by John Trybus, Managing Director

It seems everyone is familiar with LIVESTRONG, also known as the Lance Armstrong Foundation, not only because of the organization’s iconic founder but because of those yellow wristbands which seem to (still) be everywhere more than eight years since the foundation entered into a partnership with Nike. More than 85 million have been sold and distributed to date.

But the organization is also becoming well known for other efforts – including a smart and sophisticated social media presence – thanks to today’s featured social strategist Brooke McMillan. She’s the online community manager for the cancer support organization and responsible for just about everything and anything LIVESTRONG does online.

“I think a lot of people see the presence online and assume that there are a number of folks contributing but it’s just me,” Brooke says about her role.

With a background in social work, Brooke’s entry into social media was unconventional yet surprisingly advantageous. “Since I had the background of helping people affected by cancer and I had been around for awhile it just seemed like a great fit.”

To put her effectiveness in perspective, LIVESTRONG has more than 1.6 million likes on Facebook alone. From Facebook to Twitter to an original blog and now Pinterest, talk about a one-woman show.

I caught up with Brooke via phone from the foundation’s headquarters in Austin, Texas for a frank conversation about LIVESTRONG’s online communications strategy. Here’s a preview of what she believes are key components for effective online community management:

  • Develop an editorial line of thought. “We have an editorial calendar that is skeletoned out through the year,” Brooke explains. “We set our strategic goals in the summer the year before so we have an idea of what we want to do and what our main goals will be.” She adds that this approach has worked well to keep consistent messaging across multiple channels.
  • Put community first. It’s not all about the money. It’s tempting to increase the coffers of a nonprofit by soliciting donations online but Brooke thinks this is a mistake and community must always be put first. She puts it this way: “Do you want a friend who constantly hammers you for money or do you want a friend who you can talk to and know that they’re there for you?” When a strong community is in place the donations will follow.
  • Don’t put social media in an intern’s hands. Interns are valuable resources but “the messaging really needs to come from the top down,” she explains. “Don’t give the social media keys to anyone who you wouldn’t put on the five o’clock news…because it’s a powerful tool,” Brooke says. “You’re speaking with your constituents and you’re speaking with the world.”

Listen to my interview with social strategist Brooke McMillan to learn more about her tips for effective online community management as well as her insights about how to get to know audiences online, what to do in a crisis and much more.