Here are five ways to get started building an effective community management strategy.
Social media allows great opportunity for building relationships and communicating directly with customers. To facilitate these relationships, the role of community manager is becoming increasingly important for all types of businesses.
Usually, community managers are the social media voices of their brands, fulfilling multiple roles including social media strategists, customer service managers, content creators, product managers and evangelists.
#1: Metrics—What are your objectives as a new community manager?
Identify the metrics and goals for your new role or community-building program. Clear expectations on KPIs will help you succeed.
Community-building progress to measure:
- Customer service metrics: Reduce the number of customer service support calls by monitoring common questions on Twitter and writing posts for an internal customer wiki.
- Sales metrics: Generate leads through inbound marketing tactics: blog posts, eBooks and webinars.
- Engagement metrics: This includes Facebook fans, Twitter reach, Facebook post impressions, blog comments or number of organic community member discussions started in a forum.
As it turns out, your role might be a combination of these. Defining your role (and being open to adapting it) by the data you drive ensures your efforts move forward.
#2: Listening—Where does your target audience hang out already?
With over 700 million people on Facebook and 450,000 new Twitter accounts added each day, it’s likely your potential community members are already on social media talking about things relevant to your brand.
When you’re starting a community from scratch, you need to fish where the fish are. Social media monitoring is how you find them.
Listening tactics include:
- Google Alerts and Twilerts: Subscribe to search terms for industry keywords and competitors.
- Create a (private) Twitter list of competitors, note what they are/aren’t sharing. Monitor what content they share on Facebook and LinkedIn (if applicable).
- Identify the hashtags your community uses. Set up columns in a Twitter client (like Seesmic) for them.
- Subscribe to blogs your community reads and share that content from your own accounts.
How it’s done:
The #measure Twitter community is a vibrant, enthusiastic group of data geeks discussing marketing and web analytics. Omniture, KissMetrics and Google Analytics are frequently mentioned. Marketing analytics company Performable, recently acquired by HubSpot, tapped into this existing and engaged audience to grow their community. They did this in a way that was genuine, by participating in the #measure community and sharing their relevant content.
This successfully positioned them within their target community, and kept them in tune to what potential customers were talking about.
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Learn where your community is and what they care about. Engage where they engage, and read and share the content that matters to them.
#3: Offer value to draw people in—Create a content plan.
Diligent monitoring unveils what your community talks about, what questions they have and what topics you should blog about. You’ll have plenty of ideas, but how will you carry them out?
Organize the pieces of your content plan:
- Create an editorial calendar—Your editorial calendar will include how many times a week you’ll blog, and when you publish what content. Use WordPress‘ Editorial Calendar Plugin to keep your post scheduling organized.
- Choose your blogging team—Decide who will help you create this content. Will you use freelancers or guest posts from community members or influencers?
- Identify your target keywords—Make your content great for your community and search engines. Use Google Suggest and Google Adwords to identify the right keywords for blog posts, and be sure to optimize your blog for SEO.
How it’s done:
The Laughing Cow and Babybel cheese community team knows the importance of adjacency in content: It’s not directly about your product or service, it’s about delivering related information your community cares about.
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Sarah and the blogging team deliver fitness and nutrition tips for their health-conscious community, the target buyer for the 35-calorie cheese snacks.
This content plan shows how one company scales the content creation it needs in order to build and engage its community.
#4: Don’t forget about email—It’s the glue that makes social media stick.
If you’re ignoring email, you’re missing a major community engagement opportunity.
Although social media is growing fast, actually only 52% of Americans have a profile on a social network. Email is a great way to share content or tips with your community, exclusive for your newsletter subscribers.
Add email to your community management strategy:
- Build your email list—Make use of your existing social media channels for acquiring email addresses. Include a place in your blog’s sidebar for people to subscribe to a newsletter or a custom tab on your Facebook page.
- Select your schedule—Choose a schedule that you’re able to stick to: You don’t want to set expectations for a weekly newsletter if that’s not realistic for your bandwidth.
- Plan your content—Will you curate industry news or share original tips with your newsletter subscribers? Choose your approach.
How it’s done:
Through weekly and monthly email newsletters, email marketing company Blue Sky Factory, recently acquired by WhatCounts, is a textbook example of how incorporating social media and email marketing is done right. They share helpful email marketing tips with community members. Responsibly, they allow community members to sign up for just the content they want on their newsletter signup page.
This means community members don’t have to receive press releases if they don’t want to. They can opt-in just to receive a once-a-month newsletter as opposed to a weekly update.
They also make use of the real estate on the Blue Sky Factory Facebook page, offering a user-friendly, granular email newsletter signup form on a custom tab.
Remember: Every Twitter follower and Facebook fan has an email address. Blue Sky Factory’s strategy shows how to make community engagement multichannel, and make the most of your social media platforms.
#5: Connect in real life—Incorporate Meetups into your community strategy.
Even if you have a global, online or digital community, engaging your local community fires up evangelists early on in the community-building process.
Let local people know you—the person behind the software, app or service. They’ll be quicker to vouch for your brand because they are willing to vouch for you.
Ways to merge digital and physical community:
- What events already matter?—Identify the conferences, Meetups or parties your community already goes to and find a way to attend or even sponsor.
- Partner up—Is there a local noncompetitive company or organization with the same audience who would want to co-host an event? Leveraging the brand equity of a co-host is one way to break into the space when you’re just beginning your community-building efforts.
How it’s done:
RunKeeper hosted its first group run from their headquarters in Boston’s South End in May, attracting more than 100 people. On June 9, the RunKeeper team set its sights on a larger scale: hosting a global group run. 2,200 runners in 1,000 cities signed up.
Meetups generate a huge audience to use RunKeeper’s app to track their miles, and they successfully achieve a core element of community-building. Runners feel like they are a part of something bigger than just their typical Saturday morning run.
ROI, tools and technology aside, community-building is about connecting a group of people by making them feel like they’re a part of something special. No matter what tactic you use or tool you choose to carry out that tactic, keep your focus on what motivates the people at the core of the community you’re trying to build.
What do you think? What other examples would you add, and what are the other core pieces to your community management strategy? Let us know in the comments box below.
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