How to Build a Branded Community with Social Media Examiner’s Jen Cole – Ep 103

Jen Cole shares the secrets that a big educational and media brand like Social Media Examiner builds an online community and why you can do the same.

About Jen Cole

We are so excited to have Jen Cole on the show today. Jen Cole is a Social Media Specialist and Community Manager. She is a co-founder of the social media marketing firm Depict Media based in Wichita Kansas. She is also the Community Manager for Social Media Examiner and produces their #smechat. Jen has been a guest on a lot of Twitter chats, including Madalyn’s #TwitterSmarter chat. She co-hosts the Making A Marketer podcast with Megan Powers. Fun fact: Jen is also an internationally ranked pinball player.

Question: Tell us about the online community you are building for Social Media Examiner?

Answer: Social Media Examiner was started about ten years ago by Mike Stelzner. It provides very up-to-date resources for social media and digital marketers all around the world. We have a blog that’s very “how-to” oriented. There’s also the Social Media Marketing Society which is an extra monthly subscription you can join. They provide weekly training, collaborations, and resources for marketers within a Facebook group. We also host Social Media Marketing World every year in San Diego where thousands of marketers come from across the globe to hang out and to learn from the best in the digital marketing world, network, build relationships and learn to do their job even better. We have two Facebook pages, Social Media Examiner and Social Media Marketing World. We have a Facebook group, Social Media Marketing Society and we have Instagram and Twitter. We’ve tried very hard to address or comment on every single mention we get. I’m learning a lot about our community, but also from our community. It’s been a true community-building experience.

Question: Why a Twitter chat? What was the motivation to start #SMEChat?

Answer: We have a big presence on Facebook and we have a decent presence on Instagram as well. We have an amazing Twitter that we were only posting on. We are a globally known resource for social media marketing and we talk about being transparent, being genuine and building community, yet we weren’t doing a lot of that on Twitter. The Twitter chat is about breaking news as a follow up to our Friday Social Media Marketing Talk Show that we do live. It’s been a wonderful way to dig deeper into our online community and really get to know them.

Question: How do you measure the success of #SMEChat and how has it strengthened your community?

Answer: We measure by reach, number of replies, how many participants we have and by how many people come back when they didn’t attend live. We use Metricool to look at the analytics.

Question: How is building an online community for a brand different than building a personal branded community?

Answer: When you build a community around a brand, you deepen genuine ties with folks. When you spend time as a brand interacting with people who love you and you take time to address that, it humanizes your brand. When you’re doing that as yourself, it builds authority for you, for your brand and you’re pulling people in tighter to your brand, doing amazing things, showing transparency and showing you care. We sign our names to add the human element to tweets so people know it’s not a robot, to let people know we’re real people spending time with them. 

Question: Why do you participate in other Twitter chats? How do you find the time?

Answer: I do it because I feel we’re so lucky in the social media marketing industry because we are very collaborative. When I get on there, it’s just a bunch of my friends in there hanging out. I like to devote as much time to our community as I can because I know it strengthens everything. You don’t have to commit to a whole Twitter chat if you don’t have the time, but you can easily jump on and say hello to everyone.

Question: What are the top 3-5 tips you have for other brands looking to build an engaged online community?

Answer: You need to have a Twitter account and engage in Twitter chats that are industry related. It’s a wonderful way to collaborate and to have smart conversations with like-minded people and to stay on top of things. Embrace live video. Live video has done wonderful things for the company I co-founded. We have a live show every Friday where we highlight someone in the Wichita area who either owns a business or is doing something super inspirational. Our community is very devoted and we have wonderful conversations in real-time. Do Instagram Stories. They’re so engaging and you can do a lot with them including polls, add gifs, tell a story, do a behind-the-scenes, so many things. Have a Facebook group. That’s where you’re really diving in more intimately with those who are truly devoted to your brand. Be genuine and devote time to your community. When you’re nurturing your online relationships the same way you’re nurturing in-person relationships, it goes really far because people are familiar with you, trust you and enjoy spending time with you.

Links Mentioned:

Take Action

You can click on the link in the sentance below to automatically search for the hashtag #SMEchat on Twitter to get a sense of the chat, or to join it at the date and time below.

Join the #SMEchat Twitter chat on Wednesday at 1pm ET / 10am PT.

How to reach Kami:

If you’d like to learn more about Kami Huyse, visit her website at You can contact her by email at or tweet to @kamichat.

How to reach Madalyn:

If you’d like to learn more about Madalyn Sklar, visit her website at You can contact her by email at or tweet to @MadalynSklar.

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