Jennifer Lopez. She might not have the most SEO-friendly full name, but she’s the coolest Jenny from the block as far as the search marketing industry is concerned. Known also by her byte-sized Twitter handle, @jennita, Jen is the Community Manager at SEOmoz, and a serious powerhouse in the realm of social media.
I met Jen at a search conference this past March in the Big Apple, and was immediately struck by killer CM instincts, down-to-earth nature, and infectious smile. On the advent of #SMX Advanced, aimClear had pleasure to share a casual Q&A with Ms. @jennita, who is set to speak at the Seattle-based summit on the intersection of Twitter and classic SEO. Read on for Jen’s two cents on community management– from crises to tools– as well as what SEOmoz’s Roger the Robot is really like…
| aimClear: Usually, I start off these interviews with a “Howdidja end up in the industry?” type-question. But your SEOmoz bio eloquently points out it was a fusion of web development experience & educational background in journalism that lead to a career in SEO. So then… what drew you to community management specifically?
JL: Long before Social Media was something “official” I used to spend hours each day on IRC, Yahoo! chat (where I met my husband) and other social sites, chatting with people all over the world. I spent my time organizing online events, introducing people from different cities, keeping up with friends in other countries and so on. So although my work background has been focused on web development and SEO my personal hobbies have revolved around communicating with people online. Being a Community Manager seems to have always been in my blood, it just didn’t have a name before.
I started at SEOmoz as an SEO Consultant and really had never thought about community management, all I knew was that the SEOmoz community was thriving and I was proud to be a part of it. When we left consulting to focus on SEO software, I decided I wanted to take a larger role in the community and created this position. It’s been by far my most enjoyable and rewarding job yet (and I’ve had a lot of them!). I love the mix of SEO, Social Media, Customer Service and writing all rolled into one.
| aimClear: Right on. Community management, of course, can be totally rewarding. But, as I like to say, it ain’t all sunshine and pussycats. In your professional experience, have you incurred nasty online community backlash or brand damage stemming from social media? If so, how did you handle it? If no, you’re one lucky @jennita .
JL: But of course. While the SEOmoz community is a pretty positive and helpful bunch, we get our fair share of criticisms. This can happen on our blog, on other blogs, on Twitter or Facebook… anywhere really, and it’s my job to know it’s happening, then decide what the next step is.
It’s difficult to say exactly how I handle it as it differs with every scenario. For example if it’s a tweet and the person cusses at us for something, I ignore it. I simply am not going to engage with someone who can’t be professional. This is often someone who I could never make happy anyway. So I ignore, but watch, to see if anything else needs attention.
However, if someone has a complaint or criticism (and isn’t cursing), they will almost always get a response. Often times when someone complains on Twitter, all they want is to know you’re out there listening. I try to take it a step further though, I want them to know we’re not only listening but that we want to help, take action and fix issues as well. The entire SEOmoz staff is fair game to getting emails from me that start with, “Hey, we got this tweet today, can you help me figure out… ” Whenever possible, I’ll email people directly about issues or criticisms as well, I find it’s easier to have a conversation through email than on social sites. Sometimes your message doesn’t come across quite right in 140 characters.
In general, I like to help facilitate, but let the community members manage themselves. I don’t always jump into the hot seat. In fact, I like to only speak up when it’s necessary. As an example, I may not directly comment on a controversial blog post, but I will read all the comments, edit as necessary and even email people directly about their comments. It’s often a smart approach to stay in the background.
| aimClear: I can dig that. Ninja-style management. As a CM, what are the top 4 tools you couldn’t live without?
JL: I’d say the top 4 tools are CoTweet, Facebook, Google Alerts and email. CoTweet is essentially my twitter inbox for the @SEOmoz account. Within CoTweet I can tag tweets, assign them, reply to them, archive them, email them to others, and so on. I check CoTweet constantly throughout the day and try to reply as quickly as possible to tweets. I have a number of searches set up also that I track… pretty much I know what people are saying about us at all times.
Although I could manage Facebook through CoTweet, I find that I actually prefer to be on the Facebook page instead. After CoTweet, this is my second tab open in my browser. I get emails notifying me when someone has commented on our page, then I jump over and respond as necessary.
I check my Google Alerts throughout the day as well to see if anything has popped up for our brand or several other keywords I track. Normally though I find out if there’s a post written about us via Twitter, faster than it comes across in Google Alerts. But I like to stay on top of it anyway. With these three tools, I’ve pretty much covered what is going on within the community outside of our site. I check them throughout the day so I can stay on top of what’s happening.
Finally, email. I have a love hate relationship with email though. However, it’s a necessary evil to get the job done. I email community members all day long about YOUmoz posts being published or that need work, responding to questions, getting more information about a tweet, whatever the case may be. I couldn’t do my job without these four tools. You can also get a more in-depth look at the tools I use here.
| aimClear: What’s your favorite part of being Community Manager for SEOmoz?
JL: Most definitely the people that I work with and meet. I spend my day talking with people over Twitter, Facebook, IM, email, PRO Q&A, comments on the blog, etc. and I couldn’t do it if I weren’t talking to amazing people every day. This pertains to not only the greater community but to my coworkers at SEOmoz as well. I’ve had many jobs in my life, but never one where I felt so connected to the team and community as a whole.
| aimClear: Onto the real dirt: Is Roger the Robot as adorably awesome in real life as he seems on the interwebz? Or has all that fame gone to his… steel cranium?
JL: Haha! Best interview question ever?? Roger is an amazing guy but let’s be honest here, women love him… children love him… and even men love him… it’s definitely going to his head. In the office you’ll often find him eating bon bons with his feet up on his desk. I’ve even seen one of the developers fanning him before. I guess that’s what happens when people start tattooing you on their body. Ok, ok, I’m kidding. In fact, Roger really needs a vacation. He’s one of these guys that works 24×7. Whether he’s watching over Twitter or making sure the Linkscape crawl is going ok, he’s always working.
| aimClear: In every way possible, that exceeded my expectations of your response. On Day 1 of SMX Advanced next month, you’re set to participate on the Yes, Virginia, Tweeting Is SEO panel (which I must admit, is one of the coolest-titled panels ever). Can we readers get a glimpse into what you’ll be speaking about?
JL: I’m quite excited about this panel and honored to be speaking with such an amazing group! My focus will on “The SEO Mind vs. The Social Mind” and how it’s necessary to meld the two in this day and age. This is a topic I’m quite passionate about since my background is really a mixture of the two (along with the technical side). With Social having more and more of an impact on Search, it’s important for Community Managers, Social Media specialists, etc. to understand what’s important from an SEO perspective and vice versa. It’s time to make sure these two mindsets are working together toward the same goals.
Bonus Question from Marty Weintraub (@aimClear):
| aimClear: You’ve been really up front with our community about your battle with cancer. What are the most important lessons you’ve learned, and how has being a professional community manager impacted the experience?
JL: At first when I was first going through everything I stayed pretty quiet about it. It was during MozCon last year, I was supposed to speak but just couldn’t deal with it at the time. Lots of people started to ask questions about what was going on, why I didn’t speak and why I wasn’t around much during the conference. On the day of my surgery I thad this overwhelming feeling come over me that the community would care to know what was happening. So I sent a short tweet, then headed to the hospital. The next day when I checked Twitter again, I couldn’t believe all the messages of encouragement. Still to this day when I think about I get choked up about it.
The thing is, I don’t just “manage” the community, I’m a part of it. I would want to know if someone was going through a rough time and our community was the same way. When I got back to work and started going through my emails, so many community members had written to encourage me and tell me about their personal stories. I spent one whole day responding to those emails and thanking them. It was so touching to feel like a part of something bigger. I have an amazing family and some of the best friends a gal could ever want, but I’m also a part of this bigger, caring community. Who could ask for anything more?
So what have I learned? I’ve learned that you simply have to live life and not be afraid of it. It sounds cliche to say “live life to it’s fullest” because honestly there are just some days when I feel like crap. But on those days where I feel great, I take the bull by the horns. Right now I’m still getting chemo treatments once a week through September. During that timeframe, I’ll have spoken at at least 6 conferences which is more than I’ve done total up until now. My family is much closer and stronger than it’s ever been before and in general I’m a much happier person. Who would have thought that going through something like this could make me actually smile more?
| aimClear: Well you’ve certainly got me smiling over here . Big thanks for your time today, Jen. Looking forward to kicking it with you in Seattle!