Fine-Tuned Corporate Social Media: Interview with Pandora Radio’s Community Manager, Aaron
Social media seems like a dream job (and in many cases, it is), but managing corporate networks is tougher than it looks. Clients turn to a company’s social accounts when they need a quick answer to a pressing question, when they have concerns about a product or service, and when they want to give a shout-out for a job well done. Handling social media inquiries is a rewarding experience if you understand how to navigate the whirlwind of information that approaches at any given moment.
No one knows how to handle that whirlwind better than Aaron M., the Community Manager for Pandora Radio. I had the pleasure of interviewing Aaron after corresponding with him on Pandora’s official Twitter (and after experiencing an incredible result of his customer service — but more on that a little later). Here’s what he had to say about his job, his employer, and his favorite Pandora stations:
How long have you worked for Pandora? Were you a music fanatic prior to your employment there?
I was hired to Pandora’s Listener Support team three and a half years ago. I am, and have always been, a music fanatic. When I was a youngster my dad played pedal steel guitar in cowboy bars for a living. I learned to play guitar and bass when I was 12 and like many Pandora employees I’ve toured and recorded in bands. I still play every chance I get.
Tell me a little bit about your job as a Community Manager for Pandora. What responsibilities do you handle? Which aspects of your job do you enjoy the most, and why?
As Pandora’s Community Manager I am responsible for our presence on Facebook and Twitter. We take a very organic approach to social media. I am here to listen and engage with Pandora listeners. I enjoy the creativity involved in finding conversation starters. I enjoy hearing the great stories our listeners tell. I love learning about music with everyone else in our community!
Aaron at work on Pandora's Twitter
One would assume that social media would be a natural outlet for music lovers, but sometimes it’s tough to get people talking! Are there certain questions or discussion topics that generate more conversation than others?
Social media is a great outlet for music lovers. It is always a surprise to see what topics generate the most active conversations. I find that people really engage when they’re asked to look back to a time in their life and remember what songs they were listening to at specific moments. Music has such a cool ability to bring back memories. It’s also great to hear about listeners’ new music discoveries.
The last I heard, Pandora has more than 80 million active users. That’s a lot of potential feedback for you to field! Besides the “my station didn’t do exactly what I wanted” types of correspondence on Twitter, what seems to be the most common user concern? Do legitimate suggestions via social media ever make their way into the company suggestion box?
Currently we have more than 100 million registered users and 37 million active listeners. I absolutely pass along listener suggestions within the company. I work very closely with many departments including music curation, advertising, engineering and listener support. We’re working to create the best possible personalized so listener feedback is a big part of it. I hear everything from specific music suggestions to “why can’t you create an app that can be melded into my brain?” Some suggestions are more plausible than others but I am all ears.
You do an excellent job of responding to questions and making subscribers feel appreciated on Twitter. Do you have any tips or tricks for other Community Managers? What’s your secret?
Thank you! My suggestion is to listen to your community and figure out what people want from you. Community Manager is an interesting job title, it can mean so many different things. Stick with a voice that comes naturally to you and keep on growing with it. Like anything else, you will get better with practice, it is very rewarding.
Are there any exciting changes in the pipeline for Pandora that subscribers should know about?
Yep! We’ve released a brand new Pandora interface. I’m super excited about the social features of the new site, I think it is really going to help people discover new music through their friends. You can check out my profile here: http://goo.gl/EdJP4
Last but not least, what are your personal favorite stations to listen to on Pandora? And can you recommend any features that would maximize users’ experiences with the service?
My personal favorite stations right now are Big Star Radio and a station that I created called ‘Fitz Heavy Riff’, I seeded that station with a bunch of songs from a music blog I liked – lots of old heavy 60s and 70s rock. To create this station I used the Add Variety button and entered the names of specific songs featured in the blog. It came out great!
Oh, I also like Miami Sound Machine Radio – no guilty pleasures here!
Our new comedy genre stations are also really fun, I recommend listening to them when you need a laugh.
As you can see, Aaron enjoys his job and works hard to address customer inquiries on Pandora’s social media accounts! As if his interview answers didn’t provide enough evidence of that, I can personally attest to his level of service. Last month, I responded to the following tweet from the official Twitter account: “Here’s wishing you a happy weekend from Pandora! What’s a good station to start this weekend off with?” And to my surprise, Aaron started following me back!
I immediately wrote him a thank you tweet and gushed about how much I love Pandora, not expecting anything in return (his follow was enough for me). However, Aaron surprised me again by sending me a direct message and asking me if I had a Pandora t-shirt yet. A Pandora t-shirt? Yes, please! A few days later, I received the shirt as well as a hand-signed letter from Tim Westergren, the founder of Pandora. On a scale of one to ten, how psyched do you think I was? Take a look:
(Click to enlarge)
I’m officially blown away by Pandora’s social media efforts, and my loyalty to the company has increased even more since my interaction with Aaron. After all, I wouldn’t have even had the opportunity to interview him if he hadn’t been so approachable and personable in the first place.
Takeaways from Aaron’s strategy as a Community Manager:
- Enjoy what you do. Do you think Pandora’s social media efforts would be half as organized if they were without a manager who was well-versed in music genres?
- There’s no such thing as an insignificant comment. As Aaron demonstrates, all customer feedback is worth noting, no matter how implausible. You may not be able to reinvent the wheel with social media suggestions, but it’s a valid outlet for people to express themselves.
- Practice makes perfect. Even if you’ve been fielding social media questions for years, keep an open mind. There’s always room to grow and learn.
- Acknowledge your clients and reward your brand advocates. Promotional products are perfect for rewards! Pandora uses t-shirts, but any item that’s appropriate for your industry would do the trick.
What else can you learn from Aaron? Do you use Pandora Radio’s products and services? What are your most notable takeaways?
Main image courtesy of Aaron.