Community management is often confused for social media marketing and people have been using them interchangeably in various forums. But it’s hard to fault anybody for the confusion. After all, they both deal with relationships and people. With that said, there’s a stark difference between the two and before you can even begin to attempt to launch your community management campaign, it would be best that you understand this distinction first.
Community Management Vs Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing refers to the act of producing or distributing content to reach out to your target market and also engage with your current customers. The buzzwords here are likes, engagement, reach, traffic, and shares.
Community management, meanwhile, goes beyond the reach and the need to become the next viral sensation. It’s the concerted and deliberate effort to build up your brand. In fact, you can even drop the word “marketing” from the equation because that’s not always the goal. You are trying to grow your “community” and maybe alter behavior and attitude with regards to your brand.
For this to happen, you need to listen to Internet chatter, become more active in online forums or social media threads in topics that relate to your brand, you need to continuously engage with people who are very active online or reach out to those who may have been inactive for quite some time. You also provide the necessary platform for all the people within your ecosystem to interact with each other.
The community here is not limited to just Facebook or Twitter but also other social media platforms like Reddit, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Quora and others.
Here are some tips to launch a successful community management campaign:
1. Know Yourself
Why do you want to build a community in the first place? When you are starting your business, you need a corporate mission and vision. It’s the same with your community management. You don’t just do one to follow the tide. Is your main goal to ensure customer satisfaction? Is it to boost your brand awareness? Is it to streamline your operations for better customer service?
2. Benchmark Your Campaign for Success
After establishing your mission and vision, you can now set the necessary metrics to determine whether you succeeded or failed. It’s easy to get caught up with the high traffic or if your post goes viral, but don’t take your eyes off the larger goal. While community management—in conjunction with social media marketing—is vital for your business, it’s not the end unto itself. A metric like high traffic is important but what’s crucial is promoting brand awareness, increasing conversion, driving leads, and customer retention.
3. Encourage Discussions
In an ideal world, your communal ecosystem should be the go-to place for your customers to discuss any topic related to your brand or industry. Your community’s success is closely tied to how engaged the participants are. When they already have an emotional investment in the community, they are likely to remain there for the long term, be active in online discussions, or share it with their set of friends and acquaintances. Your community should be a safe place where people can talk about anything knowing that their views will be respected, which brings us to the fourth step…
4. Enforce Some Ground Rules
Perhaps, a rule is a harsh word. We can call it guidelines instead. The main purpose is to impose a sanction but to provide everybody with some parameters during discussions. Some arguments may become heated so it’s important that people know the guidelines. For instance, they are not allowed to make racist comments and insults, so people stick to the topic. They should respect any opinion even if it’s contrary to their own. The guidelines need not be long, so they would be easily remembered.
5. Keep an Eye on the Discussions
To make sure that everybody is not overstepping their bounds, you have to appoint a site administrator to serve a warning to transgressors. You are not there to enforce draconian methods but rather to steer conversations onto the right path, suggest some positive topic if the community becomes inactive, and in some cases, warn habitual violators of the guidelines. It’s not really advised to ban anybody from the forum. That final sanction is best left for the community to decide.
6. Introduce a Human Face to Your Brand
People latch onto a concept that they can relate. If they are active participants in your community then they are already converted. You need to continue to engage them by making your brand more personable and relatable. How to do this? You can create video blogs, webinars, video conferences, or Q&A live sessions where you interact directly with your customers. You can also ask your staff to host AMA sessions, modeled after Reddit, where customers can ask anything under the sun and expect honest answers.
The next steps are monitoring and constant assessment and reassessment. Your community management campaign is very fluid. You need to always monitor anything that relates to your brand to avoid any surprises. You can set up an account at BuzzSumo Alerts or Google Alerts, so you will be notified if there are mentions in relation to your company. You can also search for trending hashtags on Twitter or Facebook that you can piggyback on to create brand awareness. There are numerous social listening tools out there that you can invest in.
Lastly, community management is vital to your reputation management. It’s rare that a successful brand is built overnight but it’s more commonplace for that brand to come crashing down in just one day. You can’t expect to be a perfect brand. The last thing you want to do is to sanitize the comments to make sure that only the positive ones get through. Your customers will want to read a complaint if only to see how you will handle it. In fact, a flawed brand is much more relatable, especially if you are honest with your self-criticism and also sincere about getting better. When your customers believe in the brand, you have essentially your very own army of advocates who are the first to defend you in case of a lie or disinformation.