The Buzz Topic at South by Southwest: Community

By. Nicole Mastrangelo Along with each Social Media page comes a full community of fans, and behind those fans lies a group of people who manage that audience on a day-to-day basis. The communities drive the conversation and embrace the ideas that each brand and company brings to the online world. After attending the Interactive portion of South by Southwest last week, I learned, more than ever, about how the idea of “community” is continually expanding in Social Media. Communities come in many different shapes and sizes, but they don’t all have the same reach and they may not discuss the same topics. Despite these differences, the ultimate questions that follow these communities tend to fall into the same category. Whether or not a general audience would prefer to discuss a topic with friends and family online rather than a group of strangers with similar interests is a question that every community shares in common. Below are three communities that were discussed at SXSW: They are great examples of how properly grow and manage an online community.

Social TV

If there was one panel topic which I saw repeated over and over again at Austin’s South by Southwest, it was the topic of “Social TV.” With television and Internet becoming more and more interconnected, the idea of Social TV, or interactions with viewers across the world, is expanding. Networks like MTV and Bravo seem to be the leaders across the board, as the networks include aspects of Social Media into every broadcast. Whether a show on cable features a tiny hashtag at the bottom of the screen or a quirky host insists that viewers follow up the episode online for a chat with the cast, an online community is developing around television through Social TV.

Contribution From Your Audience

One panel I attended entitled “Multiplatform Storytelling: Frontline War Stories,” was an extremely interesting conversation with the genius behind many of technology’s “stories” today. The panelist Jon Chu, film director and screenwriter, explained his experience with creating Justin Bieber’s box-office hit “Never Say Never.” Chu had the almost impossible task of creating a film that aimed to please Justin’s massive fan base. In this example, even with such a large audience, Chu was able to manage his community and take insight without letting his decisions be overruled. Knowing the influence that your community has, but being able to properly manage that influence, is the key to a successful combination.

The Community Manager Of Your Dreams

A group that certainly was not hard to find at South by Southwest was the community managers of the world; they were virtually everywhere, each bringing his/her own interesting mix of skills, personality, and ideas. From the community manager who has been working for the past 6 months to the representative who has been in the business for 15 years, each CM will stress the amounts of multi-tasking that they have been able to master. Making sure a community page is responded to as well as updated is the balance of tasks that every CM needs to direct. Encompassing this idea is the general task of knowing how to manage your “voice” with each client, depending on each page’s specific needs and audience-type. The ability to weave among varying voices, without forgetting a community’s distinct character, is the skill that a CM needs to master in order to succeed.

Which aspects of "community" have you found had the most growth over the past few years?