How to Set Up an Effective Community Management Program w/ Ashley Ward @ashleymadhatter of @SEMrush #VCBuzz

How to Set Up an Effective Community Management Program w/ Ashley Ward @ashleymadhatter of @SEMrush #VCBuzzCommunity management is an integral part of digital marketing success. Effective community nurturing provides for lots of opportunities for a small business to stand out and snatch customers from more established and even corporate competitors.

But where to start and how to move forward? Let’s discuss!

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About Ashley

Ashley Ward @ashleymadhatter is a Corporate Speaker and Evangelist for @SEMrush, the well-known SEO analytics and competitive intelligence tool.

Ashley’s passion is focused on helping businesses and marketers gain long term ROI through teaching content marketing and social media marketing tips and tricks.

Ashley has co-authored the best-selling book “The Better Business Book V.2” . She is also a contributing writer to industry blogs such as Search Engine Journal and AuthorityLabs.

Questions we discussed

Q1 How did you become a digital marketer? Please share your career story!

I actually “fell” into digital marketing. I was a journalist back when my insurance agent asked if I could build him a website and create social media profiles for him. Print was starting to “die” and I was up for the challenge so and self-taught.

Digital marketing became a happy combination of journalism, allowing me to keep writing, and a way to be creative. It was the best of my two favorite worlds and a huge challenge as it was so new.

The work I did for the insurance agent was good enough for him to invite me to speak in front of a state-wide insurance agent conference in California and that’s when I began developing actual clients.

While growing with clients and building a side-agency for several years, I was working in-house as a digital marketer for companies and at agencies to further develop my knowledge and experience in the industry.

In short, I just said , and kept saying yes to every new digital opportunity until it landed me here at my favorite role yet as a Digital Marketing Strategist and Speaker for . 🙂

Digital marketing is such an industry that thrives on being versatile. You can’t just focus on one-speciality but have a continuing knowledge of the whole pie. So saying yes to new opportunities is a huuuuge plus and way to get you to where you need to be.

Yesss!! It’s so easy to let fear get the best of us but we have to trust our gut and know that even if there’s not a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, you at least got to see the whole rainbow along the way.

Q2 You are the sweetest person I’ve ever met. Do you think that’s what makes you a good community manager? What other traits and skills makes a good community manager?

OMG Thank you!!

Being sweet sure is a great trait for a community manager, but you also really need to be able to put yourself out there and explore situations that sometimes may make you feel uncomfortable.

I had NO idea how to build a website when I was first asked by my insurance agent, but I dove head first into WordPress and did my best to figure it out anyways because I knew opportunity was there.

Social media was a user-experience only thing for me. So going in and managing a business’ social profiles was completely foreign. But, I knew what I liked seeing as a user and what kinds of things would get lots of engagement and tried to replicate that.

A community manager also needs to be able to be in the know of just about everything and actually manage a “community” of people.

is the best community manager I know. She is always in the know of what’s going on and literally puts her heart into creating and managing a community. You’ve got to be truly invested in the community aspect – the P-E-O-P-L-E.

Q3 How to sell community management (to your boss, to a company, etc.)? Are there case studies, research findings, presentations that would help explain the goals and ROI of community management?

In terms of real life case studies tho, at we put a LOT of effort into building a community, and we’ve tons of positive results.

Some of the best results of community building here have been engaging and supporting people who love SO much that they become natural influencers.

Natural influencers = someone you don’t reach out to and ask or pay to promote your brand or service but does so because they LOVE your brand.

The more natural influencers you can inspire and support the more data you’ll have to show increased brand mentions online and socially, increased referrals, website traffic, conversions, and on and on and on!

It’s the whole people feel more comfortable buying a product that their friends recommend to them versus an ad on Instagram by a brand telling them how cool they are. Natural influencers help you reach your business goals, but you need to support them.


Q4 If a business wants to set up a community management plan, where should they start? How to begin and move forward with an effective community management program?

A good place to begin is by looking at the community you’ve already built, your customers/fans/followers/etc.

From there, determine different ways you can engage them regularly. This could look like our weekly , the SEMrush All Stars Facebook group, or by tracking brand mentions to see who’s talking about you the most and invite them to join 1 of your groups.

The key is to constantly engage with them and make it so EASY for them to engage you. Then, welcome feedback on EVERYTHING with your brand/business. to what they have to say and see how you can improve. Provide a safe space for them to do this.

And then provide incentives for opinions. You’ve got to show how much you really do care about them, their opinions, their presence, and keep engaging.

Think about your personal community, your group of friends. How do you engage them regularly? How do you keep them engaged? Where to you meet new friends and how do you merge them with your existing community?

Yes! I’ve formed so many friendships within the industry from Twitter – it’s such a great platform for community building within our industry!!

Q5 What are your favorite community management and social media marketing tools?

I just love being able to schedule, track posts, and check competitors page insights within ONE tool. Coming from an agency background being able to get snippets of what’s most imp for all clients all in one dashboard is huuuge.

I used to have to go in and out of social platforms to get good analytics and try a few different tools – with all of that is eliminated.

ANDDD you get to track brand mentions! I love going in and taking a brand that is trying reallllly hard to build a community (or rebuild) like . And then compare their brand mentions to a competitor… like and see who is getting the most POSITIVE mentions. And who’s not.. usually when you follow brand mentions you can discover what a community thinks about your brand/business and who your real advocates are.

Our previous community management chats:


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