Listening Is Great, But So Is Asking

We’re all familiar with the expression of ‘listening’ in community management, but are you asking? I’m not talking about asking questions to increase engagement on your social channels, but asking to get feedback, to make things better.

Often companies make changes, and add new features without asking, or even consulting their communities. It’s not always necessary, and if you’re a company like Facebook, you kinda just expect your users to adapt to any changes you make. Asking your community the right questions can be beneficial in many ways.


  • For any feedback on what users like or don’t like about the product or service
  • If there are any features your members would like to see in your product
  • If there’s any type of content they would like to see more/less of
  • Your influencers and advocates to beta test new products/changes before launching them to the public

Your community will appreciate being a part of the picture, and it will help you create a better experience and product for them. After all, the product isn’t really about you, it’s for the people your serving. 

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Looking To Land That Sweet CM Gig? – Don’t Forget to Show Some Enthusiasm


You can find plenty of articles out there listing all the qualities and traits of a good community manager. You’ve gotta be a people person, knowledgable, a good writer, empathetic, a quick thinker, constantly learning. One thing I think that’s often forgotten is enthusiasm. We can list off our experiences, accomplishments, what we can do for the company, but if you aren’t showing enthusiasm for the position, then it most likely isn’t going to work out.

This is something I dealt with recently, first hand, and it’s not a great feeling. I saw the startup I wanted to work. for I was able to do my homework (as much as possible for a company that hadn’t launched, and didn’t have a functional website up yet.) I wrote up my cover letter as soon as I saw the posting. Later that day, I received an email inviting me to a phone call with the company. That following Friday I took the phone call. I was well prepared, had my notes and questions ready to go. I thought the call went well; they mentioned how prepared I was for the call, and they appreciated it. I sent my follow up email later that day.

Two weeks later, I get an email saying they wanted me to meet me in person. Apparently my call was good enough to get me a follow up. So, I began to prepare for my in-person meeting with the company. I was both anxious, and nervous. – It was a company I was really excited to be a part of, and they were still a team smaller than ten.  I sat down with the woman I had spoken to on the phone. We chatted a bit about the company, my experience, what they were looking for, what I was looking for. About 30 minutes later, she said it was time to meet with the CEO. (Note, I should’ve asked before hand how the interview process was set up, to help better prepare me) The CEO came over, and my nervousness level hit a new high. I had already emptied my brain with everything I had planned to say, I now felt like an idiot. The first question was the usual: “Tell me about yourself.” After that, I was again asked about my experience, and what led to my applying. I went on about why I applied, and she then asked if I had any questions. I tried to come up with some new ones, in which I mumbled a few things that came to mind. That about wrapped up my interview. She said thanks for coming in, we shook hands, and each went our merry way.

Later that evening, I began to work on my follow up email. I threw in some new ideas I had for the role, and touched on everything we talked about. That Sat evening, I get an email saying I wasn’t being considered for the role, and thanks for coming in. I was upset at first, I had invested so much time, effort, and thought into applying, and interviewing for the role. I quickly deleted the email. A few hours later, I decided to to write back to see If I could get some input about the interview. I said thanks for having me, and mentioned how much I really wanted to work for the company. I then asked for any feedback on my interview.

A couple days later, I got my answer. My initial email had shown my enthusiasm and that’s what grabbed their attention in the first place. My phone call was more about my homework and research. They weren’t too sure if they were going to call me into the office, but they decided to give me a chance. It was then in person, that I let my nervousness get the best of me, and didn’t show the enthusiasm the company was looking for.

When interviewing for a company as such (smaller than 10 people), a big part of the hire is going to be enthusiasm. Company culture is very important. While I really was enthusiastic about the job, had the experience, and did my homework, it was nerves that got the best of me.  It’s quite a disappointing feeling to miss out on a job opportunity because of nerves over experience. A lack of experience would be more understandable.

While things might look good on paper (or on a screen), remember it’s your enthusiasm that will help you land that next job. There are plenty of resources out there that give you suggestions on getting over nervousness, but you need to show the company with your body language and tone, that you really want the job.  Make sure to know who you’re meeting with, and how. If it’s a round table interview, or one on one. The more prepared you are, the more you can focus on your enthusiasm, instead of your nerves, and coming up with things on the spot.

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The Three Pillars of Community Building and What It Means To Me


Here are three things I like to look at when building community. Other people may have more or different ideas when it comes to building community.

Initiative – As a community builder, you have to take initiative.  Yes, some communities build themselves, but that’s not always the case. You need to take steps and put in the effort. Don’t go into something if you aren’t willing to put in the time and effort. Like tending a garden, sometimes it takes nurturing and watering. You have to prune and even clean up weeds every now and then.  You need to know what to say yes and when to say no more.

Purpose or Cause – A community needs to come together around a certain purpose or cause. It could be an interest in a brand or company, a not-for-profit or general awareness, as well as many other topics. This is the foundation of the community. With a defined purpose, the community has something to talk about, relate to, and care about. If things get off topic, you need to help get things back on track. I’m not saying it’s completely out there to go off topic at times. Talking about current events or something else may help a stagnant community get motivated again, but don’t forget what the community is about.

True Community – I believe that in building community, you should have something along the lines of what I call “true community.” That means the community is actually engaging and helping each other without the assistance of the community creator or community manager. If someone has a question, others are happy to jump in and answer, or even defend on the cause or brand’s behalf; they should become self-sustaining in a way. If the community manager steps away for a short-while, hopefully the community will be fine on it’s own. In that time away, it’s the perfect opportunity to listen and observe.

Community building does take a lot of patience, effort, and dedication. It can also be very rewarding. On the other hand, you need to have a thick skin and know not take things personally.  Empathy is one of your strongest suits; remember to play it well.

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A Twitter Party? What’s that?

If you’re familiar with Twitter, you’re most likely familiar with #hashtags. There’s a lot that can done with the hashtag. When it comes to engagement and community, there’s something called the Twitter Party which can be quite beneficial for many reasons. It’s unlike the traditional definition of a party. A Twitter party consists of a moderated chat based around a series of questions. Unlike a traditional Twitter chats, which are generally reoccurring, a Twitter Party is a one time deal (or series) that’s hosted by a brand or company around a certain topic in which prizes are given out throughout the duration of the party.

Twitter parties can have many benefits for many reasons. The idea of the conversation isn’t to necessarily talk about the product or service itself, but more-so around the lifestyle based around it. For example, a Twitter party hosted by a mattress company wont talk about their beds, instead they talk about tips and tricks around sleeping and finding the perfect mattress. After all, that’s what it should be about in today’s world. The hard sell is out and relating to one’s personal lifestyle is in. It also provides some personality to the brand hosting the chat. The party usually has the moderator asking the questions and a couple of other people to help in engagement and choosing winners of the prizes.

The goals of the Twitter party may vary host to host, but the main ideas are to generate conversation, engagement, and maybe even a call to action. Some steps to preparing for a Twitter Party are as follows:

  1. Choose your topic and create a hashtag. You want something not being used already, but that’s also relevant to the topic of the party. A unique hashtag will help with tracking later on. (Check out hashtracking to help with measuring tweets)
  2. Create the questions. Five questions are generally the perfect number. It all depends on how much time you want to spend on the questions and how many people you think will be participating. Remember to stick to questions around the lifestyle and not about the actual product.
  3. Choose your prizes. A prize for a rsvp, to the best answers and the best participants are usually the best way to award prizes. Gift cards or branded products are usually the best options for prizes.
  4. Choose your date and time. Middle of week, 8pm EST is usually the best time. You need to think about the audience,  time zones and when people might be out of work and already had dinner.
  5. Announce the party. If you want time to grow hype around the party, I suggest up-to a month before hand. It’s gives people time to spread the word and add it to their calendar. Share it on your social networks and on your blog. Make it known that someone who RSVPs will win a prize. Make people excited and interested to join.
  6. Prepare the day of. Make sure all your eggs are in one basket. Have a timeline set for all your questions, the time spent on them, and when prize announcements are being made. Depending on the topic, be prepared for any negative questions that may arise and how you want to handle them. It’s best to handle those apart from the chat and offer different means of support. Stick to the topic as much as possible.
  7. Host the party. Have fun! After all, it is a party.
  8. Analyze your results, look at your goals and expectations, see what went wrong and what went right.

Twitter parties a great way to build awareness and word of mouth on a cheap budget. They have the potential to generate a few thousand tweets with millions of impressions in just an hour’s time. If it’s successful, you might even be lucky enough to grab the trending hashtag on Twitter.

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Why Every Community Manager Should Take Some Time to Travel

Any good community manager knows that a big part of their job is being empathetic. You need to be able to feel for and understand your community and potential community members. You don’t need to be a psych major to understand people. (A psychology class doesn’t hurt though.) It does takes a lot of being around people, listening, talking, and understanding. Being an introvert and keeping to yourself wont help. I previously wrote about about how working in food service was a huge help in my non-traditional CM education, now I want to talk about how traveling can help just as well.

First off, I want to say traveling can be a huge step up if you live somewhere remote and demographically segregated. If you live in a huge populated city like NYC, the world is all around you. I wasn’t always in NYC, so traveling was the first way I was really able to see the world we live in and the people that populate it. Unlike the U.S. where we’re pressured to graduate high school, go to college, and then start a life long career, there are places where it’s normal to finish grade school and then take some time off to see the world. Traveling can be a life-changing education of it’s own. There’s a world of people out there; different societies, cultures, religions, and communities. When you get a chance to travel, you really get to understand people in a new way, in a new light. When I talk about traveling, I don’t talk about staying in a nice hotel and luxury, I’m talking about backpacking and staying in hostels. Hostels have been a great way IMO to “really” meet people. I also did a lot tours and activities solo.

If you aren’t familiar with hostels, think of a college dorm. Instead of a room with one bunk, try 3-10 bunks, and it being unisex. You could have 10-20 people in a room of just beds, a shared bathroom and a shared kitchen. The best part, despite any cultural differences, most people are like-minded and very outgoing. A language barrier is usually the only thing in the way of good conversation. I’ve come to  meet people from all over the world while traveling overseas and staying in hostels. Even staying hostels in the U.S. I’ve come to meet people from around all walks. You can learn so much from these travelers about the world we live in. You can’t afford to be narrow-minded staying in a hostel. If you haven’t been everywhere, there’s most likely someone who has, and they’ll tell you their stories. There’s a lot you can learn about people, and you begin to understand them more than you ever thought before. If you can truly understand a person and where they’re coming from, it really helps in community building and outreach. People come from all walks and backgrounds, and not everyone is the same. What may work for one, may not work for some. That’s something you need to realize as a community manager.

Of course, not everyone has the luxury of traveling. But if an opportunity arises, I would suggest you go for it. If you do travel, and can manage by staying in a hostel for a night or two, do it. If you’re afraid of being in a cramped room on a rickety  bunk bed with a stranger, you can usually rent a private room for still less than a hotel room. Talk to people, talk to someone different than you. You never know what you can learn. Even if you can’t travel, talk to someone new. Go to networking events, talk to someone new at the bar, join a meetup group. If you want to understand people, you need to interact with them. Most likely your audience will be a good mix of people. If you have an idea of who they are, it will be easier to converse with them.

So go out there and meet someone new!

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What Working for Paula Deen taught me about Community

If you’re familiar with the Food Network, chances are that you’re familiar with Paula Deen. Paula Deen is the the so-called “Queen” of southern cooking. In saying that, she’s known for her unhealthy choice of fried foods and a ton of butter in a good amount of her recipes. But she’s also well known for her “southern charm and hospitality.” “Hey Ya’ll” she says charmingly with her picture perfect smile.

Before I started working at her restaurant I was pretty quiet and reserved. Little did I know that in looking for a job, working at her restaurant would change me as a person for the rest of my life. Unlike the busser that doesn’t interact with customers, I was hired as a S.A. I wasn’t quite sure what that was at the time. I quickly learned it was a server’s assistant. As the S.A., I was the first one to the customer’s table before the server even got there. Here I was, this shy kid, forced to go up to a table and say “Hey Ya’ll!, welcome to the Lady and Sons” and proceed with  passing out their bread. It was soon before long that I really began to enjoy that role. My job was just to say hi and pass out bread, but the customers always wanted to talk, and I wanted to oblige. It wasn’t before long that my enthusiasm in talking to customers turned into being moved up to a server way quicker than most employees who needed to have much more experience. Just to be a server, I had to memorize Paula’s entire rise to fame. I had to know that information, so I could answer customer questions.

Day in and day out I would meet these customers coming from all over the country, sometimes even internationally. They all had different stories, different opinions. Some were big fans of Paula, some wanted to see what all the hype was about. Other customers were recommended by someone else, while not having a clue who Paula Deen was at all. Some people loved the food and some people hated it. Sure, you go to a restaurant to eat, but overall, it was the experience that really mattered over all. That’s something I really began to understand. It was about doing your best to create the best overall situation from beginning to end, and if the situation started to turn, it was up to you to do your best to flip it back around. The same thing holds true with communities. While someone may have been upset about waiting in line for hours in the heat and humidity, or had a meal that was subpar, it was up to you weigh the outcome of the situation. Even if you can’t completely satisfy the person then and there, they’ll at least see you tried your hardest and they’ll respect that (hopefully). Maybe I had a customer who’s experience was horrible from the start. The line was too long, the host wasn’t friendly, the food took too long and then the food wasn’t that great. After all that, they probably don’t want to wait for something else to come out of the kitchen. So, you be sincere, understanding. Apathy is important and can go a long way. You offer them reservations for the next day, a free meal, free dessert, and if not that, suggest somewhere else that might make them happy. Maybe you have a friend at another restaurant and you call there and get the upset customer a reservation. Do what you can, when you can.

The thing is, you never know who that person may be or who they know. At the restaurant, we had food critics from all over come to eat at the restaurant, friends of the family, and even secret shoppers from corporate. You always have to be to be on top of things, treating every person equally, no matter where they come from. One wrong thing, and it can go viral, one right thing, and it could go viral just as well. In a digitally connected world, one person can have all the power to spread things within minutes, if not seconds. That saying “Any P.R. is good P.R.”, it doesn’t stand true for all situations, it can be your downfall if you choose to think that way. It’s best if it’s good P.R.

It’s simple as that. Put the customer first. A company can’t be successful without it’s patrons. If people see you bending over backwards to help, they’ll appreciate it. Not to mention, you’ll feel better about how you handled the situation.


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Why Personality Matters as a Community Manager

By now, I think most of us have an idea of what the role of the Community Manager entails.

Of course, as the role is still constantly evolving and changing it requires us to be on our toes 24/7.  As a community manager you have to take a good look at the company you’re working for and assess your true needs for the position. Depending on whether you’re at an agency or a start-up, the needs of the roles may include many different tasks and duties.

Communities will always differ wherever you find yourself working. That’s why personality makes up a huge part of the Community Manager role for each brand.

Do you have the right personality?

Take a look at the community you’re going to be working with before you take a position. The hiring manager should be well versed in understanding the needs of the open position because with whoever they hire, it needs to be a perfect fit.

Sometimes a person can adapt to many types of communities, but this doesn’t always hold true. The Community Manager for a liquor company is going to have a completely different personality than one for a healthcare company or a family oriented product. Then of course, you might be the face of a fictional cereal character, such as with my own experience, and it turned out it wasn’t the right role for me.

The mix of the CM’s personality and the brand’s persona is very important. If there isn’t a balance, it might not work out for either side.

If you’re assessing a new job opportunity, and are tasked with creating a balanced personality for a new brand, you need to look at language, tone, attitude, and many other aspects. You don’t want to find yourself saying the wrong thing and offending community members or the company you represent. Like the saying goes: “Loose lips sink ships.” It’s a lot easier to sink a ship than to raise it from the muggy depths.

Especially if your personality as the CM is a bit different then that of the community you’re managing, you need to be careful about what you say. There have been perfect examples with those behind the accounts for The Red Cross and Entenmann’s. Slips do happen.  All you can do is be honest, apologize and hope for the best.

Remember, it’s the community that matters first and foremost and you want to be able to talk and engage with them in the best way as possible. If the community manager is speaking in a language the community doesn’t understand, it probably wont work out.



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