Thursday, 31 January 2013

Community Management 101

So, the 4th Monday of January was apparently Community Manager Appreciation Day. This came as a shock to me as I am a community manager and I didn't feel any more appreciated than any other day. I had to come to the radio station with banana sick on my shoe. That's how appreciated I am.

Regardless, it actually works quite well for me because it seems like a good day to talk about community management, a post I have been vaguely planning in my head for a little while. Convenient huh?

There are a large number of Community Managers working for companies right now, whose sole job is to manage the online community of the brand. This includes interacting with customers, offering customer service, highlighting areas which may be a concern and generally developing and increasing awareness of the brand through social media.

Here are three ways that you can apply the principles of community management to your followers and blog readers, developing casual passers by into regulars is what will ultimately build your community!

  • Be Responsive.

 Always respond to queries and comments. It might feel like a hassle to reply to every single comment you get, but acknowledging your audience is the first point to engaging with them. There's a big difference between someone who sits up on a pillar preaching at people and someone who gets down and mingles with the masses. That's what community management is all about.

Obviously, if you are getting 100 comments a day, you probably won't have time to respond to every single one. I tell clients to apply the following rules.

Have they commented and been responded to before? If you replied to them yesterday and the day before, you can probably let one day slide.

Is their comment just a link to their own blog? These can be skipped.

Are they someone you know in actual real life? They probably won't be offended if you don't reply today.

Answer questions with snappy answers, respond to emails within a set time frame (48 hours is the norm for most businesses) and if you really don't have time to respond to a positive tweet with gusto, a quick retweet (that little button with the two arrows pointing round to each other) will probably do the trick.

  • Keep Track

Keep a note, either mentally or in a document somewhere, of people that are engaging with you on a regular basis. That person who always likes your status on LinkedIn? They are sharing your update with their connections. You don't have to reciprocate every single time, but if you see something they post that you genuinely think is useful or interesting, go ahead and and share. It will reinforce the relationship between you and your brand and the individual.

I suggest to my clients that 'favoriting' tweets where their organisation is favorably mentioned means you have something to refer to when looking for testimonial comments or just a bit of a boost.

  • Deal With Negativity.

One of the key roles of the community manager is to keep a beady eye out for anything negative that pops up about the organisation they work for. A community manager for a larger firm will have some tools at their disposal that make this easier, the last few months have seen a tidal wave of Social Media management tools released that make knowing what people are saying about your brand easier than it's ever been.

Try Social Mention for a free way to search for your brand or username. It's not hugely effective but it will give you a little idea.

You can also use Techorati to search for mentions in blogs, it seems to have a more effective search algorithm that Social Mention but focuses solely on the blogging community.

I have a sort of three-level scale for dealing with negative comments.

1. Totally pointless and nonconstructive  Like 'YOU HAVE CRAP HAIR' or some other equally irrelevant rubbish. Because like, my hair is awesome. 

I delete these type of comments as they offer nothing in the way of helpfulness towards my brand. They don't happen very often at all, in fact only once for me personally  but when working with larger organisations I have found the easiest thing to do with these type of interactions is just delete them. You might find that a small number of people will notice you do this and you get accused of hiding negativity towards yourself. So? This type of pettiness doesn't bother large brands and it shouldn't bother you. Just make sure you are dealing with constructive comments in a powerful way.

2. Disagreement. Sometimes people won't agree with your opinion or ideas.

Firstly, take it as a strong positive that the individual has made their disagreement known. The main hurdle to overcome is getting people to know about you in the first place. To disagree, they must have read your article/opinion. So that's a big yay. Deal with disagreement in a positive way. First, check your facts. Are you actually right? That will help. Then, put across why you are right in a short, succinct manner. I like to apply the 'Is it too long for twitter' rule. If it's too long for twitter, I've probably said something pointless. If I'm not right, that's embarrassing. If a large brand or organisation is wrong, it is really humiliating  That's why it is important to double and triple check facts, statistics and points before going live with any copy.

It's okay to get into a debate with people whose opinion differs from yours. This happens quite a bit on the internet, don't be afraid to have a fierce exchange of opinion on something which you believe passionately in.

Just a note, be cautious that your own opinion is in line with that of the ethos of your brand or what you are looking to achieve with your online persona. I.e it probably won't help to have a strong public view on immigration or race issues if you are trying to get a new job. Pick your battles very carefully with a view of maintaining a positive persona.

3. Constructive. When people comment that they are having issues with any of my DIY posts, or that there is an issue with my blog layout. 

Deal with these straight away! I like to send a quick response saying 'Thank's for letting me know, I'll look into this right away, how embarrassing!" Then, once I've fixed the issue, I offer a little shout out on the blog. "Thank's to so-and-so for letting me know my sidebar wasn't quite right, I fixed it now! If you see something funny on the blog, let me know on twitter @katy_clouds or by emailing me!" It's a great opportunity to sneak another link to your contact details in as well.

I hope these little tips on community management will prove useful to you. These are points which are relevant to even the smallest of blogs or companies, right up to big organisations. If you have found this article interesting or helpful, I would be honoured if you would endorse me on LinkedIn or 'share' with Google+ by clicking the little 'g' below. As usual, I'm also interested in comments and constructive suggestions, comment below or email me for a quick response.

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