Community Manager + Social Media Relations = Online Goddess

A few weeks back I asked the people who follow me on Twitter why they did so. It’s a question that was prompted by a new title recently added to my duties at work – community manager.

It’s not something I’ve updated my LinkedIn profile with or even added to my bio here yet, as I’m still coming to terms with what it really means. Managing community just seems counterintuitive to me. To manage implies to control or as Merriam-Webster says “to work upon or try to alter for a purpose.” And, how can one really control an online community?

Community manager is not a new position (Jeremiah Owyang was outlining what one does back in November 2006) but it is a position that seems to be much more common than it used to be.  And, it did seem to make a difference to people within my company when they heard I was officially being dubbed that for our small and medium business group.

So, I was pondering if I needed to act any differently than I do now. I’ve always blended my work and personal life online, as I do offline. It’s something I talked about last year when I explained why I’m not “LauraatDell” on Twitter.  At that time, I considered myself more of an ambassador than an official spokesperson for my employer.

Would this new title change that?

I talked to another community manager at Dell to get her opinion and she discussed the role as being a liaison between customers and subject matter experts within the company.  I can do that, and sometimes already do it, because I like being a “connector” as Malcolm Gladwell would call it. And, when I spoke to the Austin Technology Incubator as part of a panel last week with Deidre Walsh from National Instruments, she defined her community manager role as “ultimate geek matchmaker,” which continued the theme.

But, did the 3,000+ people who followed me on Twitter now do so with the expectation that I would be their liaison to Dell? If I brought that role to the forefront of my tweets would they choose to unfollow? I decided to ask – why did they follow me?
Twtpoll results
The answer was not clear cut. You can see from the image here that the option “other” was the most popular answer. The write-in comments revealed that most had multiple reasons for following me, and I must admit to being rather happy that I’m viewed as a multi-dimensional person.

So will I begin to act differently online? I hope not. It just means that beyond developing strategy and launching sites, I’ll also be the voice of Dell online on a new B2B page in Facebook, some coming innovations on LinkedIn and a new YouTube channel. I’ve been wanting to get beyond just building the tools to actually using them (careful what you wish for). But, my main goal will be to keep being real in all those new dimensions.

Maybe I could feel more comfortable saying what I will be doing is social media relations as Nathan Gilliatt described it.  Or is that too public relations-y?

I really like the way Erin Bury, community manager at Sprouter, described the community manager role in a VentureBeat column: “These next-generation communications persons blend social media savvy with an up-to-the-minute knowledge of online trends and master networking skills. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all role.”

So if not one-size-fits-all, how can one title fit all? And why am I getting hung up on title at all? Maybe I’ll just stick with one of the ones I made up for myself very tongue-in-cheek when writing my Twitter bio three years ago – online goddess. 🙂

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You Won’t Remember the Eiffel Tower

Theater SignThere is a line in David Mamet‘s play “Race” where the lead character asks his associate what she remembers from her trip to Venice. He goes on to explain that when we travel to somewhere like Paris, it’s not the Eiffel Tower we remember, but rather it’s the old lady selling flowers that we tell stories about when we return.

I was watching that play on the last evening of a business trip that took me to Copenhagen and New York City and it is certainly one of the stories I’ll tell. The one about the play I hadn’t really heard of, but opted to go see based on the recommendation of Laura at the theatre desk of my hotel – in no small part to the fact that she and I shared a name and an appreciation for James Spader who played the lead role.

So what will I remember from this trip? Certainly the meetings that started at 8:00 a.m. and ran non-stop to 6:00 p.m. But, also much more.
Military Vehicles
The sound of a woman singing that led me to look out my hotel window to see a parade of military green vehicles that appeared straight out of a World War II movie. The singing turned out to be coming from loudspeakers on one of the trucks.

The cotton floss (or cotton candy as we call it hee in the States) at Tivoli Gardens that was nearly as big as me and the Tivoli Boy’s Guard Band that marched by while I ate as much of it as I could.

Discovering the person seven time zones away that you’ve only talked to on conference calls shares your affinity for a Coke instead of a coffee when you both reach for one in the center of your conference table to start the morning’s meeting.

The dinner conversation at a brewpub where I found myself seated next to a Colin Farrell look-alike who was born in Istanbul, a Canadian raised in the UK with tales of Calgary that sounded like scenes from Urban Cowboy, and a New Yorker that reminded me of Nathan Lane who had raucous talks of paparazzi and Uma Thurman.
Brewpub
The serendipity of finding myself in a pub in Nyhavn singing along with a guitarist from my home state of Louisiana while sipping a Bourbon I’d never heard of with coworkers as new friends from the UK and Germany.

Then, there was the epic transfer through Heathrow. Where two women who had purchased the exact same snowglobe in the Copenhagen airport found each other unable to get through security with them in our carry-on baggage. How I came to be the one taking charge to help a PhD in feminist studies who had worked for the United Nations and was flying home to Jordan navigate our way out of security, through immigration and customs and back to our airlines to attempt to check our little mermaid gifts is still beyond me. I hope hers survived better than mine did and her niece gets more than the shattered remains my daughter received.

And, then finding myself seated next to a woman from New Jersey celebrating her birthday by attending a Broadway play about race relations who was a complete doppelganger for one of my Austin neighbors.

Yes, Mamet was right. It’s those unexpected scenes and people we meet on travels that make them so memorable. And I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to build such memories this past week.

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