How Community Managers Can Build Lasting Relationships With Fans
Do you show genuine interest in your audience?
People connect with others when there’s an emotional tie.
In this article you’ll discover how to use four traits to win audience engagement and help your business thrive.
Why Commit to Your Fans
Being a good virtual citizen requires basic housekeeping like thanking people for engaging with you and promoting excellent content.
But if that’s the only effort you’re putting out there, it’s likely you have low engagement because your audience doesn’t have a true connection with you. They can tell you’re just going through the motions.
To have true, consistent engagement, your audience needs to feel like you’re investing in them—not just doing your job.
Four ways you can show you’re committed to them (and encourage them to commit to you) are to be vulnerable, generous, interactive and personable. If you can do that, you can take your online relationships from merely friendly to intimate, and eventually, profitable.
Below I discuss each of the four traits of successful community managers and how you can develop them yourself.
#1: Express Vulnerability to Connect
People like to help and support each other, so giving someone an opportunity to feel valuable and useful is a good way to strengthen a relationship. When you admit you’re wrong, don’t know something or need ideas, others respond to that vulnerability. They want to help.
Apologizing can be intimidating, especially on social media where everything is public and easily shared.
When you offer a sincere apology, you have a better chance of a positive reaction. Admit what you did wrong and explain why it was wrong. Follow up with your plan to change your behavior then stick to that promise.
Uncertainty also translates into vulnerability and makes for a good opportunity to connect with your online audience. For example, there may be times when you know you need to move forward, but you’re not sure how. Try asking your customers and fans for input.
Asking for help and ideas can be tricky. There’s a line to be aware of here: You want to ask for input and ideas, but you don’t want to look like you have no idea what you’re talking about.
Because this is a more nebulous type of engagement, approach your audience with specific requests. Pose questions that have clear, strong calls to action and invite responses. Use “I” statements whenever possible.
When you approach your audience for ideas, identify your problem briefly and clearly and explain what solutions you’ve considered. Make it easy for fans to contribute by being specific about the outcome you want.
#2: Offer Generous Promotion and Sharing
Give, give, give. Give information. Give laughs. Give support. Give your time.
The way to the hearts of your fans and followers is to give generously—your attention and your expertise—with no expectation of reciprocation. Make it clear that you have no intention other than being useful and building stronger relationships.
You can leverage generosity by sharing your knowledge and content, sharing good content created by others and showing appreciation for fans and followers (whether as a group or by acknowledging an individual).
Your audience comes to you for your expertise, so it makes sense to share your knowledge when asked. As you do, address your fans’ questions directly and explain why your answer is helpful. Provide a shortened link to your content so they can click right through and share it if they agree it works for them!
Promoting your content is necessary (and expected), but it’s even better if you can bring attention to other people by promoting their work. Generously bringing attention to others builds a relationship with that person and reinforces your role as a resource for information with your audience.
When directing people to someone else’s content, follow the same guide as sharing your own content: state why it’s relevant and provide a shortened link. Be sure to mention the creator of the resource by name or handle to let them know you’re directing people to them.
We tend to think of our online audience as a big, homogenous group, but it’s not! It’s a group of individual people who have taken steps to get to know you. Singling people out for appreciation demonstrates you’re aware of what’s going on around you.
When you do highlight fans or followers, mention them by name (or handle or username) and tell everyone why you’re happy they’re around. You may even want to give them a little extra traffic by sharing a link to their content.
#3: Build Trust with Consistent Interaction
Being interactive means being part of your own community. Talk to people. Respond to them. Greet followers and contacts, thank someone for contributing to the conversation and respond to tags and mentions. (Generosity and interactivity go hand-in-hand.)
Humans are very good at detecting phonies. You can usually tell when someone actually cares about you versus when they’re just trying to get rid of you so they can get back to the day, right?
Your followers are no different. They can sniff out your lack of interest like a pig sniffs out truffles. Auto-replies won’t fit the bill here—they look fake because they are fake.
If you want to build a strong social media family, take the time to interact personally. It may mean your audience is smaller, but it’s also stronger.
Say hello to fans by name if you know them, or username if you don’t. You can make your greeting even more personal by mentioning something about their work or their relationship with you.
If someone shares your content, especially without having been asked, it’s good form to express your appreciation.
Whether your thank-you is public or private depends on the forum you’re in. Either way, thank them by name, mention what they did and why you appreciate it. If appropriate, follow up with a piece of content or a resource that continues the conversation.
#4: Make Personality Part of the Package
For the most part, community managers and social media marketers who work for big corporations have little to no choice in how they present themselves or the information they share.
If you have the chance to integrate a little personality with your updates, take advantage of it! Showing the real you makes a big difference in how your followers or contacts perceive you. People like doing things for and with people they like.
Pick one or two of your main interests you can share occasionally (don’t over-share!), but keep the majority of your posts focused on your area of expertise and issues related to your company and your audience.
The key is to find a balance of personal and professional tone.
As you’re finding your balance, define the lines you will not cross. For example, unless you’re in a very specific kind of business (e.g., news journalism or gender studies), you probably want to avoid polarizing topics.
Debate is good, but it’s preferable to have the discussion focused on your niche and industry instead of random flame wars (which are commonly brought on when companies share or comment on controversial issues).
At the end of the day, being authentic and connecting with your audience as a person and not just a business gets the job done.
Being aware of the way you present yourself to your fans means you can guide the interaction so it benefits everyone and ensures your online relationships don’t become stagnant.
What do you think? Do you use any of these emotional triggers to enhance engagement? How has your audience responded? Leave your comments and questions below.