As practitioners of social media community management, our friends would probably have a hard time explaining what we do. They assume that we play on Twitter and Facebook, and that cat videos are probably involved. But we have a better answer: At DEG we build lasting value for the brands we represent.

While the virality of popular memes or clips may be a tempting way to engage with users, our community management team at DEG knows that inappropriately sharing DJ Fluffy would violate the cardinal rule of social media: Content is king. We specialize in engaging and nurturing online communities, and our experience has shown us that there are several more actionable and durably valuable (if less adorable) ways to drive success with social media communities.

 

Create a Clear Content Strategy

The most successful brands reward their users for being fans by presenting relevant offers, information, and content. Our goal is to marry content that engages users with a brand’s overall business objectives, while ultimately finding the balance between creating shareable content simply for the sake of shareability and boring, straightforward promotion of products and services. A successful community manager seeks that balance, and seeks it out by formulating and executing a clear, planned content strategy to grow and support a community. That strategy begins with asking questions such as who are we talking to? Who do we want to be talking to? Is this content interactive – does it give users a voice?

Before DEG takes over a brand’s community or starts a new one, we create a comprehensive voice book and put it through a stress test. Our tone, topics, and processes are defined and mapped to client objectives. While we don’t know exactly what we’re going to say weeks or months before we say it, we do know where we’re going to say it, who is going to say it, how it’s going to sound, and what action we’re trying to drive by saying it.

 

Cultivate Communities

Social media Integration tools“I HATE YOUR BRAND AND YOUR FACE.” By throwing our cap into the social arena and establishing a presence on major platforms, we’re essentially doing several things things at once. While we’re certainly establishing another marketing channel through which we can share our messaging, we’re also opening an additional customer service window through which satisfied and unsatisfied customers alike will certainly share their particular brand of messaging. And unlike a customer service phone number, email, and even chat, this one is very public. Tread carefully and deliberately.

As social guru Brian Solis says, “It takes more than a presence in new channels to improve customer experiences and relationships.”

A good formula for diffusing negative situations in the social space is one that has been practiced in brick and mortar customer service departments for a long time: “Listen, acknowledge, solve, and thank.” Take in the customer’s issue, acknowledge their feelings, try to resolve their issue or give them the appropriate contacts or information to solve it, and then thank them for their time. And do it as soon as it comes to your attention; a big part of good customer service is timeliness.

Integrating the community into your life through digital tools for monitoring and engaging decreases response time. However, while tools are helpful, they don’t replace diligence and a willingness to acknowledge the value of human interaction.

 

Champion your Champions

In the best scenarios, these negative interactions can be turned around and may yield our most loyal brand advocates. While our first instinct as community managers may be to move the angry customer offline to a phone number or dedicated email address, not all customers should be moved offline. When an issue requires lengthy back and forth, don’t subject your users to scrolling through an entire conversation in your space. But when an issue can be resolved with a few public responses, do it. Being as transparent as possible shows the community that the brand is doing its best and using social for what it is really intended: connecting.

At the very least, these interactions represent an opportunity to retain business, report relevant issues to internal stakeholders, and avoid future churn. Being a voice for the consumer inside of your organization gives you the opportunity to share which innovations are most often requested or which issues are foremost in the minds of your users  insights that bring value to your community and your company.

 

Set Measurable Goals

Just as a community manager monitors the pulse of the community, analytics monitor success. Are we driving revenue to our e-commerce channel? What type of content performs best for us? When is the best time to post? Who should we be targeting? Who is most profitable?

Setting metrics for success and key performance indicators provide us with the data to form solid, actionable strategies. Often some of our biggest obstacles to success can be our own products or services. If you recall, our goal is to marry content that engages users with these outputs. It would be so easy to throw up posts prompting users to buy our goods, but just like that guy at the party that only talks about himself, we wouldn’t be going home with anyone.

As a brand we seek to be invited into a consumer’s life, but social is for sharing, not selling. The sale is created through developing relationships, and building trust with and awareness of the brand, with activation coming later. Analytics help us to focus on the results of our management.

To be truly aligned with strategic objectives, a community manager must to get to know the community and target market, execute content that is both relevant and engaging, and provide customer service. Mining the collective community’s wisdom can only strengthen the brand, and establishing clear KPIs tracks progress and promotes a healthy, happy fanbase. And if all else fails, you can always lean on the social media community manager’s secret weapon, the only content type more viral than cats: Kittens.

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