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Herding Cats, Rolling With Punches: Community Management and Me

bryan_davis_headshotHerding Cats, Rolling With Punches: Community Management and Me

By: Bryan Davis, Director of Social Media Marketing



Community management is like herding cats. My cat will tell you the truth: I am a lousy community manager. I have worked with consumer brands, non-profits, and newspapers, and whenever I think I am “managing” my community, somebody uses 140 characters to put me in my place.

As heavyweight champ Mike Tyson will tell you, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” My plan these days is to roll with those punches; that is the only plan that will help you make it to tomorrow in this line of work. As much as I love, and have loved, working in social media, I never set out to be where I am. Five years ago, my job title did not exist, so I take comfort with the knowledge that we are all making it up as we go along.

My path to digital marketing is a meandering one, but it probably starts with my first job as a copy editor for my school newspaper—my elementary school newspaper. From there, I worked my way up to an internship with the Sun-Sentinel in Broward County, and that exposure to the world of journalism hooked me forver. When I started college at Tulane University, I fully intended to spend the rest of my life chasing stories and breaking news. When I got that chance to work for a paper at the end of college, I quickly discovered that my passion had shifted toward the digital side. Digital communications were the future of the publishing industry, so I shifted with that change to secure my future.

I joined a public relations firm to continue my relationship with journalism but in a slightly different context. Instead of breaking news, I was helping clients break their news to the news. PR enabled me to leverage my writing background while exploring new tactics beyond the broadsheet. At some point, our clients came to us all at once for social media guidance. In 2010, Facebook was still getting its footing for brands, but I raised my hand and became the first person in the agency to have “social media” in a job title. It has been downhill, uphill, and sideways ever since.

My plan at the outset of my career was to publish content and watch the replies, favorites, and retweets roll in. I quickly learned the news feed is a different beast from the newspaper. If you want people to read your content, you must first offer value in exchange for their time. Along the way, I learned how to photograph, video edit, and code a story to enhance stories. Value may not be immediately apparent to your audience, so you need to establish a relationship that builds trust and confidence in your brand. Managing those audiences is impossible, but sharing with them, listening to them, talking with them—you can do that.

Everything has come full circle for me these days. In my role as Director of Social Media Marketing for CPXi and Consumed Media, I focus on the extension of our publishing properties to real-time audiences. I work with our writers to craft content that connects our websites to new readers on Facebook and Twitter. Social Media is an essential piece of our publishing strategy, and it helps us to frame how we deliver our content. Every day, I interact with our readers to learn more about what they like and what we can do better. Unlike the physical paper that created some separation and space between the newsroom of the past and the public, we have a hotline to our audience via our feed. While the feedback can be exhausting, it is also incredibly beneficial to our improvement. Our readers are not shy about quality control, and we are not apprehensive about our optimization.

When I talk with my mother, and she asks me, “What have you been up to?,” I am not likely to say, “I’ve been managing a community.” I am a writer and a reader, which is exactly what I set out to be as an eight–year–old beat reporter.