Interview with Community Manager of the Year, Suzi Nelson

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It’s a pleasure to introduce the 2017 Community Manager of the Year, Suzi Nelson of Digital Marketer in Austin, Texas! If you missed the live online event announcing Suzi as the winner, check out this interview we conducted with Suzi:

Does your family truly understand what you do for a living?

I think only other community managers truly understand what we all do for a living (and ideally our CEOs and supervisors). My mom just tells people I work for a website or “something to do with Facebook” – which leads to interesting conversations with obscure family members who think I work in web development.

Sometimes it’s a struggle to wrap up everything in a nice little elevator speech when someone asks what I do. I usually go with something like, “I manage online communities, making sure our customers are having a great experience with our product and each other.”

Do you have any experiences as a child or teen which foreshadowed your eventual career in community management?

I was raised to “leave the people better than you found them” – in true West Texas style – so I think that plays a huge role in transparent communication and a deep desire to take care of people that is so essential to great community management.

What played a more significant role was my work background – from my early “career” working retail and customer service to writing, communications, and marketing. Since I ended up leading a community of marketers, I immediately felt like I was among “my” people.

Which of your traits or characteristics do you think lends itself best to being recognized by your peers as a top community manager?

When I was first hired as community manager at DigitalMarketer a little over two years ago, my role was simply to answer customer questions on Facebook. Like many other new community managers, I just googled something like “what the heck is community management anyway?” and signed up for as many courses as I could find – from the wonderful people at Feverbee, CMX, and The Community Roundtable. That gave me the foundational information and strategies I needed to really start moving forward in community management as a career.

Other than that, I think I just landed at a great company. DM really encourages their staff to be “thought leaders” in their space – a fancy term for allowing us to be authoritative in our roles. That means I’m free to test ideas, learn new strategies, and document processes, all with the encouragement and backing of our entire internal team.

I also think it’s wonderful that community management as an industry is so much more collaborative than competitive – there are amazing networks at places like Feverbee and CMX where everyone is encouraged to be open with their knowledge and share best practices. I love being able to collaborate with fellow CMGRs and I try to give back as much as I receive from those fine folks.

What motivates you to get up every morning and rock out your community management skills?

Making sure people have a great experience is one of the best intrinsic rewards of community management. In fact, checking new posts in our community is usually one of the first things I do when I wake up – it starts getting my brain ready for what I have to tackle that day.

I also really love the strategy behind community management – constantly thinking of new ways to engage our members, help them form relationships with each other, and just getting a ton of value out of being a part of our special tribe.

I’m sure you have community managers that you look up to. Who will you nominate for Community Manager of the Year in 2018?

Sarah Hawk at Feverbee is one of my favorite people. We connected through the Feverbee forums some time ago, and she is one of the most generous and helpful people I’ve “met”. I know that I can always hit her up and ask for advice or resources, and she’s never steered me wrong.

I always look to her for strategy – lately she’s been going back through lapsed posts in that community and tagging in original authors to “close loops,” which I think is brilliant. It really takes the value of that forum to the next level. I’m hoping to incorporate a similar strategy in our Facebook groups!

Of course, everything I’ve learned about community management has been built on the shoulders of all the great people who have mastered these strategies before me. Richard Millington (Founder of Feverbee) and David Spinks (CEO of CMX) have been incredibly generous and helpful, and two top-tier community professionals whose opinions and strategies I deeply respect and are such a source of encouragement.

Ben Martin

Founder of Online Community Results and CMAD 2017 organizer. Favorite community management team: Airbnb.
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