Community management 101 focuses on building a solid community management foundation. It includes tasks like setting community management goals; determining your strategy; and identifying resources, roles and responsibilities, and a hiring process. Additionally, it spells out tasks like deciding on connection guidelines, creating an editorial calendar, and setting up a metrics system. Most importantly, it shares how to best capture relevant information to keep the team on the same page. At this point, you are ready to move onto community management 201 with tasks that move you from planning to execution so you can start growing your community.
This post is the second in a four-part series on Community Management. If you have arrived at community management 201 without reading our previous post, please check it out before moving forward: Community Management 101: How to Create a Solid Foundation.
The Case for Community
Right before my son entered kindergarten, I spearheaded the fundraising committee for his elementary school. Yah! I was one of those ambitious working parents. Several other interested moms and dads joined the committee—a group of complete strangers. Our passion for our children’s education brought us together. And just like that, our community took root.
Our team met regularly at the local library. First, we identified goals and made plans. As an example, we decided to outfit our brand new school’s library since it did not have books. Then, we planned a carnival with a silent auction. The result? The school year kicked off with a fully stocked library and money leftover for the parent-teacher association.
I’m leaving out a lot of details. Because as you can imagine, planning and pulling off that carnival and silent auction in six weeks was no small feat. The good news? That opportunity resulted in one of the best teamwork experiences I’ve ever had. Most importantly, it set up the kids’ school for success. And finally, our parent-teacher organization stemmed from that early community effort.
In identifying the keys to community management success, I look back to my fundraising committee experience. I’m convinced that when passionate people connect, great things can happen. And great doesn’t always mean raising funds. Whether it’s chatting with customers, listening to your fans, getting feedback on critical areas of improvement, or sharing funny cat memes you’ll all laugh about, community drives emotional ties to brands’ products, causes, and services.
There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about. – Margaret J. Wheatley
Community Management 201: 9 Ways to Create Your Community
Community management 201 is all about learning how to create connection—the critical first step to cultivating a strong community. So, check out these nine steps to move from building a foundation to creating and growing your community:
1. Embrace authenticity.
The key to building strong community relationships is simple: be real. Community management and social media marketing go hand in glove. In social media marketing, brands push advertising and other promotional or important brand-related information to consumers. In contrast, community management focuses on building relationships directly with community members.
Where social media marketing’s communication primarily comes from the brand, community managers present a face to fans and connect directly with them. In this way, a brand can both promote and connect with enthusiastic community members be they consumers, activists, volunteers, etc. In fact, the combined effort instills trust and brand excitement. Ultimately, it leads to loyalty and conversion. But, trust erodes without authenticity, honesty, and transparency. So, when creating content and visuals, sharing it, responding to community members, or meeting up with them online or offline, ask yourself: “Am I being real?”
2. Determine communication mediums that align with your goals and strategy.
IRL communities have a distinct advantage of being able to have in-person time together. On the other hand, online groups avoid challenges like figuring out meeting locations, dates, and times. While every kind of community has its benefits and challenges, the strongest communities communicate.
Consider the following types of communication when determining how you will connect with your community members:
- Mass outreach: blog posts, social media posts
- Direct outreach: direct messages, newsletters (email or snail mail), private messages, text messages
- Visuals: animated images (GIFs), static images, videos
Tip! Before creating content and visuals, go back to community management 101 and triple confirm that your chosen medium aligns with your communication-management strategy and guidelines.
3. Create content and visuals.
Based on the strategy you set in community management 101, use the answers to the questions above to brainstorm and create content and visuals. Consider including some of the following ideas in your communication:
- Announcing events, news, or other hot topics
- Asking questions to solicit engagement
- Calling out days of the year (for example, National Nutella Day)
- Celebrating key dates: brand’s anniversary, member’s birthdays, etc.
- Educating members via short- or long-form content, infographics, trend reports, etc.
- Featuring memes relevant to your community
- Highlighting community members
- Reposting awesome user-generated content
- Sharing quotes
- Soliciting stories and testimonials
- Spotlighting trending topics
- Using humor
- WOWing members with visuals that match your community’s vibe
4. Publish content according to your editorial calendar.
In community management 101, you chose a social media calendaring system. Now, take a minute to get that all set up. First, educate yourself on how to use the tools and maximize its benefits. Then, start adding the content and visuals you created. As you test the process, you may find that you prefer one system over another: manual calendaring, automated tools, or a hybrid approach. Whatever works best for you and your team is the right solution. Trust your gut.
Tip! Test before communicating. For example, you can use tools like Planoly.com to see what an entire grid of Instagram pictures will look like before you post them. This makes sticking to a design style guide easy. Additionally, most eNewsletter service providers allow you to send internal test broadcasts before mass emailing. Testing options like those help you have a more private trial-and-error experience.
5. Prepare in advance for communication mishaps.
All the testing in the world won’t eliminate communication missteps. Get ahead of the game by determining now how you’ll handle them.
Our article, Top 9 Things to Do When You Screw Up an Email Marketing Campaign, is a great resource for preparing for community communication errors, even those outside of email marketing campaigns.
6. Monitor your community’s conversation.
Creating content and visuals, communicating, and planning for mishaps are only the first steps to connecting with your community. Most importantly, a community manager’s responsibility (and/or those of his or her team members) is to watch and listen. Monitoring your community’s conversation helps you assess the following:
- Community members’ passions and preferences (what they like and don’t like in regards to your shares)
- The time sensitive nature of their questions
- Their needs
- Urgent issues that require resolution
- Your super fans (possibly people who should be formal or informal team members)
The more you observe and assess, the better you can meet your community’s needs. As a result, you’ll enjoy a stronger community.
7. Respond immediately to urgent issues.
Community members appreciate responsiveness. And, in this fast-paced, social-media-driven world, chatting with people real-time is what community members expect. While some responses may linger, time-sensitive questions and urgent issues shouldn’t. In fact, ignored issues, or responses that linger, can escalate them. As a result, being on top of monitoring helps community management teams spot crises immediately. Having guidelines in place to respond within a certain time frame to specific types of issues ensures you manage crises before they become issues that are too big.
8. Track results.
In community management 101, you selected a metrics tool and created a process for tracking. Now, it’s time to use your tool(s) and put that process to work. Take the time to learn the tool’s ins and outs. In the beginning of your community management practices, track frequently and for every possible metric. Then, capture the data in a central location so you can analyze your progress. For example, if you are tracking weekly, capture the data in a spreadsheet that shows week-over-week results.
9. Modify tactics based on results.
Refer to your tracking spreadsheet or metrics tools on a regular basis to determine what is and isn’t working. Watch for trends. Analyze the data. Then, modify tactics to see if the tweaks improve your results.
Community management is an ever-changing practice. Algorithms change often. API is public one day and private the next. Then, new tools come on the market all the time or improve with new technology. Therefore, being on top of the trends, tracking regularly, watching results, and modifying accordingly is the best way to ensure your community communication drives connection.
Wrapping It All Up
In this post, we learned the importance of authenticity and it being the underlying attitude to all content and visuals, including responses. From there, we talked about communication mediums, content, and visuals, including publishing to an editorial calendar. After that, we discussed plans for communication mishaps. Then, we talked about community connection practices such as monitoring and responsiveness. Finally, we discussed tracking and modifying based on metrics.
Once you have an active and engaged community that is talking to you, the brand, and talking to each other, you are ready to dive deeper into community management.
In our next two posts in this series, we will discuss specific tactics you can apply to drive greater community engagement, including in-person events. Additionally, we’ll wrap it all up with a post on how to grow your community.
What are your top community management tips?