Kelly Hungerford: Community is All About the People

Did you know it’s Community Manager Appreciation Day #CMAD 2012? It is! We’re recognizing the contribution of all community managers and their teams out there by hearing from Paper.li’s Kelly Hungerford about a CM’s life and the teams that keep her — and our users — smiling and sane.

Today is your day…tell us how the #CMAD originated.

Well, actually, the day belongs to the entire team that helps this CM to shine. In Paper.li’s case, most of the credit must go to the great people running our support desk — Birgit, Mathiew, Mayumi and Jay —  to our technical team, always working hard to get reported issues back on track, and to our editorial team who help bring the community to life with interviews and articles via this blog.

Paper.li team out and about in the Swiss vineyards

#CMAD is a fairly new event. Jeremiah Owyang, who’s an Industry Analyst at Altimeter Group, initiated it in 2010 to recognize and celebrate the efforts of community managers worldwide who use social media to improve their company’s customer experience. There are a lot of virtual as well as physical events around the world and Switzerland is no different. The folks at the Swiss Community Managers Association do a great job of making sure that Swiss community managers are connected here in the Suisse Romande, where we are located.

What does your typical day look like?

I guess that all depends on the day of the week and the organization. The fact is that a CM’s day begins early and rarely ends at 6pm. I don’t thinks CMs ever really “switch off”, and that goes for weekends as well.

My day typically begins at 6:15am with a tweet check and ends around 10pm with the same. Because our community is global and the team is still quite small,  I try to split my daily activities so I can dedicate blocks of time to outreach and answering requests both in the morning and afternoon. There is time in between for meetings, writing, testings, monitoring and anything else that might pop up.

To the outside world it probably sounds a bit 24/7, but it is like anything: if you enjoy what you are doing, then it doesn’t seem like a job at all. But it is important to know your limits and set boundaries. It’s okay (and healthy) to be able to leave the online world to enjoy the offline world.

Who are the Paper.li community and what kind of feedback do you hear?

I am so glad you asked. We started our Community Blog for just that reason — to highlight the talented and interesting individuals that make up the Paper.li community. Our community is truly as unique as the papers on our newsstand.

It’s made up of bloggers, small business owners, consultants, digital curators, enterprises, musicians, social entrepreneurs, other CMs!, advocates, mechanical engineers, educators, fishermen, philanthropists and more… some are experienced social media users and some are just beginning, but they all have one thing in common — a desire to share their knowledge, expertise or passions with other like-minded people. And Paper.li is helping them to connect with each other.
Jeff and Lance, Paper.li Community

We get all kinds of feedback, ranging from kudos to the (virtual) karate chop. Our community keeps us honest and lets us know right away what they love and what they think can be improved. They help us keep the service evolving.

Rave or rant, the most important thing is that we have a community passionate enough about their Paper.lis that they take the time to reach out. And we don’t take that for granted.

What makes people feel part of an online community?

I believe there are a lot of components, but two that really stand out to me in our community are being listened to, and equally being taken seriously. Everyone who publishes on Paper.li is doing so because they want to share their passion, knowledge, or expertise. So when they have an issue, they want to be heard.

There’s a place for the community to express themselves as well in the support forum. It is important for users to be able to ask questions, complain, give kudos, present solutions, and be heard by other users without us in the middle. They know that they can come to us, and they know that we support them reaching out amongst themselves. We see that they really love helping each other as well.

One of my favorite examples of making people feel a part of the community is from Sweden. The government handed over their Twitter account to their community – the population! Each week a citizen takes control of the @sweden account and tweets what they feel is important. The authorities listen, they don’t interject and they let the people be the voice of Sweden, be themselves. That’s impressive.

What’s the best thing about being Paper.li’s community manager?

I would say it is the people aspect. You have to be a people person to enjoy community management — and that community is internal as well as external. Previously my roles spanned across Large Account Management, Project Management and Operations which required the ability to work well in teams as well as with clients.

I come into contact with really interesting people daily. The Paper.li team is quite international so, from a culture perspective, it is a really rich experience. Because the service can be used by anyone to create a Paper.li about any of their interests, I have the opportunity to come into contact with more interesting people and learn about some really interesting topics that I would not normally have exposure to.

I consider myself quite lucky as well to be working for a company that is entrenched in the digital curation arena. I am witnessing first-hand how people and technology together are transforming the way digital content is being organized, shared, consumed and discovered.

And what’s the toughest side to your job?

Two things:

  1. Seeing an unhappy user. It is impossible to make everyone happy, I know, but it is tough to know that you just can’t get it right for them.
  2. Juggling work with motherhood in Switzerland. The Swiss system is not yet as advanced as the US, France, UK or Canada in terms of childcare and support for women who work. So it can be a struggle.

Having said that, Paper.li is fantastically supportive about supporting women in the workplace. It is a great place to work!

Why is the job so important?

The CM is the gatekeeper between the community and the company. She is the voice of the company across many departments to the outside world and, as well, she is the voice of the community internally.

I think the “Jack of All Trades” graphic hits the nail on the head and highlights the scope of work a CM may cover, depending on how mature the company is, and the role within the organization.

Infographic on the roles of the community manager It is an exciting time for CMs and we are see the role shifting from a pure support function to a more strategic one. CMs are planning and executing programmes that directly impact the business, and their knowledge is also being leveraged across departments or projects — for example, to improve products, processes or services.

I am really impressed with organizations that value their community enough to take the plunge in embracing social media as a part of their support and communication strategy, and it is really interesting to see the larger enterprises come on board. And especially interesting to see how curation fits into the equation!

Who makes a good CM?

A “Jack or Jane of all trades” with good common sense. If I was looking to hire a CM, I would look for someone who likes people, is a good communicator, thinks before they act, enjoys a challenge, can plan their time, manage a schedule, work well in a team, enjoys social media — and can keep smiling when things go crazy!

Marketing, communications and client services backgrounds are good starting points and I am a firm believer that tools and technologies can be learned, so people shouldn’t let the fact that they are not yet “experienced” hold them back from sending in a resumé.

Are there some community managers you admire and follow on Twitter?

I follow local CMs such as Olivier Tripet @oliviertripet, Swiss Community Managers Association @scma_ and Barbara Houdayer @mitoubab. They have a local feel and a global reach and keep me in the loop with both.

There is a CM list by Blaise Grimes-Vort @blaisegv/community-managers that I enjoy and follow and I appreciate Sahana Chattopadhyay’s blog and tweets.

Do you have other roles at work?

Oh yes. We all pitch in to make things happen and I think that each one of my co-workers all have a couple different hats in the drawer. I think that is very typical of a start-up. My role can touch upon just about anything non-technical and that keeps me on my toes and the day exciting.

And what is your background?

I am a native Californian who grew up in a small suburb of San Francisco. I moved to Germany 16 years ago to work with 3Com. Met my husband, who is half Columbian and half Belgian, and we moved to Switzerland with our girls seven years ago. Switzerland is a great place for us as everyone here seems to come from somewhere else (at Paper.li there are five Swiss nationals out of 14). It is a truly multi-culti country.

And living in Lausanne is great as it reminds me so much of home: I have water that evokes the SF Bay and ocean, the vineyards (Napa Valley) and the hills (the streets of San Francisco).

What do you do when you’re not being a CM?

I spend time with my two girls and husband, cruise the shores of Lake Geneva or head to the mountains. I love to socialize, so when I can, I cook for friends and I recently really got into fictional history and fantasy fiction books. I love the feeling of paper in hand and hope that our bookshelf at home never goes digital.

So you get weekends off (Ha ha)?

Ha ha!

To celebrate other community managers around the world, here’s a selection of great Paper.lis for or by CMs:

We’re sure there are many more on the news-stand! Check it out or start your own and let us know who your favorite CM’s are.

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