Leveraging Community Influencers: April 6th #cmgrEMEA Tweetchat

What are community influencers? Where are they? How do you connect with them? How do you become one? What do you do once you find them?

These are the questions we’ll be asking at #cmgrEMEA, a tweetchat for community managers in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Our next chat is being held on April 6th at 1 pm GMT!

cmgrEMEA Apr6 Post Guest

Our guest, Nick Emmett (@nickemmett), is the Community Manager for a cloud computing company. He works to drive engagement and connect people in this growing community, and was one of the first participants at #cmgrEMEA! Nick also authors Socially Learning, a blog dedicated to community management and social media.

Mark your calendars for this tweetchat – it’s a great way to connect with other community pros in this time zone!

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10 Tips For Working Remotely

“You work from home?? Oh, I bet that’s great. I’d love to be able to work in my pajamas all day.”

How many times have you heard this? Or for those of you new to the remote-work world, how many times have you thought this? Working from home might seem like a dream environment – sweatpants, no frustrating commute, and fewer office interruptions.

But working from home can be quite a challenge. The lack of human interaction can be isolating and lonely. Home distractions can eat up your time – laundry, dishes, TV, pets, or the one day of beautiful weather. The lack of commute, while sounds appealing, can actually erase the lines between work and home. And if you’re one of the few (or only) remote members on your team, it can start to feel as though you’re an outsider.

Never fear – there are ways to get around these challenges! I’ve spent several years working remotely, so I’ve created a list of tips to be successful in this environment. Be aware – it takes a fair amount of discipline and focus, and the burden always lies with you to not let the hurdles affect the quality of your work. And sooo……

1. Establish a Routine

It’s easy to slip into habits like not setting the alarm, staying in PJ’s all day, and wandering into the kitchen to graze several times a day.

I don’t.

Morning routine

Instead, I’ve stuck to a morning ritual, similar to one if I was commuting. I set my alarm, get up, squeeze in a workout, take a shower, and get dressed (yep, in sweatpants, but not my PJ’s). I make my morning coffee, and sit down at my desk to start my day! I set a scheduled lunch break around halfway through my day, and as I would in the office, have my lunch already prepared (I do this the night before). At the end of my day, I sign off, close up my laptop, and cleanse the palate with a quick walk, errand, or a household chore.

2. Be Disciplined

Oooohhhh, daytime TV. The dishes piling up. And of course, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Wikipedia, Reddit, TripAdvisor…. just to name a few. Distractions are abundant, even for the most focused individual.

So how do I avoid them? First, I stay aware! Just knowing that they’re sucking up my time is half the battle. Second, I make strict rules for myself (you might even consider writing them down). Household chores are for after 5:00. The TV stays off (or at a low volume, and not the lastest episodes of my favorite shows). I don’t allow myself to spend much time on social media. If they’re too tempting for you, you can try tools like RescueTime and StayFocused. They actually block indicated sites during a specific timeframe!

3. Have A Separate Workspace

Home Office
Separating work from home helps me get into “work mode” and “home mode,” which is crucial to my health, sanity, and relationships. I designate a room (or corner of the home would work) as my office, and keep everything I need for the workday in close quarters. I’ve invested in my office with a comfortable office chair and a reliable computer.

4. Stay Organized

Organizational skills are valuable to anyone, but especially to a remote worker. I keep my workspace free of clutter. I use tools like Evernote to file ideas, notes, pictures, and reminders in one place. I spend a few minutes each day filing floating thoughts or loose notes, creating new folders, and wrapping up the workday. I file paperwork at the end of each day, so that I start my day in a clean space.

5. Create A To-Do List

Excel To Do List

On Friday afternoons, I like to create my task list for the following week. I list every minute task, divide them by project, and set a deadline. That way, when I start my week, I know exactly where to start. I update my task list every day. This might sound time-consuming and redundant, but it’s been massively helpful in staying focused and prioritizing. I share my task list document with my boss (via Google Docs), so that he knows what my upcoming priorities and goals are, and can modify it when necessary. Which leads me right into my next tip….

6. Stay In Communication

How would I describe my communication style? When I’m not working in the office, I “overly communicate.” This means I share my task list, all of my in-progress documents, and all of my projects’ statuses with my boss. This doesn’t mean constant notifications – it just means keeping him in the loop on everything.

I work in a time zone that was very remote, so I set up a spreadsheet displaying my schedule and time zone – in the context of THEIR schedules, making it easy for them to see each day’s overlap with their own hours. I keep my status “Online” on Chat and other online tools, and if I’m pausing for lunch or a quick break, I update the status as such: “At lunch – back in 20 min.” Transparency is key!

7. Know Your Collaboration Tools

The right tools are a major element of a remote worker’s success! I’ve used Skype, Google Hangouts, HipChat, and Sqwiggle for frequent chats and video conferences. Some folks like to use TimeAndDate in conjunction with these communication tools to chat during everyone’s work hours. For example, I like to start my day (or my coworkers’) with a “Hey there, good morning!”

Skype screen

Also, I work on the cloud! Collaboration tools such as Podio and BusyFlow are great for project management, especially when you can’t pop into my office to ask a question or offer a suggestion. Rather than storing my work on my hard drive, I share my docs with my team on Google Docs, Box, or ShareFile. This eliminates the guessing game on my progress and status.

8. Be Proactive

It’s important that remote team members are aggressive about asking for help, and in giving help to others, to drive projects forward. I made the mistake of not doing this in the early stages of working remotely, and thus, I learned the hard way. I realized that I needed to go above and beyond to directly ask for help, and reach out to colleagues and frankly state, “What can I do to help with this?” or “I have [such-n-such] data that relates to this! I can email this to you, but what else can I provide?” I made a point of asking questions and offering help regularly.

9. Get Face Time

Even if it means working outside of your normal hours or more travel, make sure you get face time with your team. Because of my time zone, I stay up late one night a week to Skype with my team, and I always opt for video chat. I travel back to headquarters as often as possible, and try to schedule my trips around team-building events. I like to schedule one-on-one video chats with my boss, even if it just means a quick session to get on the same page. This reinforces my presence, and clues me in to what’s happening with each of them.

10. Connect With People

Many other remote workers I speak with express the same sentiment as I: it’s easy to get the blues. Not getting quality time with coworkers eliminates some of the fun and bonding that happens in the office. Catching up on a Monday morning, laughing together at lunch, and coffee breaks were all something I valued, so the initial adjustment was difficult for me! However, I began meeting a gym buddy in the mornings, and making sure I got together with friends in the evenings and on weekends. I also recommend a coworking space in your city. These are terrific environments for human contact and meeting new people.

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Do you have remote work experience? If so, I’d love to learn what you’ve done to stay productive and in communication!

What Is A Community Manager Made Of?

These days, nearly every major brand has a community manager. If you’re a member of a forum, have asked a question on a Facebook page, or have left feedback online, you’ve likely come into contact with one. So what does it take to be a community manager? Who is that person behind the curtain? What are they really made of? Are you equipped to enter the community world?

Community pros wear several hats, and they have to be able to switch them out quite often.  Check out the top 8 traits we think it takes to be a great community manager!

Empathy

Empathy

This is at the top of the list. Not by chance, and not for alphabetical reasons. Rather, it’s a quality and skill of top priority. And “fake it till you make it” won’t work in this case. You will, inherently, need to be an empathetic person who can step outside of yourself again….. and again…. and again. Communities are comprised of people from all walks of life, from all over the world. As a community manager, you’ll encounter individuals who have a question, are trying to solve a problem, or are looking for support.

You’ll be expected to put yourself in others’ shoes. You’ll need the ability to ask yourself, “How would I feel if it were me?” Community pros are responding to people who are curious, upset, angry, worried, proud, happy, excited, passionate – they’re feeling something that drove them to your community. Taking a moment to empathize and picture yourself in his position will help you respond authentically, and take action in the customer’s best interest.

Organizational Skills

organized desk

At any given moment, a community manager has her hands on several different projects at once – interactions with users, settling disputes, answering questions, scheduling community posts, setting social media calendars, blogging, strategy meetings with execs, tracking metrics – the list goes on and on.

A community manager’s job is never done, so staying organized is imperative! Have a central to-do list (tools such as Basecamp or even Microsoft Excel are incredibly helpful), and prioritize your tasks. Use your email calendar, and sync your phone to stay on top of your appointments. Create a routine that works for you, and stick to it if at all possible……

Time Management Skills

……which leads right into time management! If there were 100 work hours in the work week, a community manager could fill every single one. Optimizing your time correctly allows for clearer thinking (working smarter), better work relationships, and of course – getting more done. Apps like Toggl (which helps you track the time you spend on projects) and Evernote (helps you organize your ideas in one place) are valuable time management tools.

Analytics-Oriented

line graph

Qualitative data from the community flows in everyday – comments on social media, forums, emails, phone calls, surveys, etc. But do you know how to read and utilize quantitative data?

Analytics will give you valuable insight into your community that they may not say out loud. Yes, clicks and purchases are the end-game, but what about your micro-conversions? These metrics might seem insignificant, but reach, impressions, likes, shares, email-signups…… tracking every step will help you see the overall customer journey, and shape the way you think about your community.

Visionary

Can you see where your customers and community are headed? Can you think long-term, and offer a place on the web where people will keep coming back for more? Can you predict how your community might react to product changes or pricing structure? We’re not saying you need a glass ball and the ability to see what the year 2025 will hold (although if you do have this ability, please contact us immediately – we’d like to speak with you regarding some lottery numbers), but you do need to know your customer base and community.

Another aspect of this is being able to see the entire picture. What is your community member’s experience with you or your brand, from beginning to end? Where does your role fall in that journey, and how can you expand it? And how can you support your colleagues who are trying to do the same, and provide a full 360 experience for the customer?

Listener

During a #cmgrEMEA chat last November, I asked “What are your favorite community management tools or apps?” #cmgrLDN meetup founder Christie Fidura answered, “Your ears! Listening is the most important tool you have. Use it!” Open your ears and listen to what your community is saying. Don’t anticipate, don’t finish their thoughts, don’t interpret what they’re saying to fit your strategy. Just listen.

Technically Adept

html

While a community manager isn’t usually required to have a degree in programming or coding, most are expected to know the basics – HTML, CSS, SQL, and more (depending on the company). Even if it’s not a stated requirement, don’t step into community without some technical knowledge. Relying 100% on your developers for every minor tweak is inefficient (and lazy). There are plenty of online resources for learning these tech languages, including Codecademy and Web Monkey, and community managers should be ready and willing to get technical!

Advocate

This is a tricky one, because as a community manager, you have to advocate for BOTH sides – your brand, and your community.

When you’re on social media, sending emails, in your forums, or anywhere else, you are an advocate on behalf of your brand. You may be apologizing, explaining, answering, or accepting praise. You’ll need to stay consistent with your brand’s voice, while remaining helpful and empathetic (there’s empathy again!). There’s a careful balance between transparency and protecting your brand, and it’s your responsibility to find that! Customers and community members may be upset, confused, or have questions – and you will be the person representing your brand and answering.

On the other side of the coin – you’re the primary supporter of your community! What are they saying to you? What behaviors (analytics!) are they exhibiting while they’re on your site? What keywords are they using that clues you in to what they need? What is a recurring issue? What do they wish your product would do? You’re in a lucky position, community manager – YOU get to hear what’s happening on the ground, and advocate for the user. This means collating comments and data, communicating with other teams, and speaking up at meetings. You have very valuable feedback in your arsenal, and you’ll need to use it wisely.

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Certainly this list isn’t complete. Different brands, different cultures, and different regions of the world require a variety of qualities in their community manager. What would you add to this list? Have you met a successful community manager who had a stand-out quality that you admired? We’d love to hear your comments below!