Most brands have a Facebook presence, and most of those Facebook pages are managed by a dedicated community manager, or for smaller brands, someone who has community management duties added to their job role. Depending on how important social media is to your organization, you may have a lot of time to dedicate, or it may be a very small component of your overall responsibilities.
In any case, we all want to make sure we're getting the most out of our time spent, so in this blog post I have shared what I feel are the three most essential tenets of maintaining strong and active communities. These steps outline the most important areas of focus that a community manager should work on in order to ensure that the community is engaged and begging for more!
Demonstrate to your community that you're listening! It never ceases to amaze me how many brands barely respond to their communities. The amount of effort varies widely, but overall it feels like many brands are just doing the bare minimum. Social media is not a one-way broadcast, and that's no way to treat your community!
- Respond to every post or comment. I know from experience that when you devote enough time to respond to your entire community, consistently, that they will recognize that effort. You will be complimented and people will tell you about how other brands don't bother to do what you do. They will be impressed and delighted! Even more importantly though, if a community notices that you are making that effort, don't you think they'll also notice when you don't bother to respond?
- Learn what type of content your community responds well to, and what they dislike. You can pick up on this through both the metrics you monitor on a weekly basis, and on an anecdotal basis through your day-to-day interactions with your community. The only way to figure this out is by experimenting with various types of relevant content, gauging reactions, and tracking the proper metrics to see which content is the most well received by your community. Make sure you give your community more of what it wants!
- There's no greater way to show your community that you're really listening than to incorporate their own feedback into your content! Ask your fans direct questions related to your brand or industry or for relevant tips. (If you sell security software, for example, ask your fans for their top tips to stay safe online). You can then use free tools like Infogr.am or Piktochart to create simple, but reasonably attractive graphs and infographics to share the results back to your community!
Show your community some love! Recognition can be its own reward when you thank your community for helping you reach an important milestone, spreading an important message, or even just for being generally awesome! People love being recognized for a job well done, and you can bet they're not just going to "like" posts that recognize their efforts, they're going to love them!
- Huge milestones for your community and your brand aren't about you, they're about your fans! Without their support your Facebook presence would be pretty lame, so make sure you remind them that you care, and that this is their achievement too! Never forget to thank your community for their part in helping you reach a goal.
- Call out your fan's individual achievements as well! If someone shares some great content with you and you decide to share it with your community, credit them for the great find and thank them for sharing it!
- Promote your best fans to your community! You can feature them on your cover image, let them do guest posts on your corporate blog or link to relevant posts from their own sites. One of our clients has a monthly Community Award, where we find the most active and helpful contributors for the month and give them some free perks to say thank you, and call out their efforts to the community. Not only does this encourage more activity within the community, it also helps identify potential new advocates for their advocacy program! Which brings us to tip #3...
Build an advocacy program. An official advocacy program creates an opportunity to recognize and reward your most active and helpful community members, and also get them more involved in either your efforts on Facebook, other platforms, or even at real-world events. To build advocacy, you should first determine which actions from your community matter most and how you will reward those actions. Once you understand that, you can move forward, using these tips as your guide.
- Understand what matters most to your community. If you answer a lot of support issues from your Facebook community, then you'll want to reward and encourage other knowledgeable fans who reach out with useful information that helps solve those issues. Ideally, your advocacy program should fulfill needs for your community, your advocates, and your brand.
- Don't over-promise, always over-deliver! Always ensure that you have a clear understanding of what you can offer your advocates, and be sure you stay within those guidelines. Don't offer them something you may not be able to deliver on. Trust between you and your advocates is very important. If they feel like there's no reward or benefit for all of their extra effort, or that you can't follow through on your promises, they may start to be less involved or even disappear altogether.
- Have an additional forum for your advocates. This can be a hidden Facebook group, an external site, etc. Having a place where everyone can chat helps build your advocacy program into a community within your community. Your advocates will develop a bond if they interact often enough, and this is also a great place for you to keep in touch with your advocates, update them on exciting news, or ask them for their help!
At its most basic, maintaining an active online community is all about recognizing and rewarding effort and involvement, and making sure your community feels like their voices are being heard. Your community needs to see that something useful is being done with their thoughts and opinions. If your community feels that you care about their thoughts, efforts, and opinions, and that they're a part of something that matters, they will want to be active and involved in everything you do!