Everyone is talking about social media: from customer generation to public relations, everything is possible on the Internet these days. But what methods can be used to create added value? Community management is about bringing customers together in virtual space. If done correctly, this can have synergetic effects.
Everyone is talking about social media: from customer generation to public relations, everything is possible on the Internet these days. The communication mix no longer functions solely via conventional online marketing channels such as display advertising, e-mail, affiliate, SEO and SEM, but increasingly via the rapidly growing social networks. However, crisp and well-placed advertising messages are not enough – the right community management on networks and platforms is essential if a company wants to be successful in the long term.
While online marketing is usually thematically complete or geared to target groups, social media marketing is primarily about understanding, expanding and holding together the online community in the long term. Personal interaction is just as important as good content marketing to build a positive product experience or brands with recognition value.
Community Manager – Job description of the future
The term Community Management is oriented towards the customers as members of a closed virtual space – the community – which needs to be formed, organized and moderated. This virtual space can be a network like Facebook or Instagram, a platform like Uber or Airbnb, a forum or an online game. As more and more companies, associations or public institutions are changing their external and internal communication channels in the course of digitization, community management will become relevant in more and more areas in the future.
Community Management is an enormous challenge. Communities do not adhere to office hours of companies, Internet users are active day and night. Communities are highly moody and unpredictable: A community manager must be highly sensitive to the needs of his clients to be able to react timely and correctly. To do so, he or she needs high emotional and social competence as well as a certain calmness to handle personal attacks professionally.
The german Bundesverband Community Management e. V. für Digitale Kommunikation und Social Media (BVCM) defines the main tasks of a Community Manager in the white paper as “1. dialogue and interface function, 2. community building, 3. community engagement, 4. community support, 5. monitoring & reporting, 6. leadership of the community team”. This very broad range of tasks makes it clear how complex the requirements for personal skills of a Community Manager are.
Communities have certain dynamics of their own. Decisive for the mood of the community are some smart, self-confident and influential influencers who have a decisive influence on the expectations and reactions of the community. Studies have shown that only a very small proportion of the community actively creates content (1% rule), while the vast majority consume and observe passively. Therefore, a community manager should not only pay special attention to the influencers, but also maintain special communication with them.
Growth potential through Big Data analyses
Communities need special conditions to be able to form. In addition to technological availability and the community’s thematic focus, these include criteria such as the language and language style of the members or demands on the design and functionality of the user interface (UI). The more homogeneous a group is, the better it can be controlled, but also the more dynamic its organic development. To better understand the community, you should collect as much data as possible – as far as the technical and legal framework for data protection allows.
The buzzword Big Data, the term for mass data from the processing of technological systems, has been a polarizing topic since the intense social debate on data protection and privacy on the Internet. Both companies and states have long since discovered the potential of computer-controlled analysis programs. It is not the actual news content that is particularly revealing, but so-called metadata: superordinate information for structuring large amounts of data that is not necessarily transparent to the user.
Community Management offers enormous growth potential for companies because it is a practical experiement environment for social media strategies. Collected user data can be examined in anonymized behavioral analyses according to patterns. For example, it is possible to create connections between login and user activity on certain days of the week, at certain times of the day, etc. or for certain special promotions. Recognized patterns enable target-oriented campaigns, the success of which can in turn be monitored.
4 tips for effective community management
1. Rules must be
In order to guarantee a civilized and lawful level of communication, it is absolutely necessary to establish some basic rules in a so-called netiquette and to follow them. Violations of Netiquette can be punished by warnings, temporary blocking of users or, if necessary, exclusion from the community in case of repeated violations.
2. Gemeinschaft aktiv halten
The ultimate goal is to keep the community alive. New members should be encouraged to actively participate as early as possible. Regular games, competitions, raffles or interesting posts are a must, as well as promoting topics and discussions that have a high user participation rate.
3. Take the wishes of the community seriously
Wishes and criticism of the community have top priority. Wishes should be checked for their feasibility and, in case of positive feedback, forwarded internally within the company. This can certainly initiate a successful product innovation. Criticism must be responded to as quickly as possible – either by direct action or by informative communication. Remember: as long as a community complains, it is a living community.
4. Communicate crises transparently
Once the Shitstorm is there, don’t make the mistake of sitting it out. Leaving negative posts unanswered or even deleting critical comments only increases the frustration of the community. In the worst case scenario, you risk shaking customer loyalty and getting negative press. The golden rule: Disclose crisis information as quickly and as much as possible. Then companies and customers can emerge from the crisis stronger together.