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Today's Community Manager Skills: Savvy in Engagement, Social Data, and Business

by Dion Hinchcliffe 06 Sep 2013 Blog Post

Community Managers: The Hub of Social Business

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.

Community Management: The Hub of Social Business

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.

New Areas of Focus for Community Manager Skills

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:

  1. Sophisticated new engagement strategies. Today’s community management departments realize that they can’t do it all, nor should they. Engagement at scale is increasingly the name of the game, from cultivating and orchestrating advocates to real-time tool-assisted processes that greatly boost the reach and relevance of community managers while reducing the individual task time required to engage widely.
  2. The strategic use of data to guide community management activities and goals. We’ve seen an operational blueprint emerge over the last several years where social data is at the core of the workflow of community management (as well as other social business functions like marketing.) Community managers today can operate analytic tools that derive tactical situations as well as strategic business intelligence, and doing so is part of their core training and an integral part of their playbook. We’re also seeing that they use their content as a strategic data asset as well.
  3. A focus on eliciting valuable business outcomes. One of the most intriguing tidbits from the 2013 State of Community Management report was that “one interesting difference between the survey average and those community teams that can report the value of community management is the higher level of interaction with most other department and the notable increased interaction with their finance team.” Successful community managers have always had a broad interface with multiple departments across the company, but we can now see it’s the business savvy community managers that can zero in on the value and identify ROI.

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?

 

Get in touch with Dachis Group Today

Building a Community Management Center of Excellence

by Jeff Dachis 23 Feb 2013 Blog Post, Infographics, Webinars

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.

Get in touch with Dachis Group Today

Six Tips for Better Community Management on #CMAD 2013

by admin 28 Jan 2013 Social@Scale: Community Manager

The role of the community manager is no longer rare at major corporations.

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.

Here are six tips for better community management:

1. Cultivate

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.

2. Advocate

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

3. Optimize

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.

4. Innovate

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).

5. Lead

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.

6. Learn

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 KindleApple iBooksBarnes & 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

How is Social CRM different than Community Management?

by Jeremy Epstein 04 Sep 2012 Social@Scale: Community Manager, Social@Scale: Social Media Manager

Found myself in a little Twitter back and forth with the esteemed @britopian on this topic.

 

 

 

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.

I am waiting to hear what Mr. Brito has to say in response and you are welcome to add your comments below or tweet me (@jer979) or Sprinklr (@sprinklr) with your thoughts and feedback.

Lord of the Likes: Taming the Feral Community

by Becca Frasier 27 Oct 2011 Blog Post

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:

1. Start the day on a positive—and influential—note

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.

2. Set rules and manage expectations

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.

3. Establish credibility

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.

4. Distinguish community opinion from official/brand response

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.

5. Nurture advocates

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!