Interview with Community Manager: Lizzie Gold from The Social Practice

Lizzie GoldLizzie Gold currently works for The Social Practice as their Community Manager for a range of clients. She started her career as an Online Producer for GCap Media.  Later, she went on to be the in-house CM for Global Radio before moving to Yelp UK, as their Community Manager for London. You can follow Lizzie on her blog, Twitter and Linkedin.

G: What are your top resources for community management?

L: The community itself should never be underestimated as a resource. From motivation to content, no one knows more than the people who take part. What can I say? I’m a purist!

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

L: I quite fond of the chap who tweets about Monster Munch – but that could just be because I like those little crunchy monster paws.

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

L: I love this question! Social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are a great way to build a closer relationship with your audience and customers. The definition of community however, is common ownership; on Facebook brand pages (not including purpose built apps), Google+ and Twitter, it’s difficult to create this. Posted content generates a reaction, which can be anything from a comment to a retweet. I can’t define this engagement as a manifestation of common ownership; it’s merely reactive. Saying that – I am not ruling out these platforms as a useful tool to engage with your fans, I just find the functionality is limited on them and the strict guidelines take away the freedom, creativity and ownership enjoyed by a community’s members.

I have worked on a variety of social projects; the most successful have always been on stand-alone purpose built sites. That does not mean “Build it and they will come” should be your attitude. I would seed a community on other social platforms and encourage my community members to share on these networks. It also doesn’t mean I wouldn’t search for an experienced Community Manager to curate this activity on these platforms.

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

L: Ownership. As the any community you’ll find varying levels of user, you have to enable and reward behaviour from your members to generate an environment in which new members can join and other can become more active. Giving users ownership gives them a sense of pride and will work to your advantage. Every social group has its super users – the prolific faces that you associate with that community – this is not the paid community manager, these are the blood bumping around, generating content and excitement and magnifying the work that a Community Manager does. It is these users you need to recruit and nurture.

G: How do you attract new community members?

L: I’m old school when it comes to Community Management. I believe in face-to-face recruitment and word of mouth. No amount of money you throw at advertising will grow your community; it might grow the number of Fans or Followers, but not the people using your space for a common goal. That comes from recruiting believers, super users if you will, that help make the community a place that people want to go.

But how do you get these super users? With time and effort. Being a Community Manager is a lifestyle job – like leading a church or being a head mistress. Just because you’re in Sainsbury’s doing your shopping does not mean that you ignore community member Jason S. who wants to tell you about his cat’s funky breath. Every user is special and unique. The more time you spend getting to know them and communicating with them, the better your community will get – for you and your members.  Oh and the great thing about these super users… they recruit new community members for you, because they believe in the common goal of the group.

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

L: Look to other well established communities and forums for inspirational content and ideas. Using a RSS reader and Tweetdeck following trends and topics of interest is key to staying on top of things. I would recommend networking with influential people around your topic/genre remembering not to get too hung up on being shunned. This does happen, and the bigger you grow your community, the more industry “professionals” will start to take you seriously. Part of your job as a Community Manager is as a trend watcher.

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

L: Think about your users. How many super users do you have? How many dippers? How many floaters? How many skimmers?  You goal as a community manager is to be there for the community. This means replying to question, encouraging UGC and giving them something to engage with. If you have a site full off skimmers, there is no point is reaching out for a level of engagement, which is beyond their grasp or desire. If you’ve got a greater percentage of super users and dipper, they’ll need challenges and the ability to add value to your content.
Every community platform will have varying levels of engagement from a simple up vote or like to something more demanding like writing a review or comment. Different users will use this functionality to suit them, which will give you a greater understanding of your audience and the content they like.

G: How do you reward your community stars?

L: This all depends on which community you’re talking about. What throws newbies about the social industry is the fact that there are people out there that are willing to spend hours producing brilliant content, inspiring new members and being a spokes person for a brand, seemingly unpaid. To understand this, it’s important not to forget that just because it’s online and out of the usual social environment, it does still fit into the Cost Of Social Norms theory. Simply put, the same way you will give time and energy to your friends and family, for the reward of friendship, respect, support and acknowledgement, many super users give above and beyond to their communities. Once you’ve grasped this concept, you’ll understand exactly how to reward your own community super stars and stop worrying about other peoples!

G: Does the size matter?

L: How long is a piece of string? (Apparently if you’re American, you might have to Google that phrase) Yes, it’s all rather wonderful that there are communities popping up all over the Web, but don’t be fooled; these all have a purpose. Grow brand awareness, build a customer relationship, insight into users behaviour and interests, and possibly the simplest of the all, drive traffic. Take a look at Reddit for example – this community of internet super supers have now split into sub-Reddits. This makes the community more useful to its members who use it for pure entertainment. It’s evolved though it’s member’s ownership and dedication into an internet phenomena that baffles and terrifies even the most cocky “Social Media Guru”.

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

L: Imagine this conversation:

Brand: Lets build a community

Community Manager: Why?

Brand: Everyone else is doing it.

Community Manger: Okay

And…

Brand: Someone said something negative about us!

Community Manager: Let me delete that for you

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

L: I want to scream that this is a stupid question. What the ROI of friendship – wow that sounded cheesy. But seriously, what’s your goal or motivation? Communities are valuable to brands. When they are well, run they enable you to have an open conversation with your consumers. They are your Social Media PR force, word-of-mouth marketers and your market researchers; they are your cheerleaders and your most valuable teachers.  The insights you gain from the conversations you have within your communities will be the life or death of your brand – it just depends if you’re listening to them.

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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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