Archive for the ‘Online community manager’ Category.

5 ways to encourage online engagement

Image courtesy of Shoot

It is tempting to focus soley on moderation when discussing online community management, but without driving discussion in the first place, a community manager will have nothing to moderate.

Here are five things every community manager should do to encourage discussion in an online community.

1. Use mixed media

Using different types of media always produces good engagement results. Images and picture galleries often generate the best engagement online and this is certainly the case for the Facebook pages we manage here at FreshNetworks.

2. Keep the community informed about latest updates

One simple tool to add to an online community is a “latest activity” box on the homepage. Members of one of the closed communities I manage regularly comment on how useful this tool is for quickly navigating the site and for keeping up to date with recent activity.

3. Email newsletters

By far the largest driver of traffic to the communities I manage are the weekly email newsletter updates I send. They highlight conversations that are important to the brand and in the early lifecycle of a community the email updates are particularly important in developing a relationship with community members.

4. One to one contact

Contacting users on an individual basis is a fantastic way of building  good foundations. Thank them for performing actions, suggest content they may like or point them towards new activities in order to build long-term engagement.

5. Ask questions that matter to the community

Asking simple questions is recognised as a good way of generating discussion. However, this only works if the questions you ask are relevant to your audience. Take the time to understand what your audience react to and then plan around this.

Using these tactics are just a few of the many ways that you can encourage discussion in an online community. What works best for you?

15 essential articles for online community managers #CMAD

On the platform, reading

Image by moriza via Flickr

To celebrate the second annual Community Manager Appreciation Day, we’ve brought together 15 essential articles for online community managers and social media managers. From why community managers should get involved with their online community before it is even launched, through how to manage and grow a community, to how to measure the impact you are having.

This collection of articles, resources and thinking should have something for everybody to learn from or to add to. We’d love your thoughts on these and also your own favourite community manager articles and resources.

  1. When does a community manager’s job begin?: Why it is critical that your community manager is involved in helping to plan and design the online community before it is launched.
  2. The Ten Commandments of managing online communities: An insightful presentation on how to manage online communities from Julius Solaris.
  3. The biggest mistakes an online community manager can make: From lack of engagement to a lack of discipline, we look at five of the biggest mistakes an online community manger can make.
  4. How word of mouth grows online communities: A case study on the role of word of mouth helped to grow an online community at a critical early stage.
  5. Five things to consider when engaging social media influencers: Influencers in social media can be a great help when growing your community and become advocates of your site. However engaging them can be difficult. Here are five things to consider when engaging them.
  6. How to react if somebody writes about your brand online: A simple guide to help you decide when, and how, you should respond if somebody comments on your brand online.
  7. Why you shouldn’t join every conversation about your brand online: When you should, and when you shouldn’t, join conversations about your brand online (and why you shouldn’t feel the need to respond to them all).
  8. Champions, active users and trolls: Defining the different types of users in an online community and exploring how they behave and how you should manage them.
  9. Moderation and safety: Why moderation is important, the four types of moderation you can choose from and how to decide which approach is right for you.
  10. Should anonymous comments be allowed in your online community: The pros and cons of allowing anonymous comments in your online community, and those times when it really is the best option.
  11. Comparing paid and organic search strategies for online communities: Which are more successful drivers of traffic? And which are more likely to drive engagement?
  12. Eight ways you can use your online community to get insight: Eight tools and activities you can use in your online community to get insight from your members.
  13. What online community managers can learn from gaming: How to use gaming techniques to help manage and grow your online community.
  14. Using experts to encourage real engagement with your community: How experts can add value to your online community if used sensibly, and in a way that meets the needs of your community members.
  15. Is time on site a useful measure of how successful your online community is?: The short answer is ‘no’. This article tells you why, and where time on site is a useful measure.

Lack of community management is “a huge missed opportunity for brands”

photo-online_communityBrands are learning and applying a more focused and disciplined approaches to their social assets, the November 2010 ComBlu report finds.

The “State of online branded communities” report evaluated 241 communities from 78 enterprise level companies in the US and shows that the percentage of brands exhibiting a ‘cohesive strategy’ increased from 20% to 33%.

Top scoring brands such as American Express, EA, Discovery Channel, HP, Sears, Verizon, Activision, Kimberly-Clark, AT&T and Sony delivered online communities with three primary purposes: Feedback, Advocacy and Support and were measured against their member engagement.

The report highlighted that the “design of community marketing programs must deliberately follow a best practices road map and generate business intelligence that provides a diagnostic for maximizing impact and return on investment (ROI)”.  Community Management was highlighted as core to this yet nearly half of the communities still have no active online community manager visible as the “face of the brand.

An Online Community Manager is key to stimulating and growing the community’s audience (as FreshNetworks have seen in the success of the RS Components DesignSpark community, and Jimmy Choo Facebook page). Community Managers also actively engage brand advocates, which the report highlights are being ignored, with only 20% of the scored communities have a visible advocate or expert group: a huge missed opportunity for their brands.”

That said, brands are doing a much better job delivering diverse experiences by providing members with multiple ways to participate. The report found that the use of aligned engagement tools nearly tripled, growing from 28% to 76% and activity levels in online communities are also significantly higher. This hub-and-spoke model of social media engagement is a something we feel strongly about – that people operate in different modes in different social spaces.

Brands that focus their communities on support tend to be among the highest scoring; these communities are the most mature and have evolved consistently over time. The lowest scoring communities provide no real path to engagement. They tend to allow some interaction with content, but provide few ways to connect with peers, build on the thoughts or ideas of others, or provide any feedback.

Best practice was defined as a clear Welcome message, Connection to offline engagement, Advocate programs, and Community managers. The five most improved brands—Verizon, Hewlett-Packard, JPMorgan Chase, American Express and Microsoft — have all adopted practices that allow for a customized experience, facilitate interaction with both the brand and community peers, and provide recognition for contributions and efforts.

One of the more relevant findings was that there is now a much greater integration between a brand’s sponsored community site and its other social assets such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, with 61% of brands offering content sharing functionality.

Some specific market highlights:

Banking and financial

JPMorgan Chase went from an unpopulated community with little to no member activity to very active (more than 2 million fans) by using a tight focus, such as using the community to determine where to “invest” its charitable donations. The communities that do well tend to focus on a very specific segment, such as small businesses or support CSR initiatives.

Retail

Activity levels dropped across the sector, with 78% of the communities exhibiting low engagement levels. The decrease in both content aggregation and content tagging along with low level of social bookmarking functionality was suggested as the reason for this – impeding the seamless social shopping experience.

One of the emerging best practices for this industry is the aggregation of product reviews, research info and peer-to-peer conversations at the point of sale to help customers make purchase decisions.

Getting your community management processes in order

ducks in a row
Image via Wikipedia

As a social media agency, FreshNetworks works with clients both to manage their online communities, and also to train, mentor and coach others to help them to manage their social media activity themselves. In fact the best approach to social media for many brands can be combine experienced skills in online community management with a deep knowledge and understanding of the brand. Big online communities will inevitably find that at some stage the people managing the community change or grow. You need to be able to handle these changes without disrupting the community you have worked so hard to engage. And the secret to this is process.

Here are FreshNetworks’ four key processes to get in place on any online community when it is going through change.

1. Record all your processes

Keep a record of “what to do” in any situation on your online community. Make sure you retain the vast array of organisational knowledge that your community manager has built up over time. This could be in a number of ways, from hidden forums or private wikis online to word documents and excel spreadsheets.

It’s important that records of community activity, moderated content and guidance notes are kept up to date but they are doubly important when your community manager leaves to allow the new staff an insight into the history of the community and its development.

2. Let the community members know what’s happening

If for no other reason, it’s just politeness and common courtesy to let the members know about any significant changes that will occur in the community.

Make them part of the process, let them know in advance that you will be leaving and give them some information about your replacement, going so far as to asking the new community manager to introduce themselves in a post before they start.

3. Have a reasonable handover timeframe

This is so often neglected in employment across the board but it is crucial that you have the old and new community manager working together for some time, ideally a couple of weeks.

It’ll allow the new community manager to learn about the vibe of the community and what they consider acceptable. It will also provide an opportunity for a lot of questions and answers between the two community managers and give the departing staff the chance to share the in depth knowledge of the community they have developed and grown.
This chance to develop some good progressive outcomes should have a greater focus than a swift handover.

4. Hire skilled staff

We have written before about the skills you should look for in an online community manager. Make sure that you employ someone who will be effective in the post and continue to grow your community - skills in community management are as important as knowledge of the brand, and the perfect person (or indeed perfect team) will cover both of these.

The time will come when all online communities will grow and the people managing them will change with this growth. Getting your processes right from the very beginning will mean that you can make changes without disrupting the very community you are managing and growing.

When does the online community manager’s job begin?

START / STOP
Image by Compound Eye via Flickr

Many community manager positions advertised online ask for someone to help supervise and develop a newly launched community. In my opinion this is far too late to look at employing a community manager. They should be involved from an early point in the development cycle, ideally when plans for the community are still being developed.

There are a number of reasons why ensuring the online community manager is onboard from this early planning phase:

  1. They can get to know the platform the community is built on
    Knowing your platform, how to add and update content, how to moderate, how to make changes to user profiles is core to the community management job.
  2. They can be involved in the user testing
    If your community manager finds something awkward or confusing you can be certain your community members are also likely to.
  3. They can prepare engaging content
    Having time to prepare content for your community, be it forum topics, a list of future polls or a schedule of blogs will aid the smooth running of the community in the first few weeks.
  4. They can be involved in seeding the community
    Being there to seed the community with content and invite those all important first few members in allows a community manager to identify trends and get an instant feel of how the community is likely to develop.
  5. They can develop internal relationships
    Often under-rated, having the time to develop relationships with other employees who may provide content, or be able to help with questions that arise about your brand or services, provides long term benefits to the community.
  6. They will have time to develop a library of external resources
    Sourcing resources such as external blogs and relevant news articles allows you to quickly update the community and provide a talking point for community members.

When that “go live” date passes and you offer your community out to the world, having a community manager who has been given a chance to familiarise themselves with the environment and build internal relationships before the traffic arrives will only help with the long term success of the community.