The 7 Essentials to Building an Active, Engaged Social Community

  |  May 22, 2014   |  Comments

Building a community doesn't happen overnight, but these seven essentials serve as a solid foundation for companies committed to growing a long-term highly engaged social community for many years to come.

In one of my more popular posts I outlined the "7 Habits of Highly Successful Community Managers," which borrowed the concept of creating a framework for success from Stephen R. Covey's massive success "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People."

In this month's column I'd like to continue that theme by exploring what I think are the seven essentials to building a vibrant, active, engaged social community over time. For me those essentials boil down to seven key commitments and qualities every company needs in order to create trust, loyalty, and brand advocacy in today's constantly connected social world.

1. Be Open.

Creating a culture that embraces social media can transform the way you lead and will differentiate your brand. Get buy-in from executive leadership and formulize a program that creates a culture that is open, interactive, and collaborative. Embrace social technologies and create the necessary policies and procedures that allow your community managers and employees to feel empowered. Align these policies and procedures to your overall business objectives and brand voice to create a win-win for both your customers and company.

2. Be Consistent.

A culture that is open, interactive, and collaborative should also be consistent with its words and actions. Aligning teams around key business objectives, policies, and procedures not only assures consistency, but builds credibility and trust with consumers over time. Review unique situations and build an ongoing training program that allows you to share key learnings across teams.

3. Be Unique.

Build a unique and dedicated content strategy with a strong value proposition. Focus less on marketing and more around content that appeals to users' interests. Create a brand voice and personality that is engaging. Look to leverage key investments and assets (i.e. a sports sponsorship or endorsement deal) when possible and aligned to the communities interests in order to extend visibility and critical brand associations. This unique content can also be a powerful weapon to increase engagement and activity within the community. Finally, use the power of each social community for its inherent strengths - be it photos, video, news, discussions, etc. (Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook) - to exponentially grow engagement within and across social communities.

4. Be Transparent.

Building a successful relationship, whether it is personal or between a brand and a consumer, is about being honest and transparent. Admit mistakes and take responsibility when necessary. Share who you are and why you are there, as false intentions are quickly detected by community members.

5. Be Responsive.

We live in a real-time world. Consumers have come to expect any information or service to be delivered to them at their moment of need in their channel/community of choice. Staff accordingly and make customer service and response a priority. Formalize an escalation process and assign subject matter experts to address common questions and needs.

6. Be Analytical.

Leverage data and analytics to understand your community better. Look to understand what content and conversations are engaging users, which will help inform future community investments and content. Analyze trends and topics to grow activity and engagement, and constantly experiment with new ideas to challenge the status quo.

7. Be Grateful.

Don't forget to say thank you. Take the time to thank community members for their time and contributions. Recognize and reward key contributors and brand advocates for their loyalty. Share contributions that offer value across communities to further expand visibility for key contributions.

Let's face it - building a community doesn't happen overnight, but these seven essentials serve as a solid foundation for companies committed to growing a long-term highly engaged social community for many years to come.

Until next time,

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Michael Della Penna

Michael Della Penna is a seasoned marketing professional with a long, proven track record of launching successful marketing, branding, and sales strategies for leading public and private companies. Most recently, Michael was the senior vice president of Emerging Channels at Responsys. His responsibilities included spearheading the overall strategic direction, partnerships, and solution offering across key emerging channels including social, mobile, and display for the company. Prior to Responsys, Michael founded SuiteDialog and Conversa Marketing, a full-service email and social CRM agency that helped brands ignite conversations and cultivate relationships with customers across the social web. Conversa Marketing, was acquired by StrongMail Systems in 2010. Before branching out on his own, Michael served as chief marketing officer for Epsilon, a leading provider of multichannel, data-driven marketing services. Michael's other key marketing leadership roles include CMO at Bigfoot Interactive, vice president of strategic development at CNET Networks, Inc., and vice president of marketing at ZDNet. Michael received a B.B.A. and an M.B.A. from Hofstra University.

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