Setting up a strong business page on Facebook is definitely a good first step (at least, for your Facebook social media presence), but publishing alone is an exercise in futility.
You are shouting into the void unless you’re cultivating a community … Hello? ... Hello? ... Is this thing on?
Most people who “Like” your page will never see your posts. That's where a blend of active community management and advertising come into play. This includes Facebook, certainly, but must also take into consideration the channel or channels that are best suited to your company or industry. You might find more success on LinkedIn (this one’s a biggie), Twitter, Instagram or even a sub-Reddit forums.
A Strong Social Media Advertising Foundation
With each day that passes, social media stakes more and more of a claim on being not only one important aspect of all things business and advertising, but an essential part of whatever it is you and your business are trying to accomplish.
We’ve previously discussed the untapped value of Facebook, why LinkedIn shouldn’t be ignored and how to drive revenue via your business’ social media presence, now it’s time to talk a little bit about how to fill a less-than-capacity customer void with a fully managed social media community.
Community Management is More Than Just “Doing” Social Media
Although it can be extremely difficult to let go of the notion that social media engagement has little ROI value, movement toward making it a critical part of day-to-day activity has to take place. Why? Because for every business not cultivating a strong social media community, there’s certainly one that is. And, if these are your competitors, your potential customers will turn to them.
So, what all is involved in the role of a community manager?
Here are some specifics to consider:
Who's Talking: The importance of finding who’s talking about your industry, and where these conversations are taking place, can’t be overstated. If there’s a discussion happening, you need to be a part of it.
Customer Service: If customer service is important to you, everyone needs to know it. Social media communities provide unlimited opportunity for actively responding to customer comments (both positive and negative) and showing excitement and/or concern for the constantly evolving nature of whatever industry you’re involved in.
Newsjacking: There’s a practice called newsjacking, and it can be really effective. Basically, you find popular news stories that pertain in some way to what you do, and discuss or share them in a way that helps shape your business image and aligns you with like-minded potential customers, clients and partners. It’s not difficult at all, and can yield lots of opportunities.
Insiders and Tastemakers: Active participation in social media grants access to a broad range of “insiders” and “tastemakers” in a way that, taken as a whole, can amount to free, effective business consultation. It’s risk-free, and, more importantly, gives you the immediate power to completely ignore anything that’s not worthwhile.
Groups: Set up your own public and private discussion groups. Sure, you should join in as many discussions and forums as possible, but why not start your own too? Jump into the driver’s seat and steer the whole conversation in your direction!
No matter whether you have a minimally staffed digital business or a larger one with a designated marketing division, there are several ways to empower your team to take on the important responsibility of managing your social media community:
Working with an Agency: If you're working with an agency partner on digital marketing, you should clearly define roles and responsibilities of community management. Perhaps your agency identifies opportunities for engagement, and then you take the lead on follow-up. Or, your agency might handle simple follow-up and responses according to agreed terms, and then hand off more sensitive responses back to your team. However you handle it, sharing responsibility for social media and community management is a shared responsibility between company and digital marketing agency.
Company-wide: Define roles and add them to existing job descriptions. Who’s researching? Who’s publishing? Who’s responding? Who’s identifying influencers and newsjacking opportunities, and who's executing? Let everyone know how important it is to your business’ ongoing success, and give each team member an essential part of the responsibility. This is a good way to make sure that the basic, essential platforms (the previously mentioned Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Reddit) are addressed and attended to. Social Media Examiner is a great resource for helping with all of this.
Designate a Team: Again, roles should be defined, but a team setup could allow for a more hands-off approach. Make sure everyone involved is on the same page, and ready and willing to work with, and answer to, one another. This approach can be really effective, because it facilitates removing as many obstacles as possible in order to let the team do its thing. And, remember, slowing things down is counterproductive to keeping up with the blazing speed of social media. There’s best practices on how to go about this, but, ultimately, it needs to come down to using the right mix of people and the right type of implementation for your particular business and/or office.
Capitalize on Limited Resources: Managing a social media community has become important enough that even a small company should designate one individual to take it on as a full-time duty. Of course, if this isn’t an immediate budgetary reality, start small and work toward it. Limit your scope, find a niche and create and nurture one really active group. If you need a starting place, I love this idea of starting a community on Slack. At SpinWeb, we use Slack as our main internal communication tool throughout the day, but it's starting to get used creatively as a channel for cultivating loyal, industry-specific groups.
The first step of community management is identifying important conversations and audiences. Where are your people hanging out and what are they saying about your product, service, cause or industry? Here are some simple beginning activities to get you started as an effective community manager.
- To begin, start by selecting a few industry keywords to follow and do a search for related hashtags, groups, or forums that may already exist. A tool like RiteTag is a great for finding trending hashtags.
- Set up a simple Google Alert for your topics, so you can get alerts sent to your email whenever a blog post or news article is published with that related keyword.
- You can use monitoring tools, like the social media tools in HootSuite or HubSpot, to respond, retweet, like, favorite, and stay active on your social media channels. These tools also provide ways to instantly see what conversations and content is getting the most engagement with your followers.
- We also love BuzzSumo, another tool to add to your library of social media and content resources. BuzzSumo helps you analyze what content performs best for any topic or competitor, and find the key influencers to promote your content. You can also set up content alerts here as well. It's pretty awesome.
Blending the Two
It’s not too late to begin community management and it will give you an extra advantage when it comes time to advertising on social media. Once you have a community built up, you can target your messages and posts to them through custom audiences, remarketing and sponsored posts. Publishing alone is a waste of time. Advertising without engaging with your community isn't the whole picture either. By blending the two, you can be more strategic and get results that contribute to the bottom line.
Falling behind your competitors in the world of social media is just like lagging in any other respect. The need for contact between businesses and customers will never go away, but a void can definitely begin to form if the right kind of contact doesn’t exist. Potential customers aren’t going away, but they could be going elsewhere.
Empower yourself, your business and your colleagues with the tools, time and resources necessary for establishing, guiding and maintaining a strong presence in the social media community, and there will be neither a void nor a need to shout into it. Customers and clients will be there, and they’ll be ready to listen.