Strong communities are built on strong relationships. This is true for all types of communities, including those built online. These days, we’re all more connected than ever, and there’s never been more opportunity for existing and potential customers to interact with your brand. Community management is all about building relationships with those people. And, as with any solid interpersonal relationship, it takes some real effort to keep it thriving. Building and managing a great online community takes time, teamwork, and patience. Here are our four favorite ways to get—and keep—the conversation flowing.
1. Assess Your Community’s Unique Needs
The best way to get started is to do some quick critical thinking. A brief analysis of where your community stands right now and where you’d like to take it in the future will help you see the bigger picture and clearly identify what success looks like to you. For example, are you looking to connect with a certain type of user, or are you simply trying to get your message out to more of the public at large? Whatever your goals, a quick but thorough assessment can help you get there strategically.
To get the ball rolling, ask the question “Where online are people already talking about my brand or business?” These could be places like owned media channels (your blog, social media pages, etc.), earned media channels (third-party review sites, forums, etc.), or paid media channels (social media ads and promoted posts). Determine where your ideal audience might currently live and thrive, then assemble the best team to reach them in an effective and meaningful way.
2. Build the Right Team
You’ve established what your specific goals are, but the overarching goal of any community is to build connections. To do that, you’ll need to staff the people who naturally “speak the community’s language.” Those may be people within your organization who are already trained to be customer facing. Also, choosing real-life enthusiasts will lend a level of authenticity to your message that simply can’t be faked. And, keep in mind that it goes farther than just your community manager.
Hiring a knowledgeable and effective community manager is one important part of the puzzle, but remember that all communication from your organization builds your brand’s voice and impacts the relationship with current and potential customers and community members. Other key members of your community team will be savvy moderators who will keep an eye on specific platforms and areas of the community. And, depending on the nature of your business, it may make sense to designate specialized community members who can seamlessly handle sensitive issues as they arise.
3. Engage Your Audience (Inside and Outside Your Online Community)
End your posts with enticing questions to inspire your readers to contribute to the conversation and keep momentum going. Are you posting to social media? Keeping up with members’ comments and questions goes a long way to lending that all-important sense of authenticity to your community. Does your community respond proactively to third-party review sites and forums? Join the conversations there and let your larger audience know you are invested in providing the best service possible.
4. Provide Real-Time Response (Or Get As Close As Possible)
People who comment publicly expect a reply quicker than users who send a private email or phone message. Depending on your specific platform, that could mean days, hours, or yes, even minutes. Make sure your team has a solid understanding and sense for how and when to appropriately respond on a dime.
You can score a perfect 10 on all of the above tips, but if you’re not using an effective publishing platform, your community can fall flat. At G5, we can help you decide what features you need to effectively—and economically—manage your community and your content. Learn more about our Strategy services.