Along side Meg Knodl of Hennepin County Library Systems at last Friday’s Social Media Breakfast-MSP, I shared some of my experiences as a community and digital brand manager. For those asking what the hell community management is, this is how I define it:
A business function that endeavors to foster connections with a group of people around a shared interest or topic, and the development and execution of strategy around listening and engagement with members of that community. This function typically refers to online communities (social networks, forums, blogs and other digital media), but should complement other management functions established by an organization’s business objectives .
It was a colorful conversation (more to come about my “quit your job” comment) full of great tidbits of information about this emerging discipline. Pre-event, Meg and I bounced some questions around and of course I wrote out all of my answers like a school girl, so thought I’d share them here. For some solid soundbites from the conversation, visit #SMBMSP on Twitter search.
How do you find people who are talking about Mall of America (insert your brand or business here) online? Are they an easy group to engage?
We use a few different tools for listening and engagement. We use TweetDeck, which is a free desktop application for managing multiple Twitter accounts and other social networks. This tool offers the ability to enter search queries and pull any mentions into a column so we’re able to see opportunities to engage with folks who mention our brand, but aren’t necessarily following or using our Twitter handle.
You’ll see @ mentions, “Mall of America” and “MOA” search. Having a dashboard with notifications by the minute makes it very easy to stay up on what’s going on. In this case, you’ll notice the first comment in the second column is someone counting down to an upcoming visit. She clearly doesn’t know we have a Twitter, so we can reach out and say, “We look forward to having you for a visit, Taryn!” in order to show her we’re on Twitter and convert a follower.
Actively listening online has the potential to teach a brand so much about how people relate to their surroundings and what’s important to them (gee, imagine that) − and information is everywhere and mostly public! Whether a blog post, Yelp/Trip Advisor review, Facebook post or a Tweet – it is silly to not be peeking in on what’s being said about your business. There is endless opportunity here.
When on the go (mobile), we use Boxcar for iPhone which allows for the same exact notifications so we can listen, and engage where necessary, but just pops up as a notification. We use this in tandem with the Twitter app. Facebook for iPhone allows us to manage Mall of America fan pages mobilly (comment, delete spam, etc.). We use the same tools for iPad.
I’m fortunate to work for a brand that people mention often, and that it’s typically relevant for us to reach out and acknowledge a comment, share in guest excitement, solve a guest service concern, and a multitude of other engagement points.
In addition to these tools, we use a Social Customer Relationship Management (SCRM) called JitterJam. This alerts us of brand mentions across social media and traditional media. Note: We use our SCRM tool to send content to Facebook and Twitter so that we can measure its performance among our community. The problem with SCRM tools is that they’re building products based on other products, like Facebook, whose interfaces iterate regularly, so I caution you to make sure that whatever third party you use, vet it substantially. Make sure your content is showing up and not being penalized by Edgerank (Facebook’s algorithm for how things show up in a news feed).
How do you separate your personal and professional identities (or do you)?
I don’t believe in this. Just like I don’t really believe in “these opinions are mine and not those of my employer.” I do strongly believe in wherever you go there you are. While I may wear different hats in life, I like consistency and find that who I am is represented in my respective roles (wife, friend, daughter, worker, dog mom and so on). I believe this question asks bigger questions:
Why are so many people so concerned about ‘doing it right?’
What has happened to humanity that we question how to have conversations and connect with other humans; as people and as businesses?
At another recent event, I was baffled by how many people went up to a microphone and asked this very question. I understand social technologies are new, but the fundamental mechanism of it, the conversation, is not. There are a few things at work here.
We have lost the art of conversation, partly as the result of innovation in technology and mass media. Essentially, people have become accustomed to making a message for a large audience that they never hear back from.
We, as a people, have been trained to do things a certain way and are so concerned about not doing them right that we don’t move forward and tackle scary things.
May sound like and extreme assessment, but that’s okay with me. I just believe that we are who we are and we bring that everywhere. There’s professionalism and there’s your personality. There shouldn’t be a disparity if you’re in this business.
How do you tell the difficult stories? Store closings, accidents, etc?
This largely depends on the story. Mall of America sees an average of 100,000 people a day, so there is so much to share, positive and sometimes negative. Our number one priority is guest safety and guest experience, so we communicate about on-site issues with mainstream media and via Facebook and Twitter when appropriate. As far as social media is concerned, we usually participate in the conversation if it’s started, but don’t necessarily start it on our own. We let our community dictate that and are happy to give factual information and direct people to the best source to answer questions people may have. Something important to remember is that we’re the house to 520+ tenants, so sometimes communication comes directly from them. Crisis situations are more difficult due to their unpredictable nature, so those are handled on a case-by-case basis. It is important to note that we have a protocol for digital crisis communication that lays over our traditional crisis communication plan.
For a little more in depth, read “How Community Management Spawned a Social Business Strategy at Mall of America.” What do you peeps have to add?