Engaging users through advertising has always been a source of contention, and now with the prevalence of paid-for social media appearing on media plans, it is becoming clearer that media alone cannot create a relationship between a brand and its potential audience. It is the human connection that is still sought after and trusted, and as a result we are seeing the rise of community management or social media content creators, both in agencies and client-side.
An online community has many similarities to a physical one, in the sense it can be small or large, intimate or distant. However, when a person is trying to endear themselves to another human being, they are often personable, approachable and friendly. When a member of an online community approaches the creator of that community with a problem, or when a fan of a company approaches that company, and they are met with stone cold silence, then any original friendly perceptions are quite naturally contradicted.
Therefore, it’s becoming incredibly important for the relationship between a company and its consumers to be an open and communicative one. Community management, alongside social media monitoring, ensures the company has a voice as well as a free focus group, often telling that company what initiatives they like, or more likely, do not like. There is no set formula for being a community manager, says Mashable, the well-known tech website; ‘They’re the social strategist, community builder, storyteller, marketer, product manager, designer and evangelist rolled all into one’. However, even though there are few ‘hard-and-fast’ rules, we’ve compiled a little cheat sheet for community management:
- Be reactive; think about the content you are providing and the feedback it receives. Be responsive to comments, the positive as well as the negative, and answer accordingly.
- Be consistent in how you act; what is your tone/voice? Is your brand playful or serious?
- Think about who needs what; a successful community meets both your needs and your member’s/consumer’s needs. Compile a list of needs which overlap (e.g. ‘increase your fan base’ might be a company goal, which fits with your fan’s interest in sharing: ‘I like to be rewarded for sharing’).
- Then in turn, be interesting; cater to the overlapping need states and recognise that putting out content every hour just because you can, will not necessarily make your popular with your audience.
On a final note, it’s important that you really consider the role of social media in your overall media and communications strategy. Many brands have made the mistake of jumping onto the social media bandwagon because it is what everybody else is doing or simply not tailoring their use of social media to their brand. Consider J.P.Morgen, whose AskJPM# failed last year when they received lots of a very public hate mail, instead of the general questions they were expecting. Nice idea, but it was completely the wrong brand to try it in the wake of the financial crisis.
Ultimately, community management is a new area for many agencies and clients, and it is often a process of trial and error. However when done correctly, it can give your brand the voice and persona which makes people like it and want to share it.