Community managers play an increasingly important role for all types of businesses, from tech startups to major corporate brands.
Most commonly, community managers are responsible for engaging current and potential customers via social media and cultivating vibrant and enthusiastic communities around their products and services.
This is, however, just one kind of community manager. Some community managers facilitate conversations in private online forums, work with internal company intranets, or don’t use social media at all
Community managers must strike a balance. Externally, they 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 the communities at their 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 the function of a community manager varies by company, there is no one magic thing that makes a community management program work. However, some common themes have surfaced, and the following tips should help new and aspiring community managers—and maybe even veterans in that capacity.
1. Fish where the fish are.
When it comes to social media, it’s very easy to get caught up in tactics
. It’s easy to think, “We need to tweet,” or “We need a Facebook page,” just because. Establish your own presence, yes, but prioritize. Take the time to figure out which blogs, Twitter hashtags, conferences, meetups, or social media platforms matter to your audience, and then get involved in those places.
2. Identify and delegate to your power users…
Use a tool like Tweetreach
to identify the most engaged Twitter users in your community. LinkedIn will show you the top influencers each week in your business-to-business community’s LinkedIn group. Tap the power and influence of the most-engaged community members in your target audience by offering them a guest post, curating one of their blog posts in a news roundup, 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, and refer you to others. But make sure to keep an even playing field for new, quieter community members. Each new blog commenter or forum member matters. Challenge yourself by engaging with them, too. It’s your job to build a community—not a clique of power users who make your job easy.
4. Say, ‘I’m sorry.’
Community managers are typically the ones running Twitter and Facebook accounts and will be the ones responding to complaints. The book Rework
by the founders of 37 Signals covers the “how to say you’re sorry” point best. Their advice? The line, “We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you,” is B.S.
If your service isn’t working, and a community member is ranting about it on Twitter, trust us, you disrupted that person’s day and there was an inconvenience caused. No “may” clause is needed.
says, if you spilled hot coffee on someone’s lap, you wouldn’t say, “I apologize for the inconvenience.” You’d say, “I’m so, so
sorry!” Speak in first person, and be genuine.
5. Stay calm. Keep it in perspective.
It’s natural to get frustrated or stressed out on busy days when responding to complaints online or answering a lot of questions. But remember: It’s just the Internet.
Plus, your biggest critics can turn into your biggest fans if you successfully resolve any issues they have. Those who take the time to offer negative feedback will take the time to be your advocate. Keep this in mind.
6. 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. This is especially important if you work in a regulated industry in which you may need to seek approval for your tweets or Facebook updates. Anticipate common questions. Go over them with your product or support team to make sure you have your answers (including your 140-character ones) accurate.
7. Don’t forget about email.
Email may seem old school compared with sexier tools like social media, but remember: Every single Facebook “fan” or Twitter follower has an email address. Email is the glue that makes social media stick
, and if you offer helpful content with an email newsletter, it can be a great way to engage your community members.
8. Engage offline.
Community starts at home, even with the advent of global online communities. Connect with your local audience with a meet-up. This is important because you 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 take root.
9. Your social media accounts are no longer your known, but your time is.
Are you sure you want that social media job?
As the online face of your brand, you will inevitably become identified 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 know from real life. Even if you put “tweets are my own” in your Twitter bio, people will see your thoughts aligned with your company.
Be who you are, and represent yourself online as someone of whom you are proud. Have a ranting tweet or Facebook post you really really really
want to send? I’m sassy, I can relate. Remember: We regret the rants we do post on social media, but when is the last time you regretted not
Despite the challenge of personal/professional balance, 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 newsfeed, and your personal network.
10. Use the right tools to be efficient.
Community managers wear many hats. Sometimes, managing several Twitter accounts, plus a blog, plus delegating to an intern, plus responding to community members can be a lot to handle. Here are some of the tools that community managers from the oneforty
community use, as featured in their toolkits:
• Rachel Happe, principal at Community Roundtable - Tools she usesJanet Aronica is the director of marketing and community at oneforty. A version of this story first appeared on oneforty blog.
• Suzanne Marlatt, community manager at Edelman Digital – Tools she uses
• Stacey Acevero, community manager at Vocus/PR Web – Tools she uses