The "Eyes and Ears" of Behance: Interview with Community Manager, Sarah Rapp

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Sarah Rapp is the Community Manager at The Behance Network, the world's leading platform for creative professionals across all industries. For the past year, the Columbia graduate has been feeding her social media addiction and boosting Behance's digital community. I sat down with her to get her take on building the "dream platform," dealing with internet bullies, and how the job of a CM isn't just about counting Twitter followers.

What successes have you had as Behance's Community Manager?

Something I viewed as missed opportunity when I started at Behance was our offline engagement. The Behance Network is an international platform of creative professionals, a great number of whom are looking to other members for advice, critiques, work opportunity, and connection. We decided to appoint some of our “super-users” in major cities around the world as “Behance Ambassadors,” who are rallying their local creative communities and hosting meetups, events, gallery shows, museum visits, and taking the Behance experience offline in their cities.

Another thing I’m proud of is all the changes made to the Behance Network that is a direct result of feedback from the community. It’s nice to be able to point out all of these new features and changes, and know that each one takes us one step closer to creating our community’s “dream platform.”

Though I’m the first to say Twitter followers is an overrated metric, I do view it as a success that Behance’s Twitter Page has grown from 30,000 to 260,000 followers since I started, and is now the 109th most popular Twitter account in NY.

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What three pieces of advice would you give someone trying to succeed in the community management game?

1 - As the “eyes and ears” of your brand, turn community feedback into changes behind-the-scenes. Your most important job is to find out what isn’t working and fix it, so be aggressive with your team about making this happen.

2 - You don’t have to have an account on every social site. It’s just not useful to have so many accounts that you can’t devote attention to the important ones. Experiment with a bunch, and decide which handful of social platforms are going to benefit your brand the most. Throw the rest out.

3 - Don’t take anything personally. We all know the internet is full of bullies, and when faced with an especially aggressive individual, don’t let your emotions get in the way. Diffuse the situation, and try to take the conversation to email, rather than a public forum.

What's the most common mistake among community managers?

Because Community Management is still relatively new, a lot of people have this idea that it’s just about social media. Now that even larger corporations have caught onto Twitter, a lot of people think of CMs as “those people who do the tweeting.” That’s really only the beginning. At Behance, we think of our two Community Managers as the “lifeline” between our team and everyone who uses and cares about our brand. How do you measure what people think of your brand? It’s not just your sales numbers - more importantly, it’s your reputation, and the sum of all the opinions, thoughts, and feedback out there. And that’s what we’re trying to gather through our work - what we’re doing right and wrong, and how we can adjust the products we’re putting out based on what the community is telling us.

What was your most frustrating moment as a CM? How did you handle it?

What’s tough about Community Management is that so much of it happens in real-time - getting tweets and blog posts up, emails responded to - doing all this “on time” is important for our reputation. So, it’s difficult to carve out chunks of time to work on bigger projects, because something always comes up. So, I have moments of frustration about the nature of the work and always having to be “on call.” (The Internet doesn’t sleep!) I wrote an article for The 99% about this very topic, for those interested: How Can A Social Media Addict Find Focus?

How much freedom and power should brands give their community managers?

I feel really lucky to work at Behance and have almost total freedom over how I manage the community (though I’m always checking in with co-founders Scott and Matias before doing anything major). To me, this is a luxury, but also a necessity to having a great CM Team. I’m able to experiment, see what’s working, what our community responds to, and adjust. Because we’re a start-up, we’re able to constantly change and be in flux, in a way that a big brand or corporation just can’t. So, I’m definitely an advocate of giving a lot of power to Community Managers - if you want your company to have a strong voice, it’s a mistake to stifle this by restricting power.

Comments

Congratulations, Sarah. Wow, what a wonderful job. Very informative and fascinating. Love, Aunt Nancy

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