Social Media Savvy By Proxy

Posted on 28 July 2010 | No responses

A co-worker introduced me to the term “whuffie,”and it got me thinking.

Back when I started managing communities professionally it was referred to as “support.”  I was there for anyone, in the community AND out, that had a problem interfacing with the environment, completing a task, or simply had a question.  The definition of the modern term “Community Manager” involves not only support, but public relations, marketing, and being savvy in the ways of social media.

Back in “Preschool” which is the precursor to “Old School” we used social media tools to provide some that of support, whether it be via IRC, forums, IM, or email. I think that’s how the truly substantive social media experts became social media experts, because they needed to use that very media to achieve their professional goals.

The reason I use social media so much is BECAUSE of my job, but for some social media IS their job.  I think we can all agree that some people have achieved their 15 minutes based solely on the unsubstantive.  Granted, there are people that have a lot of cool things to say, which justify social media as a singular profession, but those people are few and far between.

A friend and co-worker has a blog that generates more traffic than the community website we produce and maintain.  He’s a brilliant engineer and a talented coder who has a lot to say.  His “whuffie” is HUGE.  Now for the people who value the whuff that’s would be a great thing, but I don’t think it matters one iota to him.  It’s just a means for him to communicate his ideas.  He doesn’t portend to be a social media expert but he’s clearly got many self proclaimed experts beat hands down.

Does the fact that you’re plugged in to the internet in every way conceivable mean ANYTHING other than exposure? If all you’re exposing is interconnectivity does that exposure even matter?  While I’m still (and always) learning new things I’m not always sold on them.  I deal with PR and marketing people regularly who claim to be social media experts and and want to jump into community management.  I laugh when I see people hop on the community bandwagon when it becomes popular.  When it becomes clear they have absolutely no idea what’s really involved with managing a community on a daily basis they usually disappear.

Getting down and dirty in the trenches of supporting a community is absolutely necessary!  It’s invaluable and will tell you if you’ve got the stuff.

Do that and everything else will take care of itself.

-Eric

The Power of Community

Posted on 27 July 2010 | No responses

Good Afternoon World!

Many of you know I work as the community manager for Tabblo, which is the best job in the world.

Yeah, Tabblo is cool because of the editing tools, and it’s unique in that it truly allows you to tell stories with your photos. To me, the reason it’s special is that Tabblo has a community of people that have really grown to respect and care for each other in a substantial way.

Granted Tabblo isn’t the largest community but it’s a devoted community, which in my opinion, is one of the trickiest things to achieve. Many people are interested in how large a community is, and what is being done to grow numbers, which can be important, but I think that’s looking at it from the wrong perspective.

The Tabblo community has survived solely because the core experience is not only personal but communal.

This is James, aka “SirNicolay” on Tabblo. He was so moved by his experiences on Tabblo he made a video to reach out to his friends. By the way, James is an incredibly gifted photographerstorytellerteacher, and he’s generous with his art. Thanks James.

If you search YouTube for Tabblo you’ll see other videos from our community members and if you browse Tabblo you’ll see regular evidence of “meet ups.”

One of the things that Tabblo does right is that it reduces the “introduction friction” several ways. Firstly, it’s easy to set up your Tabblo identity. Next, it’s very easy to comment or critique on just about everything, so sharing your thoughts is effortless.

We also take care in making sure that EVERYTHING created can be seen and is easily identified as attributable to the creator. Of course that presents it’s own problems with an occasional inappropriate post, but that’s another post altogether.
=)
I can’t help but think we’re the luckiest group of people in the world to have the responsibility of managing this type of experience.

Until next time!

-Eric

This is NOT “Field of Dreams” people…

Posted on 27 July 2010 | No responses

In addition to managing online communities I particularly enjoy developing the support paths for community members.  So if you’re on one of my websites and click the “help” or “contact us” link…that’s my stuff.  FAQ’s, forums, supporting people via social networking tools…all in my neighborhood of expertise.  I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve been able to work on some great projects, probably more than most people who do what I do.

In my experience here are a few of the cornerstones for success when developing an online community:

  • Ego Feed – There has to be some ego feeding mechanism to any successful community.  This the “reward” gained from displaying something self-created and having it judged, positively OR negatively.  It could be created on-site or off-site, but it needs to be displayed in a public fashion.  There also needs to be a way for the member to espouse their opinion and have it commented on for discussion.
  • WOW Factor – There has to be something that impresses the visitor about the experience.  It could be the site, the community, the interface, the toolsets, the content, the interactivity…whatever.  It must be unique and it must be customer/member inclusive!  When you wow people they tell family members and friends.  It’s a bonus if your wow factor involves the “ego-feed” mentioned above.
  • Ease-of-use – It may sound silly, but I use my Mother as a guide when designing support paths for the websites we’ve created.  Regardless of the complexity of the tools you’re serving up, it needs to be “mom-friendly” or people will lose interest very quickly.  The community member needs to be served with the core experience within 15 seconds or so and that requires a very simple design which should be straightforward, clean and purposeful.  No one likes busy web pages, especially when the “busy” doesn’t related to the purpose for your visit.
  • Engineering Support – Successful communities are well supported communities that roll with the punches.  Being able to identify and address issues quickly imbues the community with an invaluable sense of comfort.  It’s imperative to let the member know that someone is “at the helm” and being responsive to technical issues is a great way to do that.  It’s also important to immerse the engineers into the support mix to help provide a sense of ownership in the community.

So, ultimately if you don’t have an engaging, core experience you’ve got nothing.  Regardless of the money spent, infrastructure built, product commitment, amount of people involved, or resources allocated…it’s EASY to miss the mark.

You can build it…but it doesn’t mean they’ll come.

More to come!

Thanks for visiting!

STATUS: Rebuilding!

Posted on 27 July 2010 | No responses

So, my apologies for the absence!

Being upset at my hosting provider for not maintaining backups, which they’ve STILL not rectified, is understandable.  Ultimately it’s my fault for not backing up my own files.

I’ve finally gathered my resources, improved my writing and posting processes in the hopes of improving my (your) blogging (reading) experience.  I was devastated when I realized that I hadn’t backed up ANY of my content.  I usually write and edit right here in my browser so it never occurred to me that I should make my own backups.  That’s all changing…not only am I copying the text, but also the HTML of each post which, upon reflection, I can’t believe I wasn’t already doing.

So please, bear with me as I repost some of my previous content.  I’ll be doing it manually so there will surely be changes and updates so be sure to check them out!

-Eric

Lesson Learned.

Posted on 22 July 2010 | 1 response

I’m going to be working to recompile my blog over the next few days after it was mysteriously lost.

The lesson I’ve learned is to have not only the content backed up but the HTML of said content as well.  Quite disappointing to lose all that work, but thanks to Ned…I’ve got most of it.

I apologize for the disruption…”Nurturing Online Communities Since” will be back shortly!

-Eric

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