If you are a business owner, social media or marketing manager that is thinking of or be actively building a community on social media then you’ve come to the right place. As someone who has built a community of almost 600,000 parents on social media for Mykidstime, I wanted to share some of the ins and outs (and ups and downs!) on 4 key areas of community management: 1) Building Your Community, 2) Managing Your Community, 3) Ways to Create Content for Your Community and 4) Driving Business Results from your Community.
#1. Building Your Community
It hasn’t been an overnight process building our community on Facebook, you really have to be patient, very focused and consistent, but if you are, the rewards are numerous for your business or brand.
We tell the truth on Mykidstime. Parenting is a tough job, nothing prepares you for it. So talking to and sharing content with our community that talks to the truth of parenting has really driven engagement.
Part of this truth strategy has been to create content in the form of articles with tips either expert-led or experience-led. There’s a lot of talk about video content and videos are great, we share many videos that we come across about the truth of parenting.
But when you’re delving into detail, nothing beats written word. Parents still like this type of content. The second type of Truth content that really resonates is the funnies about parenting. We share gems that we discover on social media but we also created our own #realparenting series about those odd little moments. And we have been experimenting with short form video too since platforms like Facebook gobble up and spit out video big time.
Consistent tone, all part of your brand voice is a more potent force than many companies and organisations realise.
This breaks down into what style of language you use, how formal or casual you are, what emoticon you use, but a truthful authentic voice becomes something that the community recognises as part of your branding so you once you have decided on your style etc stick to it.
1.3 Targeted content
Whoever your prospective audience / target customers are, you need to target your content. This is easier in a vertical like parenting but people are people on social media. Use your insights to see what demographics your fans have and ask them too what they’d find useful.
Deliver value in the content you share and I guarantee they will become loyal to your brand.
Digital marketing is now about delivering the right content to the right person on the right vehicle (usually smart devices nowadays but could be desktop/laptop while people are working) at the right time. Check insights and analytics to see when people are connecting with you.
People like to know what they are dealing with. If you’re honest and transparent as a brand, this builds even more trust. Put your hands up (and quickly) if you make a mistake or get negative feedback. Remember the honesty and transparency goes two ways and if people are telling you on social media about a bad experience with your brand, the chances are there are 9 other people not taking the time to tell you too.
All of these T’s are about building trust in the community and bringing them to the point that they not only trust your brand and look for your content but that they are willing to share what you are sharing.
- Someone likes your content, great.
- Someone shares your content, even better.
- Someone makes a comment about your content, happy days.
- Someone tags another person to show them the content, best of all. They have trusted you enough to want to share that to a specific friend. You can’t get better trust than that.
Build in trust metrics to your measurement too – it’s part of your marketing and brand success after all.
#2. Managing a Community
So you’ve successfully started to build a community but managing it can feel a bit daunting. Here are some tips based on my experience:
2.1 Set clear guidelines
Start with a set of guidelines for your community whether that’s on a Facebook page or in a group. If you’re managing a community on Twitter or Instagram then post the guidelines on your website and keep a copy of the link to them handy.
Use the About Us section on your business page to include the key rules of how you run your page, for example, that you reserve the right to remove any posts that are not nice to others etc.
If you have a private facebook group then pin a post and put some rules into the description too, to make it clear what the rules of being in the community are.
This makes it much easier to manage the group or page if you have something you can refer people to if required. It saves you hassle when you’re in the middle of dealing with things.
Tip: Being able to direct people to a link on your website or your About page or pinned post where they can read your community guidelines is quick and less painless all around for everybody.
2.2 Monitor Daily
We monitor our social media channels every day (yes every day!) to check comments. We look to see if
- the comment is a question in which case we reply, or
- it is a positive comment, we can like the comment and reply if we wish, or
- it is a negative comment we can decide how to reply based on our social risk policy.
Social media is completely two way and if someone takes the time to make a comment then that person deserves a response.
Tip: Anticipate any common questions and have content ready to link to if those questions get asked. Create how to guides or FAQ articles that you can pull out and share if required.
2.3 Thank your community regularly
If you see people sharing your content or tagging others or commenting then thank them for sharing. It’s a simple thing to do but it does make people feel that they are dealing with a personal rather than corporate organisation, and it makes them more likely to continue sharing too.
If you ask them for feedback or crowdsource for content or product or market research, it’s nice to go back later and show them the results and how you took their feedback or input on board.
Tip: keep a note of the link/tweet/post whenever you ask for feedback or input so you can go back later to link/tweet/comment again.
2.4 Handling negative feedback
As you have already put your external policy up on your guidelines (see above) the next thing is to decide on your internal policy for
- how you are going to run the community
- when you remove comments and members
- who will help respond to any negative feedback – the community manager or facebook admin may be typing the response back but someone in the organisation needs to help formulate the response.
Be firm but polite if responding. After all it’s your community, you are the one investing the time in it. Respond with a clear explanation if required and ask them to contact you via private message or to an email to take it out of the community. You want to do this for two reasons:
- you need to be aware of data protection and discussing someone’s particular case may be starting to impinge on their data protection rights.
- you want to take the conversation out of the community setting so you can handle it privately instead of publicly. If they come back again with another angry response then politely repeat the request to private message or email and reassure them that someone will be on hand to respond straight away to try to get their problem resolved.
Remember that you can never keep all of the people happy all of the time anyway. In my experience, people appreciate a firm approach more than a wishy washy one. It lets them know where they stand.
And ban or block if they get abusive, nobody needs that.
Tip: one from Ted Rubin – listen to the critics, ignore the haters
2.5 Have your content plan in place
As with any social activity, have your community content plan in place that includes a good strong mix of targeted content with
- engagement pieces
- content that aids or solves a problem
- content that inspires them
- and if you can organise sharing video content, all the better.
Tip: Plan out at least one month of content in advance, it makes it much easier to manage the community
2.6 Inspire your community
Yes of course you should absolutely aim to help your community with content that solves pain points but don’t forget to inspire them too.
That could be a quote that resonates with them or something that makes them feel good or something that helps them move towards their goals. When you see that you get traction with a certain type of inspiring content, give them more 🙂
2.7 Be disciplined about your time
Unless this is your full time job and you are only doing community management, structure the time you spend on community management within your schedule and be disciplined about it. After all we all know social media can be a complete time suck. So find a groove with selected times that you log on and check on the community to avoid dwelling too long.
Tip: Use a timer if you are finding you are getting sucked in and stop when it goes off. Respond to the most urgent comments first so you get to them in your allocated time.
2.8 Encourage the community
Ideally you want to encourage your community to participate more and more so that over time it becomes a true community rather than you engineering it.
If you are running a facebook page then work gradually towards where you can ask them to give you ideas and feedback on your posts.
If you are on Twitter, always reply to tweets that tag you and thank people for sharing your content.
If you have a private Facebook group encourage members to help each other.
Tip: Asking people to help each other is a very effective mechanism e.g. “Julie is asking such and such does anyone have any ideas to help?”
2.9 Identify your biggest advocates
Find those most engaged community members and top influencers, and ask them if they’d like to do a guest blog, or if they write content ask if you can share one of their recent posts, or consider offering them a position as a community moderator or admin.
You will always have those top performers in your community so think how you can reward them to become even more passionate on your behalf.
Tip: Fan of the Month seems to have gone out of favour on social media but I still think there are legs in it!
2.10 Remember you represent your brand
If your Twitter bio includes your company or you are on the bio of your company page or Twitter profile or if you are admin of a private facebook group, people will see you as a community manager and as such, you represent your organisation.
Tip: Just being aware of this may temper any temptation you have to go on a rant on your personal social media.
#3. Content For Your Community
Without content it’s very difficult to build and engage a community so creating content is integral to being successful in community building and engagement. Here are some different ways to create content for your community:
3.1 Use Your Avatars
If you have gone through the exercise of defining your avatars (or personae) for who you want to target for leads and sales for your business, then you should have written down a very detailed profile for each persona and this is a good starting point for content ideas.
So for Mykidstime, we have 4 target web user profiles: mothers, fathers, other family members (eg grandparents) and childcare givers. Start with what your product or service solves for them in terms of an issue in their life. Now take that issue and write down 5 ideas around the theme.
As an example, say you own a baby boutique or online store. What are your prospective customers (new mothers) interested in? Babies of course. What problem are you solving for them? What equipment to buy for their new baby. So now write down 5 ideas about babies:
- bathtime tips for babies
- how to settle your baby at bedtime
- a naptime guide for baby
- benefits of taking your baby to swimming lessons
- baby teething tips
So those 5 topics can now be turned into more in-depth pieces of content that are targeted to the community of new mothers that you want to build up on your social channels.
3.2 Use the questions your customers ask
Are there FAQs that your customers ask you?
Have somewhere that you can record those questions as they come in and turn these into content pieces – you could do a simple Q & A blog post or create a checklist of questions and answers for something more visual.
3.3 Ask your customers
Nothing beats asking your customers what they would find useful in the way of content, because if they want that type of content then prospective customers should also lap it up.
3.4 Ask the community
Ask your community what would be useful to them. Run an online poll or if you have time to put a more indepth online survey together, then use polls and surveys to gather ideas for content that would help them.
3.5 Listen to the community
Slightly different from asking the community, this is where you keep an eye out for feedback that you get when you post other content. So for example, in the comments on posts sometimes you will find insightful comments that tell you that there’s a gap and that people would appreciate a new type of content.
3.6 Look at other businesses
While it’s good to peek occasionally at what your competitors are doing I wouldn’t dwell too much on them, after all you don’t want to be doing what they are doing, you’re better doing something different.
I like to look at other businesses in different verticals to ours to see if there’s something we can adapt. Find and follow creative brands and communities that do things a bit differently, that’s where you will get good ideas that you can adapt to your own community.
3.7 Ask your employees
Ask your employees for ideas for content. Have somewhere on a shared doc or use a Slack area to collect ideas for content that you can feed into your content plan.
3.8 Use Seasons
Easter, Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Summer are all good for thinking up or curating content on food, drink, activities, home decor, etc.
Use tools like National Day Calendar to find unusual days to write or create visual content around
3.9 Use social media
Monitor hashtags and conversations on different channels on key topics related to your sector as a way of generating ideas for content. For example, we use Pinterest a lot for ideas for parents because we can find great content on there related to snack ideas or arts & crafts.
#4. Business Results from Building a Community
Trust me, the rewards of building a genuine community are worth it. When you succeed, the results can be enormous.
(And by the way the numbers NEVER matter, it’s the engagement and results you get from the community that matter.)
4.1 Brand Trust
Yes we have gained brand trust through building a community. And I can say this with confidence because we have been measured externally by Userneeds.com Webstatus annual surveys. We also know this from the emails we get from our community members, from comments they make on social media and on our website.
Brand trust matters to our business because our revenue comes from the services we deliver to businesses who want to market to parents. They want to know that the channel they use is one that parents trust.
As Andrew Davis points out: “Content builds trust. Relationships build trust. Trust drives revenue.”
4.2 Website Traffic
One of our business objectives for being on social media is to bring traffic to our website. And building a community social media has delivered that big time. We’ve even been fortunate to have pieces of content go viral, one of our most popular articles last year generated over 600,000 pageviews and 100,000 social shares. Imagine having to buy that kind of reach.
Our community likes the content we write and we see the rewards in the clicks that come through from social.
4.3 Mailing List
Another of our key business objectives is growing our mailing list. We love social media and how we can engage parents but we don’t own those platforms, so having our own mailing list gives us another avenue to deliver great content. If your community trusts you then if you give them something of value for free they will trust you with their email provided you continue to deliver value and content they like to their inbox.
4.4 Market Research
We have been able to ask our community what they would like us to deliver to them in the way of content. We have asked them what they think of visual content designs, we have even asked them which of our social engagement visual content pieces they prefer for upcoming seasonal events. Listening to your community and feeding that into what you produce for them is potent.
4.5 Ideas for Content
Our community gives us ideas for content all the time. And we ask them too. We used to create a Christmas gift guide but we felt we had “done that”. First port of call was to our community to ask them did they want a new guide next year or what other Christmas content they would find useful. Just asking them that question made sure we didn’t spend time on producing something they didn’t want and gave us plenty of ideas for new content that they did.
We have actually crowdsourced lots of content from parents. For example if we ask them for tips on a particular problem that parents might have, we can then turn those tips into an article that we then share out to the community. Nice virtuous circle there.
We’ve found some great partners through having a very engaged community. They have seen how our community works, how we engage with them, how we work with them, and they’ve brought us some fantastic ideas that we’ve been able to implement together. As a small business, this is invaluable, you have to collaborate to grow.
We have won awards for our social media community. Not only is it nice to receive an award but that brings credibility and status to our business if we have been externally judged to be excellent in this area. Build more brand trust again.
There really is nothing more rewarding than seeing a piece of content that you share with your community take fire and get shared and commented on. There’s a lot of negativity on social media, but if your brand voice is authentic and you’re delivering real value to your community, it’s rewarding to see the reaction. We share this feedback internally – it makes the hard work worthwhile for the whole team behind your business.
Over to you now, tell me what your experience of community management is for your business or brand, or if you have any thoughts on what I’ve written, I’d love to hear from you.