Tag Archive for 'jeremiah owyang'

Today is Community Manager Appreciation Day

Community Manager At Work

Community Manager At Work

First, I wanted to thank Jeremiah Owyang for being the ultimate community manager by putting together a framework for Community Manager Appreciation Day and organizing the rest of us to help get the word out and support the effort.

Community Manager Appreciation Day will be the 4th Monday in every January, and it’s a great excuse to and recognize the contributions and thank those people who are managing your online communities and social programs. These people work tirelessly on behalf of your organization and much of what they do happens behind the scenes and often goes unnoticed by management and community members alike. Have you ever wondered who answers all of those questions, cleans up after spam attacks and makes sure that the community runs so smoothly that you never need to think about it? There is probably someone acting as community manager regardless of their official title within your organization.

The role of community manager can be a tough one. They face challenges from within the organization to justify the ROI and drive programs needed for the community while at the same time being beat up by spammers or demanding community members who want more. To top it all off, this isn’t a 9 to 5 job where the community shuts down from 5pm to 9am, so community managers often need to jump into the community during their off hours to resolve issues. Despite all of these challenges, the role can also be rewarding and fun, which is why so many of us choose this profession.

Here are a few of Jeremiah’s suggestions for recognizing your community manager:

  • If you’re a customer, and your problem was solved by a community manager be sure to thank them in the medium that helped you in. Use the hashtag #CMAD.
  • If you’re a colleague with community manager, take the time to understand their passion to improve the customer –and company experience. Copy their boss.
  • If you’re a community manager, stop and breathe for a second, and know that you’re appreciated. Hug your family.

Have you thanked your community manager today?

Supported by Bill Johnston, Connie Benson, Rachel Happe, Jake McKee, Sean O’Driscoll, Lane Becker, Dawn Foster, Thor Muller, Amy Muller and Jeremiah Owyang.

Photo by Aaron Hockley of Hockley Photography

Trust and Corporate Blogging

I’ve spent a fair amount of time talking on this blog and in other places about what to do and what not to do with a corporate blog. Here’s a short summary:

  • Don’t regurgitate press releases. Do focus on content relevant to your industry
  • It’s not all about you. It is a conversation.
  • Don’t focus on marketing messages. Have a personal tone.
  • Make sure the blog doesn’t get stale. A content roadmap can help you stay on track.

This morning I read Josh Bernoff’s Forrester Report, Time To Rethink Your Corporate Blogging Ideas, which focused on whether or not people trust corporate blogs. I was not surprised by the finding that only 16% of online consumers who read corporate blogs trust them. I don’t usually trust press releases, which tend to tell one side of the story (the company’s side) always in the best possible light and sometimes with so much spin you can’t find the meat of the announcement. Too many corporate blogs seem like a series of press releases, and I don’t trust those blogs. However, there are also many excellent corporate blogs written by people that I do trust.

I tend to agree with Richard MacManus on ReadWriteWeb:

To the larger point of whether corporate blogs are trustworthy, it depends on so many things that it’s difficult to make a sweeping judgement. For example, I trust some Microsoft blogs more than others – depending on the person blogging and perhaps even the department they work for. It depends on the style of blogging, the content that’s published, the way the blog is promoted, and so on. (Quoted from ReadWriteWeb)

Based on the recommendations in the report, I suspect that Josh agrees with us:

Like any other marketing channel, blogging can work. But it’s not about you; it’s about your customer. Our rule of thumb is that if the person reading the blog says, “Sure I don’t trust corporate blogs, but I don’t think of your blog that way,” then you’re on the right track. (Quoted from Time To Rethink Your Corporate Blogging Ideas)

Josh includes a few tips for improving the trust on your blog (his article has a few more tips and a paragraph with more explanation on each one):

  • Blog about the customer’s problem.
  • Blog to your hordes of fans.
  • Blog about issues at the core of a community.
  • For B2B companies, get your employees in on the act.

(Quoted from Time To Rethink Your Corporate Blogging Ideas)

The real message here is that trust has to be earned. Trust has to be earned for each new corporate blog and each individual blogger. Jeremiah Owyang put together an informal checklist to help you evaluate your current company blog. A great corporate blog can be a trusted source of information, but it takes real work and diligence to get to that point.

How’s your corporate blog performing?

Trend: Community Vendors Who Eat Their Own Dogfood

Several Tweets today from Jeremiah Owyang got me thinking about community vendors and how they do (or do not) use their own platforms to build communities for their customers and users.

Quoted from @jowyang’s Twitter stream:

My advice to community platform vendors:

  • If you don’t already have a public user community or support community for your customers running on the latest release of your platform, start planning one now.
  • Get your product management and engineering teams involved in the community and spend time learning what your customers like and don’t like in addition to the features they want in future releases.
  • Spend some time monitoring what your customers are saying about you online (Twitter, blogs, and other forums) to avoid being caught off guard by negative feedback.

My advice to anyone selecting a community platform vendor:

  • If they are not running a public community for their customers and users that is built on their platform, run (not walk) away from that vendor.
  • Spend a significant amount of time in that public community getting a feel for the issues that other customers are having with their software. Also take note of how long it takes for them to respond to questions or issues.
  • Ask for some customer references. Call the references and chat about their experiences with the vendor. Ask them for specific examples of both positive and negative interactions and experiences.

While Jeremiah says that “Many of the vendors in my community platform wave ironically do NOT offer a community to their own customers to support themselves”, the best vendors do use their own software to build external communities for their customers.

Here are three examples of vendors who eat their own dogfood:

There are plenty of others who run vibrant communities for users of their platform; however, I was surprised by how many do not. While I was working at Jive, we learned so much about our software by using it to host our own communities. We found bugs early, felt the pain points along with our customers, and celebrated when new features were introduced in the product. Any vendor who isn’t eating their own dogfood is using you, their customer, as a testing bed. I’ll take my chances with vendors who use their software over ones that do not any day.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Social Media: A Different Approach for Businesses

Jeremiah Owyang’s recent post about The Many Challenges of the Social Media Industry got me thinking about how social media requires a different approach from the way that many companies approach traditional marketing or customer engagement. Jeremiah’s post seems to be more targeted at companies whose main products and services are based on social media, but I’m going to take some of the ideas that he discusses and outline how they can be applied to companies using social media as part of their strategy for engaging with customers or communities or users.

Profits

Jeremiah talks about a current lack of profits where few bloggers have been able to generate significant revenues from their content. Companies (and even most individual bloggers) should not be focused on generating revenue directly from social media efforts. I always tell companies to think about social media as being in the early awareness portion of the marketing funnel (you know, the part way at the top far away from the bottom of the funnel where you generate leads and make sales.)

Blogging, community engagement and other social media efforts should support other efforts that generate revenue. For example, this blog generates $0 revenue for me; however, it has made a big difference in my career. I’ve been invited to speak on panels, been offered jobs, and had consulting gigs come my way as a result of the expertise demonstrated on this blog. In other words, I receive a substantial financial benefit indirectly related to my blogging efforts, while receiving no direct revenue from the blog. Companies can get similar benefits by using blogs and social media to get the word out about the company. While generating revenue won’t happen directly, it should be an indirect benefit.

Noise

Jeremiah also points out that “excessive noise drowns out signal“, which is an increasing problem for individuals and companies who create content. This is actually two separate, but related issues: first, how can you create content that rises above the noise; and second, how can you find what others are saying about you online.

Content creation. Too many companies and individuals have blogs that no one would want to read. Company blogs are often little more than press releases and marketing fluff (see my “Are Corporate Blogs a Joke” post for more details), and many individual blogs have mostly regurgitated content with little original thought and analysis. The outstanding blogs (corporate or individual) focus on thought leadership with interesting original ideas and deep analysis of industry trends. The posts focused on interesting original content will get linked to more often and will show up more prominently in search results; therefore, rising above the noise.

Monitoring discussions. You also want to be able to monitor and respond quickly to what others are saying about you, your brand, your content, your competitors, your industry and more. You can buy expensive software to monitor all of this, or you set up a few Yahoo Pipes with RSS feeds to track what people are saying. I go the Yahoo Pipes route with searches of Twitter, blogs, and other places to find where people are discussing the content that I create.

Brandjacking

As Jeremiah points out, “brands –and individuals– can easily be brandjacked as others take their user name, domains, and assert themselves as someone else.” The best thing you can do to minimize the threat of being brandjacked is to be already participating in the community. Monitoring is also critical (see above), but even with monitoring, it can take a while go through the process of getting the content removed even if you find it quickly. By participating and having an active presence on places like Twitter and Facebook, it will be easier for people to figure out which is your official presence and which is the fake one. When you don’t already participate, it will be easier for people to assume that a brandjacked presence is the real one. The recent Exxon Mobile Twitter account is just one example.

Marketing and Communities

Jeremiah makes an excellent point about how “marketers move in without community consideration“. I spend quite a bit of time thinking about how marketing should / should not participate in online communities, and there are important nuances that marketing should understand before engaging with online communities. I won’t elaborate in detail in this post, but I suggest that you look at my recent Online Communities and Marketing presentation for more information. This presentation offers some fairly comprehensive advice for how marketing can participate in online communities. It is also worth the time and effort to put employees (not just marketing) through at least a little training before you turn them loose on the community.

These are just a few of the examples from Jeremiah’s post, but I think that this post is long enough already. If I missed anything critical, please feel free to elaborate in the comments.

Related Fast Wonder blog posts:

Community Building: Good, Bad and Ugly – The Video

I finally found a video of at least part of our Web 2.0 Expo session about Community Building: Good, Bad and Ugly. A big thank you to Jim Goings for uploading it. It looks like they caught the first 30 minutes of the session on video.

Panel members included: Dawn Foster (Jive Software), Jeremiah Owyang (Forrester Research), Bob Duffy (Intel), Kellie Parker (PC World & Macworld).

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Community: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly at Web 2.0 Expo

I really enjoyed my panel this morning at Web 2.0 Expo with Jeremiah Owyang, Bob Duffy, and Kellie Parker. Here are a few of the things we talked about (including a correction to one of the answers that I gave during the panel) :-)

How do you know that a company is ready to embrace a community?

A few things I would look for:

  • Are the key people at the company willing to invest the resources, like time and money, into building, maintaining, and growing the community over time?
  • Are key executives at the company encouraging or fighting the creation of a community?
  • Do the key people already actively participate in community activities? Do they already blog?

If you have any doubts, a good way to test whether the company is ready is to start with some baby steps: get the key people blogging and participating in existing conversations in other communities. If they are willing to devote the time and energy to some small community activities, you can start to build from there into more complex, full blown community efforts

What are some good ways to kick-start your community?

Getting that initial base of community members can be challenging and how you approach it depends on the type of community.

For communities around a product or service offered by a company, you can tap your existing customer base. Start with some of those customers or users who are most passionate about your products. They will be the biggest cheerleaders for you and can help you get other people involved in the community. These evangelists can be a huge help while building and growing your community.

For social communities or other communities where you don’t have an existing customer base to tap, you’ll want to reach out to a few potential members early in the process. The best people to approach are those that tend to quickly embrace new technologies and are influential among the group of people you are trying to reach.

Regardless of the type of community, you’ll still need to do additional outreach using various marketing campaigns. For communities, I would put a heavy focus on social media outreach through blogs, twitter, facebook, or whatever other social media is appropriate for your community to talk about the benefits of joining your community. You can also offer any other incentives appropriate to your community: T-shirts, drawings, discounts, etc. as you build your initial base of members.

Just One Key Takeaway for communities:

Be flexible in everything from community design and evolution of the community to the day to day activities.
Communities are ultimately about the people, and people aren’t always predicable. You may find that the structure and design of the community isn’t working for most people, and you’ll need to be flexible to embrace evolution of the community. You will need to be flexible with how you spend your time. I never know when I’m going to spend the morning cleaning up after spammers or answering burning questions instead of completing the items currently on my task list.

Managing Internal Communities: A correction

Near the end of my panel, Dan McCall asked a really good question about how you approach community management in an internal community. My answer was something along the lines of this: “You might need a community manager to get it kicked off, but the role would probably go away fairly quickly once you got it set up.” After the panel, Jake Kuramoto pointed out (nicely) that I was completely wrong for most companies, and I agree with him.

My answer was colored by the fact that almost all of my friends are geeks and that I have been working in startups for the past couple of years. In startups filled with people who are passionate about software where participation in communities comes completely naturally. Well, the idea of an internal community with no community manager would work great in my little insular, tech-centric world. I forget that in other companies, participating in a community might not be so natural.

For tech startups, I stand by my answer; however, for the rest of the world, I’m now revising my answer to Dan’s question. In most companies you will need a community manager for internal communities. The community manager will need to continue to encourage people to participate and help people navigate the technology as it evolves. New employees will likely need help getting involved and understanding how to engage in the community. In some companies, the community manager will also need to carefully monitor metrics and impact in order to continue to justify the time and expense of managing and maintaining the community.

I would love to hear your input on any of these ideas in the comments.

Web 2.0 Expo Community Building: Good, Bad & Ugly

I just wanted to let people know that I will be on a panel at Web 2.0 Expo early, early on Wednesday morning.

Community Building: Good, Bad & Ugly
Dawn Foster (Jive Software), Jeremiah Owyang (Forrester Research), Bob Duffy (Intel), Kellie Parker (PC World & Macworld)
8:30am – 9:20am Wednesday, 04/23/2008
Room 2009

It would be great to see a few familiar faces in the crowd for our early session.

I also have plans to attend Ignite Web 2.0 Expo SF on Tuesday night, and I should be around for most of the rest of conference. I also hear that we have some interesting plans for Jive during the event, so you should stop by our booth to see what we are doing.