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    Jesse Ferrell

    The Evolution of the Modern Community Manager

    By Jesse Ferrell, Meteorologist/Community Director
    3/20/2013, 9:55:58 AM

    Probably my favorite seminar at Social Media Week was "The Evolution of the Modern Community Manager." It was a super-cold and windy Thursday in New York City and this was my first visit to the Big Apple. The Tribeca Theatre (inside the Tribeca Grand Hotel, Google Street View below) was hard to find due to lack of signage (guess it's one of those hotels where, if you don't already know where it is, you shouldn't be there).


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    Although the theater seats were old and stinky, I expected this to be, and it was, the highlight of the trip. Here before me were four people who cut their teeth years ago on IRC, forums and MySpace, as "Community Managers," but today manage social media. The moderator was Kristin Maverick, Director, Earned Media at The Barbarian Group. The panelists were Casey Carter, Social Media and Digital Marketing Manager at SoulCycle, Joanna Firneno, Brand Strategist at Percolate, Brian Ries, Senior Social Media Editor at Newsweek and The Daily Beast, and Mike Hayes, Social Media Editor at Buzzfeed.


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    I patiently waited to talk to Mike and Brian (circled in the photo I took of panel above) to let them know that I'm available if they need help with hoaxed weather photos or weather-related articles. One of the things the Associated Press advised (in another seminar I attended that week) was: If you can't find someone on the ground where a potential story or photo is taking place, talk to a subject expert.

    Meeting Mike & Brian was the highlight of the trip; they are kindred spirits for sure. Mike reminded me of a low-key Seth McFarlane. He didn't pull any punches in his answers to the moderator, as you can see from some of the quotes below. As a Community Manager, one thing you learn is that you have to anticipate the complaints from the masses. It is something I pride myself on, and Mike seemed good at it. As the Chief Editor for Buzzfeed, which is already a cool company* and a classic NYC startup, Mike must have an awesome job.

    *I attended two other Buzzfeed seminars (one at their HQ), where the panelists nearly came to blows over journalistic integrity, the original version of which is now my #2 most-viewed YouTube video). Although Gizmodo calls them names that probably aren't that far off base, you can't argue that they don't get the page views. Plus, Buzzfeed was the only place handing out (non-edible) swag at Social Media Week.


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    I was also thrilled to meet Brian Ries from Newsweek, another news media Social guru. This guy sleeps, reads and eats news. During the seminar, he revealed that he was the man behind the #lastprintissue hashtag that appeared on Newsweek’s last paper issue. Brilliant!


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    I really liked this meeting for two reasons:

    One, it was about me. I've been involved with the online weather community for 17 years (read about the history of my involvement). Sometimes, as Community Managers / Social Media Coordinators, we forget that this (sometimes hapless) job is being performed by hundreds of people working at hundreds of companies across the world, and we're all in the same boat. Someone in the audience asked: Are the job requirements these days for Community / Social Media Managers too much (i.e. need to know graphics, programming, 5+ years experience, multiple social platforms, marketing, writing, etc.)? The consensus was: No, it’s a huge responsibility and a tough job; you have to wear a lot of hats. Amen to that.

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    Two, it was media-based. A lot of Social Media Week was very product-based (I'm "Ketchup" on Facebook, what do I post today?), which is a whole different ballgame than being in media, where we have an excuse (breaking news) to contact our fans multiple times per day. It changes the frequency with which you can post, and it changes the way that you engage.

    As it was in many other seminars, Oreo's Super Bowl stunt was mentioned but they (being Community Managers) had a unique take on it. They also talked about MTV’s "fake hack" after Jeep and McDonalds twitter accounts got hacked (the week before Social Media Week).

    They also told some great stories about SM campaigns gone bad, be it Lobster for Robster (Mike), or Entourage’s "Turtle" selfies gone wrong (Joanna, I don't even think I can link to that one).

    Here are some relevant "quotes" (rewritten from my notes, please don't blame the panel if I get them wrong):

        Mike: Oreo got lucky with the Superbowl. They had previously tried and failed with the Grammys. It was a risky move -- what if the power outage was terrorist-related?

    I knew that the Oreo tweet made me uncomfortable for some reason, even though I had ruled out bad weather. Terrorism is right on the nose.

        Mike: MTV's "fake hack" was lame and brought the wrath of Anonymous down on them - another poor choice for a real-time risky move. That said, as a Community Manager, you should still take risks; mistakes may damage your company's reputation temporarily but won’t define your brand six months later

        Mike: You can predict what will go viral if you have your finger on the pulse of social media

    This is something I totally agree with, in fact I am currently experimenting with forecasting geo-located weather-related Twitter trends.

        There are a million other stories just like Oreo, which you don't hear about because they failed. To do this (horn in on news trends), you need to have a level-headed Social Media Manager who has common and business sense.

        Let your Community help you answer during Crisis Management. An example where the community answered for the company was the "Pepsi Moon Ad." For the most part, ignore the trolls and try not to censor (like WeightWatchers and countless others have done).
    The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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    Jesse Ferrell