The evolution of the community manager: inside Etsy

/// The evolution of the community manager: inside Etsy

July 30, 2013  |  Blog

Etsy, the e-commerce website for niche artisan goods, thinks of itself as a community of artists, creators and collectors. The site’s community managers hold events, create webinars and curate collections, and blog about success stories on the site. They also help maintain and strengthen the social features of the site, which has 25m members, 1.8m Twitter followers and 1m Facebook likes.

To understand how Etsy is harnessing the power of community, the Media Network caught up with David Morgan, its social media co-ordinator, and Matthew Doris, head of new markets and seller development for Etsy Europe.

How has the role of community manager evolved as social platforms have matured?

DM: With an increased amount of data across social platforms, the community manager’s role can have a higher emphasis on acquisition and definable social media marketing initiatives. Community managers can now quickly gauge the effectiveness of campaign strategies, and tailor their approach based on a number of data points, from engagement to click visits.

Additionally, social platforms for businesses have evolved to a point where many businesses have multiple Twitter accounts and multiple Facebook pages to cater to their community’s diverse needs. As a result, the role of many community managers is often focused on a particular aspect of the overall brand social strategy, including customer service or a specific regional focus.

MD: At Etsy, community management means a lot more than managing posts from various social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. A vibrant community of makers connect via “Etsy Teams” – a kind of social layer that sits on top of the Etsy platform. Etsy sellers can connect with others around the world who share the same hobby, interest or trade. They connect online to work together and share expertise on everything from craft skills to search engine marketing to improving the photography in their Etsy shops. They also often connect in the real world to run workshops or craft fairs or meetups together.

Running an independent creative business has traditionally been a rather solitary experience. Many craftspeople spend their days working at home, alone. “Etsy Teams” provides an outlet to meet and connect with people around the world or close to home who share similar passions. Many sellers tell me that they have met some of their closest friends via the teams product. It is not uncommon for a seller to Skype an Etsy teammate in another region or country so they can chat as though they were side by side while they are actually working alone on their craft at home or in their workshop. This type of social networking is fundamentally changing the experience of the formerly solitary “stay at home” crafts person.

What are the popular misconceptions about what a community manager does?

DM: Perhaps a popular misconception is that community managers are tailored for a particularly active or devoted segment of a brand’s community, rather than the community at large. A large part of community management, particularly on social platforms, is making communication feel personal to one yet accessible to many. Conveying your brand vision, customer commitment and appeal across each social message is part marketing and part community engagement. A successful community manager aims to make each community member feel important while simultaneously making newcomers feel welcome.

MD: Many people still see a community manager as someone who arbitrarily spits out a few Facebook posts a day. The reality is that a good community manager is really a facilitator, empowering members of the community to connect and create. At Etsy we do this in a number of ways; for example, we provide “fellowship grants” to teams who are interested in doing anything to develop or engage the community – anything from running a local meetup to attending a training course together. We also help Etsy Teams to promote their real-world events, provide them with materials for craft parties etc. Etsy’s role in all of this is facilitating a social experience, not necessarily creating content or driving conversation.

Social media has been tricky to attribute a return on investment to. Are community managers getting better at proving their value?

DM: The maturation of social media analytics has certainly aided the development of actionable metrics that help to prove the value in social. It is now easier than ever to identify specific strengths or areas of improvement in a current brand strategy. A community manager can sift through the noise to develop key metrics and specific, measurable, attainable goals and, as a result, understand their impact.

MD: One member of the Greek Etsy Team recently told us: “Talking with each other on a daily basis, interconnecting and sending out good energy makes me feel at ease. Most of all, this team has achieved something amazing: giving warmth through the coldness of a computer screen.” This, to us, is success. If Etsy sellers can connect and help one another to be happier in their creative experience then everyone wins — sellers, buyers and Etsy.

Link: The evolution of the community manager: inside Etsy

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