6 Questions for 6 Community Managers

by · July 3, 201314 comments

Behind every great community, you’ll find a community manager. They’re the social catalyst, driving conversations in social networks, blogs, groups, and forums. They’re brand champions, town sheriffs, and caring listeners.

  • They engage, sparking conversation to get things going.
  • They moderate, fighting fires if things go too far.
  • They monitor, with a finger on the pulse and an eye on the streams.
  • They promote. This is patient zero in a viral campaign.

So let’s get to know our community managers. We picked some industry pros and emailed these community managers a few questions. Here’s the lineup:


Meghan Peters

Community Director for @Mashable, focused on social media strategy and reader engagement. Co-organizer of Community Managers Meetup in NYC.


Andrea Vahl

Community Manager at Social Media Examiner, author, comic, and wine drinker. @andreavahl


Yvette Pistorio

Community Manager and Account Executive for Spin Sucks and Arment Dietrich. @eveypistorio


Michelle Liang

Community Manager with Lightspan Digital, a social media marketing company in Chicago. She specializes in sports marketing and is known as the master of “follow-up and follow-through.” @m_laing


Tim McDonald

Community Manager for Huffington Post Live and Founder of My Community Manager.  @tamcdonald


Amanda Gant

Community Manager at Orbit Media Studios. She specializes in web marketing and is Google Analytics certified. @orbiteers


Question 1

How do you spend most of your time?

MEGHAN: Every day in my job is different — which is what’s so exciting about it. Some days are spent talking to people, both internally and externally, to generate ideas and collaborate on new projects. Others, I’m analyzing performance of our community initiatives and making data-driven strategy decisions. I also manage a team of community producers, so I spend a lot of time making sure they have the tools they need to do the amazing work they do.

ANDREA: For Social Media Examiner, I spend a lot of time answering questions.  We have several different places for people to participate – on Facebook, in LinkedIn Groups for our Summits and the recent Social Media Marketing World, and one of our most active areas, the Networking Clubs:  www.socialmediaexaminer.com/clubs. I get a lot of social media questions about how things work, and sometimes the answer takes some time to research to make sure I’m giving the right information.

I also spend time creating content and looking for good content to share. It’s hard not to go off into the weeds and get distracted when you spend 1/2 your day on social sites.

YVETTE: As far as the community management part of my job (for Arment Dietrich), I spend the most time finding enough content to share that is relevant to our community. Then measuring what’s working and what isn’t. If it’s not working, it’s back to the drawing board. And like Michelle, I spend the rest of my time with clients.

MICHELLE: Of the major social networks I manage, Twitter is the biggest time commitment. I also spend quite a bit of time staying in touch with clients so I can continually know what is going on in their worlds and best tell their story.

TIM: Everyday is different. Two things remain the same: my first cup of coffee in the morning and responding to our feedback. On most days I will be welcoming our commenters when our production starts, doing outreach for new guests to be on future segments of HuffPost Live and giving tours of the studio to past guests, community members, and groups.

AMANDA: It really depends on the day. Some days I spend most of my time on client work; reviewing their analytics, offering suggestions, and teaching them about web marketing. Other days, I spend most of my time doing social media outreach, organizing events, getting the team involved in contributing to the Orbit blog, editing articles, working with guest bloggers, collaborating with partners, and doing research. That’s one of the perks of this job. No two days are the same!

Question 2

What really pisses you off about your job?

MEGHAN: One of the toughest aspects of community management is that communities never sleep. That said, community managers need sleep. For awhile, I felt obligated to be there for my community at all times — but I quickly learned that was a surefire path to burnout. Now I make sure I give myself enough time to decompress and reenergize.

ANDREA: Spam. I really am amazed that people think putting link after link on your Page will get them anywhere.

YVETTE: Trolls and stupid people. Some of the things people do in social baffles me. It could be because I’m in the middle of it all, but some of it just seems like common sense.

MICHELLE: Facebook. Everything Facebook.

TIM: People who always ask and are never willing to give. Fortunately, I don’t encounter many, but when I do, I need to take a deep breath before responding.

AMANDA: Facebook (period) and those days you can’t look at Twitter, G+, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc, etc, etc,…anymore. It’s just like taking a regular vacation. Sometimes you need to unplug for a minute, let your eyes readjust, and reboot.

Question 3

What’s your top tip for growing your community?

MEGHAN: Be relevant. Understand what people are talking about, when they’re talking about and how you can make your brand or organization a part of that conversation in way that feels natural.

ANDREA: Respond and be active. People come to Social Media Examiner because they know they will get their questions answered. We provide a lot of in-depth content every day but also do things to facilitate conversation.

YVETTE: Participation. If you don’t participate, then how do you expect to grow a community?

MICHELLE: Know the lingo your audience uses, and use it. If you can’t talk like them, your content will bore them.

TIM: Let your community know they matter.

AMANDA: Be yourself. Be friendly. Be helpful. That shouldn’t be too hard! Have conversations and interact with people like you normally would (but keep them under 140 characters!). Just because it’s communication over the interwebs, you shouldn’t act like a robot.

Question 4

How do you deal with trolls?

MEGHAN: Kill them with kindness.

ANDREA: If it’s someone with a complaint, we actively respond and find out how we can rectify the situation. But if it’s someone who continually insults us or members of the community without responding to our attempts to talk about the situation, then we will ban them. Thankfully that happens extremely rarely. We have a great community at Social Media Examiner.

YVETTE: It depends on the situation. In general, I try to respond quickly. If they keep on behaving like a troll, I ignore them, and, if necessary, I’ll block them. You can only do so much to appease people.

MICHELLE: I rely pretty heavily on the admin controls that let me hide comments. I’ve also gotten quick at identifying bots and not wasting my time responding to their crap.

TIM: Some require a quick chat in the comments, others via email and for some a phone call works best. If none of these work, you ban and ignore. Always stay positive and never make it personal.

AMANDA: I’m with Meghan, kill them with kindness. People aren’t idiots. They can see who the trolls are. It’s how you respond that matters and is seen by your community.

Question 5

What challenges do you have staying connected with other departments or with your clients?

MEGHAN: At Mashable, community touches everything. I take a lot of pride in ensuring our reader voices are heard by each department within the company and, ultimately, incorporated into our overall goals. The biggest challenge is keeping up with all the moving parts of not only a quickly-growing company but also a fast-paced industry.

ANDREA: We have weekly meetings to check in. We also have a Secret Facebook Group where we can post things to discuss or talk about good things happening. We share a lot of positive feedback there that we get from our readers and community members.

YVETTE: Since we’re virtual, we have to make an effort to stay connected. We have weekly team and individual meetings for brainstorming and catching up. It’s easy to fall off the face of the earth, especially in today’s digital world, but I want to make sure I’m available when my team or clients needs me.

MICHELLE: Staying on top of the news for multiple different industries and getting quick feedback from clients can be a challenge. Not everyone moves as quickly as my Twitter feed!

TIM: The challenge is more often who you need to stay connected with, more than how. Once you find out who, make it happen. Nobody will do it until you ask.

AMANDA: Since Orbit is a web design and development company most of the other team members (Designers, Project Managers, and Developers) are working on projects almost non-stop. They aren’t really involved in the marketing efforts. To keep them in the loop, I send out biweekly “Orbit Happenings” emails. It’s just an overview of what the marketing team is working on, speaking engagements that we have coming up, events that we’re hosting or attending, press, new clients that we’ve gotten, etc. I won’t lie, there are a few cat videos that go along with it. The team loves it.

Question 6

How did you get that awesome job?

MEGHAN: I was working as a digital journalist in Seattle and realized I wanted to focus more on the social media aspects of my job. I heard about the Mashable opportunity from a friend of a friend and came in for an interview while I was visiting family in NYC. Three weeks later I had packed up my apartment and moved across the country!

ANDREA: I have to thank Amy Porterfield for that. We were working on the book together, and she recommended me to fill her shoes at SME when she left. I’ve been working for SME for 2 years, and it’s been great. I also do my own programs and consulting at www.andreavahl.com.

YVETTE: Through blogger relations. At my previous position, part of my job was building relationships with bloggers, and that’s how I met Gini. We became friends, and the rest is history. But I do have to thank Heidi Sullivan (SVP at Cision) for pushing me into social media and marketing in the first place!

MICHELLE: I met Lightspan’s founder, Mana Ionescu, at a networking event and followed up with her over and over and over until I finally wiggled my way into an internship. That internship has since turned into two years of quick learning and a challenging job I love!

TIM: I got my job from a Facebook post. It’s true.

AMANDA: I’ll have to give this one to one of my best buddies, John Cooney. He and I worked together at a real estate company before he came to Orbit and recommended me for the job. I met Andy Crestodina, Orbit’s Strategic Director, at John’s birthday party and shortly thereafter I was an Orbiteer. I started in more of a client support position that has slowly evolved into what I’m doing now. It’s been a learn-as-you-go type of role, and I love it. Like I said, no day is the same.

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About Andy Crestodina

Andy Crestodina

Andy Crestodina is the Strategic Director of Orbit Media, a web design company in Chicago. He’s also the author of Content Chemistry, An Illustrated Guide to Content Marketing You can find Andy on Google+ and Twitter.

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • Dara Khajavi

    Communication is so important. Customer communication is what creates strong customer relationships, which results in repeat business. Communication is also important within the company. It is important for everyone in the company to be on the same page. The Bobbi Brown example is perfect. Thanks for the post!

    • Andy Crestodina

      Glad you enjoyed this, Dara. There are so many types of roles in digital marketing now. It’s interesting to see how work varies from job to job. Community managers are on the front lines, but I feel like they sometimes don’t get enough credit…

  • http://naturalhealthperspective.com/ John H Gohde

    I need to get to work on my Storytelling.

  • http://www.AndreaVahl.com/ Andrea Vahl

    Thank you so much for the interview Andy! It was great meeting you at SOBCon this year! Since our interview, I have actually handed the reigns over to Deb Ng as the Community Manager of Social Media Examiner but I really enjoyed being there for 2+ years. And I will still participate in the community there as it’s such a great place. What I love about all these communities is they intersect so much and have a great synergy between them.

  • http://lightspandigital.com Mana

    Very cool. I’m seeing a shared dislike of Facebook here yet I read somewhere that 70% of active community management time is spent on Facebook… It’s very interesting to me because in this context Facebook is the vendor and the community managers are the clients. Yet we continue fighting the beast. Is that because we see more value from Facebook than other channels? [I have a thought here based on our data, but I'd love to hear what others have to say on this].

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