site and the dates of their most recent posts (which may very well be the day you are compiling this information). If anyone has overwhelmingly negative social signals (vote downs, ignores, complaints or reports against them), if you can put your hands on that information quickly, discard that member from your list and replace him or her with the next one. Ignore sock puppets and second accounts, if you have good proof that two accounts belong to the same person. Again, just move to the person with the 21st-most posts/day, etc.

Now look at your list. Who is the member with the most recent post (gauge that by day, not by hour, so if two posters have a last post date of October first, consider them to be tied even if one posted at 1:00 AM and the other posted at 11:00 PM), with the highest number of posts/day, who has been a member the longest? Rank that person #1 and rank everyone else in order behind him or her. Ties are fine.

Now you’ll need to do a little more research. If you have this data readily available, use it: the section(s) of the site where your 20 users spend the most of their time. This could be divided into tags or subforums or categories. It really depends on however your site is divvied up. If this information is not readily available, research it by investigating everyone’s last 10 posts. Of course their most recent 10 posts could potentially not be perfectly characteristic of their behavior on the site, but that’s a chance you’ll be taking. Nothing is set in concrete; you can always revisit this later.

If your #1 user’s last 10 posts are all on message or in the section(s) of the site devoted to your company’s message, that person stays at #1. If not, weigh them as against their 19 competitors. If #2 is close to #1 but is a lot more on message, switch their rankings. Also use this measurement of being on message (or not) to resolve any ties.

Now look at your list again. #1 should be the user who is most on message, with a lot of posts and recent activity, who has a long history on the site and whose negative social signals (there are usually some, particularly for long-time, popular posters. That’s fine; you’re just trying to stay away from people who are universally reviled.). This is the first person you want to approach.

And, how do you approach them? Handle this both indirectly and directly. Indirectly by promoting their posts, topics and replies, with up votes, applause, positive ensuing comments and making their topics sticky — whatever your software allows which provides them with attention and positive reinforcement. Don’t do this all at once — spread it out over time. You’re in a marathon, not a sprint here. Provide the same indirect positive reinforcement to your other candidates, but less as you go down your list.

The direct approach is — engage them, both openly on the boards and in private messages (most sites have the means to do this). This is not to say that you should out and out flatter them, but offer encouragement or point out their posts that you find interesting or make them aware of others’ posts that you feel might interest them. Again, don’t do this all at once. Offer these little tidbits gradually.

Every few months or so, review your list and consider whether anyone should be added (or dropped). If you’ve made friends with these users then of course don’t drop them from your personal life just because they’ve gone off message too much! But certainly curtail your official Community Manager messages to them if there are others who would be more receptive.

Why do you want to do this?

Superstar users can help to bring your site out of a funk. They can (and do) make you aware of spam. They create and promote good content. They help trolls lose their power.They can help to calm the site down and ease it into and out of transitions. You can count on them.

But they need to feel valued. And, even more importantly, they need to feel that you don’t just call on them when you want something. Provide positive reinforcement when there is no crisis and you’ll be able to call on them when there is one. And the corollary is true as well: if unappreciated, they will leave, and other users will follow them out of your forum. Ignore them at your peril.

Next: Cat-Herding

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Facebook versus Forums

Facebook versus Forums

What hath Facebook wrought?

Facebook, as anyone not living on a desert island knows, is a juggernaut of massive proportions. It is the 800 pound gorilla of the Internet. And it is rapidly changing our interpersonal interactions, both on and offline. And one of those areas is in the area of Internet forums.

Facebook and a forums site like Able2know

Facebook is hitting all forum sites and not just A2K. During 2012, I have been seeing drop off on a lot of different sites. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they are large, generalized places like Able2know, or small niche sites devoted to something like Star Trek. Plus I am hearing about this same kind of drop off from other community managers, even for things like maternity/new mother sites.

Everybody get in the pool

There are two generalized kinds of interactions (there are more, of course, but hear me out, okay?). One is the shallow end of things. It’s the trading of information about weather and generalized health inquiries. It’s political sound bites and the zippy pop song.

The other side of things is deeper. It’s the in-depth political discussion where you really get to the heart of the issues. It’s the detailed information on a health condition or even how to make a soufflé or plant an herb garden. It is the symphony. And online, just like offline, it is a far rarer bird, for you need time to develop that kind of trust and, truly, have to devote some time in order to have such a conversation in the first place.

Swimming with Facebook

Facebook fulfills the shallow end of online interactions extremely well. It is very, very easy to catch up on a superficial level with High School classmates or the like. The Star Wars groups, for example, ask basic questions like “Who was the best villain?” George Takei is a master at these kinds of interactions (although, in all fairness, he also writes occasional longer notes), the quick hits that people can like and share, all in the space of less than a quarter of a minute. It works very well for mass quantities of information.

Topics about one’s favorite song are handled better on Facebook than on forums as they are a quick hit and posting Youtube is simple. It’s colorful and, just as importantly, it’s pretty easy to pick and choose when it comes to interactions there, despite changes in privacy settings. Other basic interactions (remember a/s/l?) are seamless or don’t need to happen at all, for people are more likely to post their real name, their real photograph and their real (generalized) location and age than not.

What Facebook doesn’t do so well is the deeper end of interactions (the extensive political discussions, etc., and/or it does not do them well for a larger group of people or over a significant period of time or for a longer/wider discussion. All of the deep discussions go unsaid. Topics about elections outside the United States (particularly if Americans participate in said topics) are handled poorly, if at all. When it comes to the deeper end of the interactions pool, Facebook is just not a good place for that at all. Another consideration is that there are also a lot of people who find that Facebook moves too quickly for them.

Swimming with Forums

For the deep end, you need forums. You need to get to the heart of the matter. Arc of a DiverAnd that takes time, a luxury that Facebook often does not afford, as it scrolls by in a blur. Instead of mass quantities, forums can fulfill a very different niche by instead concentrating on quality interactions.

E-mint (an association of online community professionals) has been talking about this recently, and one good point is that forums offer, even for people who use their real names and are fairly transparent about their interactions, a chance to use a persona. Facebook is far too closely paralleled to our real lives. There’s just so much posturing you can do about being a famous rock star when your High School cronies are also there, and they remember holding your head when you had your first beer.

And Facebook, while it can be a refuge for people to truly show they care for each other (in particular, in the groups, or using notes), is more often a place where people instead get a chance to preen and show off. Like something? Then hit like! Don’t like it? Then either scroll past it or click to hide it, or even report it as spam or as being threatening. And apart from the latter, the person posting the image, anecdote, status, etc. is none the wiser when it comes to your reaction.

But with the forums, even if you do not use your real name, your opinions are still out there, for all to see, whether it’s about global warming or the Designated Hitter rule.

There is room for both types of interactions. The Internet is a mighty big tent.

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Book Review: Strategic Planning for Public Relations

Book Review: Strategic Planning for Public Relations

Book Review: Strategic Planning for Public Relations
Book Review: Strategic Planning for Public Relations

For Strategic Planning class at Quinnipiac, we were required to read Ronald Smith’s Strategic Planning for Public Relations.

It was … okay.

In all honesty, I don’t expect public relations textbooks to be laugh riots or thrill rides.

However, one area ended up being rather frustrating.

On page 95, Smith writes, “… goals are general and global while objectives are specific.” On pages 93 – 94, he writes, “Strategy is the organization’s overall plan.” And on pages 225 – 226, he indicates that tactics are the visual elements of a public relations or marketing communications plan.

To my mind, there is a great deal of overlap and much of it could be condensed. Essentially, I feel, the strategic planner or public relations expert wants to follow an organization’s general goals (e. g. get more exposure) with specific objectives (e. g. increase awareness by 6% during calendar year 2017) and the nitty gritty of tactics (do this by tweeting every other day following a particular plan).

That seems more or less to be it, and it did not take me over 400 pages to tell you that, now, did it?

In all fairness, the sections on SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and PEST (political, economic, social, and technological factors) analyses were very good.

Rating: 3/5 stars.

Book Review: Stephen King On Writing

Book Review: Stephen King On Writing

For my social media writing class at Quinnipiac, we were required to purchase Stephen King On Writing although it turned out to be an optional work. I think the work was decent.

Book Review: Stephen King On Writing
Cover of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

A lot of people seem to fall over themselves with praise for King. Me? Eh, not so much. I would say, though, that this is the best thing I have read from him.

Nuts and Bolts

One area that I feel he handles well is the question of how meticulous attention to detail needs to be. On Pages 105 – 106, he writes,

“For one thing, it is described in terms of a rough comparison, which is useful only if you and I see the world and measure the things in it with similar eyes. It’s easy to become careless when making rough comparisons, but the alternative is a prissy attention to detail that takes all the fun out of writing. What am I going to say, ‘on the table is a cage three feet, six inches in length, two feet in width, and fourteen inches high’? That’s not prose, that’s an instruction manual.”

Agreed, 100%. I see far too many fiction writers getting into far too much detail, and it’s maddening. Readers are intelligent (generally), and can follow basic instructions, but the writer needs to provide the framework and then let the reader run with it. Otherwise, it’s an instruction manual, as King states.

The corollary is also true – for writing which requires meticulous instructions and step by step information, woe be unto the writer who decides that everybody knows what a flange is, or a balloon whisk, or EBITDA, or any other term of art known more to insiders than to the general public.

King also exhorts would-be writers to read a lot and write a lot. Basic information, to be sure, but it makes good sense. Without practice or comparisons or even attempts to copy, none of us would learn how to properly craft prose.

What the Hell Did Adverbs Ever Do to You, Steve?

Here’s where we part ways.

King writes, on Page 124, “The adverb is not your friend.” On Page 195, he clarifies his statement: “Skills in description, dialogue, and character development all boil down to seeing or hearing clearly and then transcribing what you see or hear with equal clarity (and without using a lot of tiresome, unnecessary adverbs).”

It’s funny how he makes the above statement with the use of the adverb clearly.

I see his point, and I’m not so sure that a lot of aspiring authors do. The gist of it is to choose your words well. A part of this is what editing is for, but it’s also to be able to best get across your point(s). You can write –

She waited nervously.

Or

She waited, drumming her fingers on the table until her brother told her to cut it out or he’d relieve her of the burden of having fingers.

The second example is more vivid. It shows, rather than tells. But the truth is, sometimes you just want to cut to the chase. There’s nothing wrong with that. Adverbs, like passive voice and other parts of speech and turns of phrase, are legitimate writer tools. They can still be used.

In all, a decent work, albeit a bit redundant in parts. I didn’t want to read the memoir portions of the work although I can see where they would interest others.

I bet this guy is going places.

Review: 4/5 stars.

A Day in the Life of a Community Manager

A Day in the Life of a Community Manager

Community Managers tend to have some fairly similar tasks, whether they are paid or volunteer. Community Management can be a piece of Social Media Marketing and Management, but it doesn’t, strictly, have to be.

The community manager : a jack of all trades
The community manager : a jack of all trades (Photo credit: La Fabrique de Blogs)

A Community Manager‘s time is mainly divided up in three different modes:

  1. Discussing
  2. Nurturing and
  3. Disciplining

 

The discussing piece involves creating new discussions and shepherding them along. Users will not return, day after day, if there is no new content. While the users are, ultimately, responsible for the content in a community, the Community Manager should be creating new content as well. This is not always topics as it can also be changes to the site’s blog (if any) and Facebook fan page (if it exists).

The discussing piece evolves as the community evolves. In a tiny community of less than one thousand users, the Community Manager’s content may turn out to be the only new content for weeks! As such, it can loom very, very large, but can also have a much stronger ameliorative effect if the other content being created is overly snarky. As the community grows, the Community Manager’s contributions should proportionately diminish but there should still be some involvement. Otherwise the Community Manager can be seen as hanging back a bit too much. It is a Community, and that means that the users want to know the Manager(s). An easy and relatively safe way to do this is by creating discussions.

And the discussions need not always be on topic! Lively discussions can be almost spun from whole cloth if the Manager can get the people talking. An automotive community might thrill to talking about cooking. A cooking community might engage in an animated discussion about the Olympics. And a sports community could very well bring its passion to a topic like politics. In particular, if the community is single-subject-based (e. g. it’s just about, say, Coca-Cola), going off-topic should probably be at least peripherally related to the overall subject. Hence Coke can branch out into cooking and, from there, perhaps into family relationships. Or into health and fitness. But a push to discussing politics may not fly unless the discussion is based on a major recent news item or if there is precedent for it. Finally, if a member is ill, or has passed on, or is getting married or having a child, an off-topic discussion can spring naturally and effortlessly, no matter what the main subject matter of the community is. Corporate management may not absolutely love off-topic discussions but they are excellent for keeping a community together, and keeping it viable.

The nurturing piece is related to the discussing aspect, but it’s more along the lines of responding to and supporting good discussions on the site. In particular, if the Community Manager can identify certain superstar users who are good at making topics and are well-liked by the community, the process of nurturing can promote those persons’ discussions over more inferior ones. The nurturing power can also be used to encourage newbies and members who might be on the cusp of becoming superstar users if they only had a little more self-confidence, and a track record of support and positive reinforcement.

Nurturing can also take the shape of developing relationships with members. The Community Manager doesn’t have to be friends with everyone (even if the site is very small), but there is a place for getting to know the users. Private messages (if available), writing on a wall (if it is provided) or otherwise somewhat intimately communicating with the membership is a way of accomplishing this. Furthermore, the Community Manager can use private messages, etc. as a means for heading off potential problems at the pass. Headstrong members might be perfectly wonderful if/when they write on topics that are not their overarching passion. The Community Manager can encourage those members to participate in those other discussions and also to reach out to other community members. Friendship can be effectively utilized to minimized flaming.

And that leads into the disciplining part, which is often the first thing that people think of when they think of community management. That’s things like pulling outright spam and also giving users timeouts or even outright suspending them when their actives contravene a site’s Terms of Service. There is also the power of shunning and ignoring, though, which can be extremely powerful. The Community Manager can help to mobilize other users. An email or private message campaign is almost always a very poor idea. Rather, the Manager must lead by example in not taking the bait when challenged, unless it’s absolutely necessary (and it rarely is). It’s the Community Manager’s call when to take it, particularly if personal insults are being hurled about. Often the best tack is to (a) get offline and cool off and (b) ask another Community Manager or Moderator to determine whether disciplinary action is warranted, and then to enforce that if it is.

One thing that a Manager should never forget is that there is far more to the community than just the people posting. There is often a far larger audience of lurkers, both registered and nonregistered. They are watching events unfold but rarely comment on them. By leading by example, the Community Manager can influence not only the people who are actively posting but also the community at large.

During a typical day, new members register, members lose their passwords, topics are started and responded to, older topics are responded to, and people engage in private communications (if permitted on the site). Members may disagree on something and they may do so vehemently. The site may be spammed.

The Community Manager should mainly become involved as a content creator if content creation is lagging or too far off subject. He or she should discipline difficult members if necessary. But in general, a Community Manager’s main task, both daily and over the life of the community, should be to carefully nurture and shape relationships.

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InMaps – Visualize Your Network on LinkedIn

InMaps – Visualize Your Network on LinkedIn

Let’s say you’ve got a nice, growing network on LinkedIn.

InMaps - Visualize Your Network on LinkedIn
Linkedin Chocolates (Photo credit: nan palmero)

Hurray! Now let’s say that it’s gotten large enough that you’re unsure of how it’s all trending. After all, what if your network is dominated by people who used to work at Fidelity but you want to get into Prudential instead? How can you see how things are shaking out? Or maybe you want to get a handle on job titles that you’re seeing — what if most of your network consists of tradespeople in your area, rather than people who might actually be able to find you something? If you’re an accountant, a network full of hairdressers and landscape contractors is lovely but it might not be really doing it for you, eh?

Here’s where InMaps comes in.

Essentially, what LinkedIn is doing is, instead of geographically mapping your connections, they are mapping other meaningful relationships among all of those people. So instead you can see things like job titles that are frequently coming up, and other connections, like who used to work where. If you’ve worked in several places (like I have) you may see one former employer dominate, particularly if you’ve just left a particular role. After all, when Hachette Book Group and I parted ways, suddenly I made connections with the other seventeen or so people who were being outsourced. There was a bit of urgency to getting connected, and there was a desire to maintain friendships. I’ve had to dig a bit in order to find former colleagues further back in my career (and, by the way, FYI, this does behoove one to try to make connections both during employment and to reach back to older connections as the natural push to connect might not come about if you’re thinking about a job you held twenty years ago, long before LinkedIn existed).

One thing that should be noted is that it takes a while for an InMap to be generated, particularly if you’ve got a lot of connections. This is a feature that is still in Beta, so that should be totally understandable.

But here is the InMap for a woman named Leslie Gotch Zarelli, which should give something of an idea about how the overall pattern looks. Her InMap (I would post mine, but LinkedIn is still churning away) is dominated by general areas like Legal, what is probably a former employer or two, and what appear to be some job duties.

More information is here. Get mappin’!

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