Content & Community Management: The Perfect Pair

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Two of the most up-and-coming job titles floating around the tech world these days are content marketer and community manager. My professional journey happened to start with one and lead to the a combination of the two, and I’m not alone.

As community managers, our job is to make sure that the community dedicated to the brand or product that we represent feels satisfied, proud, and willing to spread the word. Having a suite of content specifically dedicated to community management efforts can be more useful in this area than you may imagine.

I talked to a few top community managers to explore how they have integrated a content strategy with their community strategy and what they had to say was quite interesting.

David Spinks, CEO, CMX Media

 What’s your strategy?
“Content is at the heart of our business. Our community is really all about creating, sharing, discussing, and learning from content, whether that’s via our online publication, our CMX Summit conferences, CMX Series events with star speaker presentations, or workshops. Generating and curating good content creates trust. The quality of our content opens us up to new partnerships, great opportunities to reach the best in the business, and makes our members feel like they’re getting exclusive access to the best minds in community building (because they are!). When we interview community members or include their contributions in our publication, they feel like rockstars (again, because they absolutely are!).”

What has been your biggest win?
“One really cool story involves Dr. David McMillan. He’s one of the world’s best-known authors on the topic of community psychology, having published the “Sense of Community” theory about three decades ago. We were honored to have him speak at our first CMX Summit and we’ve featured his theory several times on our publication. After speaking, he ended up connecting with another member of our community who was inspired by his talk and articles, and they ended up starting a business together to help people lose weight and live healthy lives.

Beyond that, every day we hear of little wins. We’ve gotten hand-written letters from community members genuinely thanking us for changing their career with the content and support they get from CMX. We hear of companies using CMX videos and articles to drive their brainstorming meetings and they tell us that CMX is their go-to resource for figuring out their community strategy. We absolutely love hearing stuff like that. It makes it all worthwhile.”

What’s your best piece of advice for community managers moving forward with a content strategy?
“Quality is everything. Start out super hands-on. Over time, you can begin to operationalize your content strategy, but really getting the voice, tone, and quality right at the get-go is pivotal to future success. One really thorough, actionable article is better than 10 average articles. Make your content memorable. And if you’re working with contributors, don’t be afraid to push them to make the article as strong as possible.”

Rebecca Braglio, Community Manager

What’s your strategy?
“Right now content creation is our primary driver in our strategy for While we have regular contributors, we are expanding to create a more collaborative environment so that our members can come together to create the content they need and want the most, whether it’s creating work templates, surveys, webinars, etc.

So far we’ve gotten a really positive response from members with the templates that have been created and some of the webinars we’ve pulled together – I try to get unique content that’s entertaining as project management can get a bit dry. By creating content that speaks to the human element of project management (dealing with stakeholders, managing expectations, not burning out) our members are getting takeaways that they can actually use in their work life.”

What has been your biggest win?
“My biggest win, and I’m really super proud of it, so far has been the creation of “Separation Anxiety – a Pet360 Community Guide.”  I collaborated with members of the Pet360 Separation Anxiety group and each member sent me a story of their dog’s behavioral story. I incorporated the behavioral products Pet360 sold as well, and had members weigh in on what worked/didn’t work for their dog. We also compiled from group forum board threads their own tips for managing their dog’s anxiety.  I pulled as much UGC as I could – from threads, pictures, to even videos.  I put it in iBook form and it’s available on iTunes!

By tagging every link in the eBook, we can measure how much traffic the book is driving to and the shop. We have also made it available for free download on the site.”

What’s your best piece of advice for community managers moving forward with a content strategy?
“I’d have to say rely on your members as much as you can. With the eBook, I really took a lot on myself. I should have recruited some members to help with the actual design, production, and editing. It would have given them even more of a feeling of ownership over it while freeing up some of my time. It’s important, though, to set deadline milestones when you are collaborating with members to keep things on track — otherwise you won’t be able to produce the content in a timely manner.”

Jacob Pastrovich, Community Manager, SumAll

What’s your strategy?
“SumAll’s community is primarily comprised of small and medium businesses looking to track their data. A good chunk of our community is also the social media-savvy set just looking to have a better handle on their personal brand.

To start, much of what we share on our social accounts is content from our blog. Our blog has been dubbed “The marketing blog that doesn’t suck,” but it houses much more than marketing tips. We tease out a lot of trends we find in data in the form of shareable infographics, offer best practices in social media, and help users use SumAll better. Our strategy with the blog is to offer content that keeps readers coming back, but more importantly, content that educates and empowers our user-base in the social space because that’s where most of our users and customers reside.”

What has been your biggest win?
“The recent big one that sticks out in my mind is the infographic collaboration we did with Buffer. Months ago I met with Kevan [Lee] when they did an event in NYC and we got to talking and he said he’d love to do something with us. Since Buffer doesn’t have a visual designer on-staff for their blog, he wanted to try to do something with their “Ideal length of Everything” post. Two of our illustrators/designers worked with him to use the data they had in the original post to come up with a really creative and huge infographic that has been passed around like wildfire on social. We posted a printable version on our blog and Buffer resurfaced the updated content on theirs so it was a big win for both of us and has kept the door open for future collaboration.

On a much smaller scale, on a daily basis I try to respond to at least one person a day on Twitter with a personal video response. It’s fun for me and they usually get a kick out of the personal touch. Recently I responded to a guy named Ray that said something nice on Twitter and he ended up writing a review of SumAll on his blog, which we’re very grateful for. A little thank you goes a long way.”
What’s your best piece of advice for community managers moving forward with a content strategy?

“I’d say figure out what your community wants first, then create objectives around that. If your audience wants milkshakes and you’re serving them kombucha, then they’re probably going to peace out and go find a Dairy Queen.

For SumAll, our main users are on social, so we need to offer them content that helps them use social media better. If we started talking about how to make the best pizza crust or how to get better gas milage, our audience would go elsewhere to find what they’re looking for.”

Meghan Murphy, Marketing & Community Manager, HandUp

What’s your strategy? 
My background and focus falls to the marketing side of community (more so marketing with a community focus), so I tend to look at content as a marketing tool. I like to categorize content’s purpose in four buckets, and it’s important to have a balance across the board:

  • To drive action: includes a clear call to action with the intention to convert whatever that goal may be
  • To raise awareness: thought leadership content that raises awareness around your company’s larger mission
  • To educate: includes webinars, how to’s, or sales-type materials; generally should also have a clear conversion goal
  • To engage: this is where I categorize community-focused “feel good” content; highlighting great stories from the community, specific individuals, partners, or sharing insights to company culture, when a content’s purpose is more about engagement than conversion
Poverty and homelessness is like a black box for many, it’s not always so straightforward. My goal is to help people understand what poverty means for those experiencing it, and expand empathy as a community.  The better we understand poverty in our own communities, the more we can make a difference.

=Our donor community wants to see their individual direct impact – where did my contribution go, how did it help, what are next steps for person I supported? It’s important for us to share specific impact in our content with full transparency. We focus on individual stories that show incremental impact, because every contribution really does make a difference. A small hand up to a neighbor in need can be the difference that moves them out of poverty. For example, Raymond was fundraising to cover to cost of new clothing and public transportation to get to job interviews. His initial goal was under $100 (new shoes and a BART card). That relatively small cost could have been a big barrier for Raymond to find a job, but the HandUp community came together to help. Raymond sent this update in November.

What has been your biggest win?
What’s interesting is that HandUp itself becomes a storytelling platform for individuals to share their personal stories who normally don’t have a voice. When you read a HandUp profile, you are learning about someone’s story. Over the holidays, we had one of our member’s story featured on Huffington Post. Raquel is a single mom and teacher in San Francisco who has been experiencing homelessness since April last year. In just a month HandUp donors generously raised over $3,000 to help her get back on her feet.

What’s your best piece of advice for community managers moving forward with a content strategy?
Have a framework and stick to it, but you don’t need to have a full Q1 dedicated to planning. Take small steps, test what works, then build on that.

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About the Author

Ally Greer
Ally is's Director of Content & Community. She loves to geek out over anything social, Internet, or tech related. When she isn't working, you'll probably find her running the streets of San Francisco. Follow Ally on Twitter @allygreer.
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Amelia Joe
9 years ago

Well explained

9 years ago

I was lucky; while at UCLA back in the stone age, I got to play on the Net pre-web era. There was a sense of freedom, discovery and wonder that I’ve yet to experience since. Mainly that’s because the webin large part is crass, it’s just one big spam trash bag, and this strategy is nothing more than that; a way to spam. And I come from marketing, so if it walks like a duck, even if that duck is in a tux….

Sheena L. Mathieson
9 years ago

Great post! Been looking for this, keep up the good work. I have something to share but it may be an off-topic but it’s a pleasure to me.

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