Top brands worldwide have all had to come to terms with the fact that social media has turned the world of customer experience on its head.
Managing customers’ experience online has become a whole new ballgame, and a natural consequence of this changing digital landscape is that community management also has to evolve.
To ensure that your customers’ online experience is positive and eventually convert them into ambassadors of your brand, there are a few key elements that need to form part of your community management strategy.
Before anything else
Firstly, a brand should establish a solid foundation by compiling a dedicated online engagement strategy. First pen down what your business goals and objectives are and how your online content should and could drive and support these goals:
- Conduct research on how your competitors are behaving on social media platforms. Note what you could learn from and what you could improve on.
- Profile your target audiences, so you can determine how to effectively conceptualise content that will resonate with them.
- Clearly define how you want your online audiences to perceive your brand and then carefully create your online persona to help shape this perception.
- Craft a set of key messages that underpin all your communication, so you can educate and inform your audiences about your brand over time.
- Compile moderation guidelines to guide your online responses and ensure consistency in the way you react and interact.
Engage with your community
Top brands don’t talk at their audiences anymore, they talk with them. For this reason, you need to have a dedicated community manager with a certain skillset. The role of a community manager has transcended from purely creating and posting content on the different social media platforms of the brand. Today, one of the most critical roles of a community manager is to be the brand, to speak on behalf of the brand, and engage audiences in a manner that is true to the essence of the brand.
In this day and age, where communication is predominantly taking place online, being endorsed on social media platforms have become the equivalent of the traditional word-of-mouth-referral, which is the Holy Grail of marketing. A great community manager will be able to enhance the customer experience, stimulate engagement, initiate positive online conversations and convert followers into raving fans and ambassadors of the brand.
Remember why social media
It is imperative to remember why people love social media in the first place. It’s a space to share and discuss in a social manner. For consumers to engage, brands must connect with them on that same level. A good community manager should therefore also know how to be warm, personable and social, without compromising on professionalism.
Furthermore, it’s also of the essence to understand that apart from building the brand in the minds of its target audiences, social media also presents brands with other benefits. It, for example, offers unparalleled opportunities to get up close and personal with your target audiences, to determine what their true perception is of your brand and what they really want and need. To optimise your social media efforts, it should, therefore, be leveraged for the invaluable tool it is and the analytical tools that are available should be fully utilised for this purpose.
Quality remains key
When it comes to providing the best online experience, it is crucial to provide great quality content that will spark a conversation. Content is what draws people into the shop; the community manager is like the shop manager – it’s all about enticing them to enter (which is why the right content at the right time in their journey is so important), then guiding them towards the right product and giving them an unforgettable experience. This is why effective community management could be your brand’s differentiating factor.
However, brands must never forget that not even the most engaging content can compensate for shortcomings on the product or service’s side. Your content must be 100% authentic at all times and a genuine reflection of who and what the brand truly is, without over-promising or creating unrealistic expectations. If not, social media will soon become the mirror that reflects the true image of the brand for everyone to see.
Ultimately, having a sound online engagement strategy in place right at inception, and positioning a dedicated community manager to implement it, will ensure that your efforts are proactive instead of reactive and that you have as much control over the online conversation as possible as opposed to the conversation controlling you.
Jarred Trembath is MediaCom SA’s Head of Social Media, Content & Community Management.