How to Do Community Management Correctly #smlondon

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Why do brands need community management? Why should your social media manager NOT be your community manager? And how does Phil Collins fit into it all? To get some answers, I’ve had a chat with Christie Fidura of The Perfect Circle, former manager of the Adobe Community for EMEA and organiser of the Community Manager London Meetup.

Listen to the interview on Soundcloud, iTunes or keep reading for a transcript of our conversation.

Why do brands need community managers?

There are several reasons that an organisation might want a community – it’s a big responsibility, like getting married. You don’t enter into this relationship lightly because it’s extremely difficult to extract yourself from a community once you’ve built it. I think that there’s some good strategic decisions and initiatives that need to be laid out and decided upon before entering into the relationship. Specifically, my belief is that, there are a few reasons to want to have a community, and on a very high level ranking, it’s my personal belief that any company that sells anything should want to have a community, and it’s for these reasons.

There is a really lovely quote from a lady named Krista Neher in the U.S., and she says the following: “The biggest success in online marketing is getting consumers to do your marketing for you.”

So effectively that’s pretty much why anyone would want to have a community, but it can go into different areas and different structures. So for example, you can have a community for influencer marketing where you have a hierarchy of influencers who help spread the word and spread the messages about your products, and your corporation, and your brand, and help you raise awareness to their communities. There is also the very important feedback loop.

Giving that feedback so you can constantly improve your product, and your services, and your brand. Getting feedback from the people who love you best. They’re always going to be always brutally honest, which can be challenging, but it also means that they are supplying you with the information that you need to build the product that’s going to sell the best. So it’s actually creating a ready audience for your product set. And then there’s also just the generic consistent brand loyalty and constant improvement methodologies. So again, getting the people who love you best, bringing them closer into your organisation, giving them that intimacy, and having that relationship with them.

What’s the perfect circle of community management?

It’s my belief that…and the reason that I called my company The Perfect Circle is that I believe you have to give in order to get. It is a 50% and a 50%, something has to come from each side. Again, going back to that marriage analogy. So if you give, so that you’re building advocates, the advocates, the engagement that you undertake, the advocates are actually creating loyalty. So by the very action of you engaging with these advocates, you’re creating your own loyalty. And that is, in fact, what I believe the perfect circle is all about. Again, giving to get.

But specifically entering into community management is not just something you do on a lark, obviously. You have to have a strategy behind what you’re trying to achieve and what you’re trying to do. You have to build in a lot of different types of ideas, and the graphic that you’re referring to just talks about some of those specific things that need to be considered before undertaking such a relationship and such a commitment. So for example, what is the strategy for this group that you’re creating? What kind of data are you going to be tracking? How are you going to maintain growth?

What kind of growth are you expecting? What kind of growth do you hope to achieve, and how are you going to reach those goals? What kind of moderation are you going to put into place in order to make sure that the conversations are happening? And effectively, what you want to achieve is that the community starts connecting with one another. You start that at the beginning with your moderation by connecting person A to person B, but then hopefully, as your community grows, and thrives, and becomes stronger, you don’t need to perform that high level of moderation any longer. So what kind of moderation are you going to have? What kind of conversations are you going to start?

Then it to moves into events and activities. So these are things that you have to do offline. Offline engagement is just as important as online engagement. But obviously, a community manager can’t be everywhere. When I was in my days at Adobe, I certainly couldn’t go worldwide as much. I could only go where the company would allow me, and sometimes, there were places that I just simply couldn’t get to. But that didn’t mean that I didn’t have to be not present in that area. So for example, I could set up a little event or activity where a person who was one of my community leaders could run an event in that area or that region. So again, it’s about how you’re going to engage them offline as much as online.

And then we move and we have to think about relationship development. So how are we going to develop the relationship further? What kind of content are we going to provide them with? What kind of content do we want to them to be generating on or behalf, or generating for us, or generating for the other members of the community? And then you get into some really tricky parts of the organisation. This is deep internal stuff where you have to think about business integration and return on investment. So how many departments across the organisation are going to be committed to this community, and what does that actual mean, and what kind of infrastructure do you need to support that?

What sort of ROI you are hoping achieve by having a community? And how do you track that? And then finally, there’s the whole user experience piece because there’s nothing more important than getting all of your stakeholders on board because the experience for the user, for the member must be consistent across all departments and interactions that he has with your organisation. So if he rings up the receptionist at the front desk, she should know just as much as the sales person who answers his call that he is a person of importance. So that’s kind of how it comes into play.

It has to go across the entire organisation. And so that’s the things that I think about and I talk about with my clients is before we undertake this idea to create a strategy for what your community should be doing for you, you need to think about all these other things. Because something forgotten here will be very difficult to implement later.

What are the clear benefits of an engaged community?

Well it all depends on the strategy and the structure that you put into place for that organisation, for that community. There’s a lot to be said for thinking these things through quite carefully, but if you’re thinking about from an influencer marketing perspective or raising awareness perspective, these are the types of things where you can think about creating an audience member and generating that person into an advocate. Now the reason that you might want to do these things is because there’s some really great statistics out there from really smart people that I admire a lot.

So for example, Bain & Company talk about how it costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. We’ve all heard that, right? We’ve heard Harvard Business Review saying that increasing customer retention rate by 5% can increase profits by up to 95% over the long term. And we’ve heard from MSI that 25% engagement on your home base can increase your revenue by 25%. Those are great figures that marketing and sales executives love to hear. They think, “Okay, this is great reasons for me to have a community, but how on earth do I go about getting one?” Well, it’s quite procedural, it’s quite process oriented really.

But I think if you start listening and seeding the relationship, hearing what your customers are really saying and what they really care about, figuring out where they’re located, even thinking to yourself that every mention socially can be an opportunity for further engagement. It’s going to allow you to uncover key trends and topics, and if you do that, then you’re actually ready to start engaging that person to retain the relationship, to build a fan out of that relationship. And so, the way that you do that is by sharing content. Right? So that’s going to be retaining and sustaining the relationship because high touch can, in my cases, equal a high reward.

So being a good community member with frequent communication means that these individuals are starting to get more and more loyal to your brand. You can then continue that process by then building advocacy. So now is the time when you’re ready to start deepening that relationship and really turning your power users into your ambassadors. So it’s all about this…it’s quite a simplistic process, but it’s very difficult to engage because all of these different facets and different steps actually can be conducted by multiple channels, multiple distribution points, multiple departments, multiple people within your organisation, which means consistency has to play a huge role here, and it also means that every person in your organisation needs to be signed off on the fact that they want to have this community because it is a strategic decision. I hope that makes sense.

Is there a step-by-step approach to strategic community management?

Well, it’s not an idea to undertake lightly. You don’t just walk up to somebody on the street and say, “Hey, can we be best friends?” Right? That’s not the way life works. So, you really have to think about defining what you want the community to achieve. So what is the reason you want to have a community? What are they going to give to you? What are you going to give to them? Again, it goes back to that perfect circle that I’ve been mentioning.

So you have to set the goals and objectives that you think are going to be achievable at some point in the future. You can set short term goals and long term goals. I like to say a lot that you might not know what you want your community to look like in five years, but you have to know in your heart of hearts that you still want them in five years. Because if you go trying to enter into a relationship with a community too lightly or without having this weight of the shadow of a long-term commitment behind you, they’ll sense that, and they will not have loyalty. And without loyalty, there’s no trust, without trust, there’s no engagement, without engagement, there’s no community, right?

It’s pretty clear. So setting your goals and objectives are critical. But then also putting some metrics into place. Now people get really worried about this because they think, “Oh, god, I’ve got to have like thousands of facts and figures that I want to be able to track.” And you don’t have to worry that much at the beginning. At the beginning, it can be something incredibly simplistic. I say to my clients quite frequently, “Well, let’s track this particular level of engagement.” And they say, “Oh, it’s going to be zero, there’s no point in tracking that.” Well, my theory is that even if it’s zero, that’s a number, and it’s a number you can base things off of.

It gives you a trend, and it also gives you an objective, right? If you’re currently at zero, you can only go up from there, right? So knowing your number is a really, really good thing. So try not to track too many things at one time, but do just put some metrics into place, so that you understand what it is that you’re hoping to find out, once you start engaging with these people. So once you have the definition of what’s it’s going to look like, and how you’re going to measure it, and what you’re going to give them, and what they’re going to give you, you’ve got to get that internal stakeholder feedback and buy-in. If your customer support department does not believe in this project, there’s no point in undertaking it.

Because they’re the ones who are going to be primarily dealing with customers. Right? So you have to make it worth their while. So how, customer support department, can we make a community worth your while? It’s a very famous story of a worldwide software company, and their ambassadors answer 86% of their customer support queries. Now what does that actually mean? It actually means that, that CEO only has to have 12% of incoming support queries answered by his people. And why is that important? That’s important because it hits his purse. It hits his wallet specifically, right? If he only is answering 12% or 14% of his support queries, that means he only has to have a significantly reduced number of full-time staff doing that job. Right?

That is a good revenue again. Right? A good savings. So getting stakeholder feedback means you have to figure out what each department, each individual, each stakeholder in the company is caring about and making sure that they have a buy-in for why you want to have this community, and they’ll help you create those definitions that I was just mentioning as well, and those goals, and the metrics, and the objectives. Once you’ve got your stakeholders on board, you’ve defined what you want to do, then it’s time to start thinking about communications. So how are you actually going to communicate with these people who may or may not be in your locality, in your city, in your region, and might not even be on your continent, right?

So how are you going to communicate with them in the right tone of voice and the right language in a way that they want to be communicated with? Is it email, for example, is it a form on the website, for example, is it weekly updates via webinar or via Google Hangout? What is the way that they would like to be communicated with best? And on the other side, what are you going to be saying to them? That should all point back to your previous definition of what you have decided to think about for this community.

You can then start thinking about setting up and identifying your influencers. So your influencers can be the people who can help you perpetuate the positivity and also do some management of the community. These influencers are key. They’ll help you identify the shape of the community. They’ll help you figure out which localities are going to be stronger than others because you have a really strong influencer in Hungary, but perhaps you don’t really have one in France. So you know that you’ll have a great stronghold in Hungary and you could start building up from there. If you don’t have one in France already, it’s time to start listening and hearing what kind of influencers potentially are out there and starting to engage with them.

So the most important thing about that is listen before you start the conversation. Right? So Karin Robinson who is the Associate Director of Social at Ogilvy, she and I had a conversation at Social Media Week, and she said, “I recommend that my clients do not talk to any potential influencers for at least a week of listening.” Right? So she says, “I recommend that they listen for a week before they ever start to have a conversation.” Again, imagine that annoying guy running down the street giving high fives to everybody. Nobody wants to be with that guy, right?

We want to have a proper conversation with the right person, at the right time, in the right way, in order to really start getting them to understand who we are, what we’re trying to achieve, and why we believe in them. And then I think my last step, if you can even call it that, is to consider always the mantra that done is better than perfect. And my friend, Muse Seymour, who is the Community Director at Nimber, he said this at a panel I moderated last week for the Economy of Hours.

He said, “If I waited until everything was perfect, I would never get anything done.” Sometimes just trying makes such a difference to the community members at large, even if they know that you can’t achieve something. The fact that you’re listening, and you’re working on it, and you have a plan, and there’s that transparency goes a long way. So don’t think, so much about, “I can’t implement this until it’s absolutely perfect.” You know what? People will take it halfway finished. That’s okay. Because they know you’re really trying. But you have to continue that constant communication, so that they really understand what’s going on behind the scenes.

What are some of the pitfalls to avoid?

There’s a lot of potentially dangerous situations out there. So I think that before I go into any, I’ll just go back quickly to that idea of that general concept of transparency. You can really piss off a lot of people accidentally, but if you just come clean about it and apologise, people love that. And there’s so many social media horror stories out in the marketplace today. You could Google and get 25 billion of them, right? Social media disasters. They’re not nice things, and in most of those cases, if the company had just come forward and said, “God, we really screwed up here, and we’re sorry,” it would go a long way. But they don’t want to do that.

So my number one objective with the community always is transparency. I don’t know if you’re a West Wing fan, but CJ always said, the press person on West Wing always said, “I can’t lie effectively if you guys don’t tell me the whole truth.” Right? And so, I do think that there’s a lot to be said for that because you as the community manager are the pinch person, you are the liaison between the organisation and the community. And you have to be able to, maybe not lie, but you have to be able to translate information from both sides of the party to the other side of the party in an effective and meaningful way.

There’s always two ways to deliver information, always pick the way that’s going to make the other party look better in the other party’s eyes. Right? But I would say that some of my top tips would be he don’t try to do too much at once. I met these two lovely ladies last week who said, “Our boss is really pushing for us to go out and buy a really, really, large enterprise tool for managing our community on a forum, and what do you think about…what tool do you recommend?” And I said, “Well, what is it you want to do?”

They said, “Well, we don’t really know. He just tells us that we should go out and buy one.” And I said, “Well, then don’t go out and buy one because no matter what he will…because you haven’t defined what you want out of this tool. It’s always going to be a failure. You can do this job without specific purchased tools to hand.” At Adobe, for the first year, I was running community across all of these regions, you know what tool I had? Outlook.

So I created a folder, a subfolder for every region in my area. One for Europe, one for Middle East, one for Africa, and then I had a subfolder under that for every country and every region, and then I had a subfolder under that for every community leader I had, and I kept correspondence in that folder from that person, so that I never had to remember, “Oh, wait, was it Fred in Hungary who wanted me to send him some T-shirts, or was it Joe in France?” Right? So I never had to remember that because I kept track of it all. So yes, you can go out and buy expensive tools, but there’s nothing like really knowing your people very well.

But if you obviously, you have such a successful community that you need a tool, that’s great. But don’t go out and buy something until you’ve really figured out what you need. Do a needs analysis. Try and figure out what your people are doing, like pick a very sample, a random sample, pick five of them, run a little audit of those five individuals, and follow with them for a week. Take half an hour a day on each person, and then come together at the end of the week and sit down, and say, “Oh, well was Fred talking about that because Joe was talking about this as well?”

And you’ll be able to identify trends of what you would like to know more. Once you identify what you want to know more, then you can go out shopping for a tool maybe, or you can figure out what tools will track the kind of information that you’ve figured out that you need. But don’t try and do it backwards. I go back to, for another tip, back to Karin Robinson from Ogilvy, who said, “Don’t start talking to people unless you’ve listened to them for a week.” I would actually take it a step further, and say, “Don’t start the conversation until you’re ready to actually have a conversation.”

Don’t put yourself out there and welcome comments, welcome feedback, and try and get people to come in unless you’re able to hear what they have to say because you’ve defined what you want to be hearing from them, and you have an infrastructure in place to actually make changes and modifications to the overall system, and also feedback to those people, and say, “You know what? You guys gave us a great feedback last week and we’ve implemented this change because of that.” Okay, that is a great way to start getting people really engaged with your brand and listening to you. Don’t ask for a favour until you give a favour. So that’s just common sense.

That’s something we all learn when we’re about eight years old. And a lot of community management is just thinking back to what you’ve learned when you were eight years old, how to engage people, how to get along with them. But don’t ask for somebody to do something until you’ve done something for them. Right? And it could be the simplest thing. It can be somebody tweets out that they wrote a book last week. Fantastic, say so. That’s a hell of an achievement. I have never written a book. So you can just say, “Hey, that’s fantastic work. We’re really proud of you.” Right? You can continue that sort of line. Because flattery leads to nurturing, and nurturing leads to loyalty, and loyalty leads to engagement, and engagement leads to trust, and trust leads to advocacy.

How do you identify influencers in your community?

Well, I would never start fishing on social media for influencers. And that’s because it feels false that way. Instead of looking externally for where your influencers might be, ask internally. If you walk down your company’s hallway and you run into three people in that hallway, ask them who they think that their best customer is. Right? So you’re going to get instantly, a person will come to each of their minds. Start with those three. Right? Start with those three individuals, and sit down with those internal people, and say,“Okay, why do you think that person A is a great influencer? Why does he love our company so much? How long has he been a customer of ours? How many times has he been a repeat buyer? What has he said? Has he ever volunteered to do something for us?”

And they will all know that person, right? So then, you’ve built yourself a little stable of the people who love you best, already. Reach out to those individuals, and say, “Look, this is what we’re thinking about doing. We’ve done our homework, we’ve defined what we want to achieve. We’ve figured out the tone of voice we should be using. We’ve determined the strategy for how we’re going to communicate with everybody. We’ve figured out what events we might do. We’ve talked about ROI. We’ve got the business fully integrated with this idea. We’ve got the stakeholders on board. What do you think about it?”

Now that’s going to do two things. The first is that, it’s going to completely tie them into or marry them to the idea that they should be an influencer in your community. Right? Because you’ve already done all of this work and you’ve chosen them to help you deliver this plan. They’re going to love that, right? And if they don’t, fair enough. If they say, “You know what? I’m just too busy, or thank you but no, or this might compromise me to my network of peers.” Hey, fine. You know what? But they’re still going to think, “Wow, that was great. I really have made an impression there.” And so once you figure out by asking around internally who your top influencers are, just start reaching out to them.

Get ideas from them about what you should be doing. Turn them into a really high level focus group, if nothing else. You can connect them to one another, for example, let’s say. And then of course just keep listening. If you really must go for an external fishing expedition, just don’t start talking to them until you’ve listened to them for a week. People have a real tendency to have different personas via social media. There are many times when you meet someone that you’ve known over social media for a long time, and they’re nothing like what you imagine. And that’s because of interpretation, right?

So just keep in mind that what you see might not be what you get if you don’t really listen for a while. Listen as long as you can before really starting to talk to that person and engage with him. But the best way to do it is really to reach out to your influencers, ask them to join your quest, and see how far they can help you get with it.

How do you know what content you should be sharing into your community?

Well, any good community manager will tell you that actually you don’t share content into that community. What you’re hoping to achieve is to pull content out of the community to create that Holy Grail of user generated content, and I’ve just spent a week at Social Media Week London where they all referred to it with this hip acronym of UGC, and most of them said they had no idea how to get UGC. Right? So you have really big viral campaigns like the Share a Coke campaign. That was a fantastically successful campaign. I’m sure that you might have heard of it, or in fact, the Ice Bucket Challenge. So that had like 1.2 million Facebook videos that people were creating and putting up. But those are humongous, humongous campaigns.

Most of the organisations who are struggling with this whole concept of UGC are not throwing gigantic sums of money at social media campaigns. They’re thinking about…they’re just regular companies who have some people who love them, and they’d really love this people to be talking about them. So years ago, we would have called that, the Customer Reference Program or the Customer Success Program. But now what we want that content to be doing is, we don’t want to have to ask the customer for it, we want the customer to be contributing that all by himself. And the way he’s going to do that is by you having the strong objectives and goals, the strong definitions you’ve already laid out, and working potentially with your social media manager, so that you can figure out what campaign you’re going to execute and what kind of content, you’d like to pull from them.

So the community can give you that. And the way you might want to ask them is ask them first, “Hey, everybody, we’re going live with this idea next week, this really great campaign. What do you think about it?” But mostly, the way that you’re going to get this user generated content is with good moderation and by paying attention in your customer forums and your community forums or the things that your community leaders are saying. So if, like I said, one of them says, “Oh, I published a book last week.” That’s wonderful. Well done to you. Congratulations. Can you maybe point to an article that you’ve written about your book or maybe has an article been written about your book that we can share with other community members, people who love you best, people who are supporting you most?

If it’s you want one of your community members to be talking about one of your great new features and your brand-new release, well, make sure that you’re asking your community in their forum or in the communications that you are having with them, what they like about that piece. And you’ll find a nugget, there will be a really great…somebody will have a fantastic quote, or somebody will create a little video showing you why they love it the most, and you can nurture that person and say, “I would love to pull this out of the community, and I would like to give it to our social media manager. I’d like him to show it to other people.” Right? And that’s what a good community manager does.

But specifically the content, in order to generate those ideas, that moderation is key. You’ve got to be listening to those ideas, those little nuggets, getting that feedback from your community members. Maybe giving them briefings and asking them for this type of content. Most importantly, learning how to tell a good story. You’ve got to seek out great stories and know how to tell them. There’s lots of great stuff out there in the world today about content marketing, and learning how to tell a good story, and the art of storytelling.

Something that every film maker will tell you that they know how to do, and it’s something that now is coming into the remit of marketing managers, where they need to learn to how to tell a story because stories have higher resonance than just your typical campaign. And maybe if you think about the hashtag #shareacoke. That is a treatise, an entreaty out to your people to tell their story. Right? That’s exactly what any brand is hoping to achieve with storytelling.

Where do you draw the line between interesting stories and promotional content?

That is a great question because there’s a lot of chat on professional community management association boards about this exact same thing. And it goes back to the original thing that we talked about at the very beginning of this phone call, which was defining and setting up your community strategy, right? So you need to have rules, and regulations, and policies, and procedures in place, so that you can point back to those when you feel that they have been breached. It’s one thing if the teacher runs up to Johnny on the playground and says, “Well, you’ve just broken a rule. You hit Sally.” And the kid says, “Well, yeah, I don’t see a rule posted about that.” Right? Versus, Johnny, you’ve just broken the rule, it’s number three here on the list, and you could see it right here.

Now you’re the off the playground for a while. You can’t actually have that conversation unless you can point back to that rule. So make sure that you have them in place. But in general, and this where the transparency becomes so important, if you haven’t set that rule up, but you feel that it’s not in the best interest of the community, I would never try and create a brand-new rule without talking to some of my community members first. So I would get their feedback. I’d pick five or six of them, pull them into a private area, and say, “Look, I’m seeing this a lot, and we’re not really comfortable with it. What do you think?” Okay? So there’s a big difference in community between dictatorship and democracy.

And the community does need to feel that it’s a democracy, although the organisation that owns the community is in charge. So it’s kind of this weird grey area. But I would just make sure that I vetted the idea to a focus group. I then maybe put out some…if the rule isn’t in place already, I would maybe create a thread and ask the community contribute their feedback. You’ll see quite quickly whether it’s a positive response or whether it’s a negative response, in which case, it gives you the ability, if it’s negative to shut down that activity immediately.

But if it’s genuinely not hurting anybody, but you see it happening all the time, well, then there’s no reason not to set it up in a private or different area of the forum, or in fact to just say, “You know what? This is not what we’re interested in having on this particular site, and we’re now going to put in a rule about it, and if you continue breaking the rule, unfortunately, we’ll have to ask you to leave.”

And most people are fine with you telling them that, as long as you’re giving them a clear call to action. Don’t just say, “No, we don’t like what you’ve been doing.” Right? It makes the person defensive. It makes them argumentative, instead go in with a different emphatic feel to say, “You know what? We think it’s fantastic that you have this job up for hire, and I know a lot of our members are going to be interested in it. But we have a specific place for that. Would you mind putting it there?” Right? And that’s just a conversation. And that way, everybody comes out a winner. Nobody is a loser in that kind of situation.

Why should your social media manager NOT be your community manager?

A lot of social media professionals, specifically agencies, are now offering community management as a side gig to their bread and butter, which is social media. Now a social media consultancy, it has a short life, right? You’re only as good as your last campaign, you’re constantly pitching for new ideas, and it’s not as if you’re going to earn anymore cash out of it than you did last time.

It has a very narrow expansion potential. So a lot of social media agencies are saying, “Oh, we’ll just bolt on community management. We’ll tell people we do that as well. But I don’t see that this is the way to go because there’s a fundamental difference between social media and community management. Now if these agencies want to hire a community manager to actually run the community management division of their organisations, then hey, I’m all for that. But it’s really hard to retrain if you’ve just been doing the one into the other, and I’ll tell you why that is. They’re two completely different roles. They have two completely different objectives.

They require two completely different skill sets, and the only thing they have in common is maybe the people that they’re talking to, and also, the tools that they’re using in part of the time. So let me elaborate. The social media manager has a primary goal of brand engagement, right? He’s trying to raise awareness of the brand, or the product, or the company. He’s trying to grow the fan base, increase the social footprint, and specifically get people to respond to a call to action. Therefore, his primary goal is broadcasting. Whereas the community manager is actually looking to make a human connection for the long term. He is looking to build, manage, and grow relationship with the community, fans, and customers to create value for the members to act as the liaison between the community and the company, and to act as the spokesperson.

His primary goal is engagement. So you see, already we’re at odds, we’re at cross purposes because the two things are completely different. So if I can go into a little bit more about that. Let’s talk about the goals. A social media manager is looking to react to user generated content, whereas the community manager is looking to encourage the creation of user generated content. A social media manager is looking to like, and share, and comment, and to get likes, and shares, and comments. And a community manager is looking to achieve mutual support. We are supporting you community member, and you are supporting us. Right? A social media manager is looking to have rapid growth, whereas the community manager is looking for steady and sticky growth. Right?

social or community?

Community managers really struggle with hyper growth because it’s quite difficult to really engage and nurture people on such a humongously fast moving and fast paced track. A social media manager is looking to build burgeoning loyalty, whereas a community manager is looking to have deep loyalty that lasts for years, and years, and years. And both of them happily are looking for evangelism, right? So that’s all great, but again, we go about it with different methodology. Social media manager is looking to push information out and to build followers, where a community manager is looking to pull and build community. And so, I think that if you are in the unenviable position of having to do both of those roles, you’re constantly at odds with yourself. Right?

Because you’re constantly fighting with yourself over what’s best for the community versus raising awareness, versus pushing, versus pulling, versus broadcasting, versus engaging. So, I liken that to Phil Collins who does do two things simultaneously. He’s a drummer and he’s a singer, and if you watch him as he’s drumming, any one of his songs where he’s also singing, it’s really hard to drum and sing at the same time, and he does it pretty well. If you watch him, he really knows what he’s doing. So, if you do have to do that, if that is your role, and both of those words, those titles, or in your job title, then I recommend doing a few things, and maybe some of these Phil does, I’m not sure.

But I would look to get clear goals from the organisation, and to make sure that those goals are achievable. So first of all, you can ask your boss, “Look, is my role responsible for lead generation, and raising awareness, and increasing sales? If so, I’m a social media manager. If my role is to encourage self-support, and UGC, and increase retention or satisfaction, then I’m a community manager. Right? So it’s important to really figure out what your boss is trying to get to. Now if he says, “Well, I want you to be doing all of those things,” then you’re just stuck. You’re in both roles, right? In that case, you need to sit down with him, and say, “Okay, what we’re going to do is we’re going to create some metrics, and don’t waver from those metrics.” Right? So find five critical metrics and report back on progress regularly because community management is a humongous, humongous role all by itself, and so is social media management.

So don’t try to do everything. Pick five things, and say, “These are the things I’m going to do.” You can also make sure that you align your goals to the business leader objectives, which of course, is going to make the community more viable and valuable internally, so that more people start seeing its benefit, and its weight, and its value. The more people who see that, the more resource they might be willing to contribute to one of these roles, if not both. I think another good idea might be to create separate editorial content calendars, so you could have one for broadcasting and one for engaging community or influencers.

Obviously, there might be crossovers where, “Look, community, we’re about to have this huge social media campaign, and we’d all like you to use this hashtag for the next three weeks.” But in general, again, you’re looking to pull content out of the community and you’re looking to broadcast social media campaign to the worldwide. So that’s an idea. Also, I would recommend doing a weekly outreach via phone or email to group members to learn about their needs and encourage participation. And again, don’t make it such a huge task that it’s unachievable, especially if you’re doing two jobs, make sure that you pick maybe two people a week. That’s all you need to focus on because what you’re looking to identify are trends that you’ve built or that you’ve seen over a particular amount of time.

One of my biggest tips would be to spend 30% of your time listening and not talking. Again, just listen. If you are in this position of having to broadcast and listen all at the same time, just try and cut back a little bit on the broadcasting and do more listening. It’s going to make your campaigns more viable and have a higher resonance that way. And it’s also going to make sure that you aren’t just talking, talking, talking and nobody is listening. Talk about the community’s value internally all the time. If you are at the water cooler and there’s a lady next to you, “Hey, what do you do, lady?” And the lady says, “Oh, well, I’m a sales manager.” Well, do you know, we’ve got this community leader who brought in three additional sales last week?

She’s going to love that, right? So suddenly, a person who’s never even thought about community before realises how important they are. Let’s see, protect your members, right? So the greater success the community is, the more internal teams will want access to the numbers and their content. So I’ve just said that you’re supposed to walk around all day talking to people about how great your community is, but you’ve got to protect them from all those people as well. Make sure that you are the lynch pin. They should not be trying to talk to your community leaders without talking via you, which means you have to be on board with their programs, whatever they’re trying to talk about.

And this happens a lot in organisations where people feel that they definitely want to be talking to the community, especially IT companies will, “Well, I’m the product manager, and it’s really important that I know what the community is thinking.” Well, that person should be working with you to figure out the best way to ask the community what they’re thinking, and then that person can be a guest on your show, but you’re running the show, right? You should be the talk show host in that situation. And then, I think, my last tip, and I am probably thinking that Phil Collins would employ this tip, is to take care of yourself and avoid burn out, right?

So make sure you get some peer support for yourself. Join a local meetup group, talk to people, go online in community message boards, professional associations. It’s really important that you’re able to meet with people who identify with the challenges that you have and can help you feel better about them. This double role can be quite isolating where you just…nobody in the organisation really understands what you do or why you have a problem. They think, “Well it’s just community, just tell them to stop bothering us about that.” It just doesn’t work like that. You’re constantly being torn in 50 different directions. So it’s really important to talk to people who are going through what you’re going through.

What companies are great at community management?

Do you drive a Harley Davison? I don’t. But I would like to be some day. Obviously, we all would, I think. But this group have a million members worldwide and they connect to each other. So they go on these big road trips, and they take their bikes over, and they connect with the local chapter in the destination place, and they’re just a great mutual support body. Interestingly, back in 1983, they actually saved company from extinction altogether. The company was about to go into bankruptcy, and they noticed that all of these local groups were meeting up and having these offline events because there was no online in those days. And they thought, “Well, these groups are really successful and they’re doing a great job, and we’re not there. We’re not active there. We’re not present in these conversations where people are talking about us and worshiping our product. Why don’t we get in there?”

And so it became a strategic corporate decision that every executive had to join a local hog group and hang out with them. Fantastic product feedback, great listening, great loyalty and trust being built there. And you know what? They’re building better products. So that was just a fantastically successful example of a community. My Starbucks Idea is another one, if you’ve ever had free Wi-Fi in a local Starbucks, it’s thanks to the My Starbucks Ideas community which has a 150,000 plus members, and they are constantly giving suggestions to Starbucks, and they’ve implemented currently about 300 plus innovations including that free Wi-Fi. So great idea right. Right? The longer you’ve got free Wi-Fi, the more coffee you’re going to drink because the longer you’re going to stay there. Genius.

starbucks community

Mumsnet. This is one of our locals from the UK, and probably one of the best known communities in the world. Fourteen million monthly visitors, and that was the last time I Googled, so it’s probably way more than that. Obviously in this type of community, you’ve got a humongous information exchange for fantastically interesting socioeconomic political group, any anthropologist worth his salt’s probably checked this group out. And they’re just incredibly powerful. They’ve become a very powerful voice for people who had no voice before. Mums specifically, who are at home with new babies and up at 3 o’clock in the morning, and suddenly say, “Well, I didn’t know that this policy change was in place that might affect me or my family, and I would like to have a place to discuss that with other people.”

A great internal community that I think is wonderful is run by Tanja Knorr-Sobiech out of Germany, and it’s the Bosch internal community. It’s called Bosch Connect, and they’ve got 300,000 employees worldwide at Bosch, and over 82% of those employees voluntarily joined one of the communities on Bosch Connect. So 90% of their employees are on this particular platform where they chat, they collaborate, they exchange ideas, and being German, of course, they’re brilliant at metrics and measurement, and they discovered that they have 19% higher collaboration efficiency, and 16% of their daily work is now being done using Bosch Connect. So that is a fantastic example of a successful community that you might not hear about because it’s an internal community.

What do you think will happen in this space over the next two to three years?

I think there’s a really big push for content marketing now. Everybody’s talking about this. And it’s so funny because way back in 1992, when I was a technical writer, everybody was saying the following, “Content is king,” and so nothing really happened with that. And then we had the rise of content management systems, and that specifically was based on the Internet, and people suddenly had to have websites, and how are you going to track that content, and who’s in charge of it, and da da da? So it’s interesting that we’ve just never left this concept of content is king. It’s just taken a different shape now. So now we’re talking about the importance of content marketing, and so really, being able to pull and push content in and content out from members to fans, to advocates, to prospects, to audiences, all these different kinds of touch points, multiple channel distribution but still one document, right?

So it used to be back in the 90s, you create one case study for one customer, it would be four pages long, maybe down to two pages, maybe down to a single one page reference, and that content was just put on the website and that was it. In other words, it may have a splash at first, but then it just died out. Now everybody talks about evergreen content, and the way that you achieve evergreen content, because it is expensive to generate and to create. The way that you achieve that, of course, is that you pull out little tiny nuggets of gold out of it and you populate those nuggets of gold across your social media platforms and channels. And that’s the best way to make sure that your content stays ever. I think more successful case studies are going to come into play, and when I say that I think we’re really talking about storytelling there.

More stories where you wouldn’t necessarily hear from those individuals, but because we are now a truly global world, we can hear about these amazing stories of let’s point to the refugee crisis, there was an interview on the news last night with an Iranian refugee, and he was one of the most articulate people I have ever seen before, and I never would have seen his story or heard his story if that journalist hadn’t been in that area at that time to reach that person and then had the methodology to broadcast that out. So I just think that we’re going to see more stories that are more poignant to us as individuals that will then be able to help tie us to a brand.

And then I think that, I’m hoping that you’re going to see communities being more strategically generated and bought into across the internal stakeholders. I really hope that…right now, I think community lives in a vacuum, but I hope that organisations become more and more aware of the potential greatness that’s out there if they just start embracing community from all across the organisation.

Follow Christie on Twitter @CFiduraUK, check out the #cmgrldn hashtag and visit the Perfect Circle blog. You can see Christie’s prediction for social media in 2016 here.


Jorgen Sundberg

Founder & CEO at Link Humans
Founder of Social Media London, CEO of Link Humans 🇬🇧 🇸🇪

Jorgen Sundberg

Founder of Social Media London, CEO of Link Humans 🇬🇧 🇸🇪

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