Tag Archives: facebook

What is a community manager?

Fellow IBMer Kevin Czap recently took the position of the community manager for the developerWorks Cloud Computing Central group. DeveloperWorks is IBM’s central external resource for developers and IT professionals and Kevin defined his role as follows:

The Community Managers act as an advocate for the Community. They are the eyes and ears of their respective communities, kind of like a intermediary between developerWorks and the group, listening and acting upon requirements, suggestions, feedback and ultimately making the group one that thrives, flourishes and is valued by the Community. Some examples include lining up Subject Matter Experts to blog,contribute, and connecting group members to the appropriate IBM contact when needed. Basically we’re here to help the community in any way we can.

Why do you need a community manager? As Kevin points out, he has a clear objective to make the group one “that thrives, flourishes and is valued by the Community“.

As the 2010 World Cup draws to a close, I can’t help but think of the coach/manager gesticulating wildly to get the most out of his team. I see the community manager role as somewhat similar even though the linkages between members of online communities aren’t necessarily as strong as between players on the same team (especially given that members work for many companies, some of which can even have competitive relationships). Having said this, having someone on the sidelines who can bring energy and verve to the group, marshall team members when needed and deal with any questions or conflict that arises, is a useful function.

I’ve been involved in a number of social media or community initiatives over the last few years, and by far the most successful are those which have a clearly defined community manager. To those of you that work in this space, this may be a no brainer. This role appears to be more commonly overlooked when these communities are set up by marketing departments (given that I work in marketing, I can’t help but point a finger at myself too here).

The problem comes when you sit down to plan the initiative. Quite often this starts with thinking of a platform or application. ‘We need blogs and forums’. ‘We need a Facebook page’. ‘We need RSS capabilities’. Sure, at some point you will need to consider these aspects, but as analysts like Charlene Li have been pointing out for some time, step back and think of the people involved before you get near the technology. And the people for your prospective community need a value prop, guidance and occasionally gentle persuasion if your community is to become a success. Just because you build it, this does not mean they will necessarily come.

So spend the time and think of who will manage the community. I’d suggest this not being a field marketing or demand program manager who may be 1) overworked and 2) have competing interests to overall community development (ie. swamp the community with their company’s promotional content). So, what should this person ideally be doing? Some examples of the role a community manager can play:

  • Establishing an editorial calendar to make sure a blog is constantly fed with relevant content
  • Finding an expert who can answer comm0n questions posed by newbies
  • Tactfully weeding out trolls and threads that could diminish the overall value of the community
  • Devising appropriate rewards for the most valuable members of the community (My Media Labs takes this a step further and talks about setting up a leadership team consisting of super users)
  • Posing questions to help shape discussion
  • Monitoring the community to understand where most activity occurs

This is just for starters. You should make sure you have someone who has the requisite skill set to carry out these tasks. They should be knowledgeable but not overbearing. Tactful but forceful when necessary. A good planner yet flexible. Get the feeling that this person may be as rare as a sunflower in Antartica? You’re probably right. However some parts of the organization may already be inculcating these kind of characteristics in their employees. Check out the support or customer service department. Investigate the technical sales team. Mine the depths of your R &D department. These departments give you a better chance of locating community managers. I’d suggest that the traits are more important than the experience. There is much that can be learnt on the job.

Finding the right person is invaluable for the success of your community. A recent debacle on Nestle’s Facebook fan page illustrates how bad things can get if there’s dissonance between you and your community. Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson discussed this subject at some length on their FIR podcast and Shel has this excellent follow-up on questions you should ask before setting up a Facebook fan page.

So, if you are about to setup a new community, or are wondering how you can breathe new life into an existing forum, make sure you have a community manager in place. Just as the fortunes of many a world cup squad has hinged on the influence of the manager, so can a community manager make or break an online community.

Tweetdeck introduces new features including Directory

Tweetdeck, one of the most popular Twitter desktop clients, has recently rolled out a new edition which now features a directory of Twitterers to follow. Topics include ‘Sports News’, ‘Environment’, ‘Technology’, ‘Business & Marketing’ amongst others.

The service is particularly useful for newer users of Twitter who are still trying to figure out the technology: the directory makes it easy to instantly follow top Tweeters in these fields. This is how the Tweetdeck team describe the service:

Think of it as a TV Guide for Twitter channels.  Simply browse the directory by topic.  You’ll find everything from music to news and sports to travel.  When you find the perfect group for you simply click ‘Add to TweetDeck’ and the column will magically appear in your TweetDeck.

There are a few pieces to this which I’m still not clear on, such as who decided which profiles are included in the directory and whether this will be updated over time. At a stretch you could say this directory gives a competitive advantage to those listed on it.

There are a bunch of other new features in this release including enhanced Facebook posting and support. So if you haven’t already, download the latest version and see why Tweetdeck is the most popular Twitter client out there.

BuddyPress: ‘Facebook in a box’

Andy Peatling from BuddyPress kicks off Wordcamp 2009 for me. So, what is BuddyPress? In another presentation, Matt Mullenweg, the WordPress founder describes BuddyPress as ‘Facebook in a box’ ideally suited to the creation of niche social networks. Features include in-depth profile pages, a life-stream, messaging, groups, albums, forums, blogs (obviously, given that it’s from the WordPress team).

Andy points out that BuddyPress grew as a collection of plugins for WordPress MU (the multi-author edition of WordPress) that have been rolled into one large one. The advantage here is that you can pick and choose which elements to configure and run, but more on that later.

Why use BuddyPress rather than Ning, Facebook or other available social networks?

A major benefit of BuddyPress is that you get the power and stability of WordPress. It’s also heavily extensible and plays nicely with most of the massive collection of WordPress plugins out there. WordPress is the run-away leader when it comes to open source blog applications and so BuddyPress can leverage the sizable community that exists around WordPress. In some instances you can use existing WordPress plugins right out of the box, eg. LDAP functionality to handle registrations. Other plugins and widgets may require some modification.

Another key feature is BYOTOS. Umm, exactly what is BYOTOS? Bring Your Own Terms Of Service. For instance, Facebook scared many users when it changed its terms of service in February to include the clause whereby they can do anything they want with your content. As you download and install BuddyPress on your own servers, it is really up to you to decide your own terms of service for your community.

Setting up BuddyPress

The first step is to setup WordPress MU, which commonly runs in the LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP) environment. You should ideally use sub-folders for each profile rather than sub-domains.

Next step is to download BuddyPress.

Once installed, each component has it’s own folder so disabling a component is as easy as deleting the relevant folder. The advantage here is that you only configure what you need. Setting up the forum piece which uses BBPress is currently the trickiest part, although this is due to get easier.

Skinning BuddyPress

You use WordPress themes for blog/content pages. If you are used to running WordPress blogs, you are probably familiar with these themes. Buddypress has its own themes for social pages. You can see an example of this in practice on GigaOm Pro (a community version of Om Malik’s popular technology blog):

buddypress_gigaohm
(click thumbnail to see full size)

You also have the option to enable blog networks, which each have their own distinct theme. This is a key feature that really isn’t really available on most other social network solutions out there.

Note that each component has it’s own theme folder so you only skin what you need to skin (eg. if you just need profiles, just skin those). Knowing which theme file you need to edit for a given page is easy as URLs map to template files:

buddypress_themeurl

If you have used WordPress, you are probably familiar with the concept of the ‘loop': the code block that handles the display of each individual post on a page. Buddypress themes use the same ‘loop’ concept, but for more than just blog posts. Output any BuddyPress content by creating custom loops.

BuddyPress ships with a skeleton (vanilla) theme that eases customization.

Extending BuddyPress

If you need to build a plugin then check out the ‘skeleton component’ that comes as standard with  BuddyPress. This can help you understand the hooks and actions from which the plugin can access BuddyPress functionality. Again, if you have built plugins for WordPress, the concept is the same and should make sense.

There are a number of ready-built plugins you will find on BuddyPress Dev. For instance there’s a plugin to allow users to pull in photos from a Flickr stream.

BuddyPress: the future looks bright

Given that BuddyPress was only launched around Wordcamp this time last year, it’s remarkable to see the rich feature set available today. The team continues to make constant improvement and recently asked the community to vote on features they would most like to see in upcoming releases.

If BuddyPress can capitalize on the considerable community and large popularity of WordPress, this really could become a major player in the social network solution space.

Follow Andy Peatling on Twitter.

Social media game at IBM Impact event

IBM is currently hosting its annual SOA event at the Venetian in Las Vegas. In order to promote the event and to encourage collaboration between attendees and those who couldn’t make it this year, IBM have launched a number of social media iniatives.

One promotion that particularly caught my eye is the social media game, whereby anyone who actively shares content around the event is entered in a competition to win free entrance to next year’s conference. So whether you blog, post videos on Youtube, pictures on Flickr or engage in any one of the following social media tools, you have the chance to win.

Activity Points per Activity More Information
Register at SOAsocial or the Impact Social Network* 10* points (for both, earn 20) SOAsocial.com
Impact Social Network
Tweet about Impact 1 point www.Twitter.com (include hashtag #ibmimpact to tweet)
Blog about Impact 5 points Any blog post related to Impact will count, as long as the tweet includes a link to the post and the hashtag #ibmimpact
Pic posted to Twitter (using Twitpic, Flickr™, etc.) 2 points Any picture related to Impact will count, as long as the tweet includes a link to the picture and the hashtag #ibmimpact
Post a 12 second video about Impact 2 points 12seconds.tv
Post YouTube Video about Impact 5 points YouTube.com
Attend a Tweetup at Impact 5 points See details above.

RSVP for Monday

RSVP for Tuesday
RSVP for Wednesday

Grab a ‘scavenger prize’ 10 points Be sure to follow @smartSOA on Twitter for clues to scavenger prizes

A leaderboard around the event lets participants know where they stand and the winners will be announced on the last day of the conference.

This looks like a great idea to encourage participation in social networks and I look forward to following up with the team after the event to gauge the success of this initiative. For more on this and to see how else IBM is using social media the Impact event, check out the Impact Communities page.

(In the interests of disclosure, I should point out that I am an IBM employee)

NYT’s Clive Thompson on personal news feeds

The growth of news feeds on social networking sites continues to gather momentum. The New York Times recently ran a piece by Clive Thompson on being connected digitally. Facebook set a major trend when it created the newsfeed allowing you to see all your friends’ updates at a glance. Services like Twitter continue this trend – adding a social component to the way we find information. Rather than just searching for documents that interest us (think Google), we can follow friends (or trendsetters) and sniff along these trails to dig up new information.

The article touched on some interesting issues around social networks:

  • ‘Ambient awareness’ is the academic term for maintaining incessant online contact (eg. rapidly scrolling through the Facebook news feed to see what all your friends are up to this week).
  • Anthropologist Robin Dunbar has researched the number of acquaintances a person can know at any given time. He suggests this number is around 150 people. After this, it is difficult to keep up (although the PR professionals around me seem to break this rule).
  • We can form many more ‘weak ties’ – that is looser acquaintances with whom we don’t develop such strong ties. For instance, many users keep two Twitter accounts: one for their weak ties and another for that more intimate circle of family and friends.
  • Be careful – as these spaces become more pervasive, if you don’t define yourself, you will find others will do that for you.

To it’s credit, the article finished on a positive note (something that rarely seems to happen when the print world opines on the digital one). There can be a therapeutic side to documenting your activity on Facebook or Twitter – it forces you to look at your life more objectively with increased self-awareness.

Facebook, Feeds and Micro-Blogging

It seems like no online marketing seminar is complete nowadays without at least one session on social media. SES San Jose was no exception – social media optimization is definitely creating a buzz in the industry (as it has been for at least the last year).

Moderator:
Kevin Ryan, VP, Global Content Director, Search Engine Strategies & Search Engine Watch

Speakers:
Andy Beal, Consultant, Blogger & Author, Marketing Pilgrim LLC
David Snyder, Search Specialist, JRDunn.com
Neil Patel, Co-founder, ACS
Brian Morrissey, Digital Editor, AdWeek

Andy:

Twitter
Make sure you secure your company name – even if you aren’t going to use it.

Basic symbols:

  • @andybeal directs a message to that user (public)
  • d andybeal sends a direct message that is
  • #olympics are used for tagging tweets
  • favorites are used to bookmark tweets you want to revisit
  • delete: this is possible but beware, Tweets can get syndicated in different places so even though you may delete a Tweet, it isn’t necessarily gone

Be selective with who you follow. You’ll realize why after a while. With Twitter it is easy to receive a lot of noise from people or subjects you don’t care about. Some people you might want to follow:

  • Peers
  • Press
  • Influencers
  • Customers

Look out for interesting conversations. The medium really supports these when they happen. Don’t send Twitter spam – this is such a conversational medium, any attempts to use it solely for commercial gains looks transparently salesy and just doesn’t go down well.

If you want to get into someone else’s network, think to copy your message into their thread using @[username] at the beginning of the post.  Their network of followers will see you message.

Use services like Twitterfeed to cross-promote blog content on Twitter (everytime you blog, all those following you on Twitter are automatically notified).

Your Twitter reputation IS your reputation so don’t get pulled into negative conversations – in most cases you can just let them play themselves out.

Use search to find those with similar interests (who you can choose to follow).

Brian:

As a journalist, I use Twitter to develop sources and find out who is writing on certain issues. Comcast and Zappos are good examples of companies using Twitter to manage their reputation online.

Neil:

Facebook
Some Facebook stats:

  • 73% of people are white
  • 30% make over 100k
  • 43% didn’t go to college

David:

Friendfeed
The best way to describe this service is as RSS on steroids – brings all social network data to one place and allow you to interact with that data. The big problem with social media is that it is so diverse. If you post images on Flickr, post on Blogger or leave content in any of a number of places across the web, then bring all your activity into one place with Friendfeed.