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Moleskine Monday: Plans for a Masterpiece

Just kidding. It was a productive weekend, and I did find some time to put on the thinking cap. Here’s a summary of some things that ended up in my notebook.

The Future of Community: A standard interview (or dating!) question is “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”. If you were to have asked my this question 5 years ago, I never would have guessed I’d be a Community Manager. I’d even wager that there was no official title for managing a community 5 years ago.

Where will we be with social media and communities in 5 years? It’s hard to say. I don’t even know what the next big network will be, even though I experiment with them as they come up. Do you know why? Because I’ll be waiting for the community to show me the way. There’s no need to make a jump every time there’s a shiny new network or tool. It’s fun (and important) to experiment, but communities are made up of GROUPS of individuals. While one individual cannot dictate what’s next, a group of individuals that create a critical mass can. Seth Godin talked about this in his post “Guy #3“. I’ll be waiting for guy #3 to make an appearance and help lead the charge for his community – I’ll be right there working with him.

Bilingualism in Social Media: I work for a bilingual brand, and that means that my broadcast communications always need to be in 2 languages. I also need to be prepared to communicate with individuals in their language of choice. It can be a challenge when working on a tight deadline, when I have to rely on others for translated content, or when I’m trying to get someone an answer to their question in a timely fashion. Processes, procedures, style guides and more help keep the tone and manner of our communications consistent, both across various types of content and languages.

On a related note, I’ll be speaking about bilingualism in the digital space as part of stand-out panel at Social Media Week Toronto.  There’s still some space left for any one who is local, and I’ll be posting a summary here for those who aren’t.

It’s Not All Business: That’s right, I actually do things that aren’t related to social media! This weekend it was paintball for a friends birthday. Of course, I started to try and draw some analogies, metaphors and general comparisons between paintball and work, but I was too busy trying not to get hit! It did help me remember that it’s important to always make time for our real-world relationships and interactions, as well as our personal interests. Not everything that’s online is important, and not everything that’s important is online.

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Social Media Strategy at VIA Rail

We did a lot of work on our social media strategy at VIA Rail in the first 3/4 of 2011 – of course, we continue to do a lot of work, but this was the heavy lifting required to launch a social media program, internally and externally, at a large national organization. In the last quarter of the year, we presented our strategic approach at a number of events to a wide variety of individuals and organizations.

I’m sharing this presentation so that you can see our approach from last year. For those who are a bit more advanced, I’m sharing some of our results from our participation in Social Media Week Vancouver 2011 (we’re doing Social Media Week Toronto 2012 in February – join us!), and our plan for becoming a “Social Organization”, a vision we have for the company over the next year. Please feel free to share this presentation with your network, and let me know if it helps you get things kicked off, or better yet, moves things into high gear for 2012!

Moleskine Monday – Weekend Thoughts

Welcome to the first Moleskine Monday! In a weekly post on – you guessed it – Mondays, I’ll run down some of the inane thoughts I jotted down in my trusty Moleskine notebook throughout the weekend. Might be that these will turn into posts at some point, or might be that they’ll live on in their own little way in these weekly features and my notebooks alone.

Levels of community – I play video games. Quite a few of them, actually. I’m what you would call a “core” or even “hardcore” video gamer, in that I play a lot of different games, talk about them with my friends, participate in online forums and communities, and even pay attention to industry news (hey, I’m into business, too!).

What I realized is that I’m not the only market for the games I play. It’s a strange realization – I thought about all the different communities that I’m a part of, and a lot of the other community members think the same way that I do. But this is, in fact, the nature of a community! Likeminded people sharing a common passion or interest. The trick is removing yourself from the trees to look at the forest.

There are a bunch of different types of video game players – those who play casually, once in a while with friends or even just by themselves on platforms like Facebook; mid-core gamers, who like the latest and greatest AAA title, but aren’t involved quite so heavily in the industry or niche games; the hardcore like myself, who take their interest in games to another level; and even the pro gamer who plays for cash. There are more, I’m sure, but you get the picture.

Each type of gamer has a different level of interest in a game and the community that surronds it. The trick, then, is to create a community with content that attracts the right group, or groups. As a community manager, even though you may be very committed to your brand, product, feature, whatever, you are the hardcore  gamer version of a brand advocate (maybe even the pro gamer version, since you’re getting paid for your specialization). But not every customer or community member is on the same level as you, and there are many levels of fans – keep that in mind when conversing with them and creating content to appeal to a wide range of people.

Take away all the names and social media is just three activities – listening, connecting and publishing – A great reminder from Chris Brogan to focus on building relationships. The tools are new, but the activities are the same.

Don’t get too high on your own supply – Twitter, Facebook, Quora, Foursquare, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc., etc., etc. We use them for our work, but we also visit them for our own personal use. When you’re at work, ensure that your attention is on your work accounts and tasks. If you have your personal Twitter account open, it can be tempting to peek in there a little bit too often throughout the day. We have a social media policy at VIA Rail where we state that social media use is encouraged, just not on company time, if it’s not for company business. I try and adhere to this rule, too.

If you personally follow people who put out interesting content related to your work, then follow them on your work account and keep that feed open instead. If you do pop into your personal accounts for a looksy, favourite things for later using the network or your trusty ‘ol browser bookmarks. Or, keep a plain text document open throughout the day where you can copy&paste URLs or interesting info to review later (I use my Moleskine, of course). For a lot of us, our knowledge and expertise in social was built off of our own personal interest in this once-emerging-now-flourishing communications channel. Just make sure to separate business and personal now that it’s part of your work, too.