5 core principals for successful social media community management
5 Core Principals For Successful Social Media Community Management
Overview: Understanding the role of a community managerWhat is a community manager? In my years in social media I’ve seencommunity managers referred to as everything from individuals that lead majorteams to individuals who lead smaller initiatives such as applying a Facebookstatus update or drafting a tweet.I remember once meeting the head of one of the largest social media divisions inthe country, her and I got into a mild dispute over the role of the communitymanager. She kept referring to it clearly as a strategist role, I had to keepreminding her that she was missing the conversational word of mouth triggeringaspect that the community manager plays, in the end we agreed that really- itwas both.A community manager is a leadership role over a group of individuals directingthem towards an end goal. That directional leadership (strategist) is defined bythe movement of the community (conversationalist) toward an end principal set ofgoals(defined by the brand or client). To succeed, Community Managers mustoperate under 5 core principals as I’ve defined here. 1. Vision of the end goal 2. Developing a foundation for the journey 3. Building a road map to get there 4. Responsibility for the team 5. Personal Transparency1. Vision of the end goal: Every community manager must work with the brandthey’re managing to understand “why” they’re in social media to begin with. Whyhave a Facebook or Twitter page? What’s the point?2. Developing a foundation for the journey:Once the goals have beendetermined, to reach them with the support of your community you need afoundation to stand on, a principal that moves the crowd. To find out thisprincipal you’ll need to dive deep into your analytics to find out more about whoyour core consumer is and what makes them “tick &click”.3. Building a road map to get there:Once you know where you’re going andhow to get the community there, build out a road map to chart your path.4. Responsibility for the team: You’re responsible for the people in yourcommunity. Should someone ask a tough question, you need to be prepped withthe right tools and ammo to respond back and chart everything back on course.5. Personal Transparency: Responding back requires “humanizing” of thebrand, every community manager needs to have a voice that their communityresponds to, find yours and go with it.
1. Vision of the end goal: Defining what you want to achieveSuccessful leadership begins with having an end goal in mind; a specific heightof achievement that you aim to accomplish and community management is nodifferent.For example, I had a client years ago who just wanted fans, and so we got themfans, lots of them. However, once they had them, they had no idea what to dowith them. A half a million fans later, they were still clueless. Avoid this byunderstanding the end goal of what you aim to achieve and allow it to define yoursocial media objectives.As a community manager, before you jump into the space you should start yourjourney by asking your client, or yourself, three key questions: 1) Why: Why do you want likes or followers? 2) What: What do you want to get out of this them? 3) When: When are you expecting to see results?Why do you want likes or followers?:Very few clients know, that’s why they’rehiring you. By asking this, you’ll be taking the first step in challenging your clientto broaden their perspective of social media, while opening up an opportunity foryou and your team to provide answers that establish yourselves as relevantexperts and thought leaders.What do you want to get out of this page?:If their main objectives are toincrease page visits to their website, online sales for the year, and develop theircustomer service practice – youcan respond by letting them know you’ll integratethe Facebook page with the website, set up a sound plan to market productfeatures that drive to purchase, and create a system for building customeradvocacy that leads to increased retention rates, which sounds much better thanjust “getting likes”.When are you expecting to see results? –Getting results from a community istough and takes time; don’t be afraid to tell the client this. If you don’t you’ll enterinto the space by setting some goals that can’t be reached within the first year,let alone ever, and end up losing the trust of the client. Instead, communicatethe different levels that need to be reached in order to attain the goal at hand,map them out, set everyone’s expectations, and chart a path forward.The first principal for successful community management is understanding theend goal, now that you know where you’rerallying your community towards, youneed to identify the foundation that’s going to drive them along the way.
2. Developing a foundation for the journey: Understanding your communitythrough analyticsThe community you’re leading is a movement, and every movement requires afoundation- a guiding principal to stand upon that will drive the team to reachtheir end goal. This foundation is different within each community and to find ityou have to dive deep into the analytics. How well do you know your analyticsand are you allowing the truth in numbers to re-define who your clients coreconsumer is?I’ve watched as major Fortune 100 brands have completely ignored their analyticreadings and instead stuck to what a decade old survey said about their coreconsumer. I’ve also watched as brands have opened up to social media and itsability to redefine who their consumer is based on real-time conversations.In the end, as a community manager, you have to find the “heartbeat” that drivesyour community, but you won’t get it until you know who your community is, andwhile there are several practices for analyzing your community, I’ve found thesethree simple performance based measures to work: 1) Real time demographic based analytics 2) Conversation sentiment analysisReal time demographic based analytics:Take a look, is your community maleor female? What age range? Where do they live? If you don’t think this matters,you’re wrong. Location based data will not only influence your media buy andPPC efforts, but also how you relate to your community. If you were to find out ahuge portion of your community was from Brazil or even part of Asia, you’d bemore inclined to build engagement by creating content based on those areas.We once had a client and found that a large portion of our community was fromJamaica, really? We were all a little startled. We shifted our messaging andPPC strategy and before we knew it “likes” doubled and so did the amount ofproduct our client started shipping there. All that, just from Facebook analytics.Conversation sentiment analysis: This is the simple practice of learning fromconversation. How much can you tell about a person from looking at them? Notmuch (for the most part). However, how much can you tell about a person from aconversation, by knowing their story and what drives them?From my experience,the answer is, “a whole lot more”. The reason our clients have a “coreconsumer” target is because that individual embodies characteristics of a largergroup. Use conversation to find those characteristics through social media. Diveinto conversation with individuals, ask them about who they are, what they’redoing that day, what their interest are?
For example, I was managing a community a couple years ago and found outtwo very important details about the community through analytics andconversation. 1) They were mostly women 2) They were mostly women entrepreneurs of small business’s and nonprofits.We began by creating Facebook page campaigns targeted at supporting localfemale entrepreneurs in towns where our target demo lived, we followed that withcharity driven campaigns. Our initiatives doubled and then tripled the fan base,and then grew it even more- we did all of this without a single media buy or PPCprogram.Analytics couldn’t tell us that, but conversations did. Data such as this helped usunderstand who our consumer is and “what” makes them tick & click.By identifying that, we identified what I call the “heartbeat’ of the community. Theheartbeat is the foundation and is what will drive the conversation forward towardreaching our goals.For example, take a look at these two status updates.Ex 1:“Like this page if you’re excited about Friday”Ex 2:“Like this page if you’re excited about the women in entrepreneurship conferencehappening in New York’s Convention Center.Most likely you’ll get much more engagement from Ex 2 than you would from Ex1. Although I still see Fortune 100 companies refer to Ex1. Ex2is core consumerfocused and you’ll see a higher ROI using this approach.
3. Building out a road map to get there:Creating a content strategy basedon analyticsUltimately though, your journey to success is guided by strategic plan. Incommunity management that plan can be referred to as a content strategy.In developing the content strategy for any brands community, there are threethings I consider as the baseline for my efforts: 1) Campaign based goals: Going back to the vision for the end goal. 2) Driver items: Remembering the heartbeat that drives the community. 3) Format for distribution: A tactical plan to activate each element.Campaign based goals: Every content strategy needs to be mapped out toreach your goals and driven by your community’s heartbeat.As an example, I’m going to create three goals around a mock brand that sellskitchen utensils. Here, the goal is to:1-Increase our like base2-Increase page engagement (comments, likes)3-Increase website visits from FacebookThese are simple goals and just an example, your page could also be to makesure every follower or like turns into a purchase or signs up for a newsletter.However, for this example, we’re going to keep it simple so that you canunderstand the flow of the road map.Driver items:Driver items are the heartbeat at the center of your content strategythat’s going to lead your community toward those end goals and accomplishingyour clients business objectives in the process. I’ll use this kitchen utensilcompany as an example:We know our goals, now suppose we’ve been managing the community for a fewmonths now. After diving into the analytics and engaging the consumers throughconversation, whatwe found out about this specific community is: They’re mostly female Most of those females are moms They use the page to find different cooking recipes They’re more engaged when the recipe’s come from an authority such as a spokesperson or celebrity.These insights should lead us to the heartbeat that will drive the conversationforward. For this specific examples, some heartbeats might be considered:
Content around recipes Initiatives that identify and support mom’s Highlighting celebrity chefs as spokespersonFormat for distribution:It’s time to pick your community up and drive themtoward the goal;creating and distributing content driven by the heartbeat thatwe’ve identified do this.Content can be distributed initially via three different streams of strategy: As status updates Ongoing daily conversation and consumer engagement Contest, sweepstakes, and giveawaysStatus updates: Your heartbeat for conversation should be reflected in yourstatus updates. Take a look at a few examples based on our heartbeat using thekitchen utensil brand as an example.Ex1What recipe is a family favorite in your household, tell us why?Notice this status update speaks to family and cooking, which will ultimatelydrives a higher engagement and click through rate than a status update thatdoesnt.Ongoing daily conversation: A majority of community management is simpleongoing conversational feedback and responses. You need to make sure thatthe core of your response isn’t driven around generic feedback but real authenticconversation that either leads to additional insights about the consumer or fulfillsclient objective or goal. For example:Customer:I received your non-stick frying pan and it’s awful?You:What are you cooking in the pan? Have you seen our guidelines for cooking innonstick? Visit this URL (ex).The response engages the consumer deeper into the conversation to drivesfeedback, while also driving them to the website, increasing traffic visits.Contest & sweepstakes: Contests and sweepstakes on a daily, weekly, or evenmonthly cadence will give your community the incentive and boost that it needsto take things to the next level in a format that will drive likes, increase brandreach, and organic word of mouth. Take a look at the examples below.
*Dally contest: To be completely honest, of the entire contest that I’ve done- the ones that giveaway the lowest amounts of money are usually the ones that get the most consumer feedback. Think about it, when was the last time you won $5,000? Exactly, but when was the last time you came across $20 or $50? Winning $20 over $5,000 is much more likely and within the consumers sphere of possibilities, for this reason you or the general consumer are more likely to engage in a contest where the winning prize is $25 over $5,000. Now, consider what you can do every couple days or so to give away $20 or a small product experiences to someone in your community. You’ll get customers mentioning your page, sharing it with their friends, and high levels of consumer engagement and click throughs in the process. *Monthly Contest:The same format applies for larger monthly contest, with the problem being that the barrier to entry is usually too high. Consumers don’t want to create videos, sign a bunch of forms, or anything beyond that to enter into a contest they most likely won’t win. Instead, follow the best practice of making the barrier to entry low and easy to participate in. Consider something simple like uploading a twit-pic with a special hashtag or just answering a trivia question. There are several ways to crowd source using a monthly contest format, but whatever the strategy the key to success will always be to have a “low barrier to entry”.4. Responsibility for the team: Why it’s more than just acquisition
For the last several pages, I’ve explained to you 3 of my 5 core principals forcommunity management, and yes, most of it revolves around business objectivesand acquisition based goals. However, it’s important to make a point that thecore of community management goes back to leadership and strong leadershipis driven by engaging& responsible conversation.Why is it consumers tend to lean toward one politician over another, whenrealistically speaking we’ll probably end of up with the same “ending” no matterwho is elected? (okay, you now know how I feel about politics). The reason isthat real leaders connect with the people and they do so by: 1) Having a plan for un-easy times 2) Direct interaction and follow up 3) Rewarding the communityHaving a plan for catastrophe: Every community can get a little unsettled andout of control, it’s human nature- we’re never comfortable and always seekingvalidation. That validation needs to come from someone in leadership, for yourcommunity that person is you acting on behalf of your brand.Politicians do a great job of this because they’re always ready for disaster, theyknow the community will eventually burst and they’re ready for when it happens.For example, what if your consumer gets a bad product item, or feels you haven’trespected them enough? They’re going to go straight to the wall or twitter feed,and what do you do then?To be prepared, consider building what is often referred to as a “Risk &Response” document. A Risk & Response document helps you examine all ofthe ways your community might react negatively, and then you can chart acoarse forward for how you’ll respond to bring them back on track.Direct interaction and follow up: 100% of the time, this response to negativesentiment or any sentiment really, has to be done by you. It can be done via aphone or though a status update, but on behalf of the brand- you need torespond personally to let the community know you’re still listening andresponding, and that this page isn’t being managed by a robot.Rewarding the community: Often, a great response doesn’t require anythingnegative to happen at all, you simply love your community and so you rewardthem. Look at Starbucks for example, they’re constantly offering free stuff fortheir community as a way of just saying, “Thank you”. If you want yourcommunity to stay behind you and continue to follow you, give them a little nudgealong the way to say, “Thanks, keep it up, we’re almost there.”
5. Personal Transparency& Disclosure: Humanizing the brand & taking offthe maskPersonal transparency in community management is important. To establish thistransparency you’ll need to humanize your brand in an authentic way thatresonates with consumers.For example, Starbucks doesn’t have hair, so you can’t necessarily say, “I wokeup with bed head today…” It wouldn’t make much sense, but you can reflect thefeelings of the office as a collective unit. For example, you could say, “We’re allstruggling right now with a cold that’s being going around the office.” Commentslike this drive engagement because you’re speaking to people on a topiceveryone as a collective unit identifies with. The core to developing personaltransparency through your community management can be done by: 1) Creating a voice 2) Establishing authenticity &removing the maskCreating a voice: What does your brand sound like? This is a strikinglyimportant question and will have a huge impact on the success that you drive asa community manager. Every brand on social media has a voice, and that voiceis defined by a personality. The question is, what is your personality? Theanswer to this is simpler than most people know, it comes by looking at your coreconsumer and who it is they’d most likely have a conversation with, and thencrafting the voice around that.Yes, for women it’s women and men it’s often men. But let’s take it a step evenfurther- I was once working on an organic food market brand and I had to try outa few voices before I found one that worked. It ended up that the voice thatreceived the most engagement was the straightforward educational one. I foundthat while conversation was the baseline, the community became more engagedwhen receiving facts around the organic food market.Establishing authenticity & removing the mask: Authenticity is a veryimportant part of being a community manager. As the community manageryou’re not only a part of the brand, but you’re also a human being. As part ofyour community management you can either be the brand or the person. Therehave been many brands that have found success from displaying outright ontheir page who exactly the person is behind the scenes speaking to you. SomePR practices even have this in their code of ethics when managing pages. Forthe most part though, being and responding in a transparent manner as opposeto being a robot will put you and your client into a favorable position with thecommunity.
Putting the 5 core principals into practiceThroughout this document, you’ve read as I’ve laid out the 5 guiding principlesthat I’ve followed throughout my career that have led me to successfulcommunity management. It’s important that you understand that these principalsset up merely just the foundation of a much deeper journey into how to effectivelymanage a community that yields results.Time and time again I’ve seen community managers steering pages and thecommunities that like or follow them in the wrong direction. My hope for thisdocument would be that community managers would take a step back beforesigning that contract or diving into a season of work to identify what exactly theyor their clients want to accomplish.I find this important because I believe that social media is a powerful tool andanytime that you gather millions together behind one central topic or focal pointyou open up opportunities to do great things and make a significant impact on orcontribution to society. However, this can’t be done unless you set up afoundation before you start building.The Empire State building or any great structure like it, along side greatcommunities and movements, were built for a purpose. These purposesembodied a heartbeat that cemented a foundation that has helped them standthe test of time. Should you or your client be in the business of seeing the sametype of lasting success, consider these principles as the start of your journey-know your consumer or find out what makes them tick, identify the heartbeat thatmoves all progress forward, set up a foundation for the adventure, and lead yourcommunity and client toward the success they so rightly deserve.