In most every agency setting, Slack channels are regularly abuzz with examples of clever campaigns and innovative strategies, most of which teammates have spotted on social media. It’s fun to consider the possibilities of where to take your next campaign, however, when you peel back even the flashiest, splashiest posting plan, you’ll always find the extremely important, often not-as-celebrated, community management aspect, which is what will make or break any campaign.
There’s no doubt that great content is how brands can make themselves stand out on social media, but community management is what will subsequently set them apart - for better or for worse. A solid community management plan will maintain your brand’s reputation, engage and excite your audience, and help keep a pulse on sentiment and future opportunities.
In 2019, a community manager has more responsibility than just replying to comments - they’re a customer service representative, an expert, a friend, and sometimes a fellow geek. On top of this, they’re expected to be timely and always on brand. It’s a tall order, and it can be hard to know where to start when refreshing your community management approach.
If you're a community manager, or have some responsibility when it comes to community management for your business, here are five places to begin.
1. Reward Your Fans
Individuals naturally gravitate to brands - they fall in love with particular products or destinations, and become excited by any new post.
Instead of giving their comment a simple 'like', you should consider ways in which to thank them for their support through surprise and delight activation. A free sample, discounts or even just a GIF will help show your dedicated fans that you care about them as much as they do about you.
Brand to follow: Benefit Beauty regularly engages with fans using its products with an encouraging voice.
2. Relate to Your Audience
Brands may not actually be people, but social media has largely washed away any sort of differentiator.
Rather than concentrating on professionalism (or chatbots) first, think about how you can connect more deeply with your community through one-to-one conversations. Some companies shy away from this approach, but the customization can certainly pay off. Followers will trust that there's someone listening to their praise, comments and feedback.
Brand to follow: Philz Coffee is now a national chain, but the brand maintains its “mom-and-pop-shop” look and feel on Instagram. The brand is also a reliable source on Twitter, quickly answering questions, which makes it feel like a person is behind the keyboard, truly listening.
3. Be Transparent (as you can be)
With online, real-time reviews only rising in popularity, it’s important for companies to be as transparent as they can be on social media.
Acknowledge negative and positive comments equally, and respond accordingly. Even asking someone to get in touch offline looks better than allowing a criticism hang on your Facebook Page unchecked. In doing so, you’ll continue to build trust with your audience and show prospective followers that you care about your communities.
Brand to follow: Nasty Gal - specifically when the company was undergoing bankruptcy. The company's customer service team pivoted its social approach and responses, showing that its community managers understood customers were upset, and were not receiving exactly what they wanted. Furthermore, the brand didn't combat it - they were compassionate and understanding of the consumer's perspective.
4. Be a Leader in Your Social Space
Of course, a brand should lead in its area of expertise, but it should also become an expert on the people/fans who follow it on social media.
A strong community manager will tell followers how to interact with the brand with calls to action. This could include which hashtag to use to be reposted by the brand, building a more exciting content calendar with user-generated content inspired by fans, and more.
Brand to follow: Urban Outfitters has effectively communicated to its fans to use the hashtag #UOonU. The brand regularly reposts images, fostering further participation and engagement - customers understand that, by using the tag, they will be seen and heard by the company.
5. Proactively Engage
With brands starting to becomer a little more human on social media, it’s important to also act human.
It’s not enough to publish posts and wait for a response from followers. Seek out conversations to join, such as Twitter Chats, or engage with fans through discovered, relevant content.
Many brands have taken this a step further through real-life activations, or surprise and delight opportunities.
Brand to follow: Hilton Suggests (a travel blog by Hilton) combs through conversations to share travel suggestions with people, building up the Hilton brand with communities beyond just those staying at a Hilton hotel.
In today’s social media landscape, it’s not enough to do just one of the above tactics well - it’s about doing all with balance. Occasionally, one will take precedence over the other when considering your target audience or your ultimate success metrics, but a complete plan of community management action is a must-have for all businesses.