Most of the time, it’s the flashy campaigns that get all the attention for your brand. However, it’s the community management strategy and tactical effort that keep your customers happy, informed and talking about your product and services. While slightly less sexy than a campaign that achieves “viral” status, this day-to-day activity requires attention and analysis to stay optimized and keep your audience engaged.
Your community management strategy is a key part of your overall digital strategy and might have a number of different tactics that dovetail with your other marketing efforts. Different brands have their own unique focus for their community management efforts, but we can all agree that having a strong guiding strategy and plan will make for a more successful community, and drive the behaviors and attitudes you would like from your audience.
Below are a few things to keep in mind to help you optimize your community management efforts as you engage with your customers, fans and followers.
1. Engagement, not followers
First things first. We would all like 20 million Facebook fans or Twitter followers, but different brands and companies should have different expectations about the sheer number of followers they’re likely to have. What is much more important is how engaged your fans are. 10,000 actively engaged customers can make much more of a difference than 100,000 people who simply clicked “follow” or “like” and haven’t engage with your page or profile since.
Make sure that your campaigns, advertising and other online community efforts are aimed at engaging your audience, not simply collecting new followers that don’t contribute to the growth and health of your presence.
2. What are you talking about?
So how do you get engagement with your fans and followers? One key action is to have two-way conversations with them, instead of only pushing your marketing and promotional messages out to them as one-way communications. You don’t want to pass up an opportunity to advertise your products and services, but your followers will quickly tire of viewing one-sided messages.
Determine the conversation that you want to have with your fans and followers. For a product page, it may be about using the product and ideas to use it differently or better. This general topic of conversation will always be directly related to your product or service, but it doesn’t always have to feature you and your brand. Reinforce that your company and what it offers makes your customers’ lives easier and helps them accomplish their goals. Talking about how your product helps them achieve this will then come naturally.
When you’re able to do this, the marketing and advertising messages that you push to your followers will be mixed in with real conversations and you will have a more natural, two-way relationship.
3. Measure twice, post once
Are your posts getting read by the widest audience possible? Chances are that unless you’ve taken the time to measure what works best, you might be wasting efforts by not taking advantage of trends with your users. Start with an analysis of the following:
What time of day is the most effective one to reach your audience? Authors on top social media marketing resources, such as Buddy Media and Mashable have weighed in on this topic already, but keep in mind that your specific audience might have its own preferences and habits. If you use HootSuite, its AutoSchedule feature will post your tweet at the times you get the highest engagement.
Different social media channels have their own optimal frequencies for posts and updates, and there are plenty of opinions on this, including Mashable’s take on the number of Facebook updates a brand should post in a week.
There are two factors to keep in mind: frequency of the specific social media channel and preferences of your audience. Similar to time of day, this is another area where your unique audience may respond to a specific posting frequency. Take the time to measure what works and what doesn’t, and remember that a little measurement goes a long way.
What types of content capture your audience’s attention the most? Even though you will have your own company priorities, it’s important to keep your audience engaged with things they are most interested in.
Also, ask questions and let your audience know exactly what you’d like them to do. If you want them to share a post on Facebook, for instance, say, “share this” in your post. It’s amazing what being direct about the actions you’d like people to take will do for your audience engagement.
4. Remember this is a place where many disciplines converge
Remember that you will most likely have a number of different types of interactions and messages on your profiles. Even if you have a separate customer service channel on social media, you will undoubtedly get a few issues coming across your primary marketing channels.
As we wrote in a recent white paper, this convergence of marketing, public relations and customer service will only continue to happen over time. The key to thriving in a world of overlapping messages and conversations is to have a strong content strategy to keep in mind customer needs and how they may sometimes interrupt your editorial calendar.
If your content is strong and relevant to how your fans and followers use your product or service, this may not be as disruptive as it sounds.
Take the time
While there are plenty of other factors to consider when evaluating and optimizing your community management efforts, these four should help guide your efforts in driving a boost in engagement and a greater return on investment in your online communities. Taking the time to step back, measuring, and analyzing will pay off with increased engagement and the other returns you seek.