Instructor Amy Bryant kicked off the class with a quote:
In recognition of the importance and growth of social media for business, Minneapolis-based company The Social Lights LLC recently launched a Community Manager Training Program. The six-week course is dedicated to teaching 15 students about community management and aiding in job placement with various organizations seeking social media experts in the Twin Cities.
All students in the Community Manager Training Program have backgrounds in the fields of marketing, advertising, communications or journalism. The students were carefully selected based on merit, interest, initiative, and outgoing personality. They are bloggers and self-starting experts in various social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vine, among others.
As members of a generation that has witnessed the growth and transformation of social media, as well as its adaptation into the business world, the CMTP Class of 2013 are participants in a program that’s the first of its kind, which acknowledges and stresses the importance of establishing robust online communities. Not only do they understand how essential social media is, they truly enjoy all aspects of the field.
“There is a huge market for social media managers, especially since many companies today are headed by individuals who do not completely understand social media, as they did not grow up with it,” said Talia Schmitz, a student of The Social Lights CMTP. “I don’t do this out of habit or out of compliance – I do it because I love it. Which leads me to my main point: the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
The program kicked off with an introductory class and panel discussion, which featured four community managers from different businesses in the Twin Cities. Drew Gneiser of Feed My Starving Children, Catherine Engel of Red Wing Shoes, Brooke Nelson of Ikea Twin Cities, and Alli Kahle of The Social Lights gave insight to the world of community management and social media in a conversation moderated Amy Bryant, who has worked as a marketing writer and Community Manager for several brands during her career.
The panelists noted the importance, prominence, and components of social media management throughout the discussion, with topics including growth, content development, targeting your audience, picking the right platforms, fostering engagement, staying relevant, and the future.
“When I think of community management I think of its full spectrum, said Alli Kahle. “There’s strategy and developing content, then implementing it, and then monitoring it and seeing what people are saying and responding. Then, taking those responses and your analytics and turning them into action items to change gears and do things differently.”
Maintaining communication with fans and followers on various platforms was a highly discussed topic, with all panelists agreeing that as a voice representing a brand, it is imperative that content produced is both engaging and capable of generating conversation.
“As a brand, people are out there and they’re having conversations everyday and they’re talking about you,” Brooke Nelson noted. “Why would you not want to be part of that conversation? It’s very empowering, I think, to have that direct avenue of communication with your customer.”
Creativity in content development was also discussed, with panelists noting that in order for a brand to be effective and stay relevant, thought must go into each and every post on any given platform.
“Sharable content – anybody who does that, is on the forefront,” Kahle explained, citing K-Mart’s recent “Ship My Pants” and “Big Gas Savings” commercials that have propelled the company into the spotlight in recent months.
Staying true and committed to one’s brand voice is an essential role of a community manager, the panelists explained. Drew Gneiser of Feed My Starving Children explained that caring about the brand you’re representing is just as key as content development and audience reach. Gneiser knows this firsthand, as he began his career with FMSC as a volunteer and has personally worked on the organization’s front lines.
“It’s really important, in my opinion, that you care about the brand you’re working for,” he said. “If you don’t, you won’t do as good of a job.”
The many hats worn by a Community Manager are what make the job challenging, interesting, and essential for any brand. In the introductory class held June 11, teacher Amy Bryant summed it up for the students:
“Community management is about learning how to juggle.”
COO and co-founder of The Social Lights Emily Pritchard then stood before the class and juggled, kicking off this unique course that will produce some of the most strategic and creative minds in the Twin Cities.