I haven’t been blogging much lately; especially on this blog. I am not sure why exactly, but I’m determined to blog it out until I can figure it out. I can tell you it’s certainly not due to having nothing to say. I’m not sure what it is, but it feels like fear more than anything. Sounds weird to hear myself say it, since I am pretty public and communicating thoughts and ideas is actually my job. I don’t think it’s fear of being judged or putting myself out there, because it’d be a little late for me to fear that. It feels like something else.

I was chatting with someone today — someone who’s been hesitant to blog for almost a year. This person has been really interested in blogging and has amazing ideas, but has yet to put his thoughts out there. We discussed why that could be. He said that he didn’t feel like he had anything original to add. And it hit me: “That’s why I haven’t been blogging!”

Especially in the field of social media / social business, it’s easy to feel like everything that was going to be said has been said already. The more you read, the more you get exposed to all this amazing information, brilliant minds and the more you start realizing that you’ll never be part of that “brain trust”. So the choice becomes to not say anything or just relegate yourself to being a “me too” or “part of the long tail.” And you say nothing. So many times, I developed an amazing idea for a post, inspired by something that happened and something that made me think — only to read the same post somewhere else. And because I can’t possibly top it, I do nothing.

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I’m happy to announce that I’m teaching my first class on community management on March 19th. I’m partnering with the Parisoma innovation loft in San Francisco. But it’s not a simple class where you show up and the instructor feeds you content that may or may not answer your needs — we get to co-create the class content together. Those who sign up get to join a mini community for this class, where they can tell me what they want to learn about. I’ll work in the suggestions and questions — as long it still flows together — and we can connect and chat before the event so we know each other better. So grab a spot and try to stump me! I look forward to seeing you!

Based on articles I’ve been reading lately in mainstream and tech blogs alike, it seems that there’s a major lack of understanding around community management. I personally don’t care what you call it, as long as you do it, but various articles, contests and job descriptions make me think that most people think that community managers are “those people who tweet and Facebook”. While differences between social media professionals and community professionals can look somewhat nuanced — and the jobs do overlap quite a bit — I think there are implications to the future of the community management profession if we aren’t understood, measured or hired with the right expectations. This post is just one girl’s attempt to clarify what I see through the lens of my own understanding — in no way is this a definitive guide to anything. I have no answers, but I know that if we ask good questions together, we will arrive at something that works.

Lots of articles (like this one) describe the duties of community manager as strengthening the responsiveness of the business to the customer, creating content and analyzing fans’ response to this content, and telling the company story through customers’ stories. These are very worthwhile goals, and building a better relationship between the brand and its customers is something a social business must do — it’s not an option, it’s just how business is. Your community will revolve around content — content that’s created, iterated, discussed by the community and content that originates from the community. But are responsiveness and content community management? I don’t think so, because it mentions nothing of building deep relationships with your customers and helping your customers create these relationships with each other. It mentions nothing of the difficult work of actually increasing intimacy between a group of people driven by passion — warts and all. Social media professionals and community managers are like Venn diagrams — they are hugely overlapping (and the amount of overlap depends on your context), but they aren’t the same or mutually exclusive. Social tools help community managers scale and be more effective, build better communities and even provide conduits between communities. However, you don’t need social media to have a community.

“Would you define a farmer by the tools he uses? No.  A farmer is someone who cultivates a farm,” Maddie Rudd said in the comments below, and I think she nailed it.

Here’s how I view the different roles and the tools they use:

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We made a mistake today when sending out an email invitation to a webinar we are hosting. Unfortunately, as a result of this mistake, we sent this email to users who weren’t supposed to get it; in some cases, they received it multiple times. We wanted to take a minute to apologize for that and let you know that we did not mean to SPAM you.

The irony is that a key business benefit of Yammer is reducing email load, although we do from time to time send emails to communicate with our users. This irony is not lost on us. We promise that we did not intentionally send you more than one email today. We also promise you that we are diagnosing the source of the mistake and are putting additional processes in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

We are sorry! And we hate email too!

– The Yammer Team

Last week I participated in a #CMGR tweet chat (a tweet chat for community management professionals). When I do find time to participate, it’s always a real treat, and so it’s one of my top tweetchats that I try to attend. Last week we talked about influencer programs. As a community “purist”, I’ve always felt a little torn about influencer programs, and a little uneasy about the term “influencer”. When I think of what an influencer is in social media circles (vs. what an influencer really is), my mind conjures at times unsavory images. Here are my feelings on the subject of influence and influencer campaigns.

What’s influence anyway? Here’s where I could take a cheap shot at current measures of online influence, which would get me some traffic and clicks. I’m not going to do that because that would make me a social media d-bag. All I’m going to say is that what we see online is only one teeny-tiny part of actual influence. Actual influence is a composite and complex notion that has to include online, offline and everything in between. In the context of online influence, what we should be concerned about is driving either awareness or action (click, participation, engagement, purchase). The ability to link these in a meaningful way still does not exist; or maybe I just don’t know it — if so, just leave me a comment here. The analytics market is still in its infancy, and I’m pretty confident in making that statement.

Let’s say you were able to identify your influencers — hopefully you looked at qualitative and quantitative measures, across several tools (one of which should be your “gut” and your knowledge of your own industry). Here are some thoughts to keep in mind…

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“Should I have a personal and a professional account? Should I keep them separate?” I get this question all the time. Or this: “I have many interests, wouldn’t I want to tweet them to different accounts so that people can choose to follow what they want?” My answer has been and will always be to have one account, and here are some reasons why:

Can you really separate? In this transparent social world, it’s getting harder and harder to separate the professional and personal. Since social emphasizes relationships, how can you expect to build professional relationship without transcending into personal? You will always have a stronger business relationship if you can relate to people as a human being.

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Made you look, didn’t I?

I actually didn’t come up with this title to get clicks. I was feeling genuinely bored of “How to set up your Google+ Circles” and “Whom to follow on Google+” blogposts. I was counting down the days until we have lists of top 10 people to put in your circle. And then Netflixgate happened, at the best possible time. What the heck is Netflixgate? Have a look at this lovely blogpost — apparently our beloved Netflix decided that it loves us so much it will give us the “lowest priced plan ever”.. For streaming.. Double that price for a DVD plan. Needless to say, there are several thousand comments across the blog commenting system and Facebook. Add to that the Twitter avalanche… Yikes, I’d hate to be their social media person right now — trust me, I emphasize as someone who works in this space. However, my pity and understanding only goes so far, since Netflix committed some pretty obvious faux-pas, at least to a trained eye.

Before I go into an obligatory list of “what went wrong”, I’d like to explain the title of this blog. I do think that how businesses act in a situation like Netflixgate is actually much more impactful to the future of this whole social thing. Google+ is a tool. Tools are operated by people. When people from a company tweet and blog, they engage with people, regardless of the tools they use. As a social business, your job is to build an organization-wide process that allows and empowers these people to act in a way that adds value all around. This kind of business wouldn’t let Netflixgate happen. It is painfully obvious to a trained eye that social isn’t part of the business fabric at Netflix. It’s an afterthought and a silo that happily tweets at people.

Ok, now time for the obligatory list of what went wrong:

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In case you are wondering, I’m the horse, and this is coming from my mouth, as I’ve been working in the industry, and have been (and currently am) a hiring manager. This post was inspired by over a hundred resumes that I looked at over the past week in search of the next superstar to be Yammer’s social media intern. It is understood that interns are at the beginning of their careers — still at school or recent graduates –no one is expecting oodles of experience or the polish that’s expected from a more mature professional. However, we, the hiring managers are looking for raw talent, passion, commitment and success characteristics. While reading these resumes, there are a few common threads that I discovered, and I wanted to share them here, just in case it can help someone:

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Social media has undoubtedly changed the way we share information and our voices, exchange our life stories, lend approval and criticism. There’s no arguing that things are different now, and for better or worse, things will continue to evolve, and at a faster rate than ever before. Of course, social media has its critics, and we are still working on translating social into business results as an industry. One thing that’s clear is that the unfettered, and oftentimes, unfiltered dialogue has changed the way we talk to each other as friends, family, colleagues, sellers, buyers. The cultural values are changing in favor of openness, honesty sharing, accountability and a greater connectedness.

I think social has done a lot for community building as it’s lowered some barriers to entry; communities are more participatory as structure can melt away quickly. They come together and disband to support ad-hoc models of conversation and collaboration. In some ways, communities are multi-platform, as well as platform-agnostic. At the same time, the lowering of barriers has weakened the ties and the loyalty that community members feel towards each other. For example, coming together for a tweetchat or a hashtagged conversation is usually a wonderful experience by which you can build real and lasting relationships with people. However, sometimes these events fall victim to unscrupulous users “hijacking” a hashtag and using it for blatant self-promotion without much concern for the community. Of course, looser connections are partially to blame, as is the fleeting nature of some social channels. As a result, lack of forethought going into tweets generates a consequence-free environment. This consequence-free environment is, of course, erroneous for several reasons ranging from personal branding to professional reputation.

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In my highly-connected digital world, it’s really nice to take the time to talk to my friends in person and discuss life, work, love, and the meaning of it all. I’m particularly fond of my conversations with Danielle Morrill, and every time we talk, we have this ability to tease really cool big ideas out of each other. That’s exactly what happened yesterday, and this is one of the many things we talked about.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and throughout my experiences I’ve come to the realization that Corporate America is driven by the short term thinking. This is not exactly an astounding revelation, but I think it’s worth exploring vis-a-vis its impact on how businesses are run and the impact of that thinking on companies’ social media health. Here’s how I see it… Due to the influence of Wall Street and quarterly earnings, the Western economy seems to live and die by what happens in the next 3 months. Of course, having measurable short-term goals is very important — how else would you reach your big goals if you don’t break them up into chunks? However, you can’t focus on the short-term without a very disciplined commitment to the long-term. And this is where things fall apart.

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