Interview with Community Manager: Ben Bateman from Square Enix

Ben

Ben Bateman is community manager from Square Enix. An energetic and highly talented gaming specialist interested in all aspects of game development. A Currently Community Manager for Codemasters, supporting all boxed titles including DiRT 3, Operation Flashpoint Red River, F1 2011, and Bodycount. You can follow Ben on Twitter, Linkedin or Facebook.com

G: How did you build your experience as community manager?

B: I was fortunate to have some inspirational mentors but ultimately I gained my experience through practice and experimenting.

G: What are your top resources for community management (websites and people)?

B: I work in the games industry and many of the community managers tend to be quite tight knit and regularly talk with each other. I often find out new strategies or ideas through what they’re tweeting about. Similarly, I can voice my ideas and questions and people more often than not chime in with their thoughts. If I were to pick one website that I read a lot then it would be mashable.com. It’s always up to date with the latest social media, SEO and general geek news.

G: Who are your favourite community managers and community management case studies?

B: There’s so many to choose from. I admire a lot of the community and social media work done by the Xbox team. Particularly Larry Hryb (@majornelson), Dan Maher (@MrPointyHead) and Graeme Boyd (@aceybongos).

G: Where is the best place to build the community?

 B: Building a place for a community is not as simple as just creating a facebook and twitter accounts, or starting a new blog. It’s important to think about the product you’re trying to build around and the audience that you’re trying to interact with. Each community you build needs to be approached separately and considered independently of any existing communities you’ve built. Does the lifespan of the product warrant a full website? Are you going to provide enough regular, unique and engaging content to warrant a blog, or will facebook suffice? Are you building a franchise? These are the kind of questions you need to be asking yourself. A bit of market research and competitor analysis can often support you in any decisions you make.

G: What do you have to provide the community to make it work?

B: Your time and dedication. If you don’t put the effort in then your community will wither and die. Providing an open dialogue with your community should always be your priority. It doesn’t matter whether you put one new asset or ten, if you don’t listen to what people are saying. Interact with them, discuss openly what they think about your brand, what you’re doing, and feed it back into your company so that you can build better content and products. The community wants to be able to trust you and if they do they will stay loyal.

G: How do you attract new community members?

B: Sometimes it’s easy to get stuck up on the idea that you need to attract new community members. While acquisition is very important you shouldn’t let it cloud your judgement. Always concentrate on of quality over quantity. Why use a marketing gimmick to generate lots of sign-up if the retention rate is diabolical? Focus on creating interesting and engaging content. Build it and they will come (and stay!).

G: What are the best ways to spark a discussion among your community members?

B: How would you start a discussion with anyone? Just start talking. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about your company or brand. If they say “This looks cool” then say “thanks, we’ve got some more cool stuff on its way”. The important thing is that you’re engaging with them. If they’ve got a question for you they’ll ask it. Just make sure you respect everyone’s opinions and as a representative, that you don’t display any strong opinions that might offend anyone or conflict with your employers. You may have “These are my opinions not my employers” on your twitter account but don’t fool yourself, you represent the brand at all times.

G: What kinds of content do you share and post most often on the community platform?

B: This really varies. In my line of work I follow the cue of PR beats and asset drops but I also have to fill the gaps. Video and audio content tends to work the best with my audience but ultimately you need to think about who you’re talking to. Are you talking to the hardcore fans and evangelists, or the broader mainstream audience? The important thing is to strike a balance between the different audiences you answer to, but don’t feel scared about mixing the content up once in a while. It’s good to experiment with your community and see what works best for them.

G: How do you reward your community stars?

B: As I work in the games industry I try to build up a community before the game is out. This can be months, sometimes even years before they get to buy it in the shops. So obviously allowing evangelists access to the game throughout development and treating them like press is a great reward. Aside from the usual material things that we can give them it’s also important to make celebrities out of them. If some user generated content stands out then why not highlight it on facebook, twitter, or your website?

G: Does the size matter?

B: You should have realistic targets set up based on any market research you’ve done. Have them in the back of your mind but concentrate on good engaging content. Your community could be slow to grow or grow beyond anyone’s anticipations. Just make sure that you have enough resources to support them properly.

G: What are the most common mistakes in community management?

B: There are always a few, but the one I see the most is deleting content. If a forum on a thread gets out of hand then close it and explain why (unless in extreme cases). You can’t educate people or expect your community to support themselves if you delete their content. Similarly if you screw up then own up to it. Trying to hide the evidence just makes you look bad, and on the internet nothing is ever hidden.

G: How do you manage social media crisis?

B: Every situation is different. Take a step back, think it through and get the key stakeholders on board. You’ll need different perspectives to decide on the best cause of action.

G: How do you measure the ROI of your community?

B: There are a lot of ways, but I think that it’s generally bad to believe that community activity can be summed up in one ROI figure. You’re building a brand, and the power of word of mouth can’t always be summed up in a number. Having said that there are basic stats tracking that can help you gain an idea of how you’re doing. Most social media networks have in-depth insights track. Try to compare previous product campaigns and timelines. Compare reach with CTR, and some basic Google Analytics. As a Community Manager don’t forget your in-built ‘sentiment meter’. Try to gauge how people perceive the content you’ve put out. You might have X thousand people viewing your website, but what are they saying about it?

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This post was written by:

- who has written 111 posts on Social Media Citizens – Interviews with social media influencers from around the world.

Giedrius Ivanauskas is the founder/editor of Social Media Citizens and co-founder of Social Marketing Forum. He also blogs on Social Media Today and Socialemailmarketing.eu. Giedrius is a managing partner at Nearby Digital - location focused social media marketing agency and is passionate explorer of Augmented Reality, Startups and anatomy of Inspiration. He curates inspiration database - Inspirisimo.You can follow Giedrius on Facebook or Twitter

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