Pulling Back the Curtain: Insights from Top Community Managers

Social Media Coordinators are nothing if not innovative and agile, and we know managers take pride in their ability to sense trends even before they begin. But even the most connected managers among us can sometimes feel isolated from the community of their own—other social media coordinators.

Have you ever wanted to take your favorite successful Social Media Coordinator out for coffee and peek inside the inner workings of their successful management, and maybe glean a tip or two you can incorporate into your own work? You’re in luck: we asked some of our favorite community managers for their 2015 round-up, as well as where they’re headed in 2016, and how they’ll get there.

The Roster:

James RC Smith, Social Media Coordinator for Nature’s Path Foods Inc.

Julia Kramkova, Digital Marketing Specialist II – Social media for UPMC

Randi Smith-Billett, Social Media Coordinator for The Merck Manual, a subsidiary of Merck & Co Inc.

Kai Sabo, Social Media Coordinator for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

1 | The Biggest Challenge of 2015

Smith told us that emerging platforms—like Periscope—gave Nature’s Path, “an opportunity to talk in a new, unedited, raw way to our audience, and potentially reach a new group of people.” But new–and untested–platforms are not without challenges, and Smith said finding their own voice and audience in an unfamiliar social landscape was a hurdle their team worked hard to overcome. He said he now approaches new forms of social media with three important questions: a | “Who are the users?” b | “What do they want?” c | “Is that something that benefits the brand and the audience?”

2 | The Essential Mindset for Succeeding in Community Management

Smith said open-mindedness is perhaps the most helpful trait for successful community management. By that he means: “There can’t be any ‘that’s not my job’ moments. Some days are all about providing the community with a service, some are more long-term strategy and high-level thinking. Above all,” Smith told us, “you have to be willing to learn. There will always be new tools to use, new questions to answer and new people to engage with.”

Kramkova’s top community management traits are “being quick on your feet and having a positive attitude.” She said the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center social team is always looking for ways to add to conversations with their content. “Sometimes,” she said, “that means promoting an existing article – even if it does not perfectly fit in with the conversation. Last February, when the “dress” conversation was all over social, we had huge success pushing out an article on color blindness. The dress controversy had nothing to do with color blindness, but it was relevant enough that a lot of people clicked through.”

Sabo added something that most community managers can relate to: “Even the best-laid plans go awry when planning content due to real time events. Listening to the community often involves a nimble reaction paired with a quick and positive attitude.”

3 | The Most Helpful Tools, Day-to-Day

All four coordinators said Spredfast’s tools play an important role in managing social media day-to-day. Smith said, “Having all the brand’s channels in one place, in-depth analytics, and the great Solutions team really make [Conversations] more than a Community Management tool.” Kramkova said she and her team have “really enjoyed the simplicity of Intelligence.” And Sabo said of Intelligence: “[It] has helped us track our news stories, sentiment, global reaction, and even alerts us when a reporter breaks an embargo for a big story.”

Other important social media management tools and tips: PopularPays, to work with Instagram Influencers – Smith “Our SEO specialist who helps us track trends and research keywords.” – Kramkova “The native analytic tools within Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Analytics” are invaluable resources – Smith-Billett

4 | The Main Focus for 2016

All four of our community managers said they will emphasize video in their social content in the coming year. In particular: Smith says Nature’s Path’s team will incorporate Periscope and Facebook Live (when it launches) into their social reach. Smith-Billett tells us The Merck Manual social team is launching a YouTube channel. Kramkova’s team just started their own Twitter channel, and this year they will focus on “growing the audience and establishing a strategy,” in Twitter. Sabo says she and the USHMM team will focus on using video to tell stories, in the hope of connecting to their audience in a positive and engaging way.

With Spredfast’s community management tools–and a whole lot of pluck–Social Media Coordinators can grow their audience and engage with them in exciting, innovative ways.

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Julia Eddington

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Julia Eddington is a freelance tech and personal finance writer and editor living in New York City.