Wow has social media changed from its early days to now?! How we communicate with one another has been completely transformed, as has the way we interact with brands.
Once it assumed that brands were big and untouchable, they only spoke to us via large scale advertisements; consumers worshipped those that produced expensive campaigns and projected images of what everyone wanted to have, experience or be.
Today this has been flipped, almost entirely. Big glitzy social media advertising campaigns still have their place, of course, but content (as it all is today) is nothing if it's not coming from a brand that appears to and is actually in touch with their fans - and we mean that literally.
The Rise of the Community
Engaging with brands on social media was somewhat of a natural evolution for consumers. We got so used to chatting with our friends there, if our favourite (or least favourite) brands were on there, too, why would we not go there to engage?
So we did. People began writing posts or DMs to brand pages with everything from playful comments and indirect mentions, to complaints and criticisms. What's a brand to do? Community Management was born.
While we've oversimplified the backstory a little, the role of a Community Manager is anything but simple, and they are far more than damage control to manage the post-happy fingers of the masses.
Community Management provides a sense of community around the brand, building a loyal, unbreakable following.
Let's take US brand Taco Bell as an example. Lovers of fast food often have a passion for their particular preferences and Taco Bell has set up precisely the forum where they can express their love for tacos -- or more accurately, Taco Bell.
Taco Bell uses Twitter for customer service, reputation management and fun. By retweeting fun posts from fans, they receive tones of user-generated content that further enhances the reputation of their brand. Like these:
A little humour and interaction with your audience goes a long way in building a rock-solid community where some may even tattoo your brand on their body.
Community Management Roles
If you're new to social media Community Management, you'll be wondering exactly how one can achieve Taco Bell levels of success.
First, you need to realise that there are a few different kinds of community manager:
- Customer support
- Product ideation
- Acquisition and advocacy
- Content and programming
- External engagement
- Internal engagement
Customer support, product ideation and external social engagement are the three main elements that every business needs no matter their size.
These are the community managers that will manage the reputation of your brand online, engage with your community to build fans, and listen to the community to identify potential new opportunities -- "10,000 fans have asked for a hotdog taco, is this something we should consider?" for example.
7 Step Community Management Strategy
1. Find your platform
If your audience is mostly talking to you on Facebook, then you need to set up a Facebook community; if it's Twitter, then it's there, and so on.
2. Set the tone of voice
You need exceptionally engaging, fun and professional individuals that can act as chameleons, tailoring their interaction with your audience to meet the varied needs of the community - be it customer service rep, product expert, friend, or humorist.
3. Find your audience
By identifying your audience on social media, you can begin to learn about them and follow what they are following, what kind of content they are interested in, which you can then use as a base for what you should be producing.
4. Ask them for tips
The point of community management is to engage the audience, so the best place to start is by asking them what they want from you. This is a great place to begin to craft your content strategy.
5. Set your success factors
You need a goal. Whether it's to increase followers, conversations about the brand or engagement, setting a goal will help your community manager to focus on achieving this outcome.
6. Post regularly and consistently
Using the content ideas from your audience, post regular and consistent content and use a tone of voice that encourages your audience to engage.
7. Set guidelines
Your community managers need a bit of rope to be genuine, but there should still be a framework that they work within. Give them the freedom to offer a few freebies, discounts or samples, for example, but be sure to set a limit so that it can't break the bank.
Community Management Tools
Now, finally, let's talk tools.
Social media management tools like Buffer , Social Sprout and Hootsuite not only allow you to manage posts from their platforms, but they also give you tools to monitor whenever someone tags or talks about your brand. Your community manager can then respond directly from within the platform, allowing you to track what is being actioned, all from the one place.
In the End
Great content will always be critical, but what will set brands apart today is Community Management; keeping in touch with fans and followers, maintaining and building brand reputation, creating fun interaction with the audience and keeping abreast of new opportunities through social listening.
If you're investing in social media marketing, you need to be investing in community management.