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The Case for Community Management - It's Crucial

  |  June 21, 2011   |  Comments

Having a clearly defined strategic roadmap and set of processes and practices defined for community management is key to driving digital success.

With all the discussion around social media, content, and commerce circling around, I often find one very crucial part of the conversation absent - the discussion about community management.

Often thought of as a role for an intern or junior employee, community management is a misunderstood and sometimes undervalued aspect of social media and digital marketing. It is content and community management interwoven together in a cohesive strategic approach that drives engagement and digital marketing success.

It's important to consider that community management is more than simply posting content and replies to consumers online - it requires a sophisticated "art meets science" approach that leverages data and insights to fuel real-time decisions and adaptive engagement strategy.

Amanda Peters, senior audience manager within iCrossing's Live Media Studio, defines community management as "the practice of Building, Engaging and Amplifying customer segments, including current customers, prospects and influencers, to drive measurable marketing results." Peters further explains that successful social media programs depend on active participation in the digital dialogue and fostering relationships with audiences. As a result, audience management leads to:

  • Increased brand awareness
  • Visibility and referral traffic
  • Higher brand affinity and brand recall
  • Increased traffic and sales
  • Measurable word-of-mouth
  • Customer loyalty and deeper relationships
  • Product development and innovation
  • Long-term customer relationship management

When defining an approach to community management, start with your objectives. Are your goals to reach new customers? Solve for customer service issues and reduce calls to the call center? Drive sales? After defining objectives, a research phase should focus on answering key questions about your audience segments that will guide the development of your content and community management approach:

  • Who is the audience?
  • How large is the audience?
  • Who qualifies? Why?
  • What characteristics do they share?
  • What do they care about?
  • What do they talk about?
  • Who do they talk to?
  • How do they interact?
  • Where are they currently active online?
  • How do you contact/intercept them?

Your community manager should go through intensive brand immersion, to truly understand the voice of the brand. It is also recommended that your community manager be familiar with WOMMA's code of ethics, which focuses on three pillars for engagement:

  • Honesty of relationships: Always identify the company you are representing.
  • Honesty of opinion: Say what you believe.
  • Honesty of identity: Never lie about who you are.

Additionally, a community manager should have a toolkit consisting of a robust community governance and escalation policy, a listening platform (such as Radian6 or BuzzMetrics), access to your marketing performance data (e.g., display data, search data), and a monthly master content and engagement calendar that is updated and optimized based on cross-channel performance data and insights. It's important that your community manager is an embedded part of your digital marketing team, and that they have access to cross-channel insights in order to better understand opportunities for engagement. Remember, your community manager's input is valuable to the rest of your marketing organization, and should have the opportunity to regularly share their knowledge of your brand's consumers to the larger marketing team so that these inputs may help inform strategic marketing decisions.

When community managers are well-equipped and leverage a holistic view of marketing goals and performance to inform their engagement activities, you get results. In one example, a financial services brand significantly increased customer advocacy, traffic, and visibility and drove deposits from measurable word-of-mouth based on a strategically crafted content and community management strategy as the core element of their overall social media and digital marketing program.

Community management is a skill that requires discipline and cultivation - remember, the voice of your brand is in the hands of your community manager. Having a clearly defined strategic roadmap and set of processes and practices defined for community management is key to driving digital success.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alisa Leonard

As vice president, strategy and planning, Alisa Leonard focuses on building connected brands through the strategic interplay of content and community across bought, earned, and owned media. She provides strategic guidance to iCrossing's Live Media Studio, a team of EMMY-nominated web content producers and WOMMA-trained audience managers who execute real-time engagement. Alisa and her team have helped develop social media strategies for top brands, including bebe, Billboard.com, Ally Bank, and BMW, Facebook's no. 1 auto brand.

Alisa doesn't just preach social to clients; she lives it. As a recognized thought leader in social media, she's been named one of AdWeek's "Top 50 Marketers on Twitter" and one of Direct Marketing News' "30 Under 30" marketers to watch. Alisa frequently speaks at industry events, including SXSW Interactive, Web 2.0 Expo, ad:tech, and Social Media Week. She also contributes to Mashable.com and ReadWriteWeb.com, and is the chair of communications for the DataPortability Project – an organization driving thought leadership on the future of the web.

Alisa earned a degree in English from Brigham Young University.

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