Community Management – like marketing – is an art – just like hosting a great party. The host will mill around the room, speaking with guests, making sure they have what they need and making introductions. But great party hosts know there are rules to the game.
Businesses are jumping to create Facebook pages, open Twitter accounts or build their own discussion forums, though the most successful communities also have a Community Manager who plays the role of the host and a way to measure the success of the party.
What are the things you need to know before taking on the role of Community Manager?
Rule No. 1 – Is it for Business or Engagement?
You need to know what the goal of the community is.
Many business to business management consultants will tell you that the ultimate purpose of building on-line communities is to sell something – in fact, some will say selling is the ONLY goal. This is the harsh business reality. However, socializing an idea, testing concepts, providing information, providing customer service, consulting with and receiving feedback from your community – can provide a valuable return on your social media time.
The hard ROI rules of business and management consulting also acknowledge that successful communities have a common purpose that engages members, makes it easy for them to participate and creates a forum for conversations aligned with the purpose and values that the community believes in. And some communities happen to believe that they should get special treatment for showing up to the party – like your business page friends on Facebook!
To show ROI for your on-line engagement – know the rules and the measures that you are using to guage success before you start.
Rule No. 2 – Know your Culture, Know your Purpose
Every community has its own culture – whether it is a community for yoga wear with an eco friendly purpose and social conscience from Lululemon or the Facebook site for the Premier of British Columbia.
The Community Manager is the on-line presence that establishes the boundaries for the community including the audience and the purpose.
The Community Manager promotes the company’s brand, though to do so successfully, that promotion will be within the context of the community. For example, we know that overt selling at a party is a faux pas, so typical community managers will create a culture of response in keeping with community concerns, whether that is product related, customer service, technical advice or support in finding tools, services or advice that exists outside the community.
And most will reward their community members for their participation.
They will engage the community to test marketing concepts, and even monitor for new and existing product ideas. Eventually, community members self police and other pseudo-hosts will rise to the occasion – the true test of having built a culture that the members believe in.
Rule No. 3 – Link Activity to your Public Relations and Marketing Objectives
Victoria BC Canadian Public Relations Society member, Deirdre Campbell of the told me recently that most jobs for recent graduates of public relations programs are as community managers!
PR professionals know that if your customers are talking about you – you had better be listening – to both the positive and the negative sentiments – and be ahead of the curve on both. Reputation management matters.
And who better to consult on create a community story board than a PR professional who is also working to integrate your key promotables, events and releases with marketing, sales, advertising and strategic objectives?
Be sure to be thinking about your long term objectives, build your community before you need it and keep your public relations and communications plan in mind when building marketing campaigns.
Rule No. 4 – Monitor, Measure, Analyze! Conversations and Conversions
The smart Community Manager works with sales and marketing to ensure there is a link to overall strategic objectives. If the company decides to give exclusive offers to members – then the Community Manager measures the results with software.
There are two types of monitoring tools – there are those that monitor “mentions” or “queries” and function primarily as Community Management tools and those used to monitor on-line social media marketing “campaigns” against ROI goals. Both are important.
For community management, there are multiple free and moderately priced monitoring and analytic tools and for the larger brands – expensive though very sophisticated web tools. The Community Manager uses the software to find brand conversations that exist within and outside their community and reach out to direct stray comments to their forum. They provide analytics on demographics, geographical reach, sentiment among other measures.
Software measuring ROI from social media communities against marketing measures and goals is the latest tool in the Community Manager’s arsenal.
For example, the Tartan Group links various social media outlets to conversion code placed on the target campaign landing page to track which conversions came from which community. The conversion can be anything you like; a sign up to a newsletter, download of a paper or buying something. The software goes beyond Google Analytics to dive into which referring site traffic came from PER CAMPAIGN. The Community Manager gives insight into what worked, what failed and why.
Community Management: the Mullet of the Social Media World?
Child of the ‘70’s that I am – the line “Business in the front – Party in the back” still rules.
Can you be a party host and still meet ROI requirements? Yes – if you plan out your objectives, know your culture, integrate plans to measure against company goals.
Most importantly though, the Community Manager is a welcoming and inspiring figure who creates the vision and ambiance – and as any party planner knows, that is the key ingredient to having the hottest ticket in town.
Terry Rachwalski is a certified management consultant or CMC in Victoria BC who specializes in creating integrated digital strategies. She uses software to enhance Facebook pages with contests and fan offers, to build Twitter communities, to create campaign conversion code, QR code campaigns. She thinks approaching digital strategies from a management consulting perspectives helps clients use appropriate ROI measures that link to their overall strategy.
A previous version of this article was first printed in the CMC-Canada Newsletter C-Notes in 2009.