Community managers are becoming an increasingly important role for all types of businesses, and we're seeing the role appear everywhere from tech startups to major corporate brands. Most commonly, community managers are responsible for engaging current and potential customers via social media and growing vibrant, enthusiastic communities around their products and services. Some community managers even facilitate conversations in private online forums, work with internal company intranets, and act as customer support.
Community managers must strike a balance. Externally, community managers are the voices of their brands in social media, serving as social media strategists, customer service managers, content creators, product managers, and evangelists. Internally, they are the voice of their communities at their own companies. Community managers bring the conversations they have with community members to the forefront of marketing, customer service, and product discussions, epitomizing the value and function of a social business.
Because community manager jobs vary at each company, there is no one magic bullet to make a community management program work. But with more and more community manager jobs showing up every day, here are some tips for new or aspiring community managers or those who think they could benefit from a community management function in their marketing department.
1. Fish Where the Fish Are
When it comes to social media, it’s very easy to get caught up in tactics. It’s important to establish and monitor your presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube, but for goodness' sake, you're only human! Prioritize based on what drives the most ROI. Whether that's blogs, tweetups, in-person conferences, or new social media platforms, spend your time where your community spends theirs.
2. Identify and Delegate to Your Power Users
Identify your most engaged community members and top influencers, and leverage their voice by offering them guest blog spots, curating their own content in a news round-up, re-sharing it in some other capacity, or offering them a position as a community moderator in your forum.
3. …But Don’t Play Favorites Too Much
Loyal community members are great resources; they are the first people to provide feedback, share your content, refer you to others, and even stick up for you. But make sure to keep an even playing field for new, quieter community members. Each new commenter, forum member, tweeter, and group member matters. Challenge yourself and get a unique perspective by engaging with them, too. It’s your job to build a community, not a clique of power users who make your job easy and build resentment among other members.
4. Say “I’m Sorry.”
Community managers are typically the ones running Twitter and Facebook accounts and will also be the ones responding to complaints. That means you have to learn how to say you're sorry. Not, "I'm sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused." That's total baloney. If your service isn’t working and a community member is angry enough to go ranting about it on Twitter, you've definitely caused an inconvenience. Speak in first person with genuine emotion like you would to someone in real life.
5. Stay Calm and Maintain Perspective
It’s natural to get frustrated or stressed out on busy days when responding to complaints online or answering a lot of questions. Breathe. It's just the internet.
Plus, your biggest critics can turn into your biggest fans if you successfully and swiftly resolve their problems. Those that take the time to offer negative feedback will also often take the time to be your advocate.
6. ...But Remember the 2% Rule
The 2% rule states, ever so scientifically, that there's always going to be a chunk of naysayers in any group. No matter what you do, these people are just going to be, well, jerks. For an easy example, go take a look at the comments section of a blog or news site. There's always a handful of people that are irrational and not really looking to contribute to productive discussion. You can do your best to turn these negative people, but don't beat yourself up over it and let a few bad apples spoil the bunch.
7. Anticipate Common Questions and Know Your Product Inside and Out
Answering questions about your product or service through social media or email will probably be a major part of your job. Be prepared ahead of time. This is especially important if you work in a regulated industry in which you may need your tweets or Facebook communication to have prior approval.Go over common questions with your product or support team to make sure you have your answers (including your 140-character ones) accurate. You can also create FAQs and step-by-step guides to link to, which will cut down on hand holding time and repeat questions.
8. Don’t Forget About Email
Email may seem old-school compared to sexier tools like social media, but remember, every single social media user has an email address! Email is the glue that makes social media stick, and if you offer helpful content with an email newsletter or product digest, it can be a great way to keep community members engaged.
9. Engage Offline
Even with the ability to have global, online communities, community building starts at home. Use meetups to connect with your local audience. These events can inspire evangelists who will vouch for you as they get to know you better as a local company, and as they get to know you face-to-face. Those people are most certainly connected to a larger, global network through social media. This is where your first network of power users can stem from.
10. Your Social Media Accounts Are No Longer Your Own, But Your Time Is
As the face of your brand online, people will inevitably identify you as the community manager for that company. The number of Twitter followers you have may grow, and you may begin to get more Facebook and LinkedIn requests from people you don’t personally know from real life. Even if you put "Tweets are my own" in your Twitter bio, people see your thoughts aligned with your company.
Be who you are and represent yourself online as someone you are proud of. Have a rant you really really really want to post? We've all been there. But remember that we tend to regret the rants we do post on social media, not the things we don't.
Maintaining a healthy personal and professional balance is tricky, but take control of your experience on social media and don’t stop enjoying it. Use Twitter lists, Facebook lists and filters. Own your privacy, your time, your news feed, and your personal network.
Are you a community manager, or have you hired one for your marketing team? What benefits has your company seen since the introduction of the role?