Category Archives: Work

Talk about work.

The Practical Steps From: My Road to Becoming a Community Manager

So in my last post, I talked a lot about my personal journey on becoming a Community Manager in the gaming industry. Looking back and wanting to provide something for the community, I wanted to make a posting with some actual practical steps that can be taken from my story.

1. Be Active, if even on a volunteer basis.

I started out by just volunteering my time on a forum. Others I know started by writing reviews on community gaming sites. Being active and staying involved helps to show a passion towards being part of a community and the industry.

2. Get on Twitter/Facebook & Network!

If you’re not using Social Media (TwitterFacebookGoogle+, etc.), you should be. Brands and their respective Community Managers all use these as tools to reach their audience. Most of them also have their own accounts that can be followed. When I began branching out and following other Community Managers, I used Social Media to talk to them about what things they were posting.

[Edit: Starting up on Social Media can probably be a whole blog by itself…]

If you’re able to attend a gaming convention like PAX, attend those panels run by Community Managers! They provide some great insight on their own journeys and what game companies are looking at for new hires. The best thing to do is also stay around after the panel and try and get some face to face time with those CMs. Follow up with them on Twitter saying how you attended their panel and it was great to meet them.

3. Be a “Jack of all Trades”

Today’s community manager isn’t hired just to handle the social media for a company (or if they are, they’re really more so a Social Media Strategist). Instead, we’re asked upon to gauge the voice of our communities, keep track of our competing companies, delivery engaging content, market our own brand/products, and much more. It would be great if we were an expert at all things, but that’s impractical. Instead, if you’re well rounded at all of these things, it helps you to shine that much more.

Don’t forget that this applies to playing games as well! You could very well pigeon hole yourself by being a Halo fan, dedicating all your expert knowledge into what Bungie and 343i has done with the series, but be waiting on the sidelines so long because they already have a Community Manager. Sure, you could wait around for that CM to move on (or up) and the space to open up, but be aware of the other companies that do have open positions.

4. Always Keep Gaining Knowledge

Even if we’re hired into a Community Manager role already, there’s still so much we can learn. Keep up with what other CMs are doing, what tools they’re using, and what they’re finding is difficult. If you need some paid training for a certain area (writing, social media, creating graphics, etc.) find a mentor, or there’s also workshops and classes for these things. Justin Korthof and Jon Long, aka SixOkay and Weezul, have a series of 100 podcasts, 15 Minutes of Game, focused on the CM role with lots of great knowledge. There’s also “My Community Manager” a very active community for CMs of all industries. They provide a lot of great articles relating to the CM role.

These are just some basic things, but I hope that they help some of you out there wanting to become Community Managers. I’m no expert (I’m really just 4 months into my role), but love being able to share and talk about these things. Feel free to leave a comment on the blog, or hit me up on Twitter with comments: @randalw.

My Road Becoming a Community Manager aka How I Broke into the Gaming Industry

Growing up as a kid, we all have had our dream jobs and careers. I used to want to be a Paleontologist and discover some new dinosaur. At one point I wanted to be involved in the comic book industry, but my art was terrible, so I thought maybe I could ink (and in the words of Kevin Smith’s “Chasing Amy” film, it’s just tracing!).

I’ve spoke about how I started playing video games at a young age with the Nintendo Entertainment System, and while I never quite had a moment in life where I knew I wanted to work in the gaming industry like Cliff Bleszinski, I just didn’t think there was an actually opportunity to walk down that path.

in 2008, I had been part of a group of gamers from my church who played Halo 3 and Gears of War almost nightly. One of them had recently bought an ASTRO A40 Audio System and raved about it. A gaming headset was definitely something that I was interested in, living in a small condo with my wife, and always needing to turn down the game volume at night while I played, so I wouldn’t disturb my wife’s sleep with the gunfire.

About a year later in July 2009, ASTRO Gaming started up their forums. I had been a forum hound for years, as I always found it interesting conversing with people of like-interests from around the world. (Side note: Through some forums is how I found the acoustic guitar I still use today!). As for any company, these forums started out pretty small. A lot of them people came on to ask questions about the intricacies of their gear, what benefits it provided, etc.

Through the last year desiring to pick up one of these gaming headsets, I had a lot of the knowledge to help people out, so I started out as part of the community. I helped answer peoples questions, saw and read the info that the ASTRO staff was saying in other outlets, and repeated that to customers. One of the big changes was moving the forums to less of a Tech Support “HELP! MY HEADSET ISN’T WORKING” to more of a community feel. So just as ASTRO Stanimal was directing those customers to fill out support tickets, I did as well.

Where it gets funny is that I wasn’t even an owner of their gear. I had been helping out as a member of this community for about 3 months, and my dear wife finally gave in and allowed me to purchase my gear post-Christmas in 2009.

Not even a month later, I was approached by ASTRO Stanimal who contacted me and thanked me for the help I had been on the forums, and that they would like to invite me in to the ASTRO office to talk over helping out on the forums in an official capacity. At this point in my life, I was working in the administrative side of a company, so I was already in front of a computer most of the day and able to do that job and continue to visit these forums throughout the day.

I met with Stan, the Community Marketing Manager, and became a contractor with ASTRO Gaming with a role as the Forum Moderator. It was a nice part-time gig that received a small stipend each month. It was a fun thing to be in-the-know on what ASTRO was releasing (as that year had the debut of both the A30 Mobile friendly headset, and the wireless MixAmp 5.8). Being that there would be a lot of questions about new gear just as it’s released, I was able to preview these things ahead of time to familiarize myself with the product.

ASTRO was going to have their booth at the 2009 PAX Prime (Penny-Acade’s yearly Expo held in Seattle), and I was pretty determined to see if I could help out an attend. I feel like I asked and pestered them to death, but it worked, and I was able to secure a 3-day exhibitor badge. I paid my own airfare and travel, and found some people that were part of the DestructoidSF community to stay with. PAX was a tiring and long 3-day weekend working as booth staff, but such an enjoyable time as well meeting gamers, explaining our ASTRO gear, and seeing the latest games.

As 2011 rolled around, I inquired about attending PAX East, their Expo in Boston in the Spring. Though ASTRO was without a booth, there was still a lot of companies that was using our gear that needed setup and assistance throughout the weekend. I paid my own airfare, but was able to stay on the rollout bed in Stan and Walter’s (ASTRO Events Manager) room.

Throughout these conventions and through the community of DestructoidSF, I had been meeting people involved in the industry on all levels. Seeing some of the same industry people from convention to convention, I made connections which I kept up through following them on my Twitter.

E3 comes around, the mother of all video gaming conventions. This has been the exclusive to the industry go-to convention where the latest games and consoles are shown (just the year before Microsoft released their new Xbox 360S). As a contractor receiving a 1099-MISC, I was able to sign-up myself for E3 to attend. Walter asked me back to help out with companies activations of gear, as well as helping with whatever photography coverage I could provide. I had been making enough impact with the company that they paid for my hotel stay (I still paid my air travel, much to my wife’s chagrin).

Towards the Fall, I was offered a position as Community Manager with ASTRO Gaming. I took over all of our Social Media channels and joined the marketing team to further work as a voice between the community and ASTRO. Much of the same information that our customers talk about (whether problems, changes, or praise) get voiced back to our team. Much like the Game Studio side, our team has a team of Engineers and Industrial Designers who work towards creating our products who receive this feedback.

All in all, it’s been a fun journey so far. There were times where I was an outsider looking in, and debated about trying to find positions within the industry. Making the decision to take that plunge was a big decision for me. I’m also lucky that my wife was okay with me making this move from my stable job working in PR/Communications at a company providing for children’s mental health needs. My job now is much more challenging and in tune with my passions for gaming and I feel I’m making a better impact within the gaming community by being able to listen to their needs.

PAX 2010 Plans

For those not familiar, PAX stands for Penny Arcade Expo, a convention of sort for gamers that was started by the website/web comic Penny Arcade. Starting in 2004, it’s grown every year, and even added a PAX East hosted in Boston in the Spring of 2010.

For me, this’ll be my first PAX. I’ll be hanging probably with the ASTRO Gaming crew and a bunch of the Destructoid guys (BTW: As a plug for Destructoid, if you’ve haven’t visited their site yet, you should. They do a great job of bringing in people into a gaming community close to you with NARPS (No Apparent Reason Parties). Going to one this weekend. ). Being that I haven’t been to a PAX before, I’ll probably be like a kid in a candy store, only this “store” has tons of great free play stations with the games that are coming out this Fall and in 2011. I’m probably most excited to see Halo: Reach (Bungie should be in attendance as they’re close to Seattle and Reach will most likely be complete by then), Gears of War 3 (Hoping the bring out Beast Mode!), and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier (which looks really bad ass. C’mon, Invisibility AND a mechanical robot-turret?).

Other things I’m looking forward to is hanging out with the community that I’ve been following over twitter (well, if they’ll let me, haha). I’ve been privileged to converse with a bunch of movers and shakers in the SF Bay Area in the gaming industry (most of which are involved with the DToidSF group) and they’re a nice bunch. Let the drinking and partying begin?

Heeeeey Quesadillas! (sung to Macarana or something…)

Yum, just made some good tasting quesadillas. Though now I’m out of tortillas…I’ll have to get some more. Earlier in the week I made fajitas (who said I couldn’t cook?) and they were great. I bought a pack of 20 tortillas, and ate about 5 fajitas that day, and another 3 on Friday. The rest I just ate….I really like Tortillas…maybe I’ll get the 30 pack next time, lol.

Our Music Department at work won a free dinner at Outback, paid for by our boss. =P She was running a contest for inventory. Inventory is when we here at Berean have a count of every single thing in the store, and we set the product numbers to that. We get a team to come in and they have these counter-things on their belts that look like calculators, and they 10 key in every item (they have a team of like 40 people, so it goes by in about 3-4 hours). Luckily I wasn’t there, but if I was, I would have been helping out with finding the SKU’s for items that don’t have Berean tags on it. Anyways, back to the contest. What it was was that Vanessa offered dinner at Outback for the Dept who had the least SKU checks on inventory night. We couldn’t have over 10 either, and if there was a tie, she would take both Depts out (so she was hoping for no tie, lol). Anyways, Teena called me today and told me that we won. She sounded so excited. =P So yeah, we only had 1 item that needed a SKU check. Cool eh? We were all assigned different sections to check cds from. Wheeee, first time going to Outback sometime soon! =)

current mood: chipper

“The Go Show” visits Berean!

Well yesterday was a big long day. Didn’t do too much during the day (in fact, woke up close to 11o’clock, hehe). I went into work at 4:30 for my long shift till 1am. =P We were going to host 4 bands that were performing later that day over at Jubilee Christian Center. Those for bands are Audio Adrenaline, MercyMe, Kutless, and the Swift. Cool guys, all look like very rocky guys (lol, all of them were white too, no asians, african-americans, or latinos in any of those groups, weird).