4 Twitter Tips for Engaging Your Community

It’s simple enough to get started on Twitter for your business or client. Using tools like Listorious and Mashable’s Twitter Lists you can find people to follow on Twitter according to topics they Tweet about. Using a client like Tweetdeck or Seesmic, you can set up search terms for your company and for keywords related to your industry.

But what about the less tangible, “human” elements of running a Twitter account? The words you say and how you interact with the people you talk to? Here are five tips to help:

1. Be Responsive

Be sure to set up a search term for your brand on Twitter as well as monitor your @mentions. If your company has just signed up, a perfect way to “stake your claim” on Twitter and define your presence is to start responding to those mentions. This means:

  • Answering questions and offering suggestions – You can also answer questions not just about your particular product, but about your industry. Think of Twitter as a cocktail party. Use a human voice and mingle.
  • Apologizing – This is the not-so-fun part. But, did you guys mess up? Respond to unhappy customers. You only have 140 characters, so there isn’t space for any of that “We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused you” garbage. A genuine, first person, “I’m sorry” is a better way to go. Plus, I’ve personally found that the people who take the time to complain are the people who take the time to advocate for your when you handle the situation well.

2. Be Gracious

Are you creating content to draw people to your blog? Do you see people sharing your ebooks, blog post or webinars? Engage them and say thank you. I think one company that does a fantastic job with this is social media monitoring company Radian6. If you share their blog post or ebook, you can expect a friendly Tweet back saying thank you with a little smile.

The nice thing is that the way Twitter is built, only your followers who follow the person you are thanking via @reply will see these Tweets. So you don’t have to worry about clogging people’s streams with tons of “Thank you!! 🙂 ” Tweets. Figure out a way to work these aspect of engagement into your Tweeting in a way that scales for your team.

3. Be consistent

Once you start in social media, you have to keep it up and stay committed. If you build up an expectation of responsiveness and then you let it fall off the wayside, your community will look to you on Twitter with their questions and they will go ignored – which will only alienate them more than if you hadn’t engaged in the first place. How can you remain consistent?

  • Be on call – Is managing a community a 24/7 job? Well, it’s important to at least keep an eye on things. You’ll need a mobile app on your phone for when you’re away from your desk to at least monitor brand mentions. If anything major comes up, you should respond. On vacation? Make sure someone covers you.
  • Put “hours of operation” in your Twitter bio – This could be helpful, although I’m sure you still obviously get questions after 5pm. At least you are setting expectations properly at have a way to switch a conversation with a community member to email or phone if need be.
  • Scale your Tweeting – What is your goal? Are you promoting your blog posts and answering questions through your Twitter account? Maybe scheduling Tweets of your blog posts is a way to save you time. Being efficient will help you be consistent.

4. Use a Personal Tone

Some companies are not certain how to go about running a Twitter account and are afraid to allow their employees to Tweet on behalf of their brand – and with good reason! There have been a handful of well-documented “face/palm” moments in social media where an employee sent out a bad Tweet on a company Twitter account and didn’t represent the brand well. However, I think playing it safe with an overly corporate and cautious tone isn’t the always the right approach. Pick a tone that is consistent with your brand. Keep in mind: People like talking to people. Show human things with your words like personality and excitement and gratitude, just like you would on your own Twitter account – but be consistent and responsible and balance that with representing your brand.

How to Build Community With Better Content

Creating interesting and informative content is a fantastic way to build a community within your target audience. Why is this important for your business? There are several reasons:

  • Content draws the right people to your company’s website by leveraging the right subject matter and keywords.
  • People share great content, and how much people share your content counts for how you rank in Google.
  • Helpful content builds trust. It shows your expertise in whatever your company is selling and gets your community excited about your brand. Content offers something of value to your audience before you ask for something in return (like an email address… or a credit card).

So what are some ways that you can do this at your business?

1. Blog Often

If you check out our friends from HubSpot’s Science of Blogging webinar by Dan Zarrella, you’ll learn some more specific reasons (like website traffic) why blogging frequently matters. Basically, switching from blogging once-a-month or once-a-week to every day will completely change the blogging game for you.

Hubspot and SEOMoz are two examples of businesses that create daily blog content, and hence have created communities and positioned themselves as experts in their fields.


HubSpot’s inbound marketing blog has helped build a community of marketers.


SEOmoz creates daily blog content about SEO, offering value to their community of marketers and SEOs.

We’ve recently shared some tips on how to organize your blogging team and how to set up an editorial calendar to scale this strategy for your business.

2. Monitor Social Media to Discover Your Community’s Pain Points

Understand the types of questions that your community members are asking on social media regarding your industry. Respond to those questions with good content. Set up a search terms and Twilerts for appropriate hashtags and industry terms. On Twitter, you can make conversational searches and see what people are really asking about. Here are some example searches:

  • “(industry keyword) + sucks”
  • “competitor + sucks”
  • “I hate _____”
  • “Is there a ______?”
  • “Anyone know of a ________?”
  • “What is the best ________?”
  • “How do you _______ with ______?”

To enhance your content even more, do some research with Google Insights to make sure you’re targeting the right keywords with your content. “Pain points” + keywords make your posts highly searchable. If they’re asking about it on Twitter, your community members are probably Googling for it, too.

3. Write a Decent Headline

So we make fun of link-bait headlines like “What Every Entrepreneur Could Learn from Justin Beiber” and the like… but you clicked it, and you ReTweeted it, didn’t you? Yep. Caught ya.

Clearly we don’t have to be this severe in our headline writing, but listen: There’s a lot of clutter out there and a ton of content being shared. If you write a headline that makes your content sound appealing and helpful to your community, you’re much more likely to get them to read it. See how Copyblogger and Problogger write great headlines for their content, but back it up with great content. They are role models to follow with this.

Most important: If you’re going to have a catchy headline like “10 reasons to ___,” first make sure they are 10 good reasons! No one cares about your catchy headline if your content is garbage.

4. Shake it up with different types of content

Offering a variety of content to your community is a great way to keep things fresh on your blog and keep your community coming back for more. It’s easy to get writer’s block when you’re writing about the same industry, products or company each day, but using a variety of tools and leveraging your community are ways you can continue to keep things interesting. Here are some content ideas:

1. Write how-to articles

2. Do a screencast of your product. Screenr is a free screencast-creation tool that helps you make Tweetable screencasts

3. List common mistakes in your industry and offer ways people can fix them

4. List hypothetical problems that your product can solve

5. Talk about recent industry studies and your take on them

6. Make an infographic

7. Dissect a couple key points from a webinar or ebook and repurpose that into blog content

8. Discuss a recent industry-related event or current news

9. Give takeaways from a conference

10. Do video interviews with community members and post them to the blog

11. Offer guest post opportunities to expert community members

12. Curate content from resources that your community cares about and do a “news-roundup” style blog post

13. Top-ten lists, Top 20 lists… Top 30…

You can also try digital storytelling tools like Storify and Tweetwally to offer a new way to show Tweets in your posts. So, if you had a particularly useful Twitter conversation with community members, include that in a blog post. Or, maybe refer to some great Tweets from a webinar, and refer to that in a blog post. These are two very beautiful ways to display that.

Here’s Tweetwally in action:

Here’s Storify:

Content is huge for us at oneforty. What has worked for us? We try a lot of different things and see what sticks. We blog every day, so we have the room to do that. If something didn’t work that great, we try again tomorrow (we don’t wait a month.) Some posts are more popular than others, but trying different things each day has given us the freedom to search for, and discover, what seems to resonate with our community. But that’s just my take.

How do you use content to build your community? Let me know in the comments!

10 Tips for New Community Managers

This post originally appeared on the oneforty blog. It’s being reposted here as part of my blogging portfolio.

Community managers are becoming an increasingly important role for all types of businesses, from tech startups to major corporate brands. Most commonly, community managers are responsible for engaging current and potential customers via social media, growing vibrant and enthusiastic communities around their products and services. This is, however, just one kind of community manager. Some community managers facilitate conversations in private online forums, work with internal company intranets, or don’t use social media at all.

Community managers must strike a balance: externally, community managers are the voices of their brands in social media, serving as social media strategists,customer service managers, content creators, product managers and evangelists. Internally, they are voice of their communities at their own companies. Community managers bring the conversations they have with community members to the forefront of marketing, customer service and product discussions, epitomizing the value and function of a social business.

Because community manager jobs vary at each company, there is no one magic thing that makes a community management program work. But with more and more community manager jobs showing up every day, here are some tips for new or aspiring community managers, and maybe even some fresh thoughts that the seasoned community manager can benefit from.

1. Fish Where the Fish Are

When it comes to social media, it’s very easy to get caught up in tactics. It’s easy to think, “we need to Tweet” or “we need a Facebook page” just because. Establish your own presence, yes, but prioritize. Take the time to figure out what blogs, Twitter hashtags, conferences, meetups or social media platforms matter to your audience and be involved in those places.

2. Identify and Delegate to Your Power Users

Use a tool like Tweetreach to identify who your most engaged Tweeters are in your community. LinkedIn will show you your top influencers each week in your B2B community’s LinkedIn group. Leverage your most engaged community members from your target audience by offering them a guest post, curating one of their blog posts in a news roundup, or offering them a position as a community moderator in your forum.

3. …But Don’t Play Favorites Too Much

Loyal community members are great resources: They are the first people to provide feedback, share your content, and refer you to others. But make sure to keep an even playing field for new, quieter community members. Each new blog commenter or forum member matters. Challenge yourself by engaging with them too. It’s your job to build a community – not a clique of power users who make your job easy.

4. Say “I’m Sorry.”

Community managers are typically the ones running Twitter and Facebook accounts, and will be the ones responding to complaints. The book REWORK by the founders of 37 Signals covers the “how to say you’re sorry” point best. Their advice? “We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you” is BS.

If your service isn’t working and a community member is ranting about it on Twitter – trust us, you disrupted that person’s day and there was an inconvenience caused. No “may” clause is needed.

Like REWORK says, if you spilled hot coffee on someone’s lap, you wouldn’t say “I apologize for the inconvenience.” You’d say, “I’m SO SO sorry!” Speak in first person and be genuine.

5. Stay Calm. Keep it in Perspective

It’s natural to get frustrated or stressed out on busy days when responding to complaints online or answering a lot of questions. Remember: It’s just the internet!

Plus, your biggest critics can turn into your biggest fans if you successfully resolve any issues they have. Those that take the time to offer negative feedback will take the time to be your advocate. Get zen and keep this in mind.

6. Anticipate Common Questions and Know Your Product Inside and Out

Answering questions about your product or service through social media or email will probably be a major part of your job. Be prepared ahead of time. This is especially important if you work in a regulated industry in which you may need your Tweets or Facebook communication to have prior approval.

Anticipate common questions. Go over them with your product or support team to make sure you have your answers (including your 140-character ones) accurate.

7. Don’t Forget About Email

Email may seem old-school compared to sexier tools like social media, but remember: Every single Facebook “fan” or Twitter follower has an email address!Email is the glue that makes social media stick, and if you offer helpful content with an email newsletter, it can be a great way to engage your community members.

8. Engage Offline

Even with global, online communities, community starts at home. Connect with your local audience with a meetup. This is important because you can inspire evangelists who will vouch for you as they get to know you better as a local company, and as they get to know you face-to-face. Those people are most certainly connected to a larger global network through social media. This is where your first network of power users can stem from.

9. Your Social Media Accounts Are No Longer Your Own, But Your Time Is

Are you sure you want that social media job?

As the face of your brand online, people will inevitably identify you as the community manager for that company. The number of Twitter followers you have may grow, and you may begin to get more Facebook and LinkedIn requests from people you don’t personally know from real life. Even if you put “Tweets are my own” in your Twitter bio, people see your thoughts aligned with your company.

Be who you are and represent yourself online as someone you are proud of. Have a ranting Tweet or Facebook post you really really really want to send? I’m sassy, I can relate. Remember: We regret the rants we do post on social media, but when is the last time you regretted not Tweeting something?

Despite the challenge of personal/professional balance, take control of your experience on social media and don’t stop enjoying this. Use Twitter lists, Facebook lists and filters. Own your privacy, your time, your newsfeed, and your personal network.

10. Use the Right Tools to Be Efficient

Community managers where many hats.  Sometimes managing several Twitter accounts, plus a blog, plus delegating to an intern, plus responding to community members… it can be a lot to handle. Here are some of the tools that community managers from the oneforty community use, as featured in their Toolkits.

Rachel Happe – Principal at Community Roundtable – Tools she uses

Suzanne Marlatt – Community Manager at Edelman Digital – Tools she uses

Stacey Acevero – Community Manager at Vocus/PR Web – Tools she uses

What other community management tips do you have? Add yours in the comments!

Community Management is Not Digital Cold Calling

This is an excerpt from my guest post for The Community Manager. The Community Manager is a hot new resource for CMs founded by Jenn Pedde, Brett Petersel and David Spinks. They’re aiming to provide helpful tips for CMs via their blog, connect CMs to each other through local meetups and help companies find the right community talent through their job board. When I started as a community manager, this is the type of stuff that helped me scale up my knowledge quickly, and I’m happy there’s this all-in-one resources now to consolidate it. Check them out!

Contributing to marketing, PR and customer service fronts of their organizations, community managers often where multiple hats as they are on the front-lines of communicating with both current and potential customers online. Based on some questionable tactics I’ve seen on the Twitters recently, it’s the communication with potential customers that I feel could be improved.

Under the guise of “community manager” or “evangelist” by job title in their Twitter bios, people follow hashtags related to their product or their competitors. Then, they see people Tweeting on that hashtag or Tweeting about that topic, and they @reply them from something like a @john_company Twitter account, offering a sales pitch: “You should use my company instead!”

Well, no duh you would say that…You’re wearing the proverbial digital t-shirt!

Without building a relationship with a potential customer on Twitter first by having some other interaction other than a one-off sales pitch, this outbound approach doesn’t feel genuine to me. Also, I don’t think it is the most effective use of a community manager’s talents for the benefits of an organization.

Companies who approach community management and social media this way are actually off to a great start. They’re on social media, and they’re monitoring terms about their industry. They’re clearly listening, which is huge. I just think the way they are choosing to do outbound outreach to approach their potential community members is awkward. I’d rather see people draw the community to them with valuable content, thought leadership and helpful advice.

DJ Waldow, Blue Sky Factory’s awesome Director of Community offers helpful tips about email marketing along with the rest of the BSF team on the Blue Sky Factory blog. On Twitter, DJ will actually personally answer people’s individual questions about email marketing. It’s not about the product, it’s about thought leadership and being helpful.

See the rest of the post over at The Community Manager.

Facebook Groups vs. LinkedIn Groups: Which is Right for Your Community?

I use both a Facebook group and a LinkedIn group as community engagement tools. I like them both, but for very different reasons, and what I really wish I could do was combine my favorite features of each and get the best of both worlds.

I have tested different ways to build engagement and conversation with my audience. Last September I started a Q&A forum on Qhub called oneforty Answers where people could submit and answer questions related to Twitter apps and other social media topics. After two months, it wasn’t getting quite the traction I wanted it to, so I focused on a new LinkedIn group.

Around the same time, I got involved in Facebook’s new groups. They are a far cry from the cheesy groups I used to be invited to in college for purposes like “Hey I lost my cell phone give me all your numbers” or “Hey I need to do this survey for my senior seminar paper….” (Remember those throw-backs? Aw yeah…)

I love the functionality of the new groups so much that recently, with the beta launch SocialBase, I dared to try something different and use a Facebook group to engage our beta testers.

Which do I like better?

Pros of LinkedIn Groups:

  • People have a “business mindset” on LinkedIn. No distractions from personal things like on Twitter and Facebook that clutter conversations. That has always been the clearest benefit.
  • “Top Influencers This Week” shows you your most engaged community members
  • “Follow” functionality: If there is a certain noisy member of the group, community members can “unfollow” that person.
  • You can do open groups and your brand name can receive SEO value for conversations involved in the group (could be a good thing if they are relevant to your keywords.) I’ve chosen to keep my group private because I’m nervous about spam.
  • Granular admin options. Need to sell your boss or client on using social media? Show how you can customize this group to what is the right fit for your business.
LinkedIn Group Admin options - lots of 'em!

Cons of LinkedIn Groups

  • No reporting. There isn’t even so much as a Facebook Insights type of weekly email update that tells me about the number of comments or number of group members so I can gauge the progress or engagement week-by-week.
  • Invitations – I have to be connected to someone on LinkedIn in order to invite them. I have to send the invitation, wait for them to accept, then send the group invitation. It’s just a bit of a process.
  • No custom URL’s for brands. I’m hacking it with a custom…
  • Discussions are odd: Your comments are limited to 200 characters. It’d be nice to be able to “tag” another community member in a comment the way you can on Facebook, Disqus and Livefyre comments. This would enhance the conversations and drive people back to the group if they got a Tweet or an email update when they were mentioned in a comment.

And now for Facebook…

Pros of Facebook Groups:

  • I like that you can tag people in comments – drives a lot more engagement and it makes the discussions much more interactive.
  • You can add links, photos, videos, or do a poll with a question – more options than with a LinkedIn group. I share screencasts of SocialBase and it presents then better than they would be presented in a LinkedIn group.
  • Chat function would allow you to chat with group members. Haven’t tried this yet but could see this being useful.
  • Documents feature lets you collect things like Twitter handles if you are going to make a Twitter list of all the members.
  • Integrates with events feature. Again, I haven’t used this but could see this as useful if my group was bigger.
  • Better email notifications than LinkedIn. You can reply to discussions right from the email. It also gives you a better preview of the discussions to make you really decide if you want to actually login to Facebook and see the conversation. LinkedIn just tells you there was “an update” or “a discussion” added to the group.  That doesn’t peak my interest much and make me want to return.

Cons of Facebook Groups

  • No reporting – No way for me to get a report of number of discussions or group members to track engagement, no feature to show “top influencers” like with LinkedIn.
  • I have to add someone as a Facebook friend in order to invite him or her to the group. Obvious creep factor here…
  • No custom URLs
  • Can’t download a list or group members names or email addresses into an Excel sheet or anything so when using this in conjunction with other marketing activities it’s a little more tedious to track which beta testers have joined the group and who hasn’t.

This is what I want: I wish I could have the technical functionality of a Facebook group within the context of a LinkedIn group.

I’ve gotten more comfortable adding people on Facebook. I won’t add just anybody, but I’ve accepted that I’m out there and online…that it’s just this mix of personal and professional. However, when I have to add someone as a Facebook friend to have them join a Facebook group for my company, I might be violating other people’s boundaries.  Others might not be as easygoing about it. At least if you are adding someone on LinkedIn to join your LinkedIn group, it’s less personal.

It would be helpful if I didn’t have to be Facebook friends with someone to invite them to a Facebook group. Or, maybe Facebook could make it so if someone was a “fan” of our business page I could invite them to our (private) business group (which would be helpful for peeps like me with private betas). It’d also be helpful to have Facebook Insights-type of reporting just to be able to measure progress on group engagement.

However, I love the technical functionality of Facebook groups and wish I could have something like that surrounded by the business environment and mentality of LinkedIn’s site. People want to talk about business-focused things when they login to that site, so for things like B2B software, it’s a golden lead generation and B2B community building opportunity. I think that’s a mind-share thing that LinkedIn has and Facebook doesn’t (plus… why would it want to? They’re doing just fine…) But LinkedIn can change the technicalities of groups.

That’s my take on my my experience with these two types of groups. Are you using either for your communities? What’s your take?

Open Groups on LinkedIn: SEO vs. Private Community

Now that LinkedIn offers open groups, community managers have the option to change their group settings. Switching to open groups means you go from members-only content, to offering your group discussions as public conversations that are indexed by search engines.

Coupla’ of things:

  • Current and past posts and discussions are not indexed by search engines, just the new stuff. Old stuff is archived in a super secret non-searchable section for members-only.
  • If you switch to an open group, LinkedIn notifies group members.
  • In open groups, anyone on the interwebz can view discussions, and discussions are sharable on Facebook and Twitter. However, there are manager controls available so you can restrict who actually is able to post in open groups.

I’m pondering the benefits of having a closed community versus an open community, and if the SEO advantages of open groups make it worth the extra moderation. Clearly SEO advantages are hugely important. However, in my mind your company only wins if people go from the LinkedIn group to your website. If people are just seeing the results in Google and not clicking through, or just reading the publicly available discussions and not doing anything beyond that, to me it feels like we’ve just exposed ourselves and compromised the conversations in our community for no reason.

I participate in and run closed communities and open ones. You can’t make a blanket statement and say that open or closed communities are better or worse than the other. It depends on your community’s content and goals. I’m a member of a closed Facebook group for community managers. Joining is invite-only, and beyond that, the moderators control who is let into the group from there. With a small group of only 100 people, the conversations, information and debate are high-quality. Is it snobby to keep some people out? Well, no. If this amount of moderation is what prevents Spamcakes from blowing up a productive group with stuff like “Come check out my webinar/ebook/social media thingamajig!” then I agree with it.

I run a Q&A site for social media questions at oneforty Answers. We get some great conversation over there. The community has grown to the point where a core group will take off and have these awesome discussions on their own without me having to lead or push. The overall quality of the questions on oneforty Answers is not great as the discussions in our (new) closed LinkedIn group, though. It requires moderation. We get a lot of spam. We also get a lot of random and off-topic stuff that I have to sort through. However, everything is indexed on search engines so we get traffic to Answers from that, and we get traffic from Answers to So, the openness benefits us…

…or does it?

Having an open forum is an easy way to get content and followers at first. But if you aren’t benefitting the community with quality content and making it easy for riff raff to join and post garbage in your forums, people won’t stick around – at least the people you want to have stick around. SEO gains are great, but (and sorry to be all rainbows and butterflies) so are loyal evangelists of private communities.

I say, first, look at your goals for the community – in this case, a LinkedIn group. Is it another venue to push out your own content, or are you really focusing on the member conversations? I think if you figure that out, you’ll see how you feel about the SEO benefits vs. increased need for moderation of an open group. I’m still evaluating what I’ll do with my LinkedIn group, specially looking for ways that I can possibly get the best of both worlds: have the content indexed by search engines but maintain the quality conversations that we’d get in a private community.

Community Management: Not An Entry-Level Gig

Today I threw this question out there on Twitter for my personal community:

I got a lot of support on this front…

When I came into my community management gig I had about a year of agency PR experience. So, that’s not a ton of professional experience, right? That said, I did  six internships throughout college that added up to some semi-professional experience that I think aided in my preparation for this role.

I say this because come the new year many college seniors will be looking for jobs post-graduation. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, just like I was, you are going to apply to many different job postings. I think you should focus on the ones along the lines of:

  • Marketing coordinator
  • Social media coordinator
  • Account coordinator
  • PR assistant

There may certainly be the occasional rockstar/prodigy out there that can step up and handle this amount of responsibility right out of college. If you know you are that, then ignore what I say and go get the community manager gig you know you want and deserve. But, I think for the most part, people are better off getting some actual on-the-job experience so that you can really kick butt in the CM role.

Not all CM roles are created equal. I happen to do a lot of extra marketing stuff because I work at a startup. But, here are some things I do in my job and the type of professional experience that will help you:

1. Content Creation – I direct the content for my company’s blog. In the new year we will expand this to ebooks and more offerings.

  • Experience you should get: Knowledge of the industry you’re writing about, SEO, Google Analytics, journalism, general grammatical aptitude…

2. Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn Princess – I’m the internet voice of my company’s brand.

  • Experience you should get: Run your own Twitter account, participate in Twitter chats to develop your own voice, write a blog to develop your own voice

3. Strategic Communications – When we screw up, I talk to people about it

  • Experience you should get: Public relations, crisis communications. (Tip: Be an account coordinator at an agency and read the account emails you’re cc’d on, even if it doesn’t require action on your part.)

4. Social Media Strategist – I decide what we’ll Tweet, from what tool, and I measure it to see how effective it was

As you can see, this is a multi-faceted role. It varies at every organization. Personally, it was a role I had to grow into as an ’09 grad, and luckily I loved it enough to put in the hours and additional effort it took to step up to where I needed to be despite my lack of professional experience. What I’m trying to say is that there is a lot more that goes into fostering, establishing, managing and measuring successful community programs than may first appear. We don’t actually just Tweet for a living!

So, 2011 grads, get some work experience. Learn some marketing, customer service and social media. Become the best writer you can become. Learn about the industry in which you think you want to manage an online community. How much work experience do you need? I heard at a conference that five to seven years was the target. I don’t know about that. I think two years is fair. But that, my friends, is what I’m hoping you’ll comment on.

Tribute Pages and Facebook Groups: Can Community Managers Help?

By now, you may have heard of the tragic loss of Jenny-Lyn Watson, a 20-year junior at Mercyhurst College who was killed by her ex-boyfriend last month. She went home for Thanksgiving break and went missing Saturday, November 20th. A week later her body was found in a park near her home in Liverpool, NY.

The week-long search for her sparked extensive media coverage of her case. In social media, a Facebook group grew rapidly with messages from friends passing along current information about the case. The Facebook group now has over 26,000 members. A search for Jenny-Lyn Watson on Facebook turns up dozens of tribute pages, sadly, some restricted to no commenting.

Why no commenting? Well, there are trolls. There are people who write dumb shit in online forums. But I’m compassionate. I think people get angry and upset. Even if they didn’t personally know the family, maybe the situation hits close to home for them and it sparks a misplaced outburst. Is that ok? No. But I try to believe that people are good, just hurt, and not just trolls.

Even the pages that allow for commenting show that there’s trouble controlling the comments. Sometimes, they have to shut down the commenting capabilities because of disrespect.

My question to the community managers is this: What can we do to help? I’m serious. We are professionals with experience establishing and moderating online forums. Raise your hand if you are in charge managing one of these for your company:

  • Twitter account
  • Facebook page
  • LinkedIn group
  • Independently made Q&A site (Like this qHub one I run)
  • Message board
  • Blog comments

Did you raise your hand? This means you have experience dealing with online conversations. You have likely written community guidelines, flagged comments, done a little policing, done a little engaging in an online community that is essentially similar to a Facebook tribute page.

Maybe we could help set up the pages and manage it during the crisis period. We could write guidelines, flag comments, moderate the page, etc. Or, we could simply offer training or “on call” advice to those who wish to moderate the pages. Would it be tough work? Yes. It’s a tribute page. This is sad and awful and real and it sucks. But I had this re-occurring thought about the whole thing: I didn’t know Jenny-Lyn. However, someone that knew her very well is managing this page right now in the middle of grieving. I don’t know if the page is making his or her process any easier, and maybe a little help from someone like myself could.

In November 2008 my friend Lindsay died in a tragic accident. She was in critical condition for several days, and the fastest way to get information was through a Facebook group. It was updated much quicker than the traditional news outlets. When it came to finding news from traditional news outlets, I would see awful, hateful things written about the situation in the article comments. Much worse were the comments in community forums that popped up in a Google search. One person’s honest search for information turned into a twisted game of dodging digital landmines. Seeing how media and communication had changed during that experience is what got me involved in social media.

So, I can’t say I know how Jenny-Lyn’s friends feel when they see the comments. But I can relate somewhat. And I’m wondering what my next steps are.