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Meet a Community Manager Monday: Betsy Decillis

betsy decillis 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 Betsy Decillis, a fellow Columbus gal. I can't quite recall when or where Betsy and I met, but over the past several years our careers have taken unexpected and wonderful turns, and a friendhip has blossomed along the way. These days she's heading up her company, BAD Consulting, taking the occasional break to Facebook pictures of her beloved cat Cesare. 

Enjoy the read! 

Who are you? I'm a cat-obsessed, Yankees-loving dork. I'd say geek, but my inability to make at least one of my tech devices work on a daily basis speaks to me being more dork than geek.

What do you do? I own my own business (Betsy A. Decillis Consulting, aka BAD Consulting). I was told to come up with a title, so I started calling myself the Chief Content Officer.

Where do you do it? My couch, Panera, Starbucks, random offices, etc. The world is my office. My favorite is Panera, because I become totally focused on writing. Plus, there is always someone sitting near my "desk" that is unintentionally feeding me material. Being anti-social as a rule, it's necessary that I get out to listen to how other people talk.

What has been your most memorable moment as a community manager? I was about to fly out to Austin for the weekend. I'd only been working with my business's first client for about a month, and we were seeing some great results but nothing spectacular. The client took this photo of a "Last Call", which happens at a firefighter's funeral. It was two firetrucks with ladders up, each holding the end of a flag. The sky was the perfect shade of blue and the flag was flapping in the wind. I posted it with a quickie caption thought of on the spot and got on the plane. It was risky and not something I normally would do, but I knew the client was watching. I touched down in Dallas to her text messages freaking out about how the picture blew up. I can't really describe it, but it was part validation of my skills and part of reminding me of how much I love social and working with clients. I have amazing clients that know how to collaborate to make this stuff fun.

What was the hardest thing you have had to handle as a community manager? I was personally attacked on a client's Facebook page. Someone found out who I was and went to town on me and my client for using my services. My boyfriend calls me naive, and there's a bit of truth to that. I never see attacks coming, and to have it happen so openly made me crumple a bit. I want to believe everyone is deep down a nice person, and I hate to be proven wrong on that fact. It took awhile before I could open that client's pages without trepidation.

In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception about community management? That you actually manage anything. It's best to take your cues from the audience. Get down and play with them. That's when the magic happens.

What are the top 3 personality traits a good community manager needs to have? Good listener, storyteller and fun. Nobody wants to follow a boring person.

What are the top 3 skills a good community manager brings to the table? Being able to hold a lot of information in their heads, love of learning new things and being able to teach.

What has community management taught you about people in general? That most people are good. It's hard, because we do have to put way too much energy into trolls. I always focus on the why of a troll, when there is usually no why. Putting more of my energy into the good always results in people being nice and supportive. Funny enough, that helps when those trolls pop up.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first got into community management? That it's okay to relinquish control. I want to take care of my audience at all times. But sometimes they need to take care of me and lead me to where we need to go. Whenever I need to be inspired, I simply ask why they love my client. I learn a lot from that. If I had known that at first, it would have helped a lot in the content creation.

Community Management is …the most all-encompassing job there is. You never know what you'll have to do or who you will have to talk to, and it requires that you have as broad a knowledge as possible.

Community Management is not …managing a community. If you try to do what the name implies, they are going to bite you. Let them lead.

In your opinion, what brands (besides your own, of course) are doing social really well? I love Visit Savannah and Travel Oregon. Both organizations are filled with nice, fun people, and their social reflects that. And with all the awesome pictures they post, I'm dying to get to both locations. Mission accomplished.

What are three tools that make your job easier? (Yes. I want you to share your secret weapons.) Buffer, Instagram and Facebook Groups. The last two aren't technically tools, but they are so useful. I use a hashtag to source content via Instagram that can be used on multiple networks. Facebook Groups are great for when you need a mental health break or advice. And Buffer helps me effectively feed the beast that is Twitter.

What one thing would you like to tell the world about community management? I don't just play on the Twitters all day, like my boyfriend likes to tell people. And it's actually the most demanding job I've ever had. That says a lot, since I used to work on political campaigns.

What is the biggest change you have seen in community management over the course of your career? People are getting smarter. That's both the companies dipping their toes in and the audience. Overall, companies are getting better, which makes everyone have to up their game. And audiences are getting better at seeing through crap, which, once again, makes everyone have to up their game. There is a much larger learning curve than when I started playing in this world.

Current clients aside, what is one community you would love to work with and why? I can't pick between these two, so feel free to get mad at me for putting two: the Pope and the Yankees. I think a lot of people think I'm kidding when I say that I want to tweet for the Pope, but I badly do. I think there is so much the Church can do to become relevant in the world of social and reach out to the younger parishioners. And there are a lot of misconceptions about being Catholic that can easily be cleared up by being active and engaging. With Pope Francis, I foresee that we will see a huge change in their use of social. The tweets from the @pontifex account show a lot of promise. It still needs to talk with the people, and I'd love to see what would happen if it went there. Also, Pope Francis told young people to dream big, so I'm totally following his advice here.

The Yankees have been a long time love of mine. I have two nephews that grew up as ballplayers (one is about to coach the other this summer!). I would have this job exactly one day, because I would totally only talk about one part of the game: How hot these guys look in pinstripes. I feel like that would get a ton of engagement and make a lot more people interested in what the Yankee accounts have to say.

If you could only have one social network, which one would it be? Facebook. Say what you will, it's still very useful. Facebook fans are more likely to tell me stories and Facebook Groups have saved me on more than one occasion.

What is your favorite part about your job? I love teaching. Watching the light go on in someone's eyes as they get something is just amazing. This is why when I write blog posts, it will tend to be towards the 101-200 audience. They need us the most, and they are the most grateful.

As a CM/SM, there is an expectation that you be constantly plugged in. How do you find work/life balance? For me as a solo business owner, yes. That is also a personality defect though. I've balanced it out with date nights with friends and the boyfriend where I'm not allowed to check client stuff. I just recently took a vacation that was made possible by my iPad. I could spend time with my family, but I could regularly post and/or check on posts. I literally watched my nephew make a key play in a ballgame while keeping watch on a post. I also try to make work as fun as possible. Working from home, I have a cat that requires play and attention. Best office environment for me, since he pulls me out of working 24/7. When on the road for a client, it's always a blast. Since I have a focus on tourism, my job is literally to have fun and then write about it. So the industry I have chosen is probably the biggest factor in maintaining that balance.

What one piece of advice would you give a young person who aspires to work in SM? Be helpful to the people and brands that interest you. Find the small to mid-level brands you want to work for and engage on their social (within reason). For every account I work on, I can easily list the top 5 engagers and/or content producers. I count on this core group of people for a variety of reasons. Should I ever decide to hire and one of their names happened to be in there, I would take notice. Don't expect it to happen overnight. It takes a long time to become a part of this core group on these accounts. So start the process long before you are even thinking of needing a job or an internship.

How do you spark conversations with your community? What kinds of things work? What have you found not to work? FOOD! People are hungry at certain times of the day. It's amazing what happens when you post a nice glossy picture of something yummy at those times. Also, historical photos. People love to tell their stories about these pictures.

If you had to distil all your CM/SM wisdom down into one guiding principle, what would it be? I used to work at Target, and they have a guiding principle for their employees that speaks true for social: Be fast, fun and friendly.

3 industry blogs you read regularly? Spin Sucks and anywhere that Lisa Barone or Amber Naslund write.


3 must-follow Tweeters

@KatieCook (If you make friends with her, I'm pretty sure she'd help you bury a dead body. She's that nice.) @prTini (The most supportive person I know.) @Shonali (HOLY SMART! She always replies back, and she obviously loves to teach. I've learned way too much from her. I could never repay her for all of the help she's given me. Same goes for @prTini.)

What do you do for fun? I run, dance like a fool in my kitchen, read, play with my cat, giggle with my boyfriend, watch Yankee games and drink wine.

A shout out to your favorite non-profit? Cat Welfare Association (I love how the cats are free to roam around the shelter) and Colony Cats (where I got my cat, Cesare.)

When you were little what did you think you were going to be when you grew up? A ballerina and Governor of New York. I was in love with Mario Cuomo and thought it would be a better job than president. Yes, these really were the thoughts of a 7 year old.