What Is Community Management?
By now you’ve seen brands like Wendy’s and Taco Bell engaging in clever and (at times) even witty exchanges with the fans (and trolls) who engage with them on social media.
— Netflix US (@netflix) May 2, 2017
The people behind the scenes (or the keyboards, rather) responding are known in the marketing and advertising world as Community Managers, which in this context does not refer to someone who manages property or oversees political organizing efforts; we act as the eyes, ears, and voice for brands online. Similar to residential property managers, Community Managers – or CMs – maintain their communities, except the communities they manage exist purely in the digital space.
Like actors, but for the Internet
Community Managers have a unique set of skills; we must understand the foundations and tendencies of a virtual community in order to effectively communicate with fans, Internet trolls, potential customers, and early adopters of products. Our role is essential to clients because of our ability to gauge audience sentiment in real-time, which in turn enables CMs to relay critical feedback and audience insights to brand managers as it pertains to their products, campaigns and/or services.
We use our qualitative insights on audience sentiment as a useful tool for brands in their efforts to drive sales and complete goals. For example, let’s say you have a beverage client that releases a limited edition canned soda for the summer. The post goes live and fans have begun commenting about how the soda tastes. As it turns out, the flavor is not favorable amongst drinkers; they complained that it had too much sugar. The CMs report this back to their internal team leads who then relay this insight to their client leads. Depending on the severity of the consumer sentiment, client leads may choose to discontinue the product or alter their marketing strategy.
Now let’s flip the scenario and say the customers loved the new soda. This is the fun part. It’s an opportunity to get creative; having the perfect amount of wit mixed with good writing skills comes in handy. When fans love products or campaigns, this is always met with enthusiasm from CMs. Response may range from riddles and puns to emoji overload all intended to amplify a brand’s products and services. These positive engagement opportunities give CMs the fuel they need to spill the brand voice onto social channels.
Y’all haters corny… https://t.co/WVAi05zBJS
— JCPenney (@jcpenney) February 1, 2017
Important note: community managers can’t just login to social platforms and dart out responses without an effective community engagement strategy. If a client’s target audience is a stay-at-home mom, a young professional, or a senior citizen, a professional CM must digitally role play and understand how to navigate, blend into, and communicate to their target audience.
Community engagement strategies are typically developed internally by an agency and/or in collaboration with clients. In this process, strategists create a brand persona that has a voice and tone that community managers must inherit in order to effectively engage with customers on social platforms. Think of it like being a virtual actor. Through channeling their offline experiences and pulling tidbits from general conversation trends, community managers become incredibly knowledgeable of the communities in which they engage.
When we break down the pieces of community in the literal sense, we’re able to figure out just how to communicate to our target audiences. In our daily lives, we adjust our poise and our language when we shift from one community to another. Not everyone will be satisfied with the things you say, but when brands understand how to communicate with their audiences, it becomes an opportunity to build an authentic relationship that increases brand loyalty. In other words, community managers have to know their neighbors.
In order to do this, we must think about community in the broader sense and break down the different layers of community. We all belong to different communities and when we think about the various communities in which we interact, we can define a voice and tone appropriate for engaging with these communities.
If you have any further questions about community management, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (@rashaaddenzel) or shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).