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Masterclass: Meet Moz Community Manager Erica McGillivray

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First came search, then content marketing. And now, a compelling new marketing strategy has emerged: community building.

In the old days, SEO was considerably easier than it is today. A few links, some rich anchor text and next thing you know, you’re getting tons of traffic from Google. Content marketing, which is essentially the process of making content that will rank and be shared, makes this process a lot harder. Your content has to be really good and really interesting in order for it to become a marketing tool.

Erica McGillivray

Community building takes content marketing to the next level. A good community is driven not by the marketing team, but by the users who come to participate in education and discussion. At Moz, one of the most well-known marketing tech companies of the last few years, the community is flourishing, thanks to a genuine desire to teach people about SEO and marketing, along with a bustling forum, weekly webinars, a 22,000-member LinkedIn group, a community blog and active social channels. Users can create a free account to access the community, leave comments, get more information about upcoming events and test out Moz software.

Someone has to manage all that activity. At Moz, one of those people is senior community manager Erica McGillivray. Her job includes social media, content creation, customer service, SEO, public relations, event planning and email marketing. We caught up with Erica to ask her a few questions about Moz’s community efforts and email strategy.

How does Moz use email to keep users informed and engaged?

Erica: We have a lot of the typical “reminder” emails to continue community and/or customer interactions on the site — such as notices when other users answer Q&A forum questions, blog comments, customer on-boarding information, and routine reports on customer’s metrics. We also have a monthly customer newsletter, messages about major product updates or events, and a highly-curated Top 10 list of online marketing articles.

Our Moz Top 10 list is mostly non-Moz links and drives a ton of traffic to the great work our community that’s not on Moz.com. We’ve had people tell us their blog traffic has tripled, sites have gone down, people have gotten new clients, and people have gotten speaking gigs by being included. This spreads a huge amount of goodwill in our community and also keeps people very engaged with us, so when we send them other emails, they’re more likely to open them.

How does your experience in email marketing help you in your role at Moz?

Erica: I never forget when we should have an email capture form somewhere (but that doesn’t mean I always get my way 😉 ).

Are there any emails strategies that you find to be extremely effective?

Erica: The most effective emails are the ones that are relevant to your audience. I know that sounds simple, but if you don’t know how to slice and dice your contact lists into correct groupings and make sure you have the proper permissions to email them, you are missing opportunities.

Moz Email Open Rate

Right now, I’m pretty focused on MozCon, our annual conference that’s coming up in July, and we have a super targeted Events list that’s slightly under 3,000 people. This is tiny compared to our Moz Top 10 list, which is 200,000+ people, but those on the Events list want to hear about MozCon. A recent email announcing the agenda had a 107 percent open rate, which means we had people coming back to the email multiple times and many bought tickets. (MozCon’s $999 a ticket, so we’d expect people to come back multiple times before buying and take time to consider the purchase.)

How important is the inbox vs the social feed or SERP in 2014?

Erica: Even in the era of easy spam reporting and Gmail’s promotional tab, email is still more personal. Done well, it has a more direct impact than social media or search. (And I say that as someone who’s an SEO and social media manager.) But because it’s so in your customer’s face, it’s easier to make people angry if it’s not tailored to them. They can pick another search result or ignore a tweet, but they have to do something with your email. And you don’t want that something to be the delete button.

Email is personal. Why do so many businesses treat it like a broadcast system?

Erica: It’s hard for a lot of businesses to pivot. If you’ve been sending blanket messages to your subscribers for years, it’s hard to change. Especially if you’re seeing some results. Never be afraid of changing or testing.

Are there any resources that you recommend to other marketers and community managers?

I always recommend coming to MozCon, which is Moz’s annual conference, July 14-16th in Seattle. For community managers, CMX Summit is also fabulous.

Visit moz.com/community to learn more.

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