Being a community manager is not an easy job. It’s a fun job. But it isn’t easy. At work I have a community manager on my team, a pretty awesome one in fact, he works really hard at it, and he is integral to the success of my program.
Community managers are the face of a brand online. When it comes to AFAR that face is Lauren Nicholl. A passionate traveler and talented social media practitioner she speaks the language of the community she manages and you can’t help but adore her.
Today is the fourth annual Community Manager Appreciation Day. It’s a real day! [Here is a great write up from Jeremiah Owyang about the day as well as a list of resources to learn more.] I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than to highlight Lauren and ask her questions about her job as AFAR’s Community Manager.
 How did you get your start in social media? And how did that lead to your current job at AFAR?
I actually got really interested in social media after returning from a year living and traveling down under. I was always an avid Facebook user and used it to keep in touch while I was away, but Twitter really opened my eyes to the power of social media and eventually, the potential to incorporate it into a career.
When I returned to the states, I was a bit lost in that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do – really, I just wanted to be traveling. I found comfort in the online travel community. I started playing around on Twitter while looking for jobs and found this really fun, extremely supportive and informative community. I discovered blogs written by people like me – former expats, world travelers who were at a standstill but still planning their next travels or writing about their previous experiences.
Moving to San Francisco also helped open my eyes to the world of startups and more specifically, travel startups. I started volunteering with one while also using my former career interest as an event planner to organize travel events around the bay area. This eventually opened the doors for me at AFAR, and as a long time fan of the magazine, I still feel the urge to pinch myself every so often.
 What does a typical day look like for you?
Every day starts off with a brief team meeting making sure everyone’s on the same page with what we’re working on. I spend a good amount of my time monitoring our site, which means constant wanderlust/torture. I get to partake in a lot of communication with our users, which I love. It makes the community that much more personal, for the users and for me.
I also do a fair amount of outreach to bloggers who exude a similar mission and outlook of travel; many of which make up our fabulous team of ambassadors. I still get to play on Twitter and Facebook (and Pinterest!) regularly as I work with our editorial and community interns to strengthen our social media presence. Depending on the day of the week, I may be setting up a newsletter, reporting on user feedback, sending the AFAR staff social media “homework,” or in a meeting solidifying the product roadmap.
 What is the best part of your job?
As mentioned before, I used to dream about working for this company. Sometimes when you fantasize about something, the reality is somewhat less than expected. I’m happy to say that working for this company, doing what I love to do, is better than expected. I am surrounded by people who share my passions for travel and creating something innovative and useful.People are encouraged to take time off work and travel! It is seen as not only a personal necessity, but ultimately, a team of travelers makes what we’re doing that much more relevant and important.
For my particular job position, it wouldn’t be what it is without the incredible community I get to support every day. I am constantly blown away by not only the quantity of content our users share, but the quality. I have never seen such amazing user generated material. And as “torturous” as it is, it reaffirms the importance of what I do and who I do it for.
 What do you think is the most important aspect of your job as community manager?
Communication. Being the liaison between our users and our product team, I must be able to communicate the concerns/suggestions/updates to and from both parties. A big part of my job is what I call “content coaching.” I often message new users or the community as a whole with tips on how to create better content so that their material is recognized and shared more on the site. Obviously social media – creatively and effectively communicating to the larger community. I also make it a priority to communicate the goings–on of our online community to the entire AFAR staff.
 What is your favorite social media channel? Why?
Although Pinterest is my most recent addiction, I would have to say Twitter just because of what I said above. It’s the channel that helped me really discover the online travel community. In addition to this discovery, I have found support and have formed some of my closest [IRL] friendships.
Thanks Lauren! I for one think you do a stellar job representing AFAR!