By 9am daily, Namrata has opened Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google Analytics and a social listening tool.
As a community manager for a giant brand, any given day’s work includes: Responding to comments, Re-tweeting, searching for topics to share, writing new posts, monitoring conversations, scanning searches for keywords/brand-terms/competitors to stay abreast on industry news and opportunities, following up on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn comments, updating influencers sheets, scanning social monitoring tool for traffic sources/notable links/conversation metrics, social content reach reports etc.And on a day when things spiral out of control for a brand, then she does all of that in real-time alone! Welcome to the world of Community Management!
Apart from reaching out to 1 billion monthly active users and thus creating the world’s biggest social networking platform (source: NextWeb), Facebook can also be credited with driving the popularity of another profession- Online Community Management.
Online Community Management is, in a nutshell, engaging with those 1 billion monthly users on a brand’s behalf. However, users do not refer only to those active on Facebook or Twitter. While given their popularity and user-base these two do constitute the bulk of the pie, yet, user communities exist across blogging platforms, photo/video sharing platforms, forums, discussion boards and more.
Community Management- The Experience
Even though the profession has come to light with the popularity of social media in the country, community management has continued to exist over a decade (Source: eMint). And since over a decade, community managers have been involved and responsible for activities that create conversations between consumers, users and a brand.
In essence, community managers act as a social strategist, content creator, effective communicator, marketer, designer, evangelist and project/product manager – all rolled into one! (Phew! Yeah we do all that).
From a consumer’s perspective, not only is the product experience important, but the relationships built with the brand on its social embassies are just as valuable. An added advantage, both for the consumer and the brand, is the connect established between fellow consumers through the brand.
Given this background, the role of a community manager becomes extremely vital and it’s fair to say that community managers have a big responsibility on their shoulders. The role is a fun, demanding one where no one day is the same, given the evolution of social technologies and a smarter user base than yesterday.
But let me clarify, community management cannot handle all of your ‘digital’ plans so don’t confuse the two.
The Big Question
With the shift in business technologies and the growing importance of social media, ‘creating the conversation’ has become ever more critical. And now that community managers have managed to build, sustain and grow a community, the obvious question becomes-
What are you supposed to do with those 100,000+ people who have ‘liked’ your page and expect you to talk to them? It’s pretty much like trying to figure what to say next to someone you have been chatting with for hours.
So what next?
Digital at the heart of all communications –
To begin with, businesses need to retract a little to understand and integrate community management into its communication objectives. This means that businesses must keep digital at the crux to lead all communications.
With more and more social users creating and sharing content (i.e user generated content), businesses can incorporate and build these to drive their communications and products. Sadly, some Indian businesses still think of digital as ‘a side-dish’ to the main course of PR & Advertising.
Community aka Guiding Force :
Secondly, businesses need to understand that the 100,000 ‘Likes’ that it’s Facebook page has equals 100,000 different individuals who have their own 100,000 thoughts and opinions on the business aka feedback.
So now either you see it as an opportunity or you see it as lifting the lid off hell.
Experiment is the word here. It’s possible to try out new things with these 100,000 people, or ‘Likes’ if you would ‘like’ to know what works and what doesn’t. To be fair, it’s not easy.
But then if a business can risk millions of dollars on market research from a firm whose tools they know nothing about, then a business can risk asking for first-hand feedback from the ‘actual’ users as well. It’s instantaneous. It’s real. And it’s the point of community management!
Also, doing this also enables users to feel that they are a part of the brand, thus building on emotional attachment for the brand. Hence, undertaking simple activities like polls on a product name or inviting users to share a tag-line for a product or inviting entries for a mascot etc help test-case for what ‘connects’ with your community.
In the end, it lets your brand take on the voice of your users. Sharing your struggles and your successes makes you real and human. And community management is about HUMANITY.
Keep your hearing aids on:
In addition to engaging, businesses also need to ensure community managers have the desired tools and a clear, internal process framework to function effectively. Working with PR/Communications/Marketing, Community Managers help keep the business ear tuned into consumers’ perspectives.
And with tools like Google Analytics, Radian6, SocialMention, Techrigy and many others, you can analyze the habits, time, interest levels, popular content, traffic sites, search keywords etc of your community to tailor campaigns for maximum effect and reach. Better reach equals better chances of better results aka better returns.
Overall, community managers need to drive conversations beyond the platform/medium to build a brand loyalty. This means, wherever the product is- offline or online- personal interactions and strong relationships must rule.
The mantra for a community manager should be- Let online lead to offline. Let people see the face behind the brand. The point of a community is to not to connect online alone, so why limit yourself to a computer screen?
Plan face-ups with your local users and let them get to know you- the person they engage with online daily.
At the end, for a real community to flourish, you need to let fans be the conversation managers. You just be the community manager.
Featured Image: Oxford Consulting