My year as the DTH's community manager

I served as The Daily Tar Heel's community manager during the 2010-11 school year. I created the position a year earlier in my role as the paper's online managing editor to extend our engagement efforts online. Throughout the year, I experimented with new technologies to reach readers.

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  1. As community manager, I was responsible for paper's online presence. This involved ten branded Facebook and Twitter accounts, a Tumblr, YouTube, Reddit and Storify accounts. Additionally, I moderated comments on dailytarheel.com and helped editors brainstorm print-online collaborations.


    At the beginning of the year, I laid out my goals for readers:


         "As a news organization, we succeed only when we’re in touch with our      

          readers. We’re one of the few college papers to have a dedicated 

          community manager, and we’re serious about interacting with you in 

         person and online. My job this year is to make sure we hear from you. 

         Whether you hate what we’re doing, love it, want more of this or less of 

         that — we want to know."

  2. I focused my work around:

    1. Improving interaction with the community as a whole and with the paper's niche communities
    2. Encouraging and facilitating reader-generated content
    3. Promoting our content and news of interest to our readers
    4. Training staff in best practices
  3. As community editor at a college paper, this naturally meant I spent a lot of time on Facebook. During my time as community manager, we became the most "liked" college paper on Facebook. More importantly, we increased the number of interactions with each of those fans. Interactions increased 126 percent and overall fans by 70 percent over the previous six months.
  4. I posed questions to generate discussion on articles, both in individual posts and using the poll feature:
  5. I also used Facebook to find sources and experts for stories. After the Japanese tsunami, I reached out through our page and found a number of current students and alumni in the country willing to talk with our reporters. Their accounts helped to localize an international story for our audience:
  6. In the past, the paper's Facebook page was mainly used to share feature stories. Recognizing its widespread use among our readership demographic, I increased the amount of breaking news I shared with the account, seeking to make our Facebook page as up-to-date as possible. This approach drastically increased referral traffic to the paper's website, particularly during the basketball season.
  7. I also used the account to share reader-submitted photos. Before classes started, I arranged for a handful of freshmen to document their first weekends on campus with disposable cameras. We highlighted the photos online and in the paper. The approach enabled us to tell an old story  — move-in weekend — in a new way.
  8. Before I took over the paper's accounts, posts were generally scheduled and primarily promoted only our own content. I minimized scheduled posts to make the accounts more accessible and frequently retweeted others (including our competitors). I responded always to questions, concerns and critiques made online, often following up through email or in person to make sure the issues were resolved.
  9. On Twitter and Facebook, I also worked to encourage discussion around the topics of the day. When multiple police reports describing a male intruder surfaced, I used the opportunity to highlight safety awareness. We asked readers to submit their own safety tips and I linked to experts' advice as well.
  10. In March, the UNC community marked the third anniversary of former student body president Eve Carson's murder. Her impact on the campus, during her life and in death, has been profound, and I sought an appropriate way to memorialize and commemorate her life. I asked readers to share their thoughts and memories using the hashtag #EveToday, and the response was overwhelming. We received hundreds of responses on Twitter and Facebook, many of which I retweeted from the main @dailytarheel account and all of which I compiled into a Storify-turned-memorial book:
  11. On the Tumblr blog I created, I embraced the visual emphasis and shared DTH photos and editorial cartoons, as well as reader-submitted content. Photos of weird goings-on in the Quad, reader comments and national stories about higher education trends. I also used it to respond to complaints about our coverage I saw raised in other Tumblr blogs:

  12. It was important to me to focus on training efforts within the newsroom as well. College students are often credited for their experience with social media, but my experience has shown that most college journalists are not aware of the many ways to use it professionally. I held training sessions for staff and worked individually with editors and reporters on a case-by-case basis to help them improve their online storytelling.
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