- 06 Sep 2013
- Dion Hinchcliffe
- 1 Comment
- Blog Post
Currently viewing Tag archives for community management
One of the questions I’m asked the most often about social business is about its key success factors. Specifically, what fundamentally makes a given enterprise social media effort likely to be successful? While the answers to this haven’t changed that much over the last couple of years, I’ve found it’s usually key to differentiate at least two — and perhaps as many as four — distinct timeframes over the life of an effort, as the focus on what’s most important changes significantly with each phase of a social business project.
The two major timeframes that matter the most overall are 1) the initial process to define and justify a given social business initiative and 2) the early work to develop an engaged community around the resulting social business solution (a customer community, advocate program, social marketing campaign, etc.) Both of these are delicate time periods that require a careful focus on what matters most. To a lesser extent, two other timeframes are important as well, which I’ve explored in my social business adoption research. These phases are 3) achieving a critical mass of participation and 4) achieving a sustainable process of engagement over the long term.
As it turns out, the first and second phases almost invariably require a passionate and involved management sponsor, preferably a well-respected senior executive that creates the air cover for the changes required in the organization as well as the necessary resources. But it’s the second, third and fourth phases that all require the single most important capability of all: Effective community management.
Over the years, I’ve explored the emerging capability of community management, a greatly under-recognized discipline that requires a specific set of community manager skills and is relatively unfamiliar to those that aren’t involved in social media. At the most basic level, community management is required to nurture, grow, educate, manage, measure, and operate a social business solution. While we’re really still in the primeval ‘cave painting’ days of social business in general, as part of the maturity process we see that community management itself is very much in the process of evolving as well. For example, it is only now reaching the specialization stage, where we can see dedicated roles for functions such as engagement, analytics & reporting, training & development, or even strategic planning.
Other indicators of maturity of the profession have grown as well. An excellent new report, titled The 2013 State of Community Management from The Community Roundtable underscores this with hard data: Community management teams are now establishing standards for their industry around content management and community programming. They’ve also begun establishing well-documented playbooks that their teams can organize around and follow to provide consistent results and cohesive direction. Metrics and reporting, while still highly variable across the industry, are also becoming a core competency for teams as they increasingly attempt to determine and communicate their business impact. We also see that community managers tend to form the core staff of emerging social media centers of excellence.
While the initial era of community management was often defined by tactical activities like moderation and training, we now see today’s community managers have evolving their skills, become more strategic along way, and have refined their purpose, and the data shows it. Specifically, we see these three broad trends:
While some of this is not necessarily surprising (certainly the rise of analytics has been perhaps the most obvious trend of all in social business), the interesting bits are often in the specific details and I urge you to read the 2013 SOCM report carefully.
What else are you seeing today’s community managers focusing on?
Does your company fully understand the importance of community management for business success?
The following slides from Dachis Group’s Kieran Kelly and Cerys Hearsey discuss what a center of excellence looks like in the context of community management and how your company can start building one today.
These days, most companies have teams of CMs collaborating within and across multiple business units, divisions, and geographies. Community management attracts students and professionals from various backgrounds because it can be an exciting role that’s full of opportunities.
Understanding social media is a must, and this has allowed many to break into the worlds of marketing, advertising, corporate communications, and customer support, but there’s much more to community management than tweets and Facebook posts.
Community managers face an ever-growing amount of incoming messages from customers who expect more from brands than ever before, at a time in which consumers distrust advertising, executives and governments. They usually also deal with low budgets, limited resources, skeptical environments, and high stress situations.
All community managers manage some form of digital/social community, but the best ones inspire those communities to take action, and they take proactive steps to become better representatives for their brands.
When we think about community managers, we typically think about social networks, content, tools and social media messages. However, the role of a community manager requires an understanding and commitment to the big picture: What is it that your brand (or client) is trying to achieve and how does community management help? Understanding the big picture is very important, perhaps as important as this key fact: Community management is customer-centered.
Community managers cultivate relationships. What exactly does this mean? Just as with real-life relationships, it starts with getting to know others — putting yourself in their shoes, interacting with them, remembering shared experiences, and anticipating their needs and requests. Creating content, curating content, amplifying stories, and engaging customers is much more powerful when those on the front lines care about their customers. The best community managers understand the privilege, responsibility and opportunity of making a customer’s day better.
Community managers are brand experts who have a finger on the pulse of customer sentiment. That’s a big deal! They are the “synapse” between the customer and the company, communicating information and insights that are accurate and valuable to both sides of the equation. To this end, community managers know what they can and cannot share; this simply becomes second nature to them.
The best community managers embody the brand at all times, both online and offline, and they advocate on behalf of consumers within company walls. It is easy to recognize those who authentically represent their brand and it is easy to recognize those who truly care about customers
Managing a community means consistent improvement. Such improvement can be manipulated and purchased, but community managers should have a “social by design” approach that helps a brand enhance its efforts beyond simply acquiring growth and engagement. Quality of content and timing, internal processes, campaign management, message tagging, audience profiling, KPI reporting, etc. — all of this must be perpetually enhanced.
Think: How can I purposefully help our brand be more agile, more proactive, more responsive, more collaborative, more savvy, more engaging, more inspiring, and more relevant? And how can I help our company do this… at scale! The best community managers optimize appropriately, gaining support from an engaged customer base and internal stakeholders.
I cannot stress how important it is to innovate. It may not always be easy, especially not when there’s a separate team, agency or champion “in charge” of innovation. My recommendation is to seek opportunities to innovate. Community managers are able to provide input and ideas based on interactions with customers. The best community managers consider the future of their brand’s relationship with consumers, and how innovation can help a brand take efforts to a whole new level.
I firmly believe that, in 2013, many brands will seek to optimize their social media efforts. However, some will innovate and leapfrog competitors in terms of how they target, reach, and engage consumers. They will likely also innovate in terms of internal processes on how to better prepare for risk, coordinate workflow and collaborate across global organizations.
The best community managers are creative thinkers (and doers!) who enable solutions across silos, and demonstrate the value of being close to a brand’s biggest and most vocal fans (and critics, of course).
Leadership is not about power, and it’s definitely not about the leader. Leading is about building others; inspiring, educating, acknowledging, training, and empowering. It is never too early–or too late–to lead. A good starting point is working with others, and serving in areas such as content planning, workflow processes, event coverage, campaign integration and overall social media strategy. Taking initiative and driving small wins is a great platform to take on new responsibilities where there are gaps. Beyond taking new responsibilities, community managers are able to enable collaboration with other teams and partners; this can be of great value, particularly with companies that are very siloed.
The best community managers are those with potential and desire to be great leaders; they take action, lead by example and expectantly seek opportunities to transform their organizations.
The role of the community manager grows in importance and scope frequently. There are more people on more social networks than ever before in history. More customers are reaching out to brands and interacting with them in social media. Everything changes quickly. Understanding shifts in technology and customer needs is key to community management. From reading blogs and books, to curating content, blogging and podcasting, there are many ways to learn each and every day.
The best community managers educate themselves to become experts in their domain, and experts in domains in which they envision themselves in the future. They never stop learning.
To aid community managers in their learning process, and to celebrate Community Manager Appreciation Day, I’m giving away a copy of my book SOCIAL STATE to everyone at no cost throughout today, Monday 28th, 2013. Get yours on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook or all three formats downloadable through Vook.com (ideal for international readers).
Check out the video trailer below and click here to learn more about the book.
My hope is that this book will be an educational, inspiring and enjoyable read.
Enjoy and happy #CMAD !
Esteban Contreras is Sprinklr Account Director and Strategist, and the author of the book “SOCIAL STATE: Thoughts, Stats and Stories about the State of Social Media in 2013.” The book is available at no cost on Community Manager Appreciation Day here. You can follow Esteban on Twitter @socialnerdia.
Image Credit: engageq
Found myself in a little Twitter back and forth with the esteemed @britopian on this topic.
@britopian somewhat disagree
— Jeremy Epstein (@jer979) August 30, 2012
@jer979 explain sir! : 0
— Michael Brito (@Britopian) August 30, 2012
Now, why he didn’t force all of those who DID agree with him to justify their positions, I don’t know, but here goes
Social CRM is critical, particularly for the large brands that we serve. It is about connecting the dots between the single social profile of a customer (combining data from all channels) and existing transactional data to get a richer, fuller profile of the individual customer. You want to not only know what people bought in the past, how often, etc., but you want to know what they are passionate about today, what they are talking about, what they are reading, etc. All of these things can be used to better understand your individual customer and, when combined with the right technology platform, operations framework, and governance framework, help large enterprises actually BE Social@Scale.
On the other hand, strategic community management, which is something I did at Microsoft for 4 years and then consulted/built revenue-driving communities for a number of clients including JNJ, Microsoft, Yes To Carrots, and 2 NYT best-selling authors, as well as wrote 2 books on the topic (all in a previous life) is something else.
It is more about the plans and activities you do to facilitate and strengthen the connections in/among/between your community. Community Management is about unleashing the value and potential inherent in Reed’s Law. This make you (be it brand or individual) a more central part of the lives of your network members because those surrounding you see value in being associated with you (by virtue of how you enrich their lives through others..and only through others).
And, on the flip side, a great community manager (or team) can also identify and take advantage of the untapped value of complainers in a way beyond CRM alone. By demonstrating to everyone in the community that the company listens, engages, and genuinely appreciates the input of complainers, they further build the value of the brand.
At it’s core, community management takes advantage of the Net’s greatest potential, the ability to facilitate connections. It’s why you should value a Technology platform not solely on its features and functionality, but on its ability to facilitate relational activity (as I blogged here).
It’s why we build features such as Profile Tagging, so brand community managers can rapidly (and at SCALE) creates these connections that build value in the community.
While working on a recent project, I was asked to manage a branded Facebook community that already had a very active following. Problem was, the brand presence up to that point was minimal and the community resembled something from William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Lacking an official brand voice, a group of extremely engaged advocates rose to power.
Though their participation and assistance was appreciated, there was a clear need for an official presence in the community. However, we knew that this would not be a simple undertaking. We acknowledged the threat of backlash and carefully crafted our entry strategy to minimize turmoil. As we put our plan into action, five highly effective practices shone through:
Without an official morning greeting each day, the tone and attitude of the community can be completely unpredictable. In the case of our project, it was almost assured that the tone would be negative without subtle intervention. Opening each day with a lighthearted greeting and a fun call to action enabled us to announce our presence, engage advocates, align conversation, and put community members in a positive mindset—all in one fell swoop.
Clear and consistent communication of community guidelines is an absolute must. If a post is removed because it is in violation of guidelines, follow up and explain why the action was taken. Also, if the community does not have 24-hour management, it is important to communicate the parameters for working hours and response times. This prevents community members from feeling ignored if they post after hours. Eventually the community members will learn how to operate within a structured environment.
A sudden brand presence within a community that has long been dominated by members can be jarring. Don’t be alarmed if a user’s first instinct is to disregard your opinion and look to others for affirmation. Building trust and credibility takes time, but with consistent participation and genuine interactions, it will surely happen.
Highly engaged community members often beat even the best community managers to respond. While this level of engagement is great, it often breeds incorrect information. Consistent brand messaging and presence teaches community members the community manager is the official word, even if it is contrary to responses from other members.
Lastly, pay tribute to the highly engaged community members who established themselves as experts prior to your arrival. Though there’s a new boss in town, their legacy is not forgotten! By acknowledging their efforts, the advocates know that their assistance is appreciated. If they agree to play nicely and provide respectful assistance to community members, there is no reason for them to stop doing what they’ve always done.
When the time comes to establish an official presence in your community, don’t take it lightly. This undertaking necessitates professional guidance and a wrong move can quickly turn the community against you. These five tips will help pave the way, but take time to make them your own based upon your community observations. Make special note of who your customers are, how they use social technologies, and what they expect from the brand and your overall community participation. Your level of consideration directly affects your success. Now get out there and claim your conch!
The figures vary but in the last several years a major change has begun in organizations around the world. Sometimes the efforts are small and unsanctioned, sometimes they are big and bold, but increasingly businesses are employing social media strategically to engage deeply with both their workers and customers. We see this all the time in the large firms represented in our Social Business Council and elsewhere.
One of the biggest challenges these efforts face, whether they are internal or external, is that engagement via social media is generally perceived as a voluntary activity. As in, workers can collaborate and customers can choose to interact with a business through older channels that are often more familiar and better supported by the organization itself. Or they can engage through social channels. For people to choose the social path of engagement as the most suitable one, there need to be motivations and incentives that are aligned with that path.
As companies seek to ensure the highest level of success with their social business efforts, I am seeing that they want a proven, reliable way to drive adoption of their social business strategy, whether it’s an Enterprise 2.0 initiative, a social media marketing program, or Social CRM effort. But social media is not as deterministic and controllable as the channels that have come before it. It’s one of the reasons I say that adoption of social media can only be co-created. It is as much up to the those engaging to create value, sustain engagement, and build community as it is to those that sponsor them. You can’t own a community like you can buy software or a marketing campaign, social business is a two-way street like nothing quite like it. This makes adoption of social business a very different creature from the way businesses used to engage before.
Fortunately, after over half-a-decade of experience in scale, we can see the broad outlines of adoption, which have stages that are very different based on the state of maturity and overall rate of social business adoption in the organization. In other words, as much as we might like it, there is no “one size fits all” approach to it. Fortunately, we can organize around these different stages, which fall roughly into four parts given below. Specifically, these are:
This post is part of a four part series on social business adoption that will explore each of these phases, with early adoption being examined here. For this effort, I’ve contacted over a dozen experienced social business practitioners, tapped into my research, and aggregated the results of numerous case studies. The outcome is what you see here and while it’s probably as definitive as you’ll find, it’s a necessarily limited view of a rapidly moving new field. Also, in the end, what drives adoption best is whatever actually works for your social business project, and what works best for your project often isn’t what’s in the check lists, no matter how good. Social isn’t as predictable or as deterministic as we might like, and that’s the challenge. Of course, it’s also a large part of the opportunity to drive innovative new outcomes you could never otherwise achieve or imagine. So while your mileage may vary somewhat, the adoption strategies presented here can be a very useful jump start of your social business journey.
Recognizing that that although social business is part of a single continuum across workers, business partners, customers, and the marketplace, that internal use of social business and external uses involve participants that have a very different relationships with the organization. Adoption strategies therefore vary the most between these two groups and so they are presented here separately, though there is often significant cross over, particularly in areas like community management and connecting social business activities to relevant business outcomes and bottom-line benefits.
Note that these adoption phases also take place during the journey of becoming a social business in the large and will be directly informed by that journey. Individual social business efforts, and their adoption strategies, should be loosely connected to what the entire organization is doing and “calibrate” to align themselves in the same direction.
While the blur between internal and external communities continues to increase, for now most efforts are still separate. Listed beow are the top adoption strategies for external social business efforts. Begin with these but experiment along the way and find the adoption patterns that are unique to your environment, culture, and constraints.
As social business scales up and goes external, successful adoption has a new, though often complementary set of requirements. Some of the differences revolve around motivation in that external participants aren’t typically paid to work for the organization like internal participants and so usually have a very different set of reasons they are involved. Other issues that tend to be unique to external social business includes appealing to a much broader demographic and competing with similar communities elsewhere on the Internet.
Note that this list cannot be exhaustive and there are literally dozens of techniques large and small that one can attempt to drive adoption of social business. You should also never forget the fundamental cycle of listen, analyze, measure, and respond. However, these cover the more widely used and repeatable techniques that I’ve seen of the many social business efforts that I’ve examined over the years. I’ll be covered the remaining adoption phases in upcoming posts but welcome your feedback to improve and extend this list.
As the social world advances, consumers are turning more to location-based social networks to showcase their favorite places and redeem deals for checking-in. There have been discussions among Facebook Developers the past few weeks regarding the new features being released for Places and Pages that began rolling out on July 13th. These features are designed to help brands establish a more localized presence on Facebook, while also making the experience more useful to the Facebook community. However, there are limitations in not providing a custom experience for consumers. These new features will be rolled out to pages automatically and follow the previous set-up of parent-child relationships.
Brands will be able to see features of these new releases in 5 areas:
These updates will allow brands to gain more from the Parent-Child and Places experience and increase the control that they have over individual Places in a time efficient manner. However, for many brands to stay innovative in the social space it will be necessary to develop custom applications that tie in multiple locations while allowing users to filter the information that is most important to their experience. As soon as the changes to Places come out of beta keep an eye out for an update here on the final social business impact for brands and their Places presence.
When called upon to explain what it takes to be a good community manager, I often feel like I’m writing a children’s book on how to be a good friend. Truly, good community management is not difficult to figure out, but many people are intimidated by the new avenues of communication in social media and lose sight of how easy it can be to establish a connection with a group of people. If you follow these six simple rules of friendship, you’re well on your way to being a stellar community manager with a highly engaged audience.
The premise is simple: don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. A community manager should be selected because they’re a good fit for the community. Don’t select a community manager simply because they have community management or social media experience; make sure they also have a background that is relevant to the community or your brand. The community can tell if you’re insincere or clueless, and you run the threat of losing their trust.
Additionally, give your personality a chance to shine through. Community managers who are overly dry or technical might as well be robots. Community members appreciate the presence of a genuine personality with whom they feel a connection.
A good community manager makes time to check in on the community at least once a day. Depending upon the amount of activity on each community hub, you may want to check in three to five times a day. Reply to any questions people have asked, and let them know that you’re there for them.
Genuine interaction is a must. Take time to really read and understand what your community members need. Don’t try to make their questions fit into a formulaic category that can easily be answered with a stock response. This will frustrate them and make you lose credibility.
When checking in, a community manager should post interesting material and encourage conversation in the community. Don’t feel like your posts have to strictly adhere to the theme of your community; feel free to post a funny video or cute picture when you see fit.
Encourage your community to share, too. When you post, always include a call to action to encourage responses. If you post a video of a puppy stuck on its back, ask your community members to share their favorite puppy videos in the comments. This creates a dynamic of mutual respect and open sharing, and keeps your community members interested.
Every good community manager wears the hat of a moderator at some point in time. When a community member comes to you with an issue, do your best to respond and resolve it within one day. If a flame war erupts within your community, step in and take the necessary steps to restore peace. Moderation is an important part of community management, and your community will thank you for the support.
When there is unplanned downtime or unexpected technical difficulties, a community manager should do all they can to guide the community through the rough patch. It’s always a good idea to have a crisis response plan in place before it is needed so you can promptly escalate the issue up the proper chain of command and provide a swift resolution.
Radio silence from a community manager during times of uncertainty can lead to panic and frustration from community members. If possible, contact your community members via alternate methods such as email or other unaffected social outlets. If there is planned downtime on the horizon, make sure your community is aware of it at least two weeks in advance.
There’s such a thing as oversharing in a community. Good community managers make sure to avoid posting too often or dominating conversations. Doing so will lead your community members to ignore you or even leave the community.
A good rule of thumb is to not post more than three times a day. Additionally, allow your community members to interact with one another and create organic conversations around a central topic. Quite often, community members’ questions are answered by other members before you get a chance to respond. This builds a strong community based on mutual respect, and makes the community manager’s job a lot more pleasant.
I tweeted recently that all of the details of planning an online community reminded me of planning a wedding. I submitted the tweet at the very moment I felt overwhelmed by the details of coordinating so many moving pieces weeks before launching the community. For the past three months, Dachis Group has worked closely with a community platform provider to design, build, and launch an online community for a client partner. I am a member of the Dachis Group team managing this project, and I decided to write about my experience.
We spent months conducting research, planning the strategy, establishing the KPIs and measurement plan, creating content and designing the site. Now that we are weeks away from launch, community planning has suddenly become tracking a growing ‘to do’ list. Instead of ‘call the caterer, meet with the photographer, email the DJ,’ my list includes ‘email Compliance, call Legal, follow-up with IT’ in addition to daily communication with our client partner and platform provider. The ‘to do’ list scrolls in my head creating what one of my friends referred to as the [wedding] planning head fog. The stress hits when you realize one incomplete item on the list will throw off the entire schedule. This is why each time I mark something complete on the list, I feel compelled to do a little dance in my chair. Each checked item means we are closer to launch. It’s exciting.
However, it can also be wearisome. I’ve been exposed the darker side of community planning as well. A community planner who has invested lots of time and energy into planning the community may also grow easily frustrated and impatient over details. (‘How did they miss this important request?’)
I confess that I came close to turning into the bridezilla of community management. This image became the stress-relief joke among the team as we plotted how to get everything approved in time for the targeted launch date. ‘Did you go bridezilla on them?’ we would ask each other. When things got particularly tense, there was a strong temptation to ‘go bridezilla.’ But in the end, keeping a cool head prevails and we’re right on track for launch.
To avoid turning into bridezilla before launching an online community, I offer 7 lessons learned from my experience so far.
I’m sure I’ll have more to add in the future. For now, I’d like to know if you have any lessons learned in community planning to add.
Source for bridezilla photo: http://pdbb.wordpress.com/2009/04/08/bridezilla/bridezilla/