NFPTweetup 10 and thoughts on being a community manager: Back to work!

Well, not really. I’m not planning to return to my desk just yet, but it was good to dip a toe back in the water. Of course I never really exited the pool; part of being so interested in things like social media – look, I’m blogging! – means you follow what’s happening even when you’re not being paid to.

Anyway, in a change of the usual play – change – feed – play routine, I attended the 10th NFPTweetup, and enjoyed it hugely. Rachel Beer, the team at beautiful world*, sponsors JustGiving and the speakers did an excellent job bringing it all together, as ever. Last night was a return to an older but much-loved and very useful format: a couple of short, focussed presentations, some break-out sessions on particular topics and a panel and plenary.

The introductory presentations were two of my favourites so far because – at least out of the five or six tweetups I’ve attended – they were the most unusual. Jonathan Waddingham of JustGiving provided some insight into the next generation of their Facebook app, and the way it plans to simplify giving through Facebook, and then Amnesty International UK’s Fiona McLaren spoke about Amnesty‘s use of social media surrounding the recent protests in Egypt.

The latter was the one that felt really different and especially interesting for it. Although in specific content it’s far from what we do at Dogs Trust, actually every charity sometimes has to ride the wave of a public story. A lot of talk around social media is about creating the content, making the story and bringing it into the public eye. This was about becoming part of something already bigger than any individual or organisation and using it to send an important message to both existing and new audiences. It was fascinating stuff and I felt very glad I’d got mum to Whifflesit so I could be there to hear it first hand (even if the event was being livestreamed for the first time in a while).

A break out group led by Rachel and Ashley Clarke followed for me – others went into groups with Jon and Fiona – focussing on new and newish developments such as Facebook’s Page settings, Quora and Paper.li. It also segued off into an interesting discussion about brand feeds vs personal feeds and whether avatars should be logos or individuals as well as some talk of Twibbons (that’s a previous event’s presentation from my manager).

It’s thinking about that session that lead me into some other thoughts about community management that I’ve been musing over lately and meaning to blog about. I see post after post after post on what it means to be a community manager and whether it’s the same or different from a social media manager or a digital marketing manager. And of course no two community manager jobs can really be defined the same way in the particulars, just in the overall aim: to build, maintain, engage and influence a community around a particular brand, interest, message and/or product. But I got thinking about it in the context of my job title – Digital Marketing Officer – and what that means.

One of my favourite discussions about social media teams is from David Jones, from his H&K days (and it’s only five minutes, so you should totally watch it now). It defines four different people / jobs: Reconnaisance, Mad Scientist, Communications General, Community Manager. I love this because I think if you work in social media you should instinctively know which one you really are even if you do some of all those things, but sometimes the lines get so blurred it’s hard to do. I’ve been thinking about it recently because while actually at work it was hard to know for sure. Wasn’t I all of them?

Well, yes, in a way – I think everyone in this field is – but being away from the day-to-day of it let me know at heart who I am and what it is I love doing. I enjoy being part of strategic planning and I think you can’t carry out a strategy if you haven’t been involved in creating it. But if I’m totally honest I enjoy the daily implementation more. I do enjoy getting the internal buy-in and learning about / researching the big picture stuff, but get even more excited about the chance to get on and do it. So I’m maybe 20% Recon and Communications General.

I really do like trying out new tools and platforms and enjoy the buzz I get from using them in a way that results in something positive, in meeting an objective; I also love getting to grips with the language and etiquette. However, I can find it dull and frustrating at the beginning stages when it’s just a bunch of geeky early adopters talking in circles (*cough* Quora *cough*), so I’m maybe 25% Mad Scientist.

So if I’m the person that enjoys listening, talking, creating and curating content and generally being a helpful, positive voice, I must be the Community Manager (or at least 55% CM). And oh, I totally am. I miss all sorts of bits of my job at the moment, and the biggest part is actually feeling useful in the community. Sure, it can be frustrating sometimes, and occasionally I wonder if my skin is always thick enough for this. But if I ever wasn’t sure which element of the job I really own, now I am.

Of course, lots of social media jobs demand you be all four simultaneously and usually quite rightly so (though occasionally so much so it’s clear the employer doesn’t really get it and just wants one cheap uber-geek to do what at least two or three decently paid semi-geeks should be doing), and certainly you’ve all got to be holding hands and swapping skills and knowledge. Yet I’ve really found it helpful to know how, at heart, I define myself, and what I’ll be bringing back to the table – and hoping to learn – when I get back to work.

And now, bed. Or there’s no way I’ll be able to keep up with the Whiffle tomorrow.

*I feel like I should point out that my husband is now working with beautiful world as a designer, although he’s only just started doing so and I’ve attended these events loads of times before. But there you go.

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