Community management is emerging as an important role for companies participating in social media. As with any new role is takes some time to figure out exactly what the role entails and how to execute effectively.
At the same time organizations struggle with how to quantify the ROI from their community managers and often wonder if the community manager is really helping them build their business.
As I work with different organizations one of the key problems that I encounter is that community management is not approached strategically. Like any part of your marketing strategy, or real-life networking a solid strategy is the key to creating an effective community manager role.
A solid strategy helps both the community manager and the brand to be on the same page regarding objectives, measures and results. Here are some tips to building an effective strategy for your community manager:
1) Know the players
First off – everyone matters. Whether they have 1 follower or 1,000 – everybody matters. That being said, there are people in your community who are more influential than others. The thought leaders. The influencers. The people who lead the crowd. Know who these people are. Interact with them. Follow what they say. Learn from them.
This will help you with both the listening side of social media (ie. filtering out the noise) and the outreach side of social media (being friends with the influencers always helps).
When I go to a real-life networking event or conference I usually have a few target people that I really want to meet or get in front of. Approach social media the same way. Know who you want to meet and why, and find a meaningful way to start a dialogue.
2) Set Goals Upfront
A lot of community managers start out with a vague job description and no clear goals. This makes it difficult for the brand or management and the community manager to measure results. Set goals and objectives upfront. They may change over time but you need a starting point.
3) Prioritize your Communities
Any space that you operate in likely has many different communities in different places – discussion groups, review sites, twitter, facebook, linkedin, niche social networks, other sites, blogs, etc. Start with a map of the possible communities that you can participate in and determine which ones are most important to your brand. This step can help prioritize time and energy, and ensures that everyone is on the same page.
Again, this may change over time based on results, however it is important to have a starting point. Over time you’ll want to optimize based on the results from your interactions on various communities.
4) Agree on Measures Upfront
There are lots of different ways to measure the effectiveness of community management. It is important that everyone agrees on what the metrics will be upfront. When selecting the metrics go beyond volume and traffic and focus on what really matters.
This will help everyone to understand how effective the community manager is, and it helps the community manager justify their position to the brand. Create a scorecard and review it on a regular basis.
5) Know that Community Management Covers Multiple Areas
While you may have a singular marketing goal for your community manager (ie. Drive sales, Deal with Negativity, Build Equity, Respond to Customer Service Issues), you’ll likely find that the community manager ends up doing a bit of all of these things.
Recognize the value that the community manager brings to many parts of your marketing strategy. Community managers will naturally have to respond to customer service issues or PR problems. Provide them with training and support to do this effectively. Recognize the value to your brand equity, customer service department, sales and PR from your community manager.
6) Align on the “Voice of the Brand” online
I’ve seen situations where the community manager isn’t the best advocate for the brand online. For example, a company selling bikes to hard-core professionals may have difficulty if the community manager is a passive hobyist cyclist who isn’t taken seriously by the community.
Align on who your target audience is, and make sure that your community manager can be taken seriously by this audience as a legitimate member of the community. Align on the voice of the brand and the brand positioning, and make sure that your community manager can represent these effectively.
Anybody else have suggestions?
Hiring a community manager and throwing them on a bunch of social sites is probably not the best approach.