How to prevent the community manager from exploding

tug

<vent on>

To all organizations who think they’ve got it all sorted out so nicely because they have a community manager MANAGE it all…

Calling them ‘manager’ doesn’t mean they can control everything their community does or say unless you actually:

  • give them managerial rights over their community members (which you can’t if the community is comprised of customers or external parties);
  • inform them of the things you are doing BEFORE you are doing them instead of just dropping a bombshell and expecting them to manage the fallout;
  • understand that their role requires them to build a personal relation with their community which means that they are VULNERABLE when you take decisions that affect those community members without communicating them properly.

 

And to community members out there that seem to think the community manager is there just to help them….

Loving your community manager is great but that doesn’t exempt you from the responsibility to understand that:

  • your community manager is no philanthropist and needs that pay check their employer sends them every month just as much as you do. It’s not a case of loyalty, it’s a case of simple economics so don’t expect them to take impossible stands against their own employer;
  • the fact that they are called a ‘manager’ doesn’t mean they actually have any real managerial power or influence within their organization. In fact a community manager is by far the most powerless manager in any organizational tree. Don’t expect them to change the world, just ask them to help you find the right tree to bark up;
  • you think you are frustrated by how things go…?!? think again and start realizing they are probably too. Work together and don’t just vent. That’ll get a lot more done.

 

And to all… give them a bit of respect and TLC and realize they are in general doing a really good job of doing the impossible!

<vent off>

In dedication to some pretty awesome community managers out
there and a few in particular.

You know who you are 😉

How the internet rules who you are

How is reputation build? How do people become known as experts in what they do, how is credibility established and what role is the internet playing in all this now personal information is becoming so much more available due to social networks?

“Reputation of a social entity (a person, a group of people, an organization) is an opinion about that entity, typically a result of social evaluation on a set of criteria. It is important in education, business, and online communities. Reputation may be considered as a component of identity as defined by others.” (wikipedia)

In general you can say that reputation is based on what you say you know versus what others say, and content you’ve published shows you know. That isn’t new, recommendations and background searches have always been a strong factor for people when deciding on someone’s expertise. The difference now is that internet is taking it a step further. It is providing us with many more channels of information and it is giving us all this information we never had before. Forcing us to change the way we weigh opinions on reputations as it is coming less and less from our own (trusted) social circles and more and more from external networks and sources.

Four ways the internet is used to determine your reputation:

  • gifted/attributed reputation: What others say about your knowledge or expertise (linkedIn recommendations & expertise vouching, tagging, commenting, etc)
  • digital output reputation: what people can find about you online in the form of contributions, blogs and anything else you throw out there (linkedin, personal blogs, Google search results)
  • reputation by association: who do you interact with and what is their reputation? Who reads and responds to your content? It’s not just about how many times it is tweeted, liked and recommended that counts but by whom too!
  • system attributed reputation: reputation assigned to you by digital systems based on interaction, submissions and topics you respond to or talk about (Klout, Peerindex and Kred, but also suggested reads, ‘people of interest’, etc).

The first three are not that astonishing. They more or less are what people have always done to determine someones reputation: get information and recommendations from people and sources we trust and form an opinion based on that. The only difference there is that we have more sources and they are much easier to access.

So where the first three merely give back what others have said or done and leave it up to you to interpret that, the fourth one takes it a step further and does the interpretation for you. By using algorithms and complex computations they try to determine someone’s expertise and knowledge areas. The problem is though it does so indiscriminately and without taking into account any of the cultural or social elements that could factor in and without weighing the topics for relevance.

“…Klout declared me influential in ‘Bollywood dancing’…”

It’s scary to see what digital systems nowadays know about us. It’s even scarier to see how they interpret that knowledge. A good example for me was when Klout declared me influential in ‘Bollywood dancing’….. I can tell you I have no relation with Bollywood dancing, know next to nothing about it, have never practiced it or ever expressed any knowledge about it but still Klout was telling the world I was an expert on it. I could not determine how it came to that conclusion nor could I really influence that other than by having my Klout account removed.

So how do I control my reputation?!?
The thing is, you don’t. Your reputation is not something you determine yourself. It’s being determined for you and you’ll have to life with that as it’s very hard to get rid of. There are however things you can influence. One of which is your online profile. And as your online profile is becoming more and more important in determining your reputation, finding ways to influence it becomes more important too.

So what can you do to build your online profile in a way that helps your reputation?

  • Your name“: Hardly anyone is unique but some are more so then others (I pity all John Smiths out there). So before ‘going social’ research your name (Google it!) and try to come up with a social handle (twitter name, etc) that makes you recognizable. Not just to other people but to automatic systems too. Once you do, use it everywhere and stay consistent. That is your key to being recognizable and unique. It’s your trademark in a sea of ‘John Smiths’ so to speak.
  • Company affiliation“: Try not to affiliate your complete persona to a company name. Not seldom do you see people having a twitter handle or personal blog domain mentioning or linked directly to a company name. Realizing you’re losing your job is bad enough without having to realize that your whole digital profile is tied to the company that just kicked you out. Like someone told me recently: “your work might be owned by your boss, your digital reputation is yours, guard it!”.
“…You would be amazed how much influence you can have on what Google shows…”
  • “Be visible“: Determine your visibility and monitor what people find if they search for you. Keep your profiles (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc) up to date and go through the first 20 Google hits for your name / handle regularly to check what people will find. Is it still current?  If not, can you influence it (e.g. post blogs, respond to hot topics in popular sites, etc)? You would be amazed how much influence you can have on what Google shows.
  • Project your vision“: Envision what it is that you want to project with your online profile. Do you want them to find you work related stuff or is it fine with you that they will hit all the other stuff you do too? There is nothing wrong with being a prolific contributor on all kinds of topics or someone with a wide area of interest but if you want to set a professional image you might have to think of ways to highlight those areas that you want people to notice. Balancing your output or using different aliases to distinguish professional and private life and keeping different networks for your business and private stuff can also help in setting your profile vision.
  • Be connected” Build a network of people around you who do what you want to be associated with. Not just so your profile gets associated with them but also because by being in their vicinity you learn and get alerted to relevant information and posts. Interact with these people, provide feedback and ask (and respect!) their opinion on your content. When done sincerely most people are more then willing to help you on your way.
“…Don’t let your online profile make you look like a ‘corporate robot’…..”
  • Be human” There is a lot to be said for keeping certain areas of your life private but at the same time social media and social business is also all about connecting on a human level. Don’t let your online profile make you look like a ‘corporate robot’ by being all business and no pleasure. In a social age this could actually look suspicious. Don’t be afraid to be human just do it in a balanced way. And for goodness sake use a recognizable and consistent profile picture on all your public profiles. Interacting with a persona that has a smiling kitten as a profile pic really doesn’t help build you a professional reputation.
  • Be culturally aware” Realize that the internet is taking away borders and that your content (tweets, posts, blogs, etc), although perhaps only directed at people directly around you can usually be read by anyone, anywhere. Something that might be funny in your circle, country or culture might actually be offending to someone else. Some things can’t be helped, like being named “Dick de Cock” (and yes, that is an actual name in The Netherlands) but others can. So be sensitive for that. In general a good thing to keep in mind is what my mum told me when I was going off to university: “Never talk about sex, religion or politics in public or with anyone who at any moment in your life could become your boss or customer”. Well that makes for almost anyone.
“…people tend to forget the positive very quickly and remember the negative much longer…”
  • Voice opinions, not frustrations” There is nothing wrong with not always being a ‘happy bunny’ but be careful not to come across too negative. Remember that people tend to forget the positive very quickly and remember the negative much longer so be careful when voicing frustrations and try not to be resentful when others scorn you. Taking the moral high ground might not be easy but almost always is best.

There are so many more things you can do but in short it all comes down to this: be truthful, be sincere, be aware and most importantly: be vigilant about what your online profile is saying about you.

It’s your introduction to the world, make sure it fits you

 

Know your client…

Yesterday I signed up for the life web coverage of the exciting unveiling of the new IBM PureSystem which was hosted not by IBM but by external virtual event organizer Unisfair. Nothing wrong there. Each to its own and they are probably better in organizing these kind of things, but….

I have two pet peeves with how they organized it:

1. At registration you could indicate whether IBM & Affiliates are allowed to contact you by mail, phone or postal mail. I deselected all entries and saved. Guess what. Postal mail and Phone were automatically selected anyway which I saw in a flash while the page was saving. Even logging in and editing the settings does not allow you to deselect this. Sure, it will look deselected but save, switch page and come back and it’s selected again (and yes, I cleared my cache).
Big interface No No here. Even if that is actually saved as deselected you should never show it as selected as it is confusing and misleading. If it is saved as an approval then even worse, don’t give a user an option that really isn’t an option!

2. The second one (and yeah, I know I’m nitpicking here) is that when you organize an event for a major player like IBM and require the attendees to registeryou should at least make sure you know that customers products. So don’t send out a registration message with an “Outlook reminder” option….. sigh

Big issues? No, the first one I simply corrected by changing my info to fictional data and the second one… Well… I’m probably one of the few that even noticed.

But…. it does influence my feeling about the whole thing and makes me distrusting of it all. So if you use external companies to organize events and campaigns for you, make sure they obey to the same standards you do, are familiar with your products and don’t call out competitors products in their communications to your customers. The same goes for organizers. Know your client! It really doesn’t take much now a days for customers to get weary and distrusting on the Internet and that can directly impact the brand as well as you as an organizer….

The power of words

I AM DUTCH… So, there you have it. An obvious point, I know, but I need to say it. And why do I need to say it? Well because it means my first language isn’t English and that frustrates the heck out of me.

Yes, I write in English, I can speak English, I can even stand up and address groups in English and feel comfortable doing that but I am never as good or as fluent as I would like to be. I’m always grasping for words, searching for meanings and struggling with spelling. Especially while writing.

Writing to me is the ultimate form of expression. It is where I can pour my soul, humanity and creativity into and really express what I feel. Doing it in English though also means it is a constant struggle of searching for words and meanings to capture my thoughts. You don’t realize the power of words until you find yourself searching for them all the time.

Those words and combinations you only use in exclusive situations, the finer nuances of language, all those specific details that the 2-4 hours a week of high school English I got in my teens, didn’t cover.
And so I learn. I learn daily, from reading other peoples blogs, from watching English TV, from interacting on social Media. Analyzing and Googling every word and linguistic anomaly that triggers my interest, expanding my vocabulary constantly.

It’s my obsession, it’s my frustration, and it’s my insecurity… as it makes me feel so inadequate and unprepared.

So?! Why don’t you write in Dutch then? Well because I want to be heard. I write to invoke a response and many of the people I would like to reach don’t read Dutch. So yes, it is a choice to write in English and therefore to struggle with it.

I’m well aware my English is already better than most non-native English speakers. I’m also proud of the fact that apart from Dutch and English I can have conversations in German and even have basic skills in French but at the same time I’m jealous. I envy all you native English speakers for having a language at your fingertips that allows you to communicate with at least a third if not more of the world population. A language that is seen as the standard and that you have been taught from the crib, a language whose finer details and quirky depths to you aren’t a mystery so much as well as a tedious lesson in school.

I want to be you, I want my brain to grasp those words I’m often searching for, those expressions and fantastic nuances… till I do I will struggle, with every blog, sometimes with every tweet. I will make mistakes and get corrected, I will mess up and be told off, I will experiment and get it wrong but, I will not give up. And not just because I feel an urge to be heard, but also, and maybe more importantly, because during all this struggle I didn’t just get to appreciate the English language, I got to love it; its variation, its complex simplicity, its quirky uniqueness….

So next time when I ask you for a word definition, or use an uncommon word in a chat or tweet with a “(?)” behind it, know that it is me learning and grasping and tell me if I do it wrong. And hopefully, one day, I will be able to express everything that goes on in my head in English as easy as I do in Dutch. Till then, bear with me, smile about my silly mistakes and help me get better.

It’s simply me loving the English language.

The forbidden vocabulary

Last Friday I visited TEDx Dordrecht. An independently organized TED event in my home town listing 12 speakers on topics related to Sustainability and Food. It was a good event. There were some excellent speakers, good food, a nice venue and enough breaks to socialize with some of the other visitors.

The last speaker of the night was a 19 year old student and member of the Dutch national youth council for sustainability. Excited and in the heat of her youthful exuberance she used some words during her speech that where, well… how do I put it….

Ok she used the word ‘F*ck’ more then a couple of times. Now to be fair, using that word in Dutch is, although still seen as a swear word better to be avoided, really not to big a deal. Especially as it is an incorporated English word and therefore doesn’t really have the same weight to it as it would have in English. It is often used to stress a point or an exclamation of annoyance among younger generations. So using it in a Dutch context, although frowned upon, wouldn’t normally cause much of a reaction. Probably also because we aren’t that easily shocked. The session however was in English and was being broadcasted to 35 countries world wide.

Right…. now that mischievous word suddenly became a full blown profanity and probably caused some stirs around the world as was hinted on afterwards by the host.

It is funny as it emphasized to me the subtle differences in language. To my shame I have to admit I too use that word on occasion. Most times though, not in an English or public context as I know the word really does have a bigger weight to it in English then it does in Dutch.

In fact, it seems more and more people prefer using foreign swear words. As if swearing in a different language has less impact then saying a similar swear word in Dutch. And it probably does, as to a lot of people, the word becomes just that: ‘a word’. It’s original context and meaning fade a bit and it becomes a word on its own. Yes, everybody still knows it is a profanity but it is seen less connected to what it actually describes. Especially as the Dutch translation of the word (verb) ‘F*ck’ isn’t officially classified as a swear word at all. It is somewhat of a taboo word, not to be used often or in a formal or public conversation but it isn’t considered a real profanity either.

Somehow, not having the same context, makes swearing in another language less harsh then using a similar swear word in your own language. And it’s not just the Dutch that do that or have a fascination for foreign swear words. I’ve had numerous situations where foreigners of all nationalities proud to show off their skills, start reciting all the Dutch words and sentences they know. Stumbling their way through the obligatory ‘Hallo’, ‘welkom’, ‘goedemiddag’, ‘mijn naam is…’ unto some pretty harsh Dutch swear words… often with a big grin to their face.
In that regard, using foreign swear words seems to allow us to be that little kid again trying out the new forbidden vocabulary we picked up in the school yard…. It reminds us of the good old times when innocent as we were we really didn’t know yet what all those words meant, the actions it described and the cultural load it had.

No wonder there are so many sites around that will teach you the most gruesome swear words in almost any language around. I guess some fascinations just never die, do they…. 🙂

Confumbled – Social Media breaking down language borders

So I’m Dutch and I’m in no way a native English speaker. I do ok, blog in English, get myself understood and can even be relatively ‘witty’ in my Social Media responses. It has allowed me to interact and connect to numerous people around the world and it has even given me some new friends. Ok, yes, I know. How can you call them friends without ever meeting them?!? But with some of them they really do feel like friends.

And in about 48 hours I’m flying out to Lotusphere to actually meet them….

I can’t wait! I look forward to really meeting these people but at the same time I’m a bit apprehensive too. Truth is that connecting over the internet really isn’t the same as connecting in real life. Apart from the obvious facts that Social Media allows you to filter out the less attractive and boring elements of your personality it also helps eliminate language borders.

Again, as a non-native English speaker I think I do pretty well, but I do mess up…. regularly…. This has lead to several funny (and embarrassing) instances and confusions where I tried to express something which actually came out as something totally different.

My Dutch colleagues would now argue I don’t just do that in English, bytheway…

Saving factor here though is that as Social Media is mostly a ‘written’ form of communication it has something of a grace period. Allowing you to at least think for two seconds and read back that post, tweet or chat message (as well as having a spelling control) before clicking the ‘send’ button. Believe me, I’ve become a regular speed-Googler over the last few months and have Urban Dictionary bookmarked as a favorite.  Problem is though, these don’t yet come as build in options for my mind and so I will have to do without my regular safety nets next week…

….So that’s why, even with all my enthusiasm about going to Lotusphere I’m also still feeling a bit apprehensive about talking to all of you with whom I’ve been chatting, Tweeting and Facebooking. Not knowing, whether I will be able to actually have the same kind of spontaneous interaction without having Google & spell checker at my fingertips is daunting….It almost feels like sitting my high school exams again.

Luckily for me I’m also pretty sure most of you guys will forgive me for my little language-mishaps. And if I do ‘confumble’ my English big time and mess up I can only hope you guys will look through it and have a laugh with me about it. It’s all in good spirit!

Social translate… Google Giveth and Taketh

For the last year and a half or so I’ve been an avid user of Yoono. A browser plugin that allows me to review and update my Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare activity streams from within a side bar in my Firefox. I love it. It’s easy, simple and because it’s integrated in the browser it always keeps my Social streams in my perephial view. Right where I like it to be.

Now one of the things that I discovered recently is that it has a function to translate tweets right there and then in the sidebar itself. Simply right click the tweet and select “Translate (via google)”. The translated text is shown right there and then in your stream.

Ok, yes. Google translations aren’t exactly accurate all the time but in general they do the trick. And it means I could follow people I would otherwise not, simply because I can’t understand a thing they are saying.

Like Mitsuru Katoh (Katoman), a Fellow self-proclaimed Domino Geek and IBM Champion from Japan. My Japanese is next to zero so this translate function really helped me and made it possible for me to socially connect to someone I would otherwise probably not even know about.

Unfortunately this morning the translate function didn’t work and a tweet to @YoonoSupport helped clarify:  

@Yoono The translate (Google) function doesn’t seem to work this morning. Anything going on?

 Bummer! 

Ok, I can understand Google wanting to make a buck out of this (although I’d wonder who’d want to pay for the crappy translations they give) but maybe Google had an alternative reason as well. I can (somewhat) understand them trying to promote their own networks so maybe this is a function they wanted to keep free exclusively for their own platforms….. aka Google+! I know Mitsuru is on G+ so lets check it out…..
Well, you guessed it. No function there to translate from within the stream itself.

Yes I know about the other Google translate options for translating whole sites but that is not really an option to me. As a Dutch national I read & write in English, Dutch, German and (a little) French and I follow people in all of those languages. Now I don’t need (or want!) those translated as that sometimes means you lose part of the underlying sentiments and jokes. I want to be able to control which tweets I want translated and which I want to read in their original language. And I want to do it from within my active streams itself, not by having to step out to a different site. That takes out the whole social context in which I’m operating.

 So for now it seems I will have to unfollow Mitsuru… Not because he’s not nice or interesting but simply because I can’t understand his tweets (Sorry Mitsuru, I’ll buy you a drink at Lotusphere).

Oh and for those (like me) wondering what that second tweet form Mitsuru said? I ran it through the ordinary translator and it came up as “That I was better with an umbrella. Worry.“. 

I guess it was raining in Japan 🙂 

Get in touch!

You would think that getting in touch with people has become a whole lot easier since we’ve all become so ‘social’. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Connections, IM, chats, etc. You could even say that in some cases it’s hard NOT to. But still I find that really getting ‘in touch’  sometimes is a challenge. Take a recent situation I encountered.

I wanted to ask a distant social business contact something that required some delicacy and a personal touch. I didn’t know the person ‘in person’ (there’s an ocean between us) but I ‘knew’ her on Twitter, Facebook, through Connections, Sametime and even through a persistent Skype chat group. More then enough venues I guess to contact her. But this was harder than I thought.

First I considered the Connections link I had to her. The question was related to that anyway so this seemed logical. The problem though was that she hadn’t listed her contact details and I wasn’t about to put my question on her public message stream.
Next was twitter but that is mostly public and even when I had used a DM I couldn’t really get my question into a 140 character text anyway. So that one was out of the question too.
Facebook wasn’t ideal either. On reviewing her Facebook stream I figured she used it strictly for non- business related stuff and as it was a business related question I didn’t want to use that route (DM or Chat) for a business related question. Even social business has its etiquette…..

So I looked on. She didn’t have a blog (I knew about or could find) and on LinkedIn I found several people matching here name, most without pictures, so no luck there either.
My last chance seemed to be the Sametime and Skype chat. Not ideal but it would at least allow me to ask her for her mail address.  The problem was though that she wasn’t online much and by the time she was, I wasn’t (that darn ocean again!).

This was frustrating! Here I am, connected to this person on at least 3
social networks and 2 IM systems and still I had trouble getting in
touch with her! Having this persons email address would
have saved me a lot of trouble. In stead I had all these social links
but no decent way of getting in touch.

So in the end I solved it the old fashioned way. I called her company switchboard and asked for her.

Ironic isn’t it? That even with all these digital channels and links to her I
finally had to resort to the old fashioned phone call to really get in
touch.
..

VMWare's Mother's day offer

Did you get it? No? Well than you missed something.

Two weeks ago I received two messages in the mail from VMWare with a Mother’s day offer:

The first one addressed me, telling me how VMWare would save me time that I could than spent on finding my mum the perfect gift (yeah right) but the most interesting one I think is the second one, the one that actually indirectly targets the mums themselves through you as the recipient. Telling you how it would help your mum run her PC apps on a Mac.

Now why do I find that interesting? Well, lets face it. For most people in the VMWare target audience, ‘mum’ is really not that savvy with pc’s. My mum (bless her), struggles to send an email and doesn’t even know the difference between a Windows pc and a Mac. I can’t blame her, she is of a generation that didn’t grow up with pc’s and only learned using one as a bare necessity when my brother temporarily moved to the Caribbeans.

Yes, there is a whole new generation of mum’s rising as we speak that did grow up with computers and might be interested in the VMWare tools but somehow I doubt that many of their kids actually were on that mailing list VMWare used to send out the offer. Most of them are simply to young. So was this a shot in the dark?

Well that is why I find it intriguing. Over the last two weeks several people told me about this offer and how funny they found it (for the above mentioned reasons). Which is precisely why I think it was a really clever piece of marketing.
I mean, how often would you actually talk to your friends of colleagues about such a message? In general most people would regard it as spam and delete it right away. But this one was so outrageous that I actually took time to read it. Clearly I was not alone.
On the other hand it is not that outrageous at all as even the older generations are catching up quickly and generally aren’t that dimwitted as we might think they are when it comes to pc’s. So eventhough it might not seem the most obvious target group it certainly is gaining corporate interest fast. Whatever the reason; it worked! They got my attention and (as an avid reader of my blog) undoubtedly also my mums attention.

I still don’t think she has a clue what VMWare is though….

Valentine

I received a message last weekend with the subject “Er is iemand die van je houdt” (‘There is someone that loves you’). Of course I was curious, it was valentines day so who wouldn’t!

Unfortunatly for me, it wasn’t what I was hoping for:

A marketing ploy, yes…., but in this case, a nice one. A group of 25 Dutch Business Partners has come together to start their own marketing campaign for creating a positive vibe around Lotus products. “Is that really necessary?” Well frankly, yes. Marketing unfortunatly isn’t one of IBM focus points here in the Netherlands so it could do with some extra support.

Thus came they idea of doing a campaign, supported by IBM but led by the Bussiness Partner community. I love it! Not only because of the very strong theme “Lotus Loves People”

but mostly as it shows how the Lotus community here in The Netherlands is really committed to the Lotus brand and that by working together they can really accomplish something.

So ok, it wasn’t the Valentine I hoped for but still I found it a really nice gesture to get. Let’s hope it does the same for all those executives and decision makers out there that are thinking of buying Lotus products!