In today’s highly interactive and digitally connected world, it is strange to think that it may seem like we are isolated from those we know. Against the backdrop of a large segment of people interacting online, this internet-driven world can seem to lack the human touch. This refers to both personal relationships and connections with companies, especially between companies and customers, as well as between companies and their staff.
It also refers to the connection between a brand’s customers or audiences, that is, peer-to-peer networks. The question is how people can connect under a brand and deliver value to each other. What is the solution for those who feel isolated from the people and brands they do business with?
An online community for a brand.
Communities offer people a sense of belonging along with a way to connect with other people. Members can interact based on a shared passion and build valuable networks. And that’s why so many companies are investing in building communities for customers, staff, and audiences. This strategic initiative and the underlying processes are collectively known as community management.
Businesses create communities, or implement community management techniques throughout the organization, to build genuine relationships among their customers, followers, and audiences. If we look inward, communities also connect companies with employees, board members, suppliers, and partners.
When companies invest in communities, they elevate the brand by adding a human component, one that is truly concerned with those who love the brand, work with, and connect with the brand.
How to define community management?
As a term, Community Management can be summarized as the collective activity of creating an inclusive community through different forms of interaction with consumers, staff and partners of a company. It is the way in which a company takes advantage of opportunities to interact with its customers (in digital and real life media) to build a network through which all participants can communicate, share and develop a sense of belonging.
What are the objectives of community management?
Community management today has become a go-to strategy for many companies and is recognized by all forms of branding, but it remains vague in terms of what it entails. So how can you be unique? Why is your company expected to follow this? Let’s take a look at the key factors that make community management important to your brand’s success.
Although there are numerous benefits of an online community, here are the key reasons for building a community:
- Get reviews and collect ideas through real discussions with members of your community.
- Offer assistance to audience members, supporters, and customers.
- Increase awareness of the brand, services and product within your domain.
- Gain insight into customers to understand what goods, services, content, and support they need, expect, and require.
- Create a platform to facilitate valuable networks between your business and your customers.
- Increase customer satisfaction, lifetime value, and referrals.
- Offer your customers the value of a vibrant community that amplifies your products or services.
Bearing in mind that community management has different interpretations in the industry is vital: the benefits mentioned above are the important ones that a community helps you achieve.
In addition, community management encompasses various practices. Let’s take a look at these practices to decide which ones you want to focus on in your business.
Community management categories
In general, community management can be divided into six categories: a couple of them are carried out behind a computer and do not require contact in real life, and others allow group members to communicate with your company and your employees in the physical world. CMXHub’s SPACE model is the best way to segment different forms of community management.
SPACE model for community management
With this model, you can gain a deeper understanding of the community management categories and focus on the solutions that would work for you.
Note: This part of the article provides an overview of just 6 different styles of community management. We have also added some examples for each category.
S: customer support and success
Customer service and performance is the first category. In terms of community management, the following are some easy methods to handle customer service and success: a discussion forum, an FAQ section, and a community portal.
An online forum is a place for questions and answers, a discussion platform with a mutual emphasis on customer care and support. It is a perfect way to connect with your customers. Your customers can talk to their peers through a website, ask different questions, give feedback, or join a conversation about a new solution you are offering.
By using the platform, you can add links to the FAQ section throughout your community, so that members can inform themselves and get quick answers to frequently asked questions. You can also view contributions from different members, participate in conversations, and provide support if needed. This empowers your customers for self-service and saves precious time for your team by diverting support tickets.
With customer success software, you can create a branded online community. You can also launch a portal for members of your community that focuses on serving your customers. Here your customers can get self-service support, help others, connect with your team members, find whatever materials they need (eg knowledge base), and give feedback.
With community software like Tribe Platform, you can build a brand community and maintain your company’s online community, FAQs, knowledge base, and long-form blogs. You can configure the entire platform to suit your brand guidelines, write and maintain your forum. Plus, it’s a great channel for gathering customer feedback and brainstorming with super users to improve your products and services.
This form of community management is suitable for companies with a broad set of products, similar to a technology or software company, so that users can connect and learn best practices and discuss the problems they encounter when using the products.
At Tribe, our online community also helps our customer service team when our customers seek help. They provide a solution on their own, connect someone from another department, or even get help from an existing customer.
Q: innovation, feedback and product ideation
Brainstorming solutions, creating novel products, and gathering feedback is a forward-thinking and responsive form of community management. This allows you to create a safe online place for your customers and audience to post their suggestions and opinions on how you can innovate and improve your business.
You can ask your community members to provide feedback through surveys and participate in one-on-one discussions about the input you need. This is one of the ways to do user testing where you can include active members, audiences, and customers. You can, for example, form a focus group of real customers to understand how they think you can offer better products and services based on their first-hand experience.
This form of community management is perfect for most businesses – asking real customers and audiences for input on where their business is lacking and how they can create novel solutions.
A: Acquisition and promotion
This type of community management allows you to interact directly with members who are very interested in your company, your representatives, and brand evangelists.
Through various methods, such as word of mouth, affiliate programs, and social media, your community members enable you to develop brand awareness and promote your business. The usual method of connecting these key people and building a community is through an MVP (Most Valuable Person) program. Let’s take a look at an example.
Lululemon has created a grassroots loyalty and ambassador program by identifying and recruiting local influencers. These ambassadors work with small communities formed in stores to strengthen the bond between the customer and the brand. In addition, they help Lululemon offer experiential retail to customers, which is a strong differentiator from competitors.
If you are looking to engage your most important customers by centralizing them at the core of your community flyer, increasing customer loyalty, increasing brand recognition, and creating long-term connections with your fans, this style of community management is. perfect.
C: content creation
This style of community management includes content design and member scheduling. You would primarily focus on your customers, audiences, or employees to create a content program that includes multiple member segments and drives user-generated content.
For businesses with user-generated content that is deeply embedded in their products, floor plans, and other properties, this is a great option. For example, in the case of companies like Kickstarter, the people who join their website and use their platform to launch projects and raise capital is what increases the value of the company.
Typically, companies like this build strong teams to manage the community and make sure user-generated content is relevant, adheres to company standards, and meets platform requirements.
E: External commitment
Community management focused on external engagement gives a sense of attachment to your customers and followers and results in a powerful link to your brand through an online channel that exists beyond your company. Social media management can be seen as a general form of external community participation.
Take the Tribe Platform Twitter page, for example – it’s a very informative and engaging channel that promotes our brand while building a following based on a similar passion (for example, building a community). We make sure that anyone who interacts with and consumes our content is treated like a human being, not just a number.
This form of social interaction is perfect for businesses looking to drive brand awareness while building one-to-one and one-to-many interactions with all types of fans, consumers, and followers. Virtually every organization has the opportunity to create external interaction using popular social media.
I: Internal community management
Last but not least is internal community management. Today, companies are realizing the importance of developing vibrant communities to connect their people, partners, investors and suppliers. Enabling and nurturing these internal connections provides a sense of attachment. This encourages employees to connect, which translates to increased business productivity and overall satisfaction.
For example, companies build social intranets where employees can have informal conversations and socialize. This is even more important for companies that are remote first.
Internal community management forms a stronger bond between internal members and links them with like-minded people. With improved attachment, members are encouraged to help each other and truly consider themselves part of the business. This enables them to better support your business by improving product awareness and increasing your satisfaction ratings.
Almost all companies will work in internal communities as they heavily require community involvement by using existing collaboration software (or a solution like Tribe) and creating multiple employee groups.
So you’ve explored the key styles of community management and their benefits. Now let’s discuss how you can create a practical community management plan to start adding value to your business.
Develop a plan for managing the community
We cover many forms of community management that your organization can implement. Once you focus on your community goal, you will find several ways to implement the community strategy.
For this article, we’ll explore how to build a company-owned branded online community.
1. Understand the members
Building a community begins with a clear understanding of the members. So you need to create a member persona and define exactly why they should join your community, your problem, how you would help them, and ultimately why they would keep coming back to the community.
The key factor here is that the brand community is not about the member, it is about the members.
2. Set KPIs and business goals
Your online community can be a powerful tool for your business, not only for communicating with customers, but also for growing word of mouth marketing, building a brand, and generating leads. As such, you must establish metrics to operate within a central framework.
These metrics can be used to decide discussion topics, monthly topics, and more. Here are some data points to consider:
Traffic – Measure traffic to your community site and monitor whether it increases or decreases over time. Do you understand the popular sections of your community?
Engagement: How many people visit the site compared to those who actively participate? In which debates do they participate the most? This can determine potential problems, content formatting, and initial discussions.
Members: How many new members do you acquire each month, and how many become inactive? Is it a constant month for a month? If there was a sudden increase, what caused the spike?
3. Promote networking
Your community is only as valuable as its members believe it to be. Encourage them to network with each other so that your community becomes a place for them to meet and talk, rather than just a group created by your organization.
The more confident the group is, the more likely they are to come back, participate in discussions, and stay involved. If the group is large enough, you can even encourage members to start their own Meet-Up groups or even plan a meeting, hosted by your organization, in the areas where you have offices.
This gives customers and community members the opportunity to meet face-to-face and potentially interact with someone in your organization if they can.
4. Start a discussion
The group members, of course, would not speak to each other, at least not immediately. It’s your job, as a community manager, to start conversations and get members talking. For consistency, add talking points to your weekly or monthly content calendar and decide what the topic of each week’s discussion will be.
This helps you plan additional tools in advance, such as a quiz or a “game” for a group to do. You can also use your prep time to invite other members of your team to join or host a conversation.
For example, your company’s product manager may post a thread to encourage members to share their experiences and issues. As members respond to the post, the product manager should respond, engage more, and thank them for the contributions.
This adds a human touch to the brand.
5. Imbibe the personality of your brand
One of the greatest assets of an online community is the opportunity to humanize your brand and your company by adding personality to your conversation. For example, you can share your company’s internal happenings and how your team members contribute to the fun culture.
The goal is to have fun while balancing professionalism and communication as a brand. You shouldn’t stray too far from your brand in terms of narrative and find the right content to be enjoyable.
6. Keep the community welcoming
A great way to ensure that there is always something to look forward to in your community is to make sure you regularly offer exclusive opportunities. It can be anything from leadership team interaction to early access to new features.
7. Tell a genuine story
Ask customers to share their stories about using your product and their work in general. Little by little, you will develop a broad customer base to use for marketing assets and testimonials. Ask customers to share their coworkers’ comments, photos, quotes, and any other assets that demonstrate their expertise.
8. Follow a process plan
A community generates a wealth of material that comes from the crowd, from questions posed to shared stories. A company must be able to keep it organized so that knowledge can be used by people (both internal employees and customers).
For example, popular community issues may indicate an overlooked flaw in your service offering or a required update to your product. The more organized you are, the more your company will stand out from the crowd, making it more important.
Best practices in community management
Based on our first-hand experience of working with the best brands and community managers, we have compiled a list of best practices that every company should follow.
1. Create guidelines for the brand community.
You always want a correct and accurate description of your business, its values, and its culture. This ensures that your brand is presented smoothly to your community. Therefore, you need to develop a community guide for all stakeholders, starting with the internal team through to the members.
The way you create and implement your community guide would change based on the community’s goals. With that said, there are a lot of common elements that a community manager can follow:
To get started, create a document that shows your ideas for how members would connect, interact, and contribute content. This will change as your community evolves.
By using your community website, you can create a specific page that lists all the guidelines. You should then introduce the guidelines to members by prominently displaying them and making them part of the onboarding.
Give your internal team an avenue of communication for any major issues in the community to the right people. That way, problems can be solved efficiently.
2. Stay in touch with your members.
Regardless of the type of community you are building, make sure you keep the pulse of the community. This can be done by consulting your members regularly.
That way, you can keep your community relevant to members and ensure that community operations run smoothly. Especially when members seek help, they must get the right help.
3. Be genuine.
In handling all forms of culture, you must instill authenticity. When your customers, followers, followers, and leaders join your community, they should instantly know that it reflects your brand tone and message.
It is important to be honest and real, whether you are behind a computer or a community in the real world. At the end of the day, you are looking to cultivate a sense of belonging and get members connected.
4. Capture the voice of the customer.
Listening is important as community management involves a great deal of constructive engagement with stakeholders. Whether it’s social listening, frequent analysis of your discussion board, or reacting to various comments, understanding Voice of the Customer will be critical to raising the value of the community.
Actively listening to comments, keeping members updated, and closing the comment loop shows that you really care about members. This makes your community trustworthy!
5. Show compassion.
A big part of maintaining a healthy community is showing gratitude to the members. You can build trust and brand loyalty between you and your community members. It also shows that you respect their time and brand loyalty.
Some community members are already some of your most engaged, helpful fans and customers.
You can use the following tactics based on the community style you are running to ensure you show gratitude when needed:
Connect with all new community members as soon as they sign up. Thank them and ask what they expect and how you can give them a better experience.
Be aware of who the main contributors to the community are. You can send them branded gifts, special privileges, or give them recognition for being great.
Invite your super users and brand ambassadors to visit your team in their office and show them how everything works in your company.
6. Be consistent with your brand communication.
We already discussed the value of authenticity and the importance of actively listening to the voice of your customers in your community. This plays an important role in adding uniqueness to your community and keeps the community at the forefront of its stakeholders.
Regardless of the number of members in your community, make sure they recognize your brand identity. In this way, you can build a consistent narrative across all interactions, communications, and content.
A key method of making this a smoother process is to connect your community goals with your organization’s business goals and / or partner with different departments. It will keep your messages optimized and encourage you to maintain your brand personality.
7. Maintain community involvement
You want to make sure your audiences are active; This requires constant iteration of various content formats, engagement techniques, and clear measurement of member activity.
Often times, work with your team and super users to find novel ways to engage your members. Keep your members updated by implementing an omnichannel community engagement strategy.
You will also engage members immediately after they sign up and continue to learn more about your users – the motivation behind joining your community and your expectations of the community.
Now you might be wondering how you can get started on this community initiative – how to kick start your business community management strategy efforts if you haven’t done any work in this area.
A typical first step organizations should take when starting their community management strategy is to decide whether or not they would hire a community manager.
How community managers add value
If your business can invest in a community manager, you should consider hiring a community manager to implement a solid strategy to build a thriving brand community.
Defining the role of the community manager
Community managers are essentially customer representatives, brand advocates, product managers, marketers, storytellers all rolled into one. Based on the business objective of the community, you will need the support of a team of managers with completely different skills.
However, in general, community managers share some common characteristics, no matter what their position is. A community manager would embody the following qualities:
1. Be available
A good community manager must be trustworthy, available, and responsive within a fair time frame. A member should never wait for the community manager for an extended period.
2. Have a goal
A clear understanding of the business goal, the community goal, and how to achieve the goals is critical to any successful community manager.
3. Be responsible
Each member of the team has different responsibilities. The same goes for a community manager. If something goes wrong, the community manager must accept it. If a community manager cannot respond quickly to others, the manager should be able to reach out, apologize, and see how the member can be helped.
4. Be accessible
It is necessary to remain accessible to members, maintain openness and integrity. It’s about keeping people updated.
5. Be real
Like anything else in life, a community manager should not simply follow the latest trends. A community manager must trust what he is doing. It’s about being authentic and managing the aforementioned key points.
This resource widely highlighted various facets of community management; You should now have a clearer understanding of the importance of community management and how it helps your business grow.
Create your community
Although community management is relatively new, it can be powerful in driving business. By strategizing a community management strategy for your brand, you will be able to create a safe and secure space to connect with your customers, fans, staff, and supporters to provide information, connect, and learn from each other.
This will result in increased brand loyalty, drive conversions and new customer acquisition, and add a human element to your brand that they can connect with. the customers who contribute the most to your success.
So, start by evaluating different business goals for your company and where community management can help you achieve those goals. Once you do, you will be in a better position to decide if you need to hire a community manager.