6 Social Media Community Management Tips from a Digital Marketer Turned Community Manager [Interview]


Tanya McTavish, digital marketer turned social media community manager, shares her social media community management tips.

This is the second in a series of interviews (read the first one here) with community managers who are responsible for the execution of social media within their company. What can other community managers, those who want to become community managers, as well as social media professionals learn from their experiences? If you are a social media community manager and would like to be interviewed for this blog, please contact Neal.

Community managers have become one of the most important resources a brand can use to market online. With a focus on connection, brand advocacy and social media response, a community manager can take a company’s social influence – and profits – higher than ever before. Many enterprise level to mid-level companies are seeking out and hiring community managers to run their social programs.

While some claim that community managers have been around since the early days of managing bullet board systems, clearly we are in an age where the first social media community management role for any given company was created within the last few years, if not the last few months. Where did the community managers originate from, then?  As Tanya McTavish experienced, sometimes the role of community manager comes organically as a passionate employee who tries to connect with a brand’s audience.

Digital Marketer Turned Community Manager

After several years of living and working away from her native Belarus, Tanya returned to Minsk in 2011 for its thriving IT and tech industry. She quickly landed a job with Link-Assistant.com and became a digital marketer for the company’s SEO PowerSuite software package.

“I had little to no idea of what I would end up doing for the company,” Tanya says, “I spent the first couple of months on the job soaking up all things SEO and tech, writing (very basic and boring) content and promoting friends’ sites with Link-Assistant tools and products.”

Pretty soon, she expanded her interest to include lurking on forums, testing competitor products, keeping an eye on Google alerts and connecting with the SEO PowerSuite customer service team to better understand the product and customer issues.

Within a year, she was an active brand advocate on social media and realized that she was functioning like a community manager. Her supervisors took notice as well. They made the title official and she took on inbound marketing and content curation duties in addition to the brand advocacy work she was already doing.

Although she fell into community management as an extension of being a digital marketer, Tanya believes it’s the perfect fit for her.

“What a job! I often joke that while the whole Link-Assistant team is working hard in the office in Belarus, Tanya is floating somewhere online, hanging out with strangers, scavenging for opportunities, putting out fires and bringing back all the intel to the team,” she says.

Tanya’s Top Community Management Tips

With her community manager role growing out of her digital marketing duties, Tanya has a unique perspective on connections between social media and sales. Here are her top tips for established or aspiring community managers:

You are Part of the Sales Team

Sometimes social media and sales are perceived as two separate entities. In Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing, I noted that with the advent of social media, synergy between the two entities is essential. Tanya similarly sees the two as an extension of one another.

“I’ve always been averse to direct marketing. I don’t like being pitched to, and I don’t like pitching anything to anyone,” she shares, “If a person isn’t ready for a purchase, why shove aggressive copy down their throat?”

Tanya considers her role to be part of the sales team. She lays the foundation for potential clients to get comfortable with the product and the messages. This creates a powerful conversion system that relies on content marketing and community engagement.

Be Your Brand and Show Your Face

As she transformed from digital marketer into community manager, Tanya’s personal image was always part of her promotion of SEO PowerSuite. She cites this as a big reason for her success in community management – the audience knows that there is a face and a person behind the social experience that they can relate to.

“Businesses can get so incredibly impersonal and insincere as they grow. Don’t let it happen!” she advises, “Get a community manager to add the human element to your brand so the audience knows who they are – their face, their voice, their character.”

Being a real person and a brand advocate is a lot more compelling than simply sharing branded content on social media. Tanya noted that it doesn’t matter whether you’re the CEO, a community manager or a copywriter – when you’re active on social media and your name is attached, you could be a community manager without even realizing it.

Connect with Influencers and Learn from Them

Tanya did a lot of on the job learning while she enhanced her community management skills. She cited several key influencers like Ben Martin, the community manager at AVG, as an important part of her understanding of the role a community manager plays within an organization. Reading an interview with Martin helped her see that the work that she was doing for SEO PowerSuite was, in fact, community management.

“I’ve learned a lot about the trade by observing other managers,” she says, “I am a huge fan of how guys at Buffer and Marketo are growing their communities. Then there is Gary Vaynerchuk (born in Belarus just like me!) – [he’s got the] human element at work right there!”

Customer Service is Not a Department – It’s the Whole Brand

“Customer service is not just a team of reps answering calls and chatting with people online. It’s everyone in the company, and, more than anyone else, it’s the community manager,” explains Tanya.

In addition to being part of the sales team, Tanya also sees her role as community manager as an extension of the customer service department. Since she’s actively promoting the product and connecting with users, she’s often the first line of defense when it comes to issues or problems. Rather than pass the contact along to customer service, she tries to help as much as she can in the moment.

Take Ownership of the Brand Before Someone Else Does

This is an important lesson for any company whether they have a full-time community manager or not.

“Rumors spread like wildfire and so does negative sentiment about your brand,” she shares, “Social media only accelerates things. You have to stay on top of that before things go out of control.”

Tanya notes that while hearing bad things about your brand is hard, you need to be there to hear it. A company needs to take that advice as constructive criticism and turn it into a business opportunity.

Numbers Mean Nothing

There are dozens of figures and stats that a community manager can be faced with when they are looking at their social media results. Tanya advises to keep things in perspective and understand that you should really be worried about people.

“There’s Klout, Kred, likes and [number of] followers – but these are people. People matter, numbers don’t,” says Tanya.

She notes that you shouldn’t ignore the numbers, but shouldn’t obsess over them either.

“Obsess over people – it will pay off,” she says.

Tanya McTavish is a web marketer and community manager for an SEO software provider, Link-Assistant.Com. She is fascinated with emerging technologies, web tools and apps, social media, information discovery and blogging. She is also a co-founder of CodeX, a small Web development company from Minsk, Belarus. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. 

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17 responses to “6 Social Media Community Management Tips from a Digital Marketer Turned Community Manager [Interview]”

  • RGBSocial

    These are some great tips Tanya, Neal. I find that the community manager role is frequently undervalued, misunderstood, and as a result, the true potential impact a good community manager can have as on a brand is not realized. Thanks for sharing.

    (link edited by administrator)

  • Thanks for chiming in Matthew – and I couldn’t agree with you more!

  • I love this! As I was reading though all I was thinking is “Hey, that’s what I do too” and “That’s what I keep saying.” Glad to know there are others out there like me!

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos & Marketwire

    1. Thanks for chiming in Sheldon! Yes, I believe there are many “Community Managers” out there without them knowing it, which is why I was excited to report on Tanya’s story. Glad it resonated with you!

  • Eric Suesz

    “People matter, numbers don’t.”
    Thank you for emphasizing this, Tanya. I hear so many people drone on and on about ROI and analytics. They have their place, but ultimately what turns heads and keeps the community vibrant and positive are the anecdotes and emotion and testimonials of real customers, members, users — or whatever you call them in your community. People > Numbers.

    1. Did you find it odd (like I did) Eric, that there was zero mention of a “public relations” aspect to community management? As in “reputation, value and relationship building” PR, rather than those stereotypes of media relations and spin. (That’s my only criticism of what’s otherwise an excellent interview.) 

      1. Ditto

        No, I found it odd that there was no mention of “Community Building”.

        I’d also say that if you are “Part of the Sales Team”, you’re still in Marketing… No matter what your title is.

        As far as customer service goes, as a CM your are the public face for your company/brand so you absolutely should direct customers with issues to the right people to solve their problem if you can’t fix things yourself.

        Community Management is about connecting people with other people around a common interest. It isn’t about “Conversion”. That is what sales and marketing do.

      2. I didn’t find it odd at all. It depends on a lot of factors: Scale of company, position in the market, objectives of community management, et. al. In an ideal world, Judy, you are right, but each business, especially a small one who never had a dedicated “social media” budget to begin with, have their own circumstances.

        Of course, I did not ask her about any of these aspects as well, and if I did you may find that some of the elements you mention are already included in her work. I really don’t know. And I don’t think that takes away the value that her experience can provide others.

        1. The Facebook accounts and community management of Susan G. Komen, Belvedere Vodka, Carnival Cruises and so on were characterized as “PR disasters” Neal.

          1. There have been many marketing disasters, PR disasters, and community management “disasters” by many companies. How the media labels or perceives them is another story.

            If you want to write a rebuttal post on the intersection of Public Relations and Community Management and how PR MUST play an essential role in any community management position, I wholeheartedly welcome it. This site is for the education of everyone, including my own, and I’d love to hear your perspective in the medium of a blog post as you are representing “Social Media and Public Relations” on this blog!

          2. You seem to have missed the final part of my comment, Neal:

            (That’s my only criticism of what’s otherwise an excellent interview.) 

            Why on earth would I want to write a “rebuttal” blog post?! What exactly would I be rebutting?!

          3. Judy, you had asked another commenter about why those PR concepts were not discussed. You had also tweeted that out. I think it’s an important point that wasn’t brought up, and I think you feel the same way as well.

            I’m just looking at blog posts – and conversations that sprout from them – as bigger opportunities to find new truths. If you felt offended by my comment, I am sorry, but I thought you brought up a point which I welcome you to further explore because many people are not writing about it, at least not on this blog!


  • Appreciate your chiming in.

    And you bring up good points when marketing departments are running community management: Their objectives are more tied to traditional sales and marketing than to public relations.

    Like I mentioned in an earlier comment, 1) I think this depends on the circumstances of each company and 2) my questions were not asking her to comment on the issues that you have spoken of, in which case her answers might have been different than what we assume.

  • I think we’re on a similar page here… the Community Manager’s job is to love their flock… yes, he’s part of the company and therefore product sales are what pays his / her salary… but they should be listening out for opportunities and nudges sales people to follow up on the opportunity… not pitching directly as this ultimately becomes annoying… the flock need to be relaxed and trust the manager or they’ll not engage…

    Good work Tanya… good balanced article Neal…

    1. Well said Job – Community Manager should be about building a community, creating a trustful relationship with them, and allow them to prosper without having to “manage” or “pitch” to them.

  • […] from you, “sponsoring posts is important.” As anecdotes and concerns roll in from Facebook community managers and executives around the world, I have to ask, Is Facebook rolling downhill like a snowball […]

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