katie cook visit austin Welcome back to Meet a Community Manager Monday! A few weeks ago we kicked off what a recurring series of interviews with community, social and interactive marketing managers from various fields. 

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you all (or maybe I should say y'all...) to Katie Cook, Interactive Marketing Manager for The Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Happy reading!


Who are you? Katie Cook

What do you do? Interactive Marketing Manager

Where do you do it? Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau, aka VisitAustinTX.

What has been your most memorable moment as a community manager? The first time I met someone at an event that followed us on Twitter and Facebook and she complimented us on our work.

What was the hardest thing you have had to handle as a community manager There have been a few occasions where large numbers of people unhappy with a decision made by a government entity target our accounts to voice their opinion. They seem to choose to target our Facebook page over others because of its reach. We don’t automatically delete negative comments, but we will if it doesn’t relate to tourism and/or is inaccurate. It can be tough to decide what we leave on the page and what we delete.

What are the top three personality traits a good community manager needs to have? I believe a good community manager should have a sense of humor, be a good listener and be friendly. If you don’t like to hang out with people in real life, you probably won’t be the best at managing an online community.

What are the top three skills a good community manager brings to the table?Creativity, good writing skills and a strong work ethic. Community management done well is definitely not an 8-5 job.

What has community management taught you about people in general? People just want to be heard. Whether they love something or have a complaint, they want to know someone is listening.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first got into community management? I have been a community manager since 2009. Over the years I have figured out what followers on each social media account are looking for from the brand. They are all unique and should be treated as such.

Community Management is…being the online voice and ears of your brand.

Community Management is not …sales.

In your opinion, what brands (besides your own, of course) are doing social really well? I’m going to stick to my world of tourism for this answer. Some of the ones I watch closely because they do such a great job are Visit Savannah, Travel Oregon, Discover Los Angeles and Visit Philly.

What are three tools that make your job easier? For Twitter, Hootsuite. It is great for social listening and scheduling up tweets, though I do this sparingly. For photo curation, our Flickr Group Pool and our hashtag on Instagram. I can then share those photos on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. The third would be my iPhone. I do a lot of checking on accounts and capturing photos outside the work day, so my phone is my secret weapon for that.

If you could only have one social network, which one would it be? Personally, Twitter is still my favorite. I learn from the people I follow there every day and have made many close connections with a lot of them. On the brand side, Twitter is the best for social listening and providing a customer service. Facebook has the most users and is great for inspiring people to travel.

What is your favorite part about your job? Being the voice of the city that I love.

As a CM/SM, there is an expectation that you be constantly plugged in. How do you find work/life balance? This is a tough thing to do, and I know that sometimes I am checking in way too often. Because I am a mom of two, I have to make sure I unplug and focus on my family. I sometimes have social media-free weekends and unplugged vacations, just to take a break from it all.

How do you spark conversations with your community? What kinds of things work? What have you found not to work? On Facebook, any photo or event that triggers a memory gets our community talking and sharing. A lot of them used to live in Austin or haven’t visited in awhile, so they love anything I share that is an Austin tradition. Also, any mention of barbecue restaurants gets a great debate started about which BBQ spot is the best! On Twitter, people love when I share upcoming events and “best of list” articles/blog posts.

If you had to distil all your CM/SM wisdom down into one guiding principle, what would it be? Write your posts and respond to questions like a person would speak. Do it with personality! Have a friendly voice behind the logo. Remember the social in social media.


Austin is pretty widely accepted as one of the leading cities in the US when it comes to tourism marketing (if not THE leader) -- what do you think is the secret sauce of Austin's success? Thanks for the huge compliment!  There are other destinations that do a great job as well (see my list above.) With regard to Austin, I think it is a mix of things. Austin is a city with a very active social media and tech community, so some of our first followers and advocates were locals. After we had an established following, we hired Sparkloft Media to help us with campaigns, contests and reporting. We still do all of the community management internally, but they helped us take things to the next level. I am lucky to have leadership that wants me to try new things and be innovative with our digital marketing. I also have great colleagues that help me gather content and post to our various niche accounts. Shout out to Amanda, Evan, Shilpa, Kristi, Christine and Brian!

If you had to sum up the people of Austin in five words, what would they be? Friendly, innovative, creative, music fans and fun!

What are people looking for when they come to Austin? They want to experience our live music scene. We actually created Twitter and Instagram accounts just for live music. We are unique as a destination marketing organization in that we have a Music Office. Our Music Industry Manager, Amanda, has been the voice on @musicaustin since the beginning. She rocks!

Doing community management for a literal community is sort of like community management to the second power. You deal with everything from people who have chosen to call the community home to people who are drawn there for vacation. What special challenges does this community-squared role present? It is a bit of a challenge because our mission is to market Austin to visitors and meeting planners. Not to people relocating here. However, our Chamber of Commerce is active on social media as well, so I am able to give their information out to people that have questions about their move. We have locals that act as our ambassadors on social media and we love it. We actually started a program called True Austin that allows some of our local bloggers/influencers to answer visitor questions on social media and email. Visitors want to know what the locals recommend.

One of my mentors recently taught me a fun game. When he visits a new city, he asks the server "If I was never coming back here, what should I order?" (On friskier days, he tells them he might be dying tomorrow...). If I were only making one trip to Austin...

What one place should I eat and what should I order? That is a really tough question since Austin has so many great restaurants. I know that when I go out of town, I miss eating Tex Mex the most, so I would say that you have to go to Torchy’s Tacos and order the queso and two fried avocado tacos. What one place should I have a drink? Another tough question. Austin has some really great margaritas, craft cocktails and now several breweries and brew pubs. If I had to name just one spot, I would say go sit outside at Uncorked Tasting Room and Wine Bar and order wine and a cheese plate. (People who know me will not be surprised that I suggested wine.) What one thing I should do? You have to experience live music. It is really easy to do as we have more than 250 live music venues including our airport, grocery stores and many restaurants. I would suggest going to see live music outdoors like Blues on the Green. That way you get to experience live music and hang out in one of our favorite parks, Zilker.


Three industry blogs you read regularly?

Troy Thompson’s http://travel2dot0.com/thinking/, Tnooz (http://www.tnooz.com/) Sheila Scarborough’s: http://www.sheilasguide.com/

Three non-industry blogs

Jay Baer’s http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ Tom Martin’s http://www.conversedigital.com/ Amber Naslund’s http://www.brasstackthinking.com/

Three must-follow Tweeters

That is an impossible question. I follow more than 1,000 people on Twitter, so narrowing it down to three is tough. The list I would share for this question is https://twitter.com/katiecook/who-i-learn-from-tourism/members

When you were little what did you think you were going to be when you grew up? I thought I would be a writer. My grandfather was a newspaper editor and many of my family members are journalists and writers. Writing a novel is on my bucket list. Someday!