With consumers spending more and more time online, brands have been forced to follow them into the digital world. What they have discovered is that digital mediums have converted their messages from a static monologue into an interactive dialogue. There’s a huge consumer demand for more interactive relationships with brands, and we’re now at a stage where a brand’s online presence is not only expected, but is often the key method of engagement. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter offer brands the opportunity to capture, track and interact with consumers on an ongoing basis, however, both require active community management.
Here are 10 tips to help you create, excite and inspire your community:
1. Determine the purpose of your community and set appropriate expectations – Not all communities are going to have the same goals. Some brands set out to use their social networks as an extension of their customer service efforts, others may want to just provide tips and deals. Letting users know what you’re there to do from the get go, will help to guide interaction. Finally having a defined goal will allow you to measure the success of your community with realistic expectations.
2. Create a fully-branded experience – Most social networks allow for basic customization of profiles such as adding logos, pictures, company information and links. Make use of all available features to create an environment that is reflective of the brand your consumers know and love. Within Facebook you can take this even further by using tab pages to welcome users, customizing photo previews, or implementing custom applications to add another layer of engagement.
3. Develop an internal engagement policy – Most community issues can be anticipated and dealt with well in advance. Your engagement policy should set community ground rules, outline the types of content which will be removed, establish time frames for response and provide messaging guidelines for both positive and negative comments. This checklist will ensure consistency, which is one of the key elements to building harmonious communities.
4. Keep fans engaged by providing new and timely information –All social media strategies must be supported by a content strategy that defines important decisions – such as what content will be posted and how often content will be posted – that will help you reach your social media goals. Set parameters around how much of your content will be promotional. As a general rule of thumb, no more than 20-30% of content should contain promotional messaging, and, always ask yourself if content is both relevant and useful. Frequency and posting schedules will vary depending on goals and general community activity, but ideally you should be updating your network every 1-3 days. Digital conversations tend to have a 48hr lifespan, so where possible you should be responding in real time.
5. Create a brand voice, which is authentic – Social networks are all about relationships, so lose the corporate tone and keep it conversational! Respond to questions and thank users for comments to create intimacy, and if you start the dialogue remember to interject. Another way to create deeper engagement is to highlight the person or people doing the talking on behalf of the brand. Provide contact details for your community manager or if you have multiple managers, try signing posts or tweets with their initials.
6. Inspire Engagement– When it comes to social networks, the adage “if you build it they will come” has been proven not true. It’s relatively easy to get people to “like” or follow, but getting people to engage in your community over a sustained period of time doesn’t come as simply. Engagement must be recognized and rewarded. To foster consumer interaction you have to get creative; think contests, quizzes, polls and other interactive participation opportunities. While conversation and buzz is great, don’t be afraid to turn that engagement into action, by providing clear conversion opportunities.
7. Encourage user-generated content – As great as it is for consumers to interact with your brand, peer-to-peer engagement is just as valuable. Having your fans say what you want to say offers external validity and encourages word of mouth recommendations. Every time a consumer comments on a Facebook page this action is shared with an average of 130 friends. Retweeting or reposting user-generated content acts as an incentive for active members of your community and contests and promotions can be used to solicit this type of participation.
8. Grow your network – To keep conversations fresh and build momentum, it’s important to keep bringing new members into your community. Generally speaking, the more people you can publish your content to the higher the likelihood it has to be shared with new potential consumers. Social ads can be a very cost effective way to grow your base. However, size isn’t everything. It’s far more valuable to have 1,000 engaged consumers than 10,000 people who aren’t active in your community.
9. Listen to what your community is saying – Your social network is a crystal ball into the health of your brand. The conversations your consumers are having here are being shared with their networks too. Monitor brand sentiment, collect consumer suggestions and use this info to better your business and adjust your engagement strategy.
10. Learn how to measure – Set goals, identify performance indicators and use metrics to understand if you are achieving real results. Depending on the channel you use there are any number of analytics tools that can help you appropriately measure activity. Facebook has an Insights feature, and there are a host of third party applications for Twitter to help compile relevant stats. Common analytics that all community managers should be recording and measuring are growth, engagement, returning users and referrals.
Above all, remember, community management is about building social currency for your brand. Buzz fades, so focus on cultivating advocates by providing real value to your consumers.
Got any other tips for community managers? Share them below.