The Power of an Engaged & Organic Social Audience

Engagement

Follower / membership count is a misunderstood and deceptive social media metric.  It is possible to purchase thousands of followers, but these will certainly be bots or fake accounts and will not return business value . Your online community may have 200,000 members, but how many are actually participating and contributing?  If followers are not organically grown through engagement, you do not have an audience; you have a list.

One of my social mentors, Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman), and I regularly discuss this phenomenon: it’s called “social media,” why do so many only push content and ignore discussion?  Ask a question, provide an answer, share personal insights; social media is about conversations.  In addition to thought leadership blogs and company announcements, genuinely respond to your customer’s questions and actually engage them.  Engagement will positively impact your business.

Customers turn to social media to research a company’s culture as well as for trusted peer opinions and product insight.  What is the tone of your Twitter feed, what types of content are you sharing?  Does your company have an online community: what is the activity level, do members interact with one another, are employees participating?  No matter the platform, an engaging social strategy builds customer trust, differentiates your brand, and most importantly, creates advocates.

Engaging customers and cultivating them into advocates should be a priority.  Advocates are loyal consumers who help you meet revenue goals.  Advocates talk about your brand, increase awareness, and provide trusted reviews to potential customers. Advocates share your content with their networks which improves your SEO.  Advocates answer the majority of the questions within your community which lowers customer service costs.  Simply creating an account or community and pushing content will not yield advocates, advocates are nurtured through honest engagement.

It’s called “social” media.

Cheers,

Toby

 

 

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Do You Have The Right (Support) Bucket?

Capture

Customer service and support is continuously evolving and great service differentiates brands and turns customers into advocates.  This blog will discuss three service buckets and how an online community can benefit your company while providing your customers an outstanding service experience.

The First Bucket: Phone Queue

Something we are all familiar with, but often hate using.  Because there such a high staffing cost to companies, customers are often burdened with lengthy menus or unhelpful automated responses.  To add further irritation, it is often difficult to reach the rep with the right level of knowledge leading to transferred calls, the need for a customer to start over; a horrible experience.

The Second Bucket: Self Service

Convenience and speed are appreciated by customers and allowing them to help themselves is very popular.  YouTube videos,  or a knowledge base created from solved customer problems are very helpful to customers and will free up support rep time, but what if a customer has a question?  If there is no way to ask a question or if comments are not monitored, the problem still exists and the customer remains frustrated.

The Third Bucket: Online Community

An online community offers customers many things they are seeking: speed of answers, access to a knowledge base, and most importantly, the ability to ask questions about their unique issue.  Like a knowledge base, a community cuts costs by documenting solutions and providing self service; both reduce demand on support reps.  Furthermore, most community solutions are provided by customers: a cost savings for the company, and trusted by peers.

An online community will deliver trusted and targeted support to your customers in a timely manner while reducing costs for your company.  If you have not done so, it is time for your community!  I look forward to your questions and comments.

Best,

Toby

#SproutChat: Managing Online Communities

SproutChat

Good day Community Managers, this is my recap and answers I provided for the 10/4/2017 #SproutChat hosted by Vera Flores  and guest Meagan DeMenna @SocialMeagan Join the conversation every Wednesday at 3pm EST.

Q1: What is a digital community? How do you define this?

  • Digital community: an online place where ppl can gather & trade knowledge & interests
  • The community is online and ppl share common interests and answer each other’s questions
  • A tweetchat is a great example of a digital community

Q2: What are some first steps to building a digital community? Where can these communities live?

  • Determine what your community will do: peer to peer support, marketing, internal, external, product development
  • Communities can live on Facebook or LinkedIn (free) – or (paid)
  • Determine what features you want – analytics you need – what is the customer experience?
  • What resources do you have: financial and personnel
  • Determine if your community and its content will be open or private
  • I believe community content should be open (for SEO), but you must register to participate

Q3: How do you identify community goals? And how do you measure the success of your community?

  • If for peer to peer support: Question volume (increasing or decreasing), Engagement Rate, Answer Rate
  • Rather than overall membership, focus on activity: members creating content, reacting to it (and each other)

Q4: How can you use content to fuel your community?

  • Content IS the fuel
  • Content: Answers, Best Practices, How-To’s, Blogs, Videos – these are why ppl come
  • Along with content, it is important for your to respond to and engage with your members

Q5: What are some tips for engaging and encouraging conversation with a community?

  • If you put out a blog or video, ask for questions AND respond to them
  • If there is an unanswered question, ask a Power User to chime in and answer
  • Acknowledge members by thank them for their answers and contributions
  • Identify your power users / MVPs, acknowledge them and recognize them in front of the community

Q6: Share some of the communities you belong to

This was a fantastic chat about Community and I thank you  @SproutSocial  @sproutvera ‏  @SocialMeagan for hosting.  Please let me know if you have any questions about building and managing online communities as well as Community platforms.  See you at the next #SproutChat.

Best,

Toby

 

Get Your Business Blog Off The Ground

Blogging can deliver enormous business value: customer engagement, thought leadership, SEO; the list goes on, but how to get started?  Every business has different goals and resources; I am not going to discuss strategy: I am going to provide a workflow and some best practices.

BlogFlow

  1. Select Topic: Companies often focus on thought leadership (which is important), but you must also deliver content your customers value.  Talking about yourself or brand may help with SEO, but it will do nothing for engagement; engagement builds trust, loyalty, and may uncover a sales opportunity.
  2. Research: Build your case and assemble the supporting documents, graphics, video, etc.
  3. Compose:
    • Grab readers with your headline.
    • Write in your own “voice:” let your personality come through.
    • Links to supporting sites are great, but like hashtags, don’t overuse them.
    • Stick to 600 words and consider a multiple part series for complex topics like new product features.  Provide enough to inform, but keep some back to encourage questions: think appetizer, not entree.
  4. Post:  Where will this blog live and how will your customers learn about it?  Will this blog live on your website or within your online community?  Once you post, utilize Twitter to announce the blog and drive people to it.
  5. Respond:  DO NOT blog without responding to customer comments or questions; these are golden opportunities.  Encourage questions, ask for feedback, and thank readers for them.

Now that you have a foundation, start planning, start publishing, start educating, and start engaging.  I look forward to and welcome your comments and questions.

Best,

Toby

#ContentChat: Designing Exceptional Community Experiences

ContentChat

Good day Community Managers, this is my recap and answers I provided for the 10/2/2017 #ContentChat chat hosted by Erika Heald  and guest Arielle Tannenbaum @ariellemargot  Join the conversation every Monday at 3pm EST.

Q1: How do you define an exceptional community experience?

  • An exceptional community experience is all about engagement: members need to get answers
  • An exceptional community experience means interacting with & learning from ppl with shared interests / goals
  • Where everyone knows your name – and glad you came 🙂
  • A place were members feel welcomed and are not afraid to ask questions

Q2: What do you do differently as a community builder when you are focused on experience?

  • Rather than trying to give answers, I stimulate conversations and encourage others to answers
  • Focus on interaction and conversation – always say thank you
  • Train members on the features and layout of the community: help them use the tools & organize content
  • Ask members about their interests and what they want to learn
  • Focus on interesting content rather than pushing yours
  • Learn about your membership, identify your power users, and engage them

Q3: Why should community builders be focused on community experience?

  • Communities are like restaurants: the experience is as important as the meal
  • Members don’t only want answers, but friendly interaction and relationships as well
  • Like where you work, the environment is everything

Q4: What are the essential elements of an exceptional community experience?

  • Shared experiences, engagement, answers, relationships
  • Supportive environment where everyone can learn from each other

Q5: What are the primary issues or challenges holding many community builders back from taking an experience approach?

  • Management that doesn’t understand community
  • A community needs to have an environment & conversations before focusing on metrics
  • Not taking the time to build trust and relationships with members
  • Fear of companies, the CMGR, moderators of real engagement – show your personality

Q6: What is an exceptional community experience you’ve had? What made it special to you?

  • It’s all about being recognized by the CMGR and the membership
  • Having a community where you can always get answers – a knowledge base that talks to you

Thanks for reading, I would love your comments.  Please stop by #ContentChat and join the conversation.

Cheers,

Toby

 

 

#TwitterSmarter: Mastering Real-Time Content Curation with Twitter

My recap and answers I have provided for the 9/28/2017 #TwitterSmarter chat hosted by @MadalynSklar and guest @Ross_Quintana.  Join the conversation every Thursday at 1pm EST.

twittersmarter

Q1: What Makes Twitter Important as a Social Platform for Brands?

  • Twitter makes it easy to find and connect with thought leaders & customers
  • Twitter will aid with SEO and drive traffic to your site or community
  • lists & a dashboard makes is so easy to socially listen and engage

Q2: How has Content Curation Evolved on Twitter?

  • You only have 140: be efficient, use graphics or video, & URLs with utm codes
  • Using lists makes it easy to send the right content to the right audience

Q3: Why does the Real-time Nature of Twitter Matter to Your Content Strategy?

  • Real time is great when attending conferences and trade shows – helps create a buzz
  • Twitter makes it easy to engage with customers when they reach out to you

Q4: What are Many Businesses Failing on Twitter and Why?

  • Business fails on twitter: 1) Too much brand talk 2) Not engaging customers 3) Not relevant tweets
  • Twitter fails: 1) Not measuring via utm codes 2) Tweeting too often 3) Arguing in public
  • Not using pictures, graphics, or video in tweets

Q5: What Types of Content Should I Curate and What Format Works Best?

  • Depends on your audience. For example, a B2B – best practices & how-to’s can work best
  • If you are a restaurant: what are your daily specials? Include pictures
  • Experiment and measure – keep what works, change what is not

Q6: What is Anchor Content and How Can I Use It?

  • Anchor Content = a custom url with your brand name in it
  • Anchor content is your brand’s tweeting backbone – what will help your customer / audience the most

Q7: How Much Self-promotion Should I Do and What are the Best Ways to Do It?

  • Brands do need to promote & show thought leadership, but 70% should be customer-centric
  • Write a blog with a customer who uses your product – about you, but with a trusted endorsement
  • If you are providing trusted, customer valued content, THEY will promote it for you

Q8: How Can I Optimize My Content Curation Efforts and Be Data-Driven?

  • Add utm codes to your url and let Google Analytics tell the story

If #Twitter is part of your business, and it better be, please join #twittersmarter to interact with fellow professionals and learn some great Twitter tips.  I look forward to your questions and comments.

Best,

Toby

#Bufferchat: Day In The Life (Of A Social Media Manager)

Bufferchat

My recap of the 9/27/2017 #Bufferchat hosted by @buffer.  Join the conversation every Wednesday at 12pm EST.

Q1: What is the first thing you do when you get started with work for the day?

  • Job 1 is to check mentions / direct messages in my community & on Twitter
  • I purposely do not start with email at that can often be a black hole
  • I check into my board to see what projects are pressing

Q2: What are your main areas of focus in your work as a social media manager?

  • Curate content for social platforms – rather than thought leadership, I seek customer-centric
  • Find content that Account Managers and Sales ppl can use to best engage customers
  • Share content that educates and interests my customers
  • How can I educate and help people in a way that starts conversations – it’s not called “social” media for nothing

Q3: How do you organize/structure your work day with tasks/projects?

  • To stay on track, I use Outlook reminders and boards to organize tasks and projects
  • Schedule my tweets and blog posts with and

Q4: Approximately how long do you spend directly on social media platforms throughout your work day?

  • When I am scheduling tweets and blogs, that is the most time, but about 2 hours a day is normal
  • I always respond to direct messages and mentions – customers expect (and deserve) acknowledgement
  • Ensure you have a social dashboard – it will make content easy to digest

Q5: As a social media manager, do you collaborate with a team or mainly work autonomously? Which do you prefer?

  • I collaborate with a team to triage questions that arrive via social
  • I curate content a place it into a social library for the team to use
  • For the most part, I work alone, but find, create, and share content to help others

Q6: Which part of your work do you enjoy the most, and why?

  • Conversations, conversations, conversations
  • It is fantastic to sit back and watch community members help one another
  • If I get a like, comment, or questions on content I have created – I am rewarded.
  • When I check Google Analytics as see that ppl are not only clicking my links, but spending time on site too
  • Tweetchats are not only important parts, but very rewarding

Q7: If you had more hours in the day to focus on new skills or projects for your social media work, what would you focus on?

  • I would like to improve my HTML chops
  • More webinars, classes, and learning in general – maybe start a podcast
  • Develop the perfect analytics platform

Thanks again @buffer – see everyone next week!  If you have questions about online communities, I am always happy to chat.

Cheers,

Toby