TL;DR: An amazing campaign can only go so far on social media. A brand’s reputation hinges on a solid community management foundation. Here are five tactics for flawless community management execution.
Like any agency, our Slack channels regularly buzz with clever campaigns and innovative strategies we spot on social media. It’s fun to consider the possibilities of where to take our work next. But when you peel back even the flashiest, splashiest posting plan, you’ll always find maybe the not-as-celebrated but equally-as-important community management.
There’s no doubt that content is what makes brands stand out on social media, but community management is what sets them apart, for better or for worse — and more than 10 years in the business, I can tell you that we’ve seen the worst of the worse. A solid community management plan will maintain your brand’s reputation, engage and excite your audience, and keep a pulse on sentiment and future opportunities. In 2019, a community manager has to do more than reply to comments — they’re a customer service representative, an expert, a friend and sometimes a fellow geek. On top of this, they’re expected to be timely and always on brand. It’s a tall order and it can be hard to know where to start when refreshing your community management approach. Here are five places to start:
Reward Your Fans
Individuals naturally gravitate to brands — they love the product or destination and are excited by any new post. Instead of giving their comment a like, consider ways in which to thank them for their support through surprise and delight activation: A free sample, discounts or even a GIF. It shows fans that you care about them as much as they care about you.
Brand to look at: Benefit Beauty regularly engages with fans using its products with an encouraging and complimenting voice.
Relate to Your Audience
Brands may not be people, but social media has washed away any sort of line. Instead of putting professionalism (or chatbots) first, think about how you can connect more deeply with your community through one-to-one conversations. Some companies shy away from this approach, but the customization pays off. Followers will trust that there is someone listening to their praise, comments and feedback.
Brand to look at: Philz Coffee is now a national chain, but on social media, the brand maintains its “mom-and-pop-shop” look and feel on Instagram. The brand is also a reliable source on Twitter, quickly answering questions, which makes it feel like a person is behind the keyboard and truly listening.
Be Transparent (as you can be)
Social media has broken down any sort of barrier (or boundary) between brands and consumers. With reviews only rising in popularity, it’s important for companies to be as transparent (as they can be) on social. Acknowledge negative and positive comments equally and respond — even asking someone to get in touch offline looks better than allowing a criticism hang on your Facebook page, unchecked. In doing so, you’ll continue to build trust with your audience and show prospective followers that you care about your communities.
Brand to look at: Nasty Gal, specifically when the company was undergoing bankruptcy. Customer service pivoted its social approach and responses showed that community managers understood people being upset and not getting exactly what they wanted. Furthermore, they didn't combat it — they were compassionate and understanding of the consumer.
Be a Leader in Your Social Space
This is two parts: A brand should lead in its area of expertise and the brand should also be an expert on the people who follow it. A strong community management strategy will tell followers how to interact with the brand with calls to action, like what hashtag to use to be reposted by the brand. A stronger community management strategy will also reflect back on these posts to consider content opportunities inspired by fans.
Brand to look at: Urban Outfitters has effectively communicated to its community to use the hashtag #UOonU. The brand regularly reposts images, fostering further participating and engagement — people understand that they will be seen and heard.
As brands appear a little more human on social media, it’s important to act human. It’s not enough to publish posts and wait for a response from followers. Seek out conversations to join, like Twitter Chats, or engage with fans through discovered, relevant content. Brands have taken this a step further for IRL activations, or surprise and delight opportunities!
Brand to look at: Hilton Suggests (a travel blog by Hilton) combs through conversations to share travel suggestions with people, building up the Hilton brand with communities beyond just those staying at a Hilton hotel.
In today’s social media landscape, it’s not enough to do just one of the above tactics well — it’s about doing all with balance. Occasionally one will take precedence over the other when considering your target audience or your ultimate success metrics.
A solid strategy begins with a foundation of community management. If you’re interested in learning more about our approach to social media, get in touch.