Community Management 101: How to Create a Solid Foundation

Social media makes connecting with customers, fans, activists, or a network of like-minded individuals easier than ever. For example, raise your hand if you belong to at least one Facebook Group. My neighborhood alone has five groups for various niches. You could say we’re tight. However, thriving online and offline communities don’t just happen overnight. Community managers must do a lot of preparation and behind-the-scenes work to pull off both growth and connection. Then, they have to pay attention to what’s working and what’s not working and tweak accordingly. Finally, they have to track and analyze to prove that their effort—time, energy, and cost investment—is worth it. If you’re wondering how to get started, our Community Management 101 tips help establish a solid foundation on which to build and grow a strong community.

This post is the first in a four-part series on community management. Next up? Community Management 201: How to Build a Successful Community.

Community Management 101-How to Create a Successful Community

Why Invest in Community

Communities take root and impact change when like-minded people gather and use their passion for good. Like Helen Keller said:

Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.

Brick-and-mortar and online businesses with physical products, as well as those that promote causes or sell services, can benefit in the following ways from investing in community building:

  • Connect with customers.
  • Create value for community members.
  • Share and learn relevant information.
  • Discover, engage with, and create super fans.
  • Get important product feedback.
  • Drive calls to action: subscriptions, website traffic, incentive redemption, social following increase, and more.

Learn how live events help brands score big in our  post on the 8 Ways In-Person, Brand-Sponsored Events Drive Results.

Key Questions to Ask When Creating a Community

Brands can follow all the best Community Management 101 tips, but the strongest and most successful communities require a solid foundation. You may represent a brand and are looking to connect with customers, champion a cause and hope to collaborate with activists, or promote professional services and want to grow a network of like-minded people. But, before you create a community—either online or offline—ask yourself:

  • Why am I investing in community?
  • What does a successful community for my brand, cause, or service look like?
  • What goals and objectives do I want to meet through community building?

If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. – African Proverb

Community Management 101: 8 Ways to Build a Solid Foundation

Once you identify your goals, implement these eight community management basics to build a solid foundation on which your community can grow:

1. Set your community management strategy.

Ask yourself these questions to determine your community management strategy:

  • Who is our average community member? You could consider identify their age, gender, ethnicity, geographic location, average household income, interests, hobbies, job, etc.
  • What do our community members have in common? In other words, why are they most interested in connecting?
  • Where will the community gather? Online? In person? If online, on what platform(s)? More directly (for example, text messaging or private messages)?
  • What is our community’s vibe? Funny? Informational? Serious?
  • When it comes to creative assets, graphics, images, videos, and other eye candy, what matches our community’s style?
  • What type of content goes with our tone?

2. Identify internal and external resources.

Whether you have a large team or any team members at all, identifying your resource needs at the outset will help you now and in the future when you ask yourself:

  • Who is our community leader (the person in charge of the community, even if they aren’t involved in the day-to-day)?
  • What internal and external resources do we need to manage the community (e.g., community managers, group administrators, community ambassadors or champions, community-management assistants, etc.)?
  • At what points do we need to consider adding team members and for what positions?

3. Determine roles and responsibilities.

Once you determine your internal and external resource needs, clarify their roles and responsibilities by asking yourself:

  • What is each role’s mission?
  • What key competencies are required for each role? Consider adding criteria related to experience, strengths, qualities, and skills. Also, consider identifying criteria you are NOT looking for to quickly eliminate applicants.
  • When thinking about the people performing the various roles, what would they be accountable and responsible for in their position?
  • Based on that, what would be their basic job requirements (tasks they would need to perform to meet their responsibilities)?
  • How are we compensating them and what are their benefits?
  • What are their 90-day-post-hire goals and action items?

4. Recruit and hire resources.

Now that you are clear on each position’s roles and responsibilities, you’re in a position to reach out and confirm resources. Before you do, ask yourself:

  • What is our recruiting process? For example, will you accept applicants? Will you go through an internal nomination process?
  • What steps do we need to put in place for our recruiting and hiring process to succeed?
  • How will we vet interested parties?
  • What does our confirmation (hiring) process require? Contracts, commitment letters, etc.?

Serious about hiring a community manager or other team members to help create, cultivate, and grow your community? I swear by this book on hiring: “Who.” It’s worth a read before starting the recruiting process.

Tip! Additionally, make sure to schedule monthly reviews to identify areas of excellence and improvement. Then, hold a performance review at the end of the 90 days to determine progress on initial goals and action items.

5. Set community connection guidelines.

With your Community Management 101 strategy and team in place and everyone aligned, you are almost ready to start brainstorming content and visuals. But first, you need to think about where, when, and how often you will connect by asking yourself:

  • Where should I connect with my community? Consider the platforms your community most frequents. Places to consider include your community blog, email, and newsletters (via email or snail mail). Other places to consider could be online groups or chatrooms such as Facebook Groups and popular social media channels such as Instagram.
  • When should I connect? What days? What times of day?
  • How often should I connect?

Tip! Read up on posting frequency trends. For example, SocialMediaToday.com released a report dedicated to answering the question: Does posting frequently on Instagram reduce engagement? Articles like this come out regularly for every platform and help in determining posting frequency.

6. Choose an editorial calendar.

Brainstorming content and social media tactics before setting strategy and recruiting the right team members is always a temptation. But, resist! The rework that occurs from skipping steps costs time, energy, and money. Furthermore, it frustrates team members who were excited about their creativity only to discover it didn’t align with the strategy.

Once you have made your way through steps 1-5 above, it’s time to get creative. And, the best place to capture your plans is in an editorial calendar. You can use something as simple as a spreadsheet or as sophisticated as an online tool for social media post planning. Regardless of which tool you use, your editorial calendar should include the following for each post or newsletter:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Platform (blog, social channels, email, or newsletter service provider)
  • Content
  • Visual(s)

Check out this round up of some of the best social media calendars on the market.

Tip! Make sure to choose a social media calendaring system that allows for collaboration.

7. Set up a metrics system.

Not planning metrics at the outset makes tracking and reporting difficult and often impossible. Because analytics is often an afterthought, I’m including it in community management 101 instead of later in this series.

Most community managers have to justify the expense involved in managing their groups. The best way to do that is through tracking and reporting. You can do this manually, through automated tools, or a hybrid approach. Regardless of your method, make sure to track and report out on any of the following you observe:

  • Engagement: Comments, likes, shares, repins, retweets, etc.
  • Impressions: Number of posts x number of followers
  • Proof of purchase: “I just bought this!” type statements that prove sales
  • Reach: Number of followers
  • Referrals: Recommending (via tagging) friends check out, engage with, or join the community
  • Reviews: Positive and negative product, cause, or service reviews (or even reviews about the community management)
  • Stories: Ways in which the brand impacts community members personally (personal stories about the brand)
  • Views: Instagram or Facebook stories; Facebook, Instagram, Instagram stories, or YouTube videos, etc.

See PCMag.com’s list of The Best Social Media Management and Analytics Tools of 2018.

Tip! When tracking emojis, hashtags, mentions, and sentiment, automated tools are especially helpful.

8. Create an internal FAQ document.

As you can see, Community Management 101 includes a lot of preparation. So, as you create processes, develop documents, and otherwise craft information, save it. The best place to capture information (or links to documents) is in one internal FAQ document, such as a Google Doc. This gives internal team members an easily accessible and at-a-glance reference to all important materials related to your community management. Most importantly, internal FAQ docs save time and money while keeping everyone on the same page, literally.

Wrapping It All Up

In summary, community management 101 is about building a solid foundation on which your community can grow. The key elements involved in this include setting a strategy, determining resources, identifying roles and responsibilities, and recruiting/hiring the right team members. Then, deciding on your community connection guidelines, creating an editorial calendar, and setting up a metrics system. Most of all, when establishing processes and creating documents, make sure to capture everything in an internal FAQ document.

What’s Next

The next three posts in this series share the following:

What are your top community management 101 tips?

Community Management 201: How to Build a Successful Community

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