Blog: Mariah Cherem

While kiosks and bulletin boards are still littered with those hangy tear-off strip fliers, they've been overshadowed by interactive web directories, where visitors can post reviews and find hip happenings. Give a shout-out to Mariah Cherem, Metro Detroit community manager for, who will be reviewing the benefits of community and sense of place.

Post 1 - Community: I'm Talking About More Than Just the Warm Fuzzies

A lot of times when people ask me what I do, it's hard to provide a quick answer.  My job title is officially Metro Detroit community manager for – a website that helps connect people to local businesses, and to each other.  So, I can say I'm a community manager, but what the heck does that really mean?  It's not as easy to pin down as a teacher, lawyer, doctor.  People often can't really picture what I do.  Basically, it's my job to nurture the Yelp community, online and off.  But what does that mean?

Usually, I'm so enthused to give examples of what I'm working on – talking to small business owners, planning a big ole party, helping a nonprofit with publicity for a benefit – that I'm eager to share more details of what I do. On a day-to-day basis, I do a lot of the practical things many people do at their jobs – I send emails, make phone calls, set up meetings, and manage projects.  I introduce people to each other, I plan events, I brainstorm.

What I'm doing now, though, is more exciting to me than other careers that might sound similar day-to-day.  Why?  My end goal is building community; community among people who are active on the site, and – as a side benefit – community in general. Trying to figure out how to help people connect to each other – and to new favorite businesses and "Third Places" that might not be on their radar?  Well, that's something I've always fallen into naturally.

Connections to each other, and our ability to reach across sectors and interests and find shared passions and values, the ability to create a larger group that inspires and supports us – is something I believe in strongly, practically. I think it's far more powerful than just a nice word that gives you the warm fuzzies.

In Ann Arbor, in Detroit, and across the whole region of Southeastern Michigan, we need each other now more than ever.  We need to connect, communicate, and figure out our shared passions and what keeps us loving and believing in our state and our region.  And sure, we need to voice what frustrates us (lack of cohesive regional transit, anyone?) as well.

When I started this job, I had a handful of people who told me that it was quite impossible – that the various cities and towns and suburbs and villages of Southeastern Michigan were too fragmented.  That east-siders would never come to an event in Ypsilanti, that people from the northern Detroit 'burbs wouldn't be interested in exploring the city itself, etc.

Now, there's some truth to that. But that's not the whole truth. Maybe it was my overwhelming sense of idealism.  Maybe it was because I've always tended to bounce around a few different communities in the region and not feel pigeonholed. My real world experience has proven that as long as people find the things that connect them – shared interests, passions, or outlooks – they'll seek each other out and look for reasons to get together, to collaborate and to simply listen to each other – whether it's in quiet discussion or with beer in-hand at a raucous bar.  I can tell you – in my work like and in my personal life – it works.

Over the last year, these shared passions have certainly worked to unite people at various Yelp events – where east-side Yelpers were motivated to drive all the way out to Ypsi to learn about brewing and connect with other yelpers at Corner Brewery.  I've seen it in various meet-ups that have been organized by Yelp community members themselves – from "eat-up meet-ups" downriver to organized taco-truck hunts in Southwest Detroit.

There are a few specific stories that I think illustrate concrete value of the benefits of community beyond just thinking "Oh, I have some friends." A sense of place, and of connection with that place and its people, is one of the factors that not only keeps me here, but makes me happy to be here in Michigan.  It impacts our quality of life in small, daily ways that add up.

Over my next few entries, I'll be sharing a few of the ways different types of community (based on creativity, a shared need/problem) have impacted my life in significant ways – and some examples of how it's very much been instrumental in helping local businesses as well.  I'm pretty sure you’ll have your own examples to add, too – so please do.  That's what this is all about.