So in 2010 (it was his most popular blog post), Blaise outlined some differences in Social Media job descriptions.
His thinking is: there are internal and externally-facing types of jobs. And 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. Furthermore, 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. However, those other jobs can be more about promoting content rather than serving those who make it.
On the other hand, externally-facing jobs are more like what I did for Neuron Robotics. Because in that role, I attended events on behalf of the company, conducted product demonstrations, did outreach and sales, communicated with potential customers, etc. Hence those jobs tend to have words like Marketing or Marketer in their titles.
Blogging seems to be either external or internal. However, 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.
And I say, why can’t I be in both?
So 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!
With all due respect to the late Marshall McLuhan, the medium is still the message, but the message is now also the medium and the two are now joined at the hip, at least when it comes to social media.
As Smith notes on page 172, the communication process can be divided into three types –
Information – press agentry and public information
Persuasion – asymmetric advocacy and attempts to influence
Dialogue – symmetric, rooted in relationships
Information is a one-way street. E.g. I tell you that the world is round. You hear my message and either agree or disagree with it, or perhaps you request further information or even a second opinion. However, the relationship is not a symmetrical one, as I am feeding you data but you aren’t responding in kind and I am not getting information back from you.
In the persuasion model, things are even more asymmetrical. I’m not just informing you of the roundness of our planet; I’m making a case for it, whether it’s with photographs taken from space or images of the shadow from eclipses over the moon, or even the results of a public opinion poll.
For the dialogic model, however, the information and persuasion both flow, and in both directions. I might put forth the premise of the earth’s roundness; you might counter with personal observations or even your own survey. The entities in communication can trade opinions or information or both. On page 173, Smith refers to dialogue as a “deeply conscious interaction of two parties in communication.” This is give and take.
Our messages are not just verbal or written ones; they include our tone, our word choice, and our body language, according to Smith, pages 212 – 214. There is a measurable difference between referring to the same medical condition as shell shock, battle fatigue, or post-traumatic stress disorder, as George Carlin famously said.
This is the kind of doublespeak mentioned by Smith on page 211 that seems to embody the worst parts of public relations.
Messengers carry different degrees of weight as well. Astronaut testimony of the roundness of the earth should carry more credibility than a raving madman on a street corner somewhere. As the Vocusarticle puts forth on page 3, “Not all online conversations carry the same weight. Many will have no impact on your company and not every mention of your company or brand will require the same amount of attention. The trick is to understand what does and does not matter. While a discussion on the latest product release or customer feedback may be worth engaging in, other discussions may be trivial and will not require your participation.”
Social Media Message Strategic Approaches
The Vocus idea to pay selective attention is good advice. It offers a model for cutting through the noise. As social media professionals, strategic planners need to listen to their publics but also discriminate intelligently among the many messages being promulgated.
Vocus also mentions creating and maintaining a steady and consistent presence and not just dabbling (Page 3). This dovetails well with the Smith idea (Page 182) of familiarity adding charisma to a speaker, where personal charm enhances a message and gives a public a feeling that it is more likely to be correct or helpful. The message and the messenger can only be familiar if they are consistent and not dilettantish.
This is perhaps the most important tip from Vocus, to not give up when social media becomes dull or burdensome or the ideas have run out. There has to be a commitment there.
As Mundy 2013adds, on page 387, “Social movement and public relations research share similar goals: to investigate communication practices that develop collective understanding between organizations and publics, and to examine how organizations position issues as legitimate in the eyes of diverse stakeholders.” This development of collective understanding – dialogue – brings an organization closer together to its publics. Once the publics see why supporting the organization’s positions is worthwhile, they will need far less persuading. The equal, bilateral dialogue will do all the work.
Applications of this reading to our client
The most obvious application to the Institute for Life Sciences Collaboration (ILSC) is that adding a social media presence means preparing for the long haul. It means budgeting for at least a part-time Community Manager to research strategies, keep up with industry trends, listen to the public’s concerns and questions and weed through the noise, and help the ILSC to demonstrate thought leadership. As I had mentioned last week, Rick Flath has got to be a master networker (which was confirmed by Professor Place), as a tiny company doesn’t get the ILSC’s opportunities unless an individual is very charismatic. Now the ILSC needs to translate some of that networking, and charisma, and thought leader power to social media.
Listeria is the name of a bacteria found in soil and water and some animals, including poultry and cattle. It can be present in raw milk and foods made from raw milk. It can also live in food processing plants and contaminate a variety of processed meats.
Listeria is unlike many other germs because it can grow even in the cold temperature of the refrigerator. Listeria is killed by cooking and pasteurization.
Per Sabra, “The potential for contamination was discovered when a routine, random sample collected at a retail location on March 30th, 2015 by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.”
Before anyone was sickened, Sabra acted quickly and pulled potentially contaminated product from store shelves.
On their blog, Sabra announced the recall and provided a list of potential symptoms, so customers could judge for themselves whether they needed medical treatment. This included a list of UPC/SKU numbers and names of affected flavors, so customers could know if they’d bought a container. Use by dates on the list were posted in English and French, although the blog post was just in English. Neither the post nor the list were translated into Spanish.
Further, sometimes the information being given out was flat-out wrong, as the list in the company’s blog had the dual classic and garlic hummus product on it, whereas this typical tweet implied that only the classic flavor was affected (mixing would imply that in the dual package, the garlic half would potentially also be contaminated) –
@kateboo Hi Kate, only our Classic Hummus is affected by this recall. No other product manufactured by Sabra is included.
The community manager insisted that only classic was affected even when a customer said that she had had a reaction to the garlic flavor. Later, the community manager had a change of heart and told the customer to report her case directly to Sabra’s customer service team.
@SuzanneWillett However, please report your case immediately to our customer service team by calling 1-888-957-2272.
How the Brand Did
Sabra acted perfectly to quickly remove product from stores. While this was not a direct social media response, it not only potentially saved lives, it also made the community manager’s job far easier. Consumer deaths were not a part of the equation. Offline behavior directly affected online behavior.
For a company in crisis, it seems there was no public response by the CEO. The blog post is an author-less press release. Twitter didn’t point to anything said by the CEO. Without an authority figure behind the social media response, Twitter offers the impression that the community manager was left to twist in the wind.
Christine SchaeferThat’s a really weak answer Sabra. Of course a person who ate your contaminated product should follow up with their doctor, but what are YOU going to do about it? How are YOU going to support and compensate anyone who has been affected or has been frightened by eating one of your recalled products?
As for their blog, Sabra could have spread the link more widely. Given that part of the list was translated into French, the list and the blog post should have been translated into both French and Spanish.
It’s as if Sabra did fine to start but then stumbled. They seem to have recovered, though, and are back to posting recipes now, nearly three months later.
I’ve been a Community Manager for over a decade but don’t believe I have seen a better outline of our roles and sub-roles than this graphic –
I have been in all of these roles, at one time or another. Because I am a volunteer and Able2Know is a large generalized Q & A website, some of my experience has been slightly different.
A lot of community members might not realize when they do this. Sometimes it can feel as if you’re the punching bag. But you can’t punch back. Whenever I’ve been involved in an altercation online (usually by being dragged into one; I tend not to instigate), I inevitably recuse myself and ask that other Moderators and Administrators handle what is to be done.
I’ve never been more in tune with this role than after a member’s death. I’ve written maybe a dozen online obituaries. It’s an odd thing to put together something of the life of a person who used a screen name and an avatar. Those moments require taking the temperature of a community, and understanding whether the remembrance should be a rollicking, funny wake, or posted music and poetry, or something else.
I haven’t been a gardener since the site was rather young. When there are few members and topics, the Community Manager is often tasked with creating content. That has to stop at some point, as the community needs to take over and make a far larger percentage of the content. With a brand-related community, it is different. The brand will likely retain far more of the content creation role.
These days, I prune or shape a lot more than I create. That leads me to the Cheerleader role.
There’s nothing like being enthusiastic about a new feature and having the membership scream bloody murder because they don’t like the change. And then, a year later, seeing the community embrace that very same change. Cheerleaders, at times, are treated like Piñatas.
We have a Help Desk, and I regularly route more of the developmental work elsewhere. Still, this is a role that could conceivably be done by others.
While I am a Mediavore as a matter of personal characteristics and behaviors, this role hasn’t exactly been necessary at Able2Know. I have used this knowledge and familiarity, though, to bring interesting social media information to the site. Plus I answer a lot of the Facebook and Twitter questions.
This is another area less important for a volunteer position at a shoestring site. More likely, I am checking Facebook, etc. to see if users are disgruntled, or leaving entirely. For me, this role has a lot in common with the Sponge.
Oh, how I despise this role. But it’s got to be done every single day. These tasks are often delegated to newer volunteer Community Manager/Moderators, mainly because it’s a large and daunting task. It’s also to get their feet wet and give them an idea of how we do things.
I keep some rough stats, as the site is run on a shoestring. My background is in data analysis; I know the value of objective, measurable, quantitative information. In particular, objective data is usually important at budget time. Management needs to know the community is working, and is more than a few people chatting. Data and its analysis can sometimes mean the difference between a project with a budget that’s continued, and one which loses its budget and dies on the vine.
For this role (again, keep in mind, I’m a volunteer, and the site is run with a rather low budget), it’s more of the times when I’ve answered questions at in-person gatherings or helped someone get back onto the site when their only means of communicating with me is via Facebook wall posts or Twitter or the like. But this doesn’t happen too often.
The Most Important Role of a Community Manager is ….
Empathetic Sponge, with a dash of Sculptor.
The role of a Community Manager, I believe, is mainly as a listener, and all three of these sub-roles are mainly centered around listening. What are people saying? How can we understand the community? And how does what we’re hearing convert into metrics?
Allow me to add a new role, perhaps one that melds these three – the Windmill. That is, a means of harnessing the wind. The Community Manager needs to know which way the wind blows, and how to measure it, and how to use it to power the community.
Community Management Tidbits – Going From a Collection of Users to a True Community
What is a True Community?
I’ve written at least seven obituaries.
That is, perhaps, an odd thing to confess. But when Jill, Kevin, Paul, Joanne, Olen, Joan, and Mary all passed on, it was up to me to write something, to not only commemorate their lives, but to try to help comfort a grieving community.
I am not saying you will write as many, or even if you will ever write even one. And I certainly hope you will never have to, as they can be gut-wrenching. But it was with the first one – Mary’s – that it became manifest (if it was not already self-evident) that, to paraphrase the old Brady Bunch theme, this group had somehow formed a family.
How Can This Happen to Your Community (Without the Tragic Part)?
But no one has to cross over to the other side in order for your collection of users to coalesce into a Community with a capital C. The secret is very simple, although many companies don’t want to hear it: it’s going off-topic.
Let us assume, for example, that your community is a corporate-run one. And the product is a soft drink. Corporate tells you to stay on topic, on message. However, your users are saying something very different.
For it is easy, as you’re talking about the soft drink, to slide into discussing foods eaten with it (frankly, for such a community you’d almost have to go off-topic. Nobody but a truly dedicated corporate marketer can talk about a soft drink 24/7). Food slides into a discussion of recipes. Recipes turn into a talk about entertaining. And then suddenly you’re off to the races and talking about family relationships.
Corporate tries to pull you back on topic. Yet your users pull the community ever further away And they pinball from family relationships to dating, raising children, and elder care, if you let them.
The Community Manager’s Role
Here is where you, as the Community Manager, can talk to Corporate and forge a compromise. Corporate needs for people to talk about the product, tout it, and virally promote it. And they need people to make well-ranked (on Google) topics about it. Corporate may also realize that they need to hear the bad news about the product as well. The users need to talk.
So make a compromise. Create an off-topic area and move all off-message topics there. And be fairly loose with your definition of what’s on topic. In our soft drink example, the recipes topics, even if they don’t use the product as an ingredient, are still close enough so you can consider them on topic. Also, don’t be surprised if the corollary is true. Hence topics that begin on message veer off it, even by the time of the first responsive post. That’s okay. Those topics should still be considered to be on message. Because Google is far more concerned with a forum topic’s title and initial post than with its tenth response.
The Benefits of the Off-Topic Section
Don’t be shocked if your off-topic section becomes a large one. And recognize that you and your Moderating staff (if you have one) may need to make on message topics in order to continue creating germane content. But your community will be talking and the site will be a lively one. It’s a party that’s going nonstop, your users will stick around and from this you can build a marketing database — one of the standard corporate aims behind creating a community in the first place.
So when your users start talking about life events, such as births, school, divorce, moving, jobs, marriage, children and, yes, deaths, it matters. And when they start supporting each other through each of these phases, it marks a bright line distinction between a haphazard agglomeration of users and a true team of like-minded individuals.
Finally, that team, that family, that army, is what being in a community is really all about.