Happy Community Manager Appreciation Day!

If you’ve seen the #CMAD hashtag trending on Twitter all day and wasn’t sure what it means, then here’s the answer: today is Community Manager Appreciation Day (CMAD).

That’s a thing? Why, yes it is.  Celebrated every fourth Monday of January, CMAD was launched in 2010 by Jeremiah Owyang to acknowledge the efforts of online community managers around the world. It can be a tough job. As Sheldon Levine wrote for the Sysomos blog, a community manager is essentially the bridge between his or her brand (or organization) and, well, everyone else. “At any given time you can find a community manager acting as the PR, marketing, sales, customer service and voice of a brand all at the same time,” Levine wrote. “Today is the day we give them thanks.”

Therefore, in recognition of CMAD, I thought I’d share five tips to keep in mind to be an effective community manager:

  • Be passionate about your brand or organization. We all know this. If you’re not passionate about your own community, neither will your community members.  Whenever you communicate to the public about your community (which is multiple times a day), they’ll be able to get a sense of your passion or lack thereof.
  • Speaking of which, effective community managers must have strong communication skills.  This shouldn’t come as a shock. After all, in the digital sphere, community managers are the eyes and ears of the brand in the public’s mind. They’re the golden ambassadors. Therefore, they should be able to articulate the brand’s messaging in a clear and compelling way. And they should be able to tailor and adapt the message, depending on the target audience, and kind of content you’re producing (whether it be a blog post, tweet, Facebook post, photo or video).
  • Did I mention audience? Oh yeah. Know your audience. Your community managers are individuals. They have different and beliefs, and they each probably get something different out of being involved in your community. So, put yourself in their shoes. Think about your community’s value to them (or ask them!) and make that a factor in your engagement.
  • Engage with your members and be transparent! Members want to feel that they’re being valued and heard within the community. In last week’s #cmgrchat, which focused on audiences versus communities, one of the points put forth was that if you simply put content out, you have an audience – not a community. Communities are when there’s interaction between members. Poll them, host Q+As or ask them to submit content. Make them feel valued. And if someone posts a negative comment, don’t delete it. Take the time to formulate an answer.
  • And finally, strategize and be results-oriented.  Know what goals you want to achieve and have a communications plan with strategies on how to achieve them. And remember to constantly analyze your efforts. Think about what’s working and what isn’t.

Okay, I lied – I have one last piece of advice. Learn from other community managers about best practices. There are, in fact, communities for community managers. There’s #cmgrchat, the weekly Twitter chat every Wednesday at 2PM EST for community managers; and there’s also a weekly Google+ hangout for community managers every Friday at 2pm EST with Tim McDonald, community manager for HuffPost Live, the Huffington Post’s streaming video network.

Here’s one set of best practices – “A Collection of Community Management Advice,” an ebook, curated by TheCommunityManager.com and Marketwire, which offers some great advice for community managers. You can also download it here.

As increasingly more organizations go digital, there’s an even greater need for community managers to help manage those spheres. And it can be a pretty demanding job. So, if you have a community manager, give them a hug today – or a cookie.

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Bringing visibility to disability with filmpossible 2013

Photo credit: Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital

This week marks the first week of submissions for filmpossible 2013, a unique online video and photo contest launched by Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto to bring visibility to disability.

Launched in 2010, the contest challenges people from all walks of life to capture moments of possibility, and depict childhood disability through the perspective of children, their parents and families, and the community.

As this is an intriguing way to raise awareness, I decided to speak with Lauren Muir, filmpossible Project Manager, about filmpossible.

“In terms of the origins, it was to bring awareness to childhood disability, as well as to the hospital,” Muir says. “It’s a way to normalize disability, and to give kids the opportunity to share their stories and teach the world about disability. It’s a fun way for kids to have a voice.”

Photo credit: Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital

According to Muir, Holland Bloorview, Canada’s largest children’s rehabilitation hospital serving children up to 19 years old with disabilities and ongoing complex health needs, receives 600 inpatient admissions and 58,000 outpatient visits each year from across the province, Canada and around the world. The hospital’s vision is for children with disabilities to see the world – and be seen by the world – in a new way.

And filmpossible is a great way to make that happen. As Muir says, it’s an opportunity for children, their families and anyone faced with childhood disability to creatively tell their stories and their achievements through videos and photos.

The contest, which officially launched yesterday, consists of two rounds:

  • In the first round, contestants make video or photo submissions and people vote on them. For those interested in submitting an entry, you can submit anything depicting childhood disability, whether it’s dispelling myths, showcasing achievements, demonstrating inclusion or accessibility, or telling a child’s story. The more votes you get for your submission, the more likely you are to win. Simple as that.
  • Then, using a list of criteria, judges select the top six videos and top six photos to move onto the second round, where votes are once again cast among the finalists.

Anyone is invited to make a video or photo submission until the deadline on March 17. To submit an entry, vote for an entry, view submission guidelines and view last year’s winning entries, feel free to visit the contest website at filmpossible.ca.

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How to re-energize your community with #cmgrchat

As a social media aficionado and one of the team members behind Stutter Social, the international online community for people who stutter, I participate every Wednesday afternoon in #cmgrchat, a live Twitter chat for community managers, launched by community managers Jenn Pedde (@jpedde) and Kelly Lux (@kellylux) from Syracuse, New York.

This week’s chat was particularly insightful. The topic was on how to re-energize your digital community, which included jumpstarting engagement during lulls, predicting those downtimes, dealing with potentially difficult community members and maximizing retention in case members may leave during lulls.

Over the course of the one-hour chat, I learned a lot more in terms of engagement strategies, which I hope to apply both in Stutter Social and in my future community management activities. Here are a few learnings that I got out of the chat:

  • Explore previous content. Gabrielle Kur (@GabieKur) noted that “it’s all about trying to read what your audience wants – repurpose content that worked well but add new value.” Was there an especially popular blog post that worked well in your community’s history? Perhaps you can write a follow-up piece to it or even convert it to video. Reigniting your audience’s interest in that particular piece of content may help.
  • It may also be a good idea to change things up once in a while. Adam Britten (@AdamBritten) noted that “lots of people (are) saying ‘repeat successful content.’ I worry then you’ll appear stale.” While using what has previously worked is a good idea, you may also run the risk of sounding repetitive. There’s no denying the power of changings things up. Why not host a different kind of an event for your community. That’s why in addition to our regular Stutter Social Google+ Hangouts, we’ve hosted Hangouts On Air with special guests. One was a Q+A with two comedians who stutter and the other was a Q+A with two people featured on a recent ABC segment about bullying and stuttering.
  • Reach out personally to community members from time to time. Checking in personally with your members can go a long way in engaging them during downtimes. Trish Fontanilla (@trishofthetrade) said she “always schedule(s) in checkins with folks year round. Always good to keep convos going, not just asking when you need something.”
  • If possible, try to think ahead. According to Amy Higgins (@amywhiggins), “downtimes are predictable if you know your market well. Utilize time to reach out to a new vertical.” This is where, as Bill Johnston (@billjohnston) says, having a content calendar can be an advantage if you anticipate a lull. “Having a content & engagement calendar is key to avoid ebbs and to smooth amplitude of participation.”

Fellow community managers, how do you manage engagement during lulls? Please feel free to share your thoughts!

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The rise of Google+ and its new communities launch

There has been big news recently about one of the latest digital media tools and, so far, one of my favourites: Google+.

In a blog post last week, Google announced that the number of people that currently use its social network has surpassed 500 million. Out of these 500 million Google+ users, 135 million of them are said to be active members.

I consider myself one of them. Its Hangout (group video chat) feature is what I like the most. I’ve used them for Stutter Social sessions, interviews with various folks and general meetings. Its circles feature is also appealing, as it allows you to group your connections in different “circles” and share specific content with particular circles based on relevance.

Google also announced the launch of its latest Google+ feature: communities, which allow users to join private and public groups based on specific topics and interests, similar to Facebook groups.

“From photography to astronomy (and everything in between), Google+ has always been a place to crowd around common interests and meet new people,” said Vic Gundotra, Google’s Senior VP of Engineering, in the Google blog post. “What’s been missing, however, are more permanent homes for all the stuff you love: the wonderful, the weird, and yes, even the things that are waaay out there.”

Google+ users can join public or private communities on a variety of topics, or create their own communities. Within them, you can share content or engage with fellow community members in discussion categories, and start a community-specific Hangout or event.

The feature’s interface is clean and users aren’t overwhelmed with ads like on Facebook.

With a number of innovative features, Google+ certainly has a lot of potential. Gundotra described it as “the fastest growing network thingy ever.” And Mashable reported that the network’s “user growth is certainly impressive, though at 135 million monthly active users, the social network is still behind competitors like Facebook, which now has 1 billion monthly active users, and Twitter, which passed 140 million monthly active users in March.”

Please feel free to check out my recent guest blog post for IABC/Toronto on how Google+ can be particularly useful for marketing and communications professionals. If you’re on Google+, feel free to share your thoughts on its communities and other features.

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Movember 2012: Wrap-up

The last few hours of Movember 2012 are upon us. Given the fact that it was my first time growing a mo, it was great to be part of a great cause. I was pleasantly surprised by a few things, including my willingness to grow my mo until the end, the support I got from friends and family, and the interesting comments from people who got a kick out of seeing me with a mo. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your donations and for supporting me throughout this adventure!

Week three

Week four

This week, I spoke to a friend of mine, Ali Salem, from Montreal. To my surprise, after seeing Daniele Rossi and I with our mos, he was motivated to participate in Movember, albeit starting a little late.

Photo credit: Ali Salem

“I’ve been in Canada for three years and I didn’t come across it,” he told me. “That was when I started to learn about it. I’ve seen what motivated you and others to do it. I don’t think I take good care of myself. I thought if I could motivate others, I could motivate myself as well.”

He said that when people saw him with his mo, it was great for awareness. “It’s adding more to the chain. The key factor is that it triggers people around you who aren’t used to seeing you in a moustache. They ask you about it and it’s a good opportunity to tell them about the cause.”

Besides, “it’s exciting to grow a moustache,” he added, noting that he wasn’t going for any particular style.

If you wish to support Salem’s Movember campaign in the last few hours, check out his mo space!

Adam Weitner, Rossi and Ben Wilinofsky, all of whom I spoke to in previous blog posts, all shared Salem’s excitement. Here’s what they said about their experiences:

“The experience has been good overall – it has been a great conversation starter, and I’ve been proud to be part of such a great cause. I also find that there is a certain level of respect that comes with being a Mo-Bro and you certainly feel like you’re a part of something. All of that said, I do look forward to shaving it off! It is uncomfortable and I’ve developed a habit of playing with it, which is actually quite annoying. At the end of the day, would I do it again? Yes! Absolutely.”

–       Adam Weitner

 “I felt like I was part of a community whenever I saw a fellow Mo-er. Living in a big city, it was nice to connect on a seemingly trivial level. I had started a new job when Movember started so it was a novel way to connect with my fellow man at work. At the gym, on the street, I noticed that when I passed a stranger with a mo, there was that extra split second of an expression on both of our faces of sharing this similar thing in common. It was nice to feel like I was connecting with mankind by doing something manly and old school. I was surprised that I ended up enjoying my mo, soul patch and goatee. If only I had the time in the morning to trim them. I am most likely going to participate again next year.”

– Daniele Rossi

“The one thing that I would say about my Movember experience is that I’ve been overwhelmed by all the support I’ve had when I’ve shared my issues publicly. If anyone is struggling with the decision to come out and share their troubles, I haven’t had a single negative reaction from anybody and I’d recommend being open about it to anyone who feels ready.”

– Ben Wilinofsky

How was your overall Movember experience this year? To my fellow Mo-Bros and Mo-Sistas, happy Movember and happy shaving!

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Movember 2012: Part Four

It’s officially the last week of Movember! Looking back at the last few weeks, I am pleasantly surprised by how my mo came out. I’m proud of myself. It isn’t every day that I venture out of my comfort zone for a good cause. And believe me, I consider growing a moustache venturing out of my comfort zone.

Week two

Week three

This past week, I also spoke to Ben Wilinofsky, another first-time Mo-Bro from Vancouver, about his motivations for participating this year.

Photo credit: Ben Wilinofsky

For Wilinofsky, what motivated him was Movember’s decision to support a second cause this year in addition to prostate cancer: men’s mental health.

“I suffer from depression and acute anxiety,” he says. “So it’s something close to my heart.”

And Wilinofsky says there needs to be less stigma attached to mental health issues. “It’s very easy for people to get the wrong idea about what goes on in people’s minds. People can’t see mental illness. There should be more discussion about it in the public sphere. I thought this was an excellent chance to raise a little bit of money towards the issue, and raise awareness and get people talking about it.

In the past few weeks, that’s exactly what he did. “I’ve raised about $1,600. People have been sending me messages. I’ve had about seven or eight people on Facebook sharing my blog posts on my battles with depression.  I’ve gotten messages from people who have been going through the same thing. The amount of support has been unbelievable.”

In terms of his mo style, Wilinofsky likes to call it “the three musketeers,” fashioning his mo after d’Artagnan.

If you want to support Wilinofsky’s Movember campaign, check out his mo space and have a look at his own blog post about Movember!

As we approach the end of Movember, stay tuned for one more blog post wrapping up the month of mos, mos and more mos! And as always, feel free to share what motivated you to participate in Movember this year.

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Movember 2012: Part Three

It’s hard to believe Movember is already more than half over. Anyways, the mo has really started to grow in more. And I’ve gotten some interesting comments from friends and family, who aren’t used to seeing me with a mo. I’ve been compared to Groucho Marx and William Riker from Star Trek (though I’m not quite at his level yet).

Week one

Week two

This week, I spoke to Daniele Rossi, a friend and another first-time Mo-Bro, about his motivations for participating this year.

Photo credit: Daniele Rossi

The 30-something has never grown a moustache or beard before. “I remember when they were in style, I was reluctant to grow one.”

But Movember offered a great opportunity to give it a try. “It’s a great way to have fun and raise awareness at the same time,” he says. “It’s a shared experience.”

Rossi also says “the whole embarrassment of growing bad facial hair” fits with the issue of men’s mental health that Movember added to its list of causes. “Men are supposed to behave a certain way,” he says. “But they tend to like silly and pointless (things).”

In terms of style, Rossi says he was going for one similar to Mel Blanc’s mo (he’s the voice behind Bugs Bunny and countless other Looney Tunes characters). “He was one of my favorite celebrities growing up,” he says. “I grew up watching the Looney Tunes.”

Besides, “a thinner moustache is a lot safer,” he adds.

If you want to support Rossi’s Movember campaign, check out his mo space!

And, as always, if you’re a first-time Mo-Bro as well, please feel free to share your motivations for participating.

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Accessibility Camp Toronto

Yesterday, I attended the second annual Accessibility Camp Toronto, a one-day “unconference” about digital accessibility when it comes to users with disabilities, at OCAD University. This wasn’t the first time I’ve attended an “unconference.” (a specific kind of conference where participants drive the gatherings) However, this was my first glimpse into the world of digital accessibility.

“Even service dogs like to network,” says participant Daniele Rossi. Photo credit: Daniele Rossi

The opportunity to meet different kinds of people and learn first-hand about web accessibility was great. Among the workshops I was able to attend were ones on an introduction to web accessibility, making Microsoft Office and PDF documents more accessible, mobile accessibility, and HTML5 accessibility.

As someone who is completely new to digital accessibility, here are some of the main learnings that I got out of the unconference:

  • One thing I took away from Mark Sadecki’s (@cptvitamin) session on the basics of web accessibility is that, although we sometimes tend to overlook it, accessibility is something we should all keep in mind, including designers, developers, managers, content creators and policy makers. It’s about making websites useable to everyone, remembering that everyone has varying abilities when it comes to using the web and improving everyone’s user experience.
  • Secondly, the four principles of web accessibility, which are:

i)   Perceivable – providing text alternatives to your content so that people
requiring other forms and languages, such as larger print, Braille or
speech, can be accommodated.
ii)  Operable – making everything functional and easy to navigate.
iii) Understandable – making all content understandable for various audiences.
iv) Robust – ensuring your content is compatible with tools such as assistive technologies or screen readers.

  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, when you’re engaging with different audiences or stakeholders, one of the keys is knowing not just who your end users are, but what their needs are. People have different needs. And, as I said, they have varying abilities when it comes to digital accessibility. We need to remember that when creating and designing any kind of content.

In addition to the event, there’s a Toronto-based meet-up group for those interested in accessibility and inclusive design. Accessibility Camp Toronto is also only one of several events that focuses on digital accessibility.  Since 2009, they have also taken place in Montreal, Guelph, Ottawa, Seattle, Los, AngelesBoston, Washington D.C. and Tokyo.

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Using Google+ in corporate communications

My latest blog post for IABC/Toronto is up! I share my thoughts on the benefits of using Google+, one of the latest social media trends, in corporate communications.

IABC/Toronto is the Toronto chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), an international professional network of corporate communications professionals from around the world. It offers great resources, including networking events, blogs, newsletters, job postings and more.

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Movember 2012: Part Two

Well, week two of Movember has come and gone.  And my mo is slowly started to come in.

Beginning of week one: Post-shave

End of week one

I also spoke to my friend Adam Weitner, a fellow first-time Mo-Bro, about his motivations for participating as well.

Photo credit: Adam Weitner

According to Weitner, he’s been debating doing it for a little while. “I was thinking about it, but I didn’t think I could grow (a moustache),” he says.

So, why did he decide to do it?

Late last year, his dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Fortunately, he underwent PSA testing, and the doctors were able to catch and treat the cancer early on.

Knowing someone that has been affected by prostate cancer, Weitner wanted to do what he can to raise awareness and support. “I felt it was my duty,” he says.” That’s what Movember is all about: spreading the word on getting tested.”

Photo credit: Adam Weitner

And shortly after hearing about it, Weitner considered participating.  The only thing standing in his way was his uncertainty about growing a moustache. “It was actually my co-workers who convinced me to do it,” he recalls. After telling them about his apprehension, they suggested he “just go for it.”

“At the very least, I thought it would be entertaining and funny,” he says.

If you want to support Weitner’s Movember campaign, check out his mo space.

And if you’re growing a mo for Movember for the first time, what are your motivations?

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