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March 29, 2017

Using Communities for Customer Support

By michaelpace on March 18, 2013

Crowd surfing


A majority of organizations are using some sort of community based support model or have considered doing such.  The question is, are you seeing the results and cultivating real relationships with your customers?

It is known customer communities can be an incredible source of support, for both your customers and your organization.

In this episode, I have invited Michael Pace (Customer Support & Community Management Executive) to join myself on Voice of the Customer Radio to discuss “Community”.



  • Learn about communities and community management for all levels of the enterprise
  • Uncover the tremendous benefits of this unique “self” service tool
  • Step by step assessment guide on how to get started
  • Technical options available for you


Questions  Reviewed:
What is a community or support community? And how are they beneficial?

How do they impact engagement? C-Sat? Reducing Costs? Driving top line growth?

How did you get involved in communities?

Where do you start?

Once you are up and running, how do you keep your customers engaged?


How do you get executive buy in to pursue?

People – what kind of people do you need to be community managers? How do you hire?

What kinds of tools are available?

Are there any resources to help get folks started?

Listen to internet radio with execsintheknow on Blog Talk Radio

Execs In The Know promotes the capabilities of global “Customer Experience” or “Service Leadership” professionals around the world. 

Their model is to “serve” and be an “advocate” for providing awareness, facilitating networking opportunities, offering talent reach and highlighting the significant accomplishments this industry has to offer.

Community Manager: Help Yourself

Tom Jones Help YourselfBy michaelpace on March 14, 2013

As Tom Jones says,

“We are always told repeatedly

The very best in life is free

And if you want to prove it’s true

Baby I’m telling you

This is what you should do

Just help yourself … ”

Community Management is a new and exponentially growing career field.  And because it is new and growing so fast, it is hard to understand how others are building their infrastructures, creating best practices, lessons learned, and how to fail fast.  Today’s guest post is from Rachel Happe, Principal of the Community Roundtable, and she needs your help to help yourself.

Community Roundtable

(Note: I am a member of the Community Roundtable, and a HUGE supporter and promoter of their services; you should check them out.)  I’ll let Rachel take it from here:

Many of The Community Roundtable Network members and the organizations we work with struggle with some of the following questions:

  • What is the benefit of a community strategy?
  • When should I expect to see those benefits at a meaningful scale?
  • What difference does community management make?
  • What are the standard roles and responsibilities of community managers?
  • How does the performance of internal communities differ from external communities?
  • How big should I expect my community program budget to be?

All of this information would be helpful to community program owners but there is little aggregate data available to assist in answering these questions despite some excellent research at the strategic level like McKinsey’s The Social Economy study, which suggests there is $1.3 trillion in optimization to be gained by using social network approaches. With the 2013 State of Community Management we aim to help answer the next question which is, how do we optimize our organizations to take advantage of these opportunities.

Our annual State of Community Management has covered qualitative best practices over the years – in 2011 the SOCM covered practices related to the competencies of the community management discipline and in 2012 the SOCM covered how organizations mature with the common initiatives and milestones organizations take in each stage. This year we are looking for organizations willing to help us understand the underlying performance data from their community initiatives. Does this describe you?

  • Your organization has been working to develop a social or community competency for over a year.
  • Your organization has the ambition to have an enterprise wide approach to how it coordinates and manages its communities, both internal and external.

The 2013 SOCM survey is now open for the month of March. This research is made up of four segments:

  • Organizational demographics
  • Community program profile
  • Community management profile
  • Profile of the performance of one specific community

The survey is likely to require some coordination across your organization with HR, finance and IT. We have created a workbook to help gather this data before submission. We expect the data submission to take between 30-60 minutes depending on how much data you have readily available vs. estimates required. Because this is an emerging discipline we do expect every organization to have to make some estimates when filling out this survey.

We will select three participants to receive a custom research presentation that includes performance benchmarks for their organization, worth $7,500 each.

Are you ready to help move the industry forward? Do you want to know where you stand? Are you game for the challenge? We want you!

First: Download the 2013 SOCM Workbook

Second: Complete the online 2013 SOCM Survey

Rachel Happe

Rachel is a Principal and Co-Founder at The Community Roundtable – A company dedicated to advancing the business of community which offers a monthly subscription report, a membership based peer network, a community management training program and advisory services for corporations and individuals.

My 3 All Time Favorite Communities (& Why)

By michaelpace on November 26, 2012

Great CommunitiesI’ve used a lot of analogies to help explain communities and community management to executives and business owners:

–    A community is not a sandbox for your customers to play in.  Nothing grows in a sandbox.  Think of it as a garden.  A garden requires structure and planning, needs to be seeded (with content), weeded (for trolls), and as it grows you need to manage it differently.

–    Martha Stewart would be an amazing community manager.  If you think of your community as a party venue for your customers, your company is the group hosting the shindig, and the community manager is the party host.  The party host sets up, lines up the entertainment, provides the beverages and apps, makes introductions to like party-goers, and kicks out the guy with the lampshade on his head.  Over the course of the party, some attendees (super users) start picking up duties like coat check, welcoming, and making beer runs.

But sometimes even the best analogies and metaphors cannot tell the story like actual examples.  Whether it is help people understand communities and community management or just for my own personal enjoyment, here are my 3 All Time Favorite Communities. (In no particular order)


Oh, how I miss Lost.  I miss Lost for the mind bending episode turns, getting to know the characters, and the mystery of the show.  Were they in purgatory, or hell?  What is in the hatch? What was that running around the woods, maybe it’s a dinosaur.  The first two seasons, I was lost too.  Then I started to discover more lost/Lost people.  There were the interweb people, such as the folks who added to Lostopedia, an incredibly helpful guide to understanding everything Lost (such as the possible reasons the statue only had four toes to all the literary references).  It became my reference guide.  I started reading the Lost blogs, and trying to hide from the spoilers.  Then I started finding people in the “flesh world”.  We started having early morning Thursday meetings to discuss what we saw last night.  People would attend with notepads full of ideas, predictions, and easter eggs.  Even when I switched companies between seasons 5 and 6, my new company had a Lost community.  We shared a common interest and purpose.  While I am not sure we actually ever added any value to the world, it was must “be” TV.  During the last season, I discovered Twitter, and the world of the second screen.  I instantly increased my Lost community by thousands.  I could watch the show unfold, and listen or add commentary in real time.  I either stretched the capacity of my brain or did some serious damage, either way, I would do it again.  Oh, how I yearn for just 1 show to make me feel that way again.

The Grateful Dead

Possibly the greatest community of all time, and some amazing marketers too (just ask David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan authors of Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead).  It is amazing looking back how far ahead of their time The Dead were in terms of community management maturity.  Before the consideration of the idea of community management, they built, grew, maintained, added advocates for decades.  Even with their most iconic lead gone, the community thrives on.  If we use the Community Roundtable’s Community Maturity Model as a guide, The Dead (even today) would be one of a very short few who have reached Stage 4 (Network) competency in multiple areas.

community roundtable maturity model

Leadership: Distributed leadership has enabled The Dead community to thrive well beyond the Grateful Dead themselves.  Dead Heads (or their super-users) took up the reins decades ago.  They built the tailgate experience, made the music viral, and were the governors of the culture.
Culture: The Dead’s culture quickly moved from Reactive, to Contributive, to Emergent, and finally to Activist.  Much of their Culture progression was based on the activist and giving values of the band, and those values quickly spread through their fans.  Today we see the same type of culture and activism with a company such as Life is Good.
Content: Whether you are a fan of the music or not, The Dead’s content (like many communities) is the live blood.  Their music was the foundation for all the media they and their community members created and spread.  They allowed their fans to create bootlegs, which were copied and dubbed on tape players hundreds of times.  These bootlegs spread the music much further than the officially released albums ever could.


During the month of November, hundreds of thousands of men around the world grow mustaches in support of raising awareness and funding for men’s health issues, such as prostate and testicular cancer.  Movember manages the community of hairy lips, and does two things especially well; they create edu-taining content and reward their super-users.  Edu-taining content, or content that educates while you are entertained, is a sure fire methodology to keep your members engaged.  Whether your company sells incredibly popular widgets or boring data management systems, your members and potential customers are still humans, and we like to be entertained.  Find ways to make your content interesting.

Movember also does a wonderful job of recognizing and rewarding their best community members.  Members receive awards and prizes for different levels of donation participation.  Movember provides members with easy to use sites [my site], which show donations, reward updates, and badges for years participated. They also host fantastic Gala parties at the end of the month to thank everyone for their hard and hairy work.

Do you have a favorite community or communities?

What about those communities keep you engaged?

What’s missing from your community to make it memorable?

I discovered my Social Media ROI? Or How much is your personal development worth?

By michaelpace on March 30, 2012

Einstein quote















I am not that big of a fan of the term “Social Business”. I love the broader concept of using social tools and networks to more effectively and efficiently achieve business goals. For a more complete understanding of social business, I recommend two sources: SideraWorks from Amber Naslund and Matt Ridings and The Community Roundtable’s State of Community Management Report from Rachel Happe and Jim Storer. However, I worry that the term “Social Business” leaves the act of working this way to the current few in a company “who do Social Media”. I prefer the term “Social Organization”, as I wrote about a couple months back. The “Social Organization” implies that is more about the people in the organization, all the people, using relationships, process and tools to accomplish broad business goals.

If your company’s broad business goals include the personal development of your associates, becoming a social organization should be one of your key strategic imperatives. One of my favorite quotes is from the book The Power of Pull by John Hagel, he said, “There are a lot more smarter people outside of your company, than in it”. This quote has nothing to do with the intelligence of the people in your company; it’s just that there are so many subject matter experts, students, and geniuses in any field you can imagine. Social networks are fantastic way to listen, connect and build relationships with the smartest people in the world. Encouraging your associates to seek knowledge about their passions (both professional and non) and use social tools to aide in their personal development can be a powerful way for them to improve. If you don’t mind, I will use myself as a case study in this matter.

When I started becoming interested in social media in 2009, I had a Facebook account to keep track of folks from high school (mostly who I didn’t like back then either) and a LinkedIn account (mostly to help in a job search I had just completed). My professional development, at that time, centered around three areas: Understanding Social Media for Customer Service, Community Management, and public speaking. Historically, I read a lot of books to gain access to information of bright minds. I still do, but as a compliment to other forms of media. I quickly began to understand the power of an RSS feeder. Twitter was next. I fell in love with Twitter, and still love it today as a professional development tool. Twitter, if used for no other purpose, is an amazing way to pull the world’s smartest people content into a simple and digestible form. Over time, I began to build amazing relationships, some digital and some in person, and conversations from these relationships have added incredibly towards my personal development along all three areas. Today, I speak regularly at Customer Service, Social Media and Community Management conferences about how to build scalable social media customer service teams, revitalizing fading communities, inspiring cultural evolutions in your organization, new ways to measure customer retention, and how to leverage the power of the social organization. You can see some of the presentations here.

So what is the ROI of social media to me or what is the value of my personal development?

The answer is simple, priceless.

Strategy 2012: Random Acts of Connection

War Games movie - Random Acts of ConnectionBy michaelpace on January 19, 2012

At the beginning of every year, I sit down (usually at a cozy bar) and put my goals together for the coming year.  I have goals for my physical health, family, career, relationships, financial and self (things I want to do for me).  I crave structure with planning.  In both my work and personal life, I have learned that the best outcomes are derived when I develop strategies that include results (what I am going to do), process (how to do it) and relationships (with whom to include).  This is usually the most daunting part.   I took a breath and a sip, and was hit by a micro “A-ha” moment – Random Acts of Connection.

I first heard the phrase “Random Acts of Connection” at last year’s SXSWi during a panel hosted by friend, mentor and fellow community manager Jim Storer.  Loved it.  Random Acts of Connection is sort of Community Management 101; its the act of bringing together two or more people who have a similar interest or bringing people to data/information.  As I looked at my goals, I realized the primary strategy for me was to practice daily acts of random connection.  Every conversation you have is an opportunity for Random Acts of Connection.  Its easy to find places on Twitter and LinkedIn to make Random Acts of Connection; someone looking for help, job seekers to employers, like personalities, hobbyists, etc…

Why Random Acts of Connection:

  • Not much makes you feel better than helping others
  • Pooling collective smarts
  • Surprises are fun – “If you never did you should. These things are fun and fun is good.”
    ― Dr. Seuss
  • You never know when you will need help
  • Ever hear of paying it forward?
  • Karma

I truly believe if I practice daily acts of random connection, I will accomplish my BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals).

Here are some Random Acts of Connection for you: (these not exhaustive lists by any means, but some people you may not know)

Social Customer Service Leaders – These folks know customer service, social and more than anything understand the constraints operational leaders deal with

Kate Nasser, Guy Stephens, Josh Sippola, Spoken Communications, Mary Bartels-Cook, Marcio Saito,  Richard Natoli, Greg Ortbach

Community Management – They get Random Acts of Connection

Rachel Happe, Jim Storer,  Mark Yolton, Mark Wallace, Dan Brostek, Claire Flanagan, Bill Johnston

Random – Just because

My soul brutha from a different mutha – Greg Levin (also a great writer and satirist)

Info on Marketing Technology – John Refford, Mike Schneider & Eric Leist (watch their show TechInterruption)

Social Business – David Armano & Edelman Digital

North East Contact Center connections –

Customer Service Leadership – Larry Streeter

Social in Regulated Industries – Mike Langford, Jaime Punishill, Carissa O’Brien

Cocktails and Connections –

My neighbor and a best friend – Jeanette Palmer

Think about practicing Random Acts of Connection and do it!  Do you have any Random Acts of Connection?  Do you practice?

Getting Your Community Party Started

By michaelpace on May 25, 2011

Cartoon Community by rogferraz

Last week, a member of The Community Roundtable posed a great question to the group’s other community managers.

His question was “Getting the Party Started – You’re starting a new community of practice/interest.  You have your initial set of invitees you’d like to engage for an old-fashioned “barn raising” to get things started. What do YOU do?”

My response:

I am so happy you used the “Getting the Party Started” analogy.  The party analogy is one of the best story telling methods I have found to help other folks at Constant Contact understand how we should be interacting with community members.  I always say our community is like a party for our customers, and we are the hosts.  Everyone understands what it is like to be a host of a big bash.  At first you need to set things up, but then as the party rages, a party member takes over the coat check and someone else runs out for more beer, etc…


Essentials for a kickass party or a community:

  1. Music – Music sets the tone for the party.  I think this is your brand voice.  You need to be clear on your brand voice, and if the community’s brand is the same, similar or a whole new, original theme.
  2. Food – Food is a requirement for any shindig.  Like edu-taining content is for a community.  You need to stock up on and lay out some quality appetizers for people to munch on.  Get them started.
  3. Social lubricants – Just like beer, wine and tequila, interesting questions posed to your community help loosen up the fingers on the keyboard.  Since you supplied the question, people feel much better about providing their thoughts as opposed your members putting themselves out there first.
  4. That guy/girl – Every party needs a life of the party.  You need to find yours in your community, and make sure he has plenty of social lubrication and food.  He/she will start their own conversations, and hopefully make some beer runs for you.
  5. Lampshades for that guy/girl – That guy/girl (as mentioned) before needs a lampshade so folks and community members know he/she is the life of the party, and more importantly, he/she knows he is the life of the party.  Lampshades come in all forms of badges and honors.
  6. The uber social connector person – This is that person who knows everyone.  It’s like the @jimstorer of Community for your party.  This person is typically different from the Lampshade dude mentioned previously, as their superpower is knowing everyone or the right ones.  You may need to look outside of your community for this influential person, or they may be right under your nose.  Make sure to invite them in to provide their thoughts and recommendations.  Invite them in for an online chat or to talk about their expertise as it relates to the community.
  7. A place people know how to get to – Every party needs a venue that people know how to get to and what’s going on there.  Unluckily for most party-throwers, most companies that have a community also have a Marketing Department.  Depending on your customers or prospects, you may need to provide awareness in a variety of different forms (web promotion, email, direct mail – yuck, twitter, etc…).  Word of mouth is fantastic, but occasionally you need to hang some flyers on the telephone poles and bus stops.
  8. Games – Every party needs something for the people to do.  A strong program schedule filled with great content, thought leaders, contests and sub-groups will liven up any get together.
  9. Prizes – If you have Games, you usually need prizes.  These can be anything from something of monetary value to big ol’ pats on the back.
  10. Fireworks (if you are from down South) – Everyone stops what they are doing to watch fireworks, because they are eye catching, interesting and bold.  You should be bold, try new things, be provocative, or at least really interesting.

Hope the analogies made some sense, and good luck!


Does anyone else have great analogies or stories to help those on the “outside” understand your business strategy or community?  Is there anything else you need to get a party started or at least a rockin’ community?

Image credit: `rogferraz