How to find your perfect Community Manager

I'm seeing a shift, the community management industry - it's leaving its puppy pen and has reached adolescence. Over the past few years, only a small number of companies have invested in their own social departments, choosing to outsource their community actives to agencies. Now, as brands and companies identify that full integration between Social and existing Comms teams is essential, they're putting out their feelers to find their Mr (or Ms) Right in Community Management. Just looking at the #cmgr hash tag on twitter you'll see there is an increasing need for in-house CMs.

For the past few months I've been leading the community effort over at The Social Practice, helping to build the team to support our clients requirements. As a result, I've met a lot of Community Managers, some excellent, and some down right awful. I currently work with a selection of CMs that have a wide variety of skill sets, and knowing the clients I work with, I partner these together with the right brands. It's not easy and I've been working in Community Management for years! So I thought it would be useful to outline some things you should be looking for to find the right Community Manager for you and your brand.

Do you like the way they communicate?
Resource is often stretched to manage multiple clients agency side so bringing your social in-house you'll now have someone fully committed to building and creating relationships for your brand. For this reason, it's important that who you choose has strong communication skills both on and offline. This means, they have to communicate on your level as you're essentially asking them to represent your brand both on and offline.

Can they create engaging content?
A huge part of your Community Managers role will be to generate and implement engaging content around your comms strategy. This not only means having an eye for a good picture, but also being able to craft an update in only 140 characters with a clear call to action inline with your social KPIs and objectives.

Do they know your brand?
Yes you want someone who lives, breathes and eats your brand… but you won't always get that. You will however find wonderfully prepared Community Managers who have done their research and really know your brand history, ethos and want to be passionate about your products.

The Top 5 Things Your Community Manager Needs:
- Passion and enthusiasm, not just of your brand but of community management and social activity online.
- Connections, or the ability to be versatile enough to make new ones easily within your sector.
- Ability to create good quality, relevant content under pressure.
- To be brave, confident and likeable.
- Have a solid understanding of behaviour on the social channels you'll be requiring them to work on.

I'd strong recommend that you set your CM a task to do in a set amount of time to test all of the above. Never underestimate the affect a little bit of stress can have on the out put of a CM.

Best of luck with your search!


Facebook Reply Functionality – A Guide for Brands

This was orginally posted on The Social Practice Blog 3/4/13

Facebook rolled out threaded commenting across all brand and subscription pages last week, and this is a working guide to best practices for both brands and agencies that manage Facebook pages. Rather than a Fan replying in a single list under a post, they can now also reply directly to another readers comment. We’ve summarised the change, the effect on pages and outlined some simple action points to help co-ordinate a successful approach.

Why and what:
Historically, the commenting functionality, particularly on popular brand pages, didn’t work well from a community perspective. It was confusing, hard to follow and resulted in “fly by night” fan postings, rather than genuine conversations. Facebook has tested threaded commenting since 2012, and it’s now available on all brand and subscriber pages. But before we lose you to go check your pages or chase up your social media agency for an update – this change is currently optional and you can still turn Replies on and off in your Permissions settings (phew!).

During the past week we’ve see Facebook fan behaviour change. Interaction between users is simpler and helps fans to engage with each other rather than just the brand. Where a passing comment previously would have been lost, now with support (engagement) from fellow Friends or Fans, it will appear directly under your original post, regardless of its time stamp – this is affected by both Likes and Comments. If you’re familiar with Reddit, you’ll understand the power this gives your fans and why it can’t be ignored.
Brands that rely on the platform for customer service are now able to easily respond to individual comments left on the wall post – it’s taking a while for users to get use to this and we’re currently seeing some fans engaging on threads rather than the main comment stream. However, customer service teams aren’t the only page admins enjoying the update, community managers who have been trying to engage their fans on a deeper level for years no longer have to deal with a vertical conversation. This is beautifully described by @poetagrafico over on Mashable “now it’s like a chain with links where the links are individual group discussions”.

Top Tips when making the change:
  1. Get a budget for a moderation tool. The current Facebook notification process is a logistical nightmare. A tool should be able to solve this. As Emoderation’s Tia Fisher highlighted this week, the current Facebook API does not support this change so if you are using an existing tool, don’t turn on your replies yet. The changeover isn’t obligatory until July so you’ve got lots of time to start your research, trial a few tools and retrain your staff to use them.
  2. Revisit your House Rules to include a guideline for behaviour towards other Facebook users on the page, as well as towards the brand. We’ve always taken the stand that your page is yours, so OWN IT! Don’t be afraid to ban or hide comments that break your rules. Your page’s fans are a representation of your brand, if someone visits your page and has a bad experience due to your badly behaved fans, that is a reflection of you. For example, last month Justin Bieber was held responsible for his fan’s manic and often aggressive behaviour on Twitter towards each other.  This instance further fuels the theory that the way your fans and consumers behave on a public platform has implications for your brand. Read this and deal with it.
  3. Clearly define the purpose and Call To Action on every post. Of course everything you post has a clear Call To Action and purpose, but if you are calling for conversational engagement from your fans manage the direction. Unfortunately, left to their own devices, the most engaged post (and therefore prolific) isn’t always the most popular or intelligent (see pt. 4).
  4. Be extra vigilant with your moderation and watch out for Trolls. Bringing the content that’s most engaging to people seems like a great idea until someone decides to post inflammatory or irrelevant messages for no other reason other than to provoke an emotional response from your fans. They may even abuse Facebook’s new ranking system to get their comments to appear most prolifically on the page by Liking and Commenting on their own comments.
In summary, get ready!
Have a clear timeline, of when you want all your documentation to be completed, as well as a date in mind for when you’ll have the resource and budget to manage the change over efficiently. Finally, look over your content strategy and double check that your direction is one step ahead of your fans.
A huge thank you to the fabulous #CMGR community over at e Mint for their comments and thoughts.


The Future Of Social Media

On Tuesday last week I went along to the morning session of the NEXT day at Digital Shoreditch, a two week long festival for digital creatives. Speaking was Greg Williams, Executive Editor at Wired, Ben Scott Robinson, Creative Director at We Love Mobile and Matthew Cooke, Founder of Unruly Media... to name a few. Below is a light round up of our possible future, both online and off, as predicted by these speakers. An emphasis on a seamless connections between the digital world and reality, and how new technology can enable this was the key focus for the talks.
Even with the rise of online and mobile advertising spend, TV advertising is still attracting a lot of business. It’s even forecasted for online/mobile advertising to match TV spend by 2014. What is also predicted, is the affect of “second screen” in TV campaigns will evolve their purpose into fueling customer conversation (bring on the Community Manager jobs!) If we look at the recent Prometeus film TV advert as an example and the subsequent Twitter TV advert response (see story #2), we can see evidence of this happening now with forward thinking agencies. Another example of this evolution and the affect online and mobile has on Television is the BBC's conversations during Social Media Week. I attended an event where they discussed the way that “second screen” affects news and current affairs and how they predict this will continue with Olympics. The BBC even toyed with the idea of have a twitter feed open on screen during the games - what would Grandma say?!
“Mobile is the saviour of TV advertising; it's a platform to get people engaging and to allow you to gauge success.”
Ben Scott Robinson, We Love Mobile
With the possibility of measuring engagement on both mobile and web, you can see the affect of advertising instantly - sshhh, don't tell advertisers, they'll ask for the ROI again. It's this and the decline of spend in print media which is foreseeable to continue in the upcoming years, that will result in management changing their business model to accommodate it.
It’s reported that a massive 80% of the world has access to a mobile phone (that’s more than the number of people with access to clean water!) – this not only changes the way we advertise but also has an affect on other industries such as retail and banking. The importance of a “mobile wallet” is increasingly evident in countries where access to a mobile phone is more common that people having a bank account. As voice use declines, mobile providers now concentrate on data. From mobile content to access to social networks - users want it all. Just looking at the range of businesses that rely on Facebook is huge – which begs us to ask if it has reached saturation? As well as, “beyond the walled gardens, beyond app stores, beyond the social networks, there is more waiting to happen”?

The affect of social media and the companies that have spawned from it.

Another take away from the day was the importance of reviews and recommendations when purchasing, and not only from our peers - 80% people research a product before they buy. This is further evidence of the importance of connecting the real world with digital to push through purchases as well as encouraging loyalty through rich engagement on digital platforms. Advances in technology from companies like Connecthings help can bridge the physical and digital worlds. From shopper’s reviews, to live bus updates and translations of signs for foreign visitors, the possibilities seem limitless using NFC to bring together contextual information for users with location based software. It was explained that all this engagement is data rich that can be used with a CMS platform that has the ability to manage both content and network, as well pull out key insights for the brands involved. 
Finally, it was the importance of storytelling and the cognitive affects of narrative on human behavior that is predicted to change the face of brand advertising and PR in the next few years. In 140 characters, throughout the day millions of people across the globe share the stories from their lives on Twitter, with photos on Instagram and with video on YouTube. Like design, storytelling has become key for businesses to define their purpose and create a relationship with their customers. It can even affect how we interact and feel towards brands.  With new technology (tablets and smartphones) we now have the ability to share stories without the traditional gatekeepers, which not only give consumers a voice but gives brands the ability to humanise themselves. With this vast amount of content floating around the web it’s easy to say that content is cheap, however, finding meaning within that is not and it is what brands should strive for. As Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn founder once said, "data is the new oil." 
Lazy take-aways
Couldn't be bothered to read all of this? Don't blame you! Here is a break down of the above... 
·      NFC technology for the everyday person is now a reality, from information uploads to banking; soon we will be connected to everything wirelessly.
·      The “Second screen” affect on advertising - the integration of mobile when creating memorable campaigns and when to consider mobile or TV as that “second screen”.
·      With the increase of social media, storytelling has become an integral part of brand awareness – this will become increasingly important as social platform enable brand to become more “human”.

During the session we saw quite a few case studies and but it was Bing’s particular use of storytelling in association with the launch of Jay Z’s autobiography ‘De Code’ which was highly impressive.
Anyway, it it was an interesting morning and I wish I could be more indulgent and attend more of these but... I have to work for a living.


Duke's Brew & Que, London

Duke's & Que is a pub. It's a pub disguised as a restaurant and don't let their drool worthy menu fool you as it has done with many. I went here for dinner and after sampling a few of their meaty morsels and their well selected cocktail menu I can confirm that this place is worth visiting.

I like ribs. The vegetarian in me still winces when I pick up that meaty hunk of flesh attached to a bone all covered in sticky barbecue sauce.

Last night, I indulged my inner caveman at Duke's Brew & Que with beef ribs, pulled pork sliders, mac and cheese, fried pickles and okra and some of their BBQ beans. I washed this down with a margarita (unfortunately not frozen) and my dining partner with some of their beer from their extensive menu.

Duke's & Que is also a brewery, although they only make a small amount at a time. They have a huge selection of beers and tequilas though as well as a solid cocktail menu with a couple of classics on it. The food is hit and miss. I'll be honest, we ordered well. I rarely go for dinner somewhere new without scoping out the reviews online to see what I should order.

I'm glad I did so here. The beef ribs were not only tender but huge in side. I'm glad of it too, the cocktails were strong and I needed something to sock up the tequila. The fried okra was a little dry and the mac and cheese was oozing oil (not always a good thing). Even saying that I still think that they know what they're doing when it comes to food. The ribs were perfectly cooked and the pulled pock juicy in a sweet white bun.

I'm a huge fan of condiments and along with the usual suspects there was a homemade BBQ sauce that was tangy and spicy along with a horseradish and mustard homemade mixture that made my eyes water. It's certainly worth trying if you're a fan of wasabi!

So this is a cool part of town, well to be honest, it on the edge of the cool part and that means you'll get a mix of hipsters, media mummies and daddies with their offspring and few lost locals from the council estate across the road.

This use to be a locals pub and you can tell that it has had a somewhat smooth transition into a dining boozer. I insist you go, and eat meat, and drink beer...

Duke's & Que | 33 Downham Road, London, N1 5AA
020 3006 0795


Critical Mass London

I ride around London on my bike and in my head I'm thinking, "Cycling, F*#k yeah!"

I'm better than other Londoners because most days (when my bike isn't being stolen or if its not snowing) I cycle everywhere I go. Unfortunately, the rest of London doesn't always agree. Yes Addison Lee, I'm talking about you...

For those of you who live under a rock, Critical Mass is a monthly event in London, where "there are probably as many aims as there are participants". For many of the people involved, it's about reclaiming the road and after a brush with one very aggressive driver who was using his car as a weapon on Newington Green a few weeks ago, I'm all for owning a bit of road.
This is me, and my pink bike...

Last Friday was the 18th anniversary of Critical Mass London and I decided that it was about time that I went down to see what it was all about. I arrived at about 6pm to a mish-mash of wheels and feet under the Waterloo Bridge. As it was so close to the London Mayoral Elections, it had been hijacked by some cycling politicians but to be honest that was all part and parcel of the fun.

Just so you know, after the big protest from the war that Tony Blair led us nicely into a law was created stating that you could not organise a protest or the like without permission. As a result you'll find little information about Critical Mass or it's organisers online. If you go down there though, everyone is super friend. As it was the 18th anniversary there was cake and beer and biscuits being handed around along with pink balloons and party hats. It was all rather festive.

Just after 7pm we set off, what started out as less than a hundred, turned into what seemed to be thousands of cyclists, scooter-folk, skate boarders and more. What was most suprising is that so many of them were normal folk, and I certainly overheard conversations about working freelance and a few people moaning about Tesco value range. These were regular Londoners who had decided to reclaim the road and it was bloody fabulous. While cycling along, all the traffic stops for you and finally you feel some power.

I'd recommend this for any cyclist in London. Even if you don't cycle much, there were Boris bikes there along with the rest of us. You'll also meet other lovely people and it's totally free - what more could you ask for?

What? Critical Mass London
When? Every Last Friday of the Month, meet 6.15pm, ride begins 6.45pm
Where?  Meet under Waterloo Bridge, outside National Theatre on South Bank
Who? YOU


Do you need a Community Manager?

I am a Community Manager... not a Pony.

A Community Manager is someone who represents your brand to the World. World, as in World Wide Web and World as they are a real person who will attend events and be a spokesperson for you. This person will have excellent communication skills, a fabulous bedside manner and will have (hand)bags of common sense. They'll be your voice on all social platforms, they'll write the content plan for your blog posts and email communications. They'll work closely with your customer service, PR and marketing teams - giving a voice to your audience within the company. They will be on the front-line when you have to communicate with the masses and will negotiate with key influencers. Their KPIs are the size of their audience and the volume of conversation generated around key messages. Their KPIs are also the overall feeling from the public towards the brand (ie. are you likeable). They are never off duty. The work that a CM does for your brand is for you and not them, they will reflect the praise and positive comments towards who they work for and not them directly.

A Social Media Manager is someone who manages your presence on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. They will generate content calendars and moderation guidelines inline with the greater overall social media strategy for the brand. This person will need to be up to date with all the latest platform developments and on hand to advise the brand when conversation in the digital space requires action from either CS or PR.  Their KPIs are provided but the Social Media Strategist who will define a goal for each platform for the brand.

A Social Media Strategist is someone who will look at your social media footprint, work with your sales/marketing team and create roads to common goals with can be implemented by the SMM.
They will have to be familiar with social media monitoring software and be able to analyse vast quantities of qualitative and quantitative data to generate a fully integrated plan of actions. They will also have the skill set to translate this information into an understandable plan for action for board members, account managers and clients.

As you can see, these are three very different roles. For every company, duties can vary depending on the brand, but the basics are all here. I often have to explain my role to people - most of the time it's recruiters trying to put me forward for a job that I'm quite often not interested in and most often not qualified for.

Social Media is important for any company that hopes to survive and grow in the next few years. If people aren't buying your biscuits I can damn well be sure their bitching about them on twitter and they'll tell you why. For service companies, using social media is key to understanding your users wants and needs. As for community, this is when you want to take your brand that step closer to your audience. This is where you want to create a kind of consumer that is a brand ambassador without handing over your hard earned cash. It takes time and you have to see it for the long term - it's not a quick fix. It can have many advantages but it is a brand by brand situation, speak to many people to find out what will suit you best.

PS. I am not a guru. If you call yourself a Social Media Guru you're a twat. If you are on the hunt for someone to help you with social media and you put Social Media Guru as the job title, you'll attract these twats. You'll also attract people who talk more that they do, yes they'll impress you with the latest SM news and the last article they read on Mashable but what have they actually done? The online digital industry is so new and continuously changing and evolving that calling yourself a Guru is pretty small minded. We're all learning... Even the experts!


Nail Wraps

I'm a little obsessed with nail art and on a recent trip to New York I got a decent haul from Sephora. Now some of you might remember that Sephora was once in the UK - it failed and left. My world is now a darker place.

The collection I purchase included what Sephora like to call Real Lacquer Strips, or to you and me Nail Wraps. This was my first attempt - I'm supper happy with them and I'm actually surprised at how easy they were to apply. Not only that, they were dry straight away and there is zero chance of smudging. As a result I tootled on down to boots and picked up some Nail Rock wraps. No they aren't as wonderful as the design I got from NYC but they'll hold me over until I can get a loving friend to send me some...