Community managers key to strong social media presence [GUEST POST: by Abby Stollar]

In today’s world, almost every business or organization “does” social media. While some use social networks simply as another promotional microphone, others embrace its openness and connectivity to engage with their key audiences. So, what’s the secret?

I wish I could tell you – it would probably make me a millionaire. Brian Solis would tell you the secret is to “engage or die.” Erik Qualman would tell you it’s about listening first, selling second.  Deirdre Breakenridge would tell you it’s about seeing your audiences as citizen journalists that all influence each other. Each of these thought leaders make valuable suggestions. But, you don’t need to go and hire a social media agency just yet. Some of the most successful social media strategies are a result of internal community managers who take the suggestions of these leaders to create a strong digital presence.

What is a community manager?

Community managers monitor, listen, and engage with audiences on a particular platform. According to Rachel Strella, owner of centralpawebster.com, a social media community manager wears the hats of “listening post, brand champion, and chief engagement specialist for that community.”

What’s the difference between a social media strategist and a community manager?

Each serves a different purpose. A social media strategist (or an outside agency) often sees social media through a strategic lens, identifying which platforms an organization should use, which promotions they should run, and which types of posts they should generate.

A community manager deals more with the tactical level of social media – responding to customer concerns, monitoring their online presence, and engaging with audiences through one-on-one communication. Community managers continuously engage in environmental scanning and maintain a conversation with audiences.  They are the online relationship builders and the voice of the community. Essentially, they are the shepherds, caring for their community members.

So, which one is better?

Both are important – social media managers often develop content, while community managers develop relationships.

Developing a social media strategy is key to sustaining an active online presence. This strategy establishes and guides a social media presence. However, a community manager is often key to maintaining open, one-on-one conversation with key audiences. Together, a social media strategist and community manager can help establish a well-organized, responsive online community.

How can you use both skill sets to increase your social media presence?

Always begin with strategy. Although social media may be a tactic, the best leaders identify an overall goal and how to achieve that goal before even making a Facebook account. Create a content calendar that aligns with your social media purpose.

After you have a purpose, use your community manager to interact with online audiences. Oftentimes, smaller organizations look outside for social media strategists and utilize internal communication staff as community managers. These individuals are most familiar with the brand and can therefore respond quickly, efficiently, and knowledgably to audience’s needs.

Ready to start building your own community management strategy?

  • Be ready to evaluate your success
  • Listen to your community
  • Offer value to attract audiences by developing a content plan
  • Use email to compliment your social media strategy
  • Connect in real life

Abby is a senior at the University of Delaware, majoring in Mass Communication and minoring in political science, political communication, and journalism. She is very involved on campus, currently serving as the president of her PRSSA Chapter, staff reporter for the campus newspaper, peer mentor for freshmen students, tour guide, and a teaching assistant. In addition, she frequently tweets (@abbynicole1204) and blogs at http://abbystollar.com.

Posted in Communication, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Penn State’s social media team “unliked” me from posting on its Facebook page: The crisis communcation effect

My post on Penn State's Facebook Page

 
Last night when I was watching the unprecedented news that Penn State’s football coach, Joe Paterno, would be dismissed immediately from his position I knew this would spark an immediate outrage on social media platforms. And boy, I was right!
 
Around 11:20 PM last night the comments started to shape a dilemma for the social media team at Penn State University. At that time I noticed that as soon as comments were being posted, they were being deleted soon after. Soon after, there was backlash from the online community’s postings regarding their disdain for Penn State deleting their posts in the midst of all the social media nightmares the media/public relations/social media team at Penn State were dealing with.
 
Being the social media addict, coach, and strategist that I am, I decided to give Penn State’s social media team a simple piece of advice shown on the picture above.
 
What I did not consider is that Penn State would have the audacity to “unlike”/block me from their Facebook Page. I visited their page early this afternoon to check up on the online community’s outrage. However, I took notice that I did not “like” their Facebook Page anymore. So, with puzzlement, I clicked “like” again.  Once I clicked “like” again, I noticed that I am no longer able to make any posts, comments, or likes on any comments on their Facebook page.
 
Really, Penn State Social Media Team? Really? … Sounds fishy if you ask me.
 
Unfortunately, this social media play-book tactic is not going to suit well for them for the short-term and long term.
 
Stated in the screen shot below is Penn State’s “Social Media Policy” for their Facebook Page.
 

Penn State's Facebook Page Engagement Policy

 
Based on their policies, I have a few comments to make about my post on their page as it relates to their Page Policies:
 
1. I kept my discussion civil. Look at the picture I posted above. I did not get nasty with the content I wrote.
 
2. I did not post a comment that was: racist, sexist, abusive, profane, violent, obscene, spam, that advocate illegal activity, contain falsehoods or are wildly off-topic, or that libel, incite, threaten or make ad hominem attacks on Penn State students, employees, guests or other individuals.
 
3. I did not post a political statement.
 
With all of the facts presented, it makes me wonder why the social media manager decided to remove me.  Yet, there are thousands, yes, THOUSANDS of other distasteful comments, swearing, slander, violent, falsehoods, libel, and ad hominen attacks on Penn State students, employees, guests, or other individuals.
 
My comment was simply a piece of advice. My guess is that they do not have an actual social media play-book for online trolling, negative comments, or perceived negative comments. I only posted once.
 
In light of that simple piece of advice, I will suggest that they read it, saw that I wrote I was a social media strategist, peformed a Google search on me, saw that I do have online influence, and decided that I was a “threat” to their social media presence. Otherwise, I am dumbfounded why Penn State took that action.Way…to…be… Penn State social media team.
 
In response to this ordeal, here is some advice for you, Penn State Social Media Team:
 
1. Make sure you have a clear crisis communication plan ready to go.
 
2. Make sure you have defined who are deemed “threats” and those who are basically trying to advise your efforts.
 
3. If you have an issue with my comment, correct me based on your policy. You have the ability to comment on my post, but you did not. Instead, you just went the ultimate route to remove my rights from posting on your page. My comment was not an ad hominen attack. Yet, you are allowing the distasteful comments to stay on your page.
 
4. Understand that you can and sometimes should be humble in receiving advice. I was willing to help you with your efforts to manage your social media crisis.  However, now I am probably going to have to forgo that willingness I had.
 
5. Make sure you act within Facebook’s guidelines with your actions as well. Blocking people for no apparent reason on your public page is simply a poor univeristy relations tactic.
 
 
In closing, do you think that I deserved to be “unliked”/blocked from Penn State’s Facebook page? Why or why not?
What are you thoughts or insights regarding this situation?
What would you do different as a social media manager?
 
What can Penn State’s social media team do to mitigate this issue for the long-term (certainly not short-term as this point!)?
 
I look forward to your comments!
 
- Josh
Posted in Communication, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

You CAN Make a Difference: Social Media as a Tool to Respond to Global Crises

If we take a close look at the world around us we will find that there are countless issues that one can devote time, effort, and resources to. However, difficultly remains for many people. How can one be a true advocate for children suffering in Somalia? How about that family without clean water in a remote village in Guatemala?

There is hope. There are ways communities can help without spending a dime.

While many people may not have the financial resources in this current economy to make contributions to the humanitarian efforts globally, one can certainly make a difference from their home computer. That is correct – right where you are sitting right now reading this. You can be the messenger of change.

Social media is here to stay for the long-term. Because of that truth, social media has influenced the way information is communicated each and everyday. But more than merely exchanging information, it is a tool to reach the masses for a cause.

Think about the information you post on the web. Your status updates on Facebook and tweeting on Twitter are read by many people. Not only are you communicating ideas, but also chances are you could be a very influential individual – an opinion leader for that matter. Why not use that influence to spread the message worldwide?

Based on the book, Socialnomics, Erik Qualman reports unique statistics about the social media culture. For example, if Facebook were a country, it would be the 3rd largest country in the world. As far as influence is concerned, we need to start thinking more digitally in terms of spreading messages for a cause. No longer can we just rely on print advertisements and going door-to-door to campaign (although face-to-face interaction is vitally as important). We can and should leverage the use of social media to spark awareness. In turn, we can spark that awareness into action.

At this moment you might be asking yourself, “So, how can I make a difference with all of activity on social media?”

Well, here are a few ways you can make a difference – and track for yourself how the conversation is developing.

First, I encourage you to visit http://www.Hootsuite.com and link your Twitter account to that social media dashboard. Hootsuite is a social media tool that allows you to manage and monitor multiple feeds of information that are trending on Twitter.

Let’s face it: There is so much information that is communicated everyday on Twitter, and it’s very difficult to sort through all the noise to find what is really going on. This is where Hootsuite comes in to help. It allows you to track specific keywords, trends, and key influencers on the web. You can start your own campaign, manage it, and measure your influence on the web.

There is a lot more to Hootsuite than there is room for me to explain on this post, but this can get you started on your journey to making a difference. Take some time to research about hash tags (#) and keywords. From that point you can start sending your message globally through the world of Twitter and see how your “voice” is spread.

As for Facebook: “Like” some humanitarian organization’s pages. Interact with the pages.  The more you interact, the more the page’s “News Feed Optimization” score is influenced. If a Facebook fan page has users sharing their links they share, there is much more influence and other people are going to consider to “like” the fan page, too.

All I can say is to think about what part you can have in making a difference in the digital world. Think about the influence of social media. How has it influenced you? Think about how you can make a difference in the world by communicating your ideas. If you make enough noise to break through all of the chatter online, you could potentially reach that affluent businessperson who may not have heard about the cause you are supporting. As a result, you might find that person making a contribution to an organization that is making a difference in the world to address poverty and injustice.

In closing, what are some ways you think that you can make a difference right from where you are sitting using social media? I would love to read your feedback!

Posted in Communication, Integrated Marketing Communications, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Case Study on Internal Communcation and Change Management

I recently wrote a response to a case study for one of my MBA courses, Corporate Communication. In that case study I examined how Westwood Publishing, that went through a time where downsizing had to be communicated internally, could improve their internal communcation strategy. Here is my reply to that case:

Introduction

First and foremost communicating organizational change is not always easy. An organizational leader must remember that perception equals reality. Employees in today’s enterprise are much different than just a decade ago – the internal economy has changed. We are in a much more open society with the digital age, and information is shared easily and people are frankly much more transparent about their thoughts and feelings. Because of these present elements in today’s workforce, managers must been aware of all of the internal and external factors that affect attitudes. As for Westwood Publishing, communicating change in an effective and personable manner will be key to ensuring the internal morale of the staff.

Organizational Understanding and Strategy

Before any major change is announced I think it would be important for an organizational communication audit to be administered to the employees. This would shed some light on the current views and attitudes of the employees. From that point a manager can assess where there are some areas that need to be reinforced, and then those areas that are stronger – therefore not needing quite as much focused attention. When a change manager assesses the whole situation, priorities can be made and messages developed to communicate to the employee base – as well as forecasting any potential resistance that is sure to develop.

One critical example of Westwood’s internal communication practices is that it did not frequently update its intranet on a consistent basis. Furthermore, Bosworth (the CEO) left at a critical time before the announcements were to be released company-wide. Unfortunately, I see this as a lack of leadership and a lack of being available to the organization for such a critical time internally. However, at the same time, it was not the CEO who came up with the idea of downsizing, so the people who developed the plans are probably the best ones to implement such information – and hopefully solutions.

Klein (1996) argues that an effective communication plan must present specific types of information. To address Westwood’s situation specifically, I will lay out a process by which the company can implement and manage its internal communication campaign for the future:

  1. Leverage the use of social media platforms as a set of conversation tools.
  2. Prioritize the updating of the company’s intranet on a consistent basis.
  3. Set ideal goals that are measurable to assess the employees’ attitudes and how to adapt to the perceptions at large.
  4. Inspire the existing employee base that their work is important and vital to the success of the company.
  5. Identify opinion leaders at all levels in the organization. Leverage the use of these persons because they will help bring structure to the overall message, in addition to maintaining a positive perception of the company internally.
  6. Emphasize what matters to the employee – not just the company.
  7. The information given by the organization about the transform should address the reasons to change, and the worries employees initially will have (Elving & Hansma, 2008).
  8. Describe the discrepancy. Inform the employees why these steps must be taken and what could happen as a result of failing to do so.
  9. Demonstrate leadership through clarity. No one likes to be uncertainty.
  10. Describe how the proposed initiative facilitates desires results. Communicate what is likely to happen because of the changes. Addressing the future is critical. Potential opportunities resulting of these decisions can help foster a community of better understanding and clarity.
  11. Whenever possible, communicate change in person – not just via video and text-based communications.
  12. As a result, these tactics can provide certainty to employees and be a part of the vision for the company’s leadership for improved success.

So, why is this plan so important? According to Torppa & Smith (2011), the difficulty of accomplishing these tasks is seen in “a large and expanding literature devoted to the problems of change fatigue and cynicism among personnel.” Current research demonstrates that effectively implementing change is a daunting and tiresome task to be committed to; people are at one another’s throats many times. As for Westwood Publishing, this strategy will help facilitate a structured plan so that resistance will be minimal and so that employees can recognize that the company is keeping them abreast of all changes internally.

Bibliography

Elving, W., & Hansma, L. (2008). Leading organizational change: On the role of top

management and supervisors in communicating organizational change. Conference Papers – International Communication Association, 2008 Annual Meeting, 1-46.

Klein, S. M. (1996). A management communication strategy for change. Journal of

Organizational Change Management, 9, 32–46.

Torppa, C. B., & Smith, K. L. (2011). Organizational change management: A test of the

effectiveness of a communication plan. Communication Research Reports, 28(1) 62-73.

Posted in Communication, Leadership | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts from LAX

As I sit at the Starbucks in terminal four at LAX airport, I look around me at everyone around me and walking by.

What’s fascinating is not that there are a lot of people walking by, but what is intriguing is that each and every person has their own story.  I don’t know anything about anyone around me.

Why? Why do we allow so many people to walk by without any interaction? If you think about it, you could be missing out on some life-changing, networking opportunities.  

I think I will at least say hello to a few individuals and see what happens.  Time to refresh my “elevator resume”!

Posted in Communication, Social Networking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Art of Interaction

“The most visceral art is direct.  One to one, mano a mano, the artist and the viewer. It’s the art of interaction.  It’s what you do.

The art of running a meeting, counseling a student, conducting an interview, and calming an angry customer. The art of raising capital,  buying a carpet at a souk, or managing a designer.

If art is a human connection that causes someone to change his mind, then you are an artist.

What if you were great at it.”– Seth Godin.

How are you building your skills?

Are you becoming an artist to become an agent of change to activate potential in others?

What things are in your way keeping you from being your ultimate potential? 

Do you have a plan of action get working on it? If you don’t – why not?

I encourage you to make the first move.  In fact,  I dare you!

Posted in Communication, Leadership | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on Change and Moving Forward

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it takes to be a true agent of change.  Sure, there are those special methodologies such as using the Prosci ADKAR model, or using Six Sigma methodologies to ensure efficiency, but there’s got to be more!

More recently, I have been reading a couple of books written by Seth Godin.  In particular, his New York Times Bestseller, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, discusses what it takes to be a leader in your sphere of influence- what it takes to stand out from the crowd.

Those thoughts of his have put me into a state of constant re-thinking myself-where am I going with what I am currently doing.  Are my vocational strategies working to develop my professional skills?  I would have to say, yes.  I am taking his advice and I have been doing it for sometime now after hearing a corporate executive, Horst Schulze, President of The West Paces Hotel Group, give an amazing speech on what it takes to be a leader and bring vision to fruition.

Everything I have been doing these last few months has been to completely turn my skills into something worth something- something to help others, not just my own desires and needs.  It makes sense.  Why would I want to merely do things that just serve myself? That will only bring a certain sense of satisfaction, not true satisfaction.  Over the years I have found that I am happiest when I am able to be an encourager to others, while exercising my gifts and talents that have been bestowed upon me through hard work and diligence.

Furthermore, I have set expectations for myself.  No longer will I be engaged in activities that will just be in the “here and now”- I want something more- something bigger than me.  This is the path I have chosen, and it has been very rewarding on many levels: relationally, socially, financially, and spiritually.

No longer will I be a person that is replaceable, another cog working in a machine-like role where I just do what I am told and I make an output of something.  I will engage, be creative, and strive to be an agent of change.  Looking back on the past few years I am happy with what I have been doing in the leadership roles I have served in from VP, President, Board Director, Ombudsman, Student Affairs Director, etc.  However, one regret is that I would also incorporate some of my valuable time doing factory-like tasks in terms of occupations.  Most of all, I have found that this is not me- I am not meant to be a follower, but I am called to be a leader, and lead others.

Right now, I am in Los Angeles for the first time in my life.  It’s an amazing area so far even though I’ve only been here a couple of days.  In the next few days I intend to explore around, look at the market for a potential career in the field of communication.  It seems like this could be a place for me to bring out my full potential.  The small town feel just isn’t cutting it anymore- it’s time to move on.  This is my new life.

Posted in Communication, Leadership | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Communication and Change: How Social Media Can Provide Opportunities for Growth

As many organizations are currently dealing with the financial hardships of the economy, social media and new media have offered a nearly comprehensive solution to many problems when it comes to marketing and promotional campaigns.

With that said, it begs the question: How do we use these new tools to drive and manage change while in this economy? Simply said, a business connecting with consumers/customers by including them in the conversation. Moreover, including them in the process of business development. No longer are businesses merely able to engage in a pipeline flow of communication with their consumers; it MUST be a transactional process.
Robin Alexander Bistro, here in Lynchburg, VA is a notable example of what a local business can do to thrive in the current economy. By utilizing various social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, Robin Dimond’s business is thriving while many other local businesses who have not embraced social media continue to search for ways to increase revenue and market their brand. Robin Alexander Bistro has found a way to connect with its target audience, and it is working.

{RA Bistro} engages with Facebook fans in a variety of ways from games, contests, promotions for events, etc.

The restaurant is frequently on the minds of people when they are surfing online, whether it is at their computer or on their mobile phone because Robin Alexander Bistro has found a way to maintain a constant web presence in the landscape of social media and leverage that influence to remind customers that great food and stellar service is only a short drive away.

In context of all of this, it does make sense why consumers today want to be included in the conversation, especially the younger generation. There seems to be this overarching appeal to relationships being, perhaps, the most important experience in life for today’s twenty-somethings and younger. This would explain why this generation desires to connect with their favorite brands, engage in social interaction, and feel like they are a part of the brand. Most of all, they are willing to spend their money to become a part of something. This is Social Commerce 2.0 and it is only beginning.

Posted in Integrated Marketing Communications, Social Media, Social Networking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Where I could be versus where I am today!

I’ve often thought about what exactly I would be doing if I chose not to attend graduate school at Liberty University. Who knows… I could be back in my home state of Montana working at a job that I had more 9+ years and continuing with what I knew best in the workplace. However, circumstances, guidance, and words of wisdom from two of my exellent professors, Dr. Faith Mullen and Dr. Lynnda Beavers, led me to study more in the School of Communication at Liberty University. 

When I received my BS in Communication Studies with a concentration in Speech Communication, I felt as though there was more out there for me to specialize in. In other words, getting more training and experience in the field. The Speech concentration was an excellent foundation as I was introduced to so many practices in communicating with others: persuasion, argumentation and debate, rhetorical studies, management principles, teamwork, interpersonal skills, bringing the written word to life in performance and speech, professional development, and so much more. 

Because I have these skills at my advantage, I have utilized them in gaining more real-world experience over the past two years in graduate school while I am studying Organizational & Interpersonal Communication. I have done everything from coordinating an international English studies center, leading the Department of Communication Studies last year at the student body Ombudsman, consulting with local businesses in their social media strategies and campaigns with skills I have learned at the graduate level, training undergraduates in cover letter and resume writing in my free time, and spending enormous amounts of time in professional development workshops at the Career Center. You may wonder why I include these occupations here in this post… It is all about getting more real world experience before you go for that “dream job” after you earn your master’s degree!  Do it while you are in college! Do internships, offer complimentary consultations and advice. In turn, you could receive exemplary recommendations that will build your credibility and brand when you leave school.

Some final thoughts…Allow me to strongly recommend that if you are an undergraduate student who may have not taken advantage of everything at your finger tips during your undergraduate years to consider going to graduate school at Liberty University. To be transparent, I did not take full advantage of what was offered the first three years of my undergraduate experience, but now that I have been in the graduate program at Liberty University’s School of Communication, I have gained so much knowledge, wisdom, and practical experience that will take me far in life.

Posted in Communication, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day #2: Social Media Marketing Talk at Robin Alexander Bistro

The hospitality industry has always intrigued me when it comes to social media. Many major restaurant and hotel companies have leveraged ways to successfully monetize from social media marketing by incorporating cutting-edge campaigns to engage with their target audiences.

Robin Alexander Bistro- Lynchburg, VA

Robin Alexander Bistro is a local restaurant in Lynchburg, Virginia that has taken advantage of the social media landscape by monetizing from its customer engagement through Facebook.

Tonight, I had the privilege of eating at Robin Alexander Bistro with a business-minded colleague of mine, Jonathan. For some time (about six months) I have been desiring to eat at the establishment due to hearing all of the rants and raves of this popular, casual bistro from friends and colleagues in the community. However, I had this preconceived notion that this place would be costly and I just felt that it was not financially sound to spend upwards of $30 to eat a meal. To my surprise, my preconceived notions were wrong! Robin Alexander Bistro is in fact a very affordable casual dining experience for nearly anyone at any budget level. Robin Alexander Bistro’s menu features all kinds of American cuisine under $20, with the premiere, hand-cut filet mignon entree priced at a mere $19.

What made this experience even better than just the food was the superior service of Robin Alexander Bistro’s staff.  Our server, Rachel, was cutting-edge. Furthermore, Jonathan and I had a chance to have an in-depth conversation with co-owner, Robin Dimond, about her social media marketing efforts in promoting the restaurant throughout the community.  I must say that our conversation was rewarding as we exchanged ideas about social media strategies to bring growth to her online community. I also learned a lot about how Robin Alexander Bistro has integrated a social media strategy and what Robin Dimond’s long-term goals are for her business.

As a final note, I would like to give a “shout out” to Robin Dimond, as it was a pleasure to meet and connect with her tonight at Robin Alexander Bistro. I am sure she and I will be having more discussions in the near future as we both have a knack for learning more about social media.

Posted in Integrated Marketing Communications, Social Media, Social Networking | Leave a comment