Social media provides a never-ending stream of content, and users are now more selective than ever about what they follow and engage with. After all, you’re more apt to follow a brand if it adds valuable and insightful information to your social feed, right? No matter how amazing a product or service is, if the brand doesn’t have the substance and appeal to back it up online, it could miss out on a potential connection with its target audience. So, how can you make a positive impression and achieve meaningful connections? It’s all about listening, engaging and creating conversations; it’s all about social media community management.
What is social media community management?
Social media community management is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the practice of managing all aspects of a reputation on social media platforms. In our case as a marketing partner, it's taking the wheel with how a company is portrayed on their social channels and how they interact with followers, prospects and everyone else who comes across their social platforms.
Personal connection is at the core of any community, and community management is an important part of a connected experience. The primary purpose of community management is to build and strengthen relationships. But it’s more than simply developing a posting calendar and creating content to populate the channels; it also involves engaging in social listening, moderation and response, and monitoring and tracking to make sure that social media efforts are making an impact.
Gone are the days when social media was leveraged as a megaphone to blast out a brand's message to a massive audience. A comprehensive social media community management program should be more of a virtual forum where dialogue is encouraged, audiences can find the information they need, and users can interact with the brand on a personal level. It should feature a dynamic online voice that asks questions, creates conversations and adds value, all while exuding confidence and owning the space it occupies.
Since day one of managing social channels for clients, our mantra has remained the same: Social media should be social. That means interacting, educating, working through challenges, addressing product or service issues, and making people feel seen and heard — and doing it all within a few sentences of text, a nice image or a short video clip. A tall order, indeed!
What are some common challenges of social media community management?
Community management entails several challenges that might be faced daily.
First, think about the budget. It takes time and resources to do social media the right way. Sure, we can craft a social post for a brand, and it might be the best darn post anyone has ever seen, but the real magic comes in the conversations that post can facilitate and how we answer the call. To do that right, it takes a human on the other end who is willing to listen, absorb and provide value to the conversation and contribute to an overall positive touchpoint for that person or audience. Major brands can spend millions of dollars a year in social media community management efforts, and for a good reason. Your customers are on social media (now more than ever!) and they expect you to be there too. So, never underestimate the business benefits of providing great customer service and personal connections through social media, as 78% of consumers are willing to buy from a company after having a positive experience with them on social.
Another challenge of social media is that it’s a highly visible and unforgiving landscape. If you have someone pulling the levers of your social media machine, you need to make sure they understand your business, have a good grasp of how to speak with your audience and are a good steward of your brand. If not, things can go south fast. One mistake — even one well-intentioned remark, one insensitive or poorly thought-through post or one rude comment taken out of context — can destroy a brand's reputation.
Finally, social media (especially Facebook) is being used more and more as a customer service interface. For those of us in marketing, we occasionally need to put on our customer service hats and embrace the idea of "the customer is always right." For those of us in social media marketing, our goal for moderating product issues is that we want to simply turn a negative touchpoint into a positive one, but we might not be able to do that on our own. Establishing a process with customer care teams, product managers, executives and engineers is important to ensure that although we're the first line of defense, we have the resources to handle any request that might sneak into your company’s social feed.
Community management: Should you hire an agency or handle it yourself?
Once you decide that social media community management should be a priority for your business, you need to figure out how to tackle it. The two main options are to hire an agency or take it on yourself.
Keep in mind, community management can be a daunting and tedious undertaking. It can take a substantial amount of time to get right. Some everyday tasks might include:
Replying to comments
Handling customer service and representation duties
Adhering to and enforcing the brand identity online
Monitoring industry trends, stories, keywords, etc.
If you decide you’d like assistance and choose to work with an agency on community management, do your homework to ensure that they are a trusted partner willing to dig as deep into your business as you are. Many agencies can put together snappy copy and sharp visuals, but what makes the difference when it comes to social media is an agency partner who cares deeply about your business and has (or will have) a firm command on the ins and outs of your business.
What are some best practices for social media community management?
Apart from our overarching belief that “Social media should be social,” there are several supporting principles that we consider when working on social media efforts on a client's behalf:
Value consistency over campaigns — Without a doubt, campaigns are important, and when done right, they can unlock completely new audiences for a brand. It's easy to see why a well-timed, attention-grabbing campaign often steals the limelight from its companion: well-balanced, even-paced consistency. But being consistent on social media is crucial, and until that piece is rock-solid, think twice about incorporating a campaign. Your social media channels reflect your brand, and if you execute a stellar marketing campaign, plaster it all over social media for a month then go dark the next 11 months, your audience will assume you're all show and no substance. So, how do you find a happy medium? Combine valuable, engaging content over time with exciting spikes and you’ll build an interested, involved and loyal audience.
Choose authenticity over automation — We’re only human! And automated social media responses are unlikely to create a great impression with your audience, just like they probably wouldn’t resonate effectively with you. Emotive language is essential in coming across as a real and genuine human. Sure, it's tempting to use software tools to automate social listening and moderation with the use of chatbots and canned responses. But the bottom line is that you get out of social media exactly what you put into it, so make sure it's authentic and you'll maximize your results. Listen, ask questions, care and pay attention to the behavior of your audience. Humanize your brand through authentic conversation. The frontrunners in the next age of social media will be the brands that provide a warm human touch to their digital audiences instead of canned, inauthentic and sometimes cold and robotic automated responses. Being human goes a long way in a world that has maximized efficiency to the brink.
Vary your content and always be optimizing — This one is simple. Try new things on social media. Do more of what works and less of what doesn't.
How is social media community management success measured?
Thanks to social media metrics, you can measure how successful your social media platforms are, how well your social strategy is performing, and, ultimately, if community management will have an effect on your overall business. Attaining these metrics allows you to showcase the impact of your community management efforts and can lead to significant shifts for your social media team, including budget increases. Finally, metrics can shed light on your overall social profile and brand health status. After all, you don’t know the power of your social media presence until you have the stats to prove it. Possible metrics might include:
Impressions and reach: How many eyes are seeing your social media content.
Community growth: New page likes and followers.
Engagements: Likes, comments, shares and saves.
Message sentiment: Positive, negative or neutral comments.
Share of voice: Brand exposure based on social media conversation, which is usually measured as a percentage of total mentions within an industry or among a defined group of competitors.
Response rate: This is rather easy to calculate; for instance, if you’ve had 500 mentions today and responded to 465, you have a response rate of 93%.
It’s time to pay attention.
According to Statista, since the pandemic started, over 40 percent of consumers are spending more time on social media. It’s fair to assume that there are now more conversations happening online around your industry than ever. It’s important to pay attention and make yourself part of that dialogue.