Your Utility Infielder & Company MVP

cmgr

I am often asked: “Under what department does a community belong?” As you see from my simple slide, the Community Manager supports and contributes throughout the company.

Social Media, Customer Service, Technical Support, Marketing, Product Development – these are essentials your community can deliver. Setting up a community and choosing the right platform is a different discussion, but before doing either, start with a qualified Community Manager.

Where does your community live?

Cheers,

Toby

 

Communities ARE Social Media

SocialandCommunity

There is confusion about the relation between these two and the misunderstanding that communities are not social media.  Not so.  Social Media is a form of electronic communication that consists of different platforms; communities are one of those platforms.  How do you want to engage?

Social Media defined by  Merriam Webster:

Forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content.

Online Communities defined by  CommonCraft.com:

An online community is a group of people with common interests who use the Internet (web sites, email, instant messaging, etc) to communicate, work together and pursue their interests over time.

Social networks like Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook are fun and sexy: they are used for social listening, brand promotion, and limited customer engagement.  Communities are electronic Town Halls that enable conversations and deeper engagement: customers provide feedback, comments, and questions; brands have obligation to respond.

No matter brand promotion, customer service, or customer engagement, you must understand your audience: what networks are they using, and where you are comfortable engaging.  As with anything: you need the right tool for the right job.  For social media, you need the right network to reach customers and have the right conversations. Communities are social media.

Where do your conversations happen?

Cheers,

Toby

 

 

The Community Manager – Metrics

web_analytics_metrics_lifecycle_process

This is the third installment in my Community Manager series.  I believe in managing people over spreadsheets, but without defined measurements, you will not know if you are on the way to meeting your goals or what corrections to make.  In this blog, I will discuss setting and measuring goals for your community as well as Twitter.

Size vs Collaboration:

It happens all the time, no matter a community or Twitter account, too much attention is given to membership size rather than engagement.  You may have a community of 200k; if they are not asking and answering each other’s questions, you have a group of individuals, NOT a community.  The same goes for Twitter Followers: without engagement, you have the modern equivalent of a failed email distribution list.

Active Users:

How many of your members are active each month or quarter? Active users are those who are participating: they have logged in, asked a question, contributed to a discussion, liked a comment or discussion topic, or provided an answer or or marked an answer correct.

Answer Rate vs Engagement Rate:

As you build your community, you will be generating the majority of the content as well as providing the answers.  As your community matures the content flow will shift: members will not only start discussions, but will also answer questions.  For each month and quarter, how many questions have answers that have been marked correct?  For each question asked, how many get a response; not just answers, but clarifying questions?  Engagement rate is more important than correct answer rate: answers may not always be marked as correct by the original poster, but you want to ensure when a question is asked, a response has been provided.

Measuring Engagement – Twitter

  1. Likes and Like-Ratio
  2. ReTweets
  3. Replies
  4. Lists

Social Promotion

Successful tweeting is more than casting a wide net via multiple tweets.  What are the best times of day to tweet, how many times week should I tweet?  Google Analytics and UTM codes can help you.  These four are indicators of both traffic and engagement:

  1. Sessions
  2. New Users
  3. Pages / Session
  4. Ave. Session Duration

How are you measuring your community?  What tools do you use?  Thanks for commenting.

Cheers,

Toby

The Community Manager – Part 2

Content

In part 1, I introduced the community manager’s role in setting standards and mindset; this blog is about content creation.  If yours is an SMB size firm, you may be responsible for social media efforts in addition to your community responsibilities.  A larger firm may separate Social from Community, but you best understand the tools for listening and sharing as well as what makes content valuable to customers.

As a community manager, you engage with community members as well as socially listen to what others say about your brand: what do your customers like and care about, where are their pain points?  Don’t post to post; as a community manger, your focus is providing value.

No matter if it is internal or third party content, you should find and share things your customers will value.  A knowledge base article or YouTube video that solves a technical problem, a blog about upcoming product changes and what has been improved for their benefit, a piece written by a third party thought leader discussing industry trends.  Find and share things that help and educate them rather than simply promoting your brand.

Don’t push content… connect.

Looking forward to your comments.

Best,

Toby

The Community Manager – Part 1

be-nice

What does a community manager do?  What skills are required?  This is the first in a multi-part series written to answer those questions.  This post will discuss setting standards and having the right mindset.  Imagine Dalton not as a Cooler, but a Community Manager…

“Be Nice”
A Community Manager’s job is to build relationships, listen to and help community members, and steer discussions; all while staying positive.  It is important to set standards and be firm, but be nice.  Make your positive attitude contagious.

“Nobody ever wins a fight”
It can feel good to get the best of a troll, but there will always be another.  Never get caught up in the anger of someone who only seeks to throw bombs or attack others – delete the post, block the troll, and move on. Community members look to you to set the tone: if you are rude and attack others, they will too.

“I want you to remember that it’s a job. It’s nothing personal”
Never let a troll get the best of you by invading your head.  No matter the community, members will have opinions about the way do do a job or solve a problem: as the Community Manager, it is your responsibility to see that conversations stay on track and remain professional.  You brand or company is not a damsel in distress that needs to be saved; allowing objective disagreement builds credibility.  Stay on topic and NEVER let a discussion become an argument.

“People who really want to have a good time won’t come to slaughterhouse”
No matter your community: business / hobby, internal / external – members join to learn from one another, to share best practices, and help each other solve problems.  No one wants to read personal rants or get attacked for their opinions: a bad environment will not only hinder discussion, it WILL destroy your membership.

Be fair, Be firm, Be nice
I welcome your comments.
Cheers,
Toby

Honesty, Transparency, and Sunlight

Transparency

No matter if you are politician, business person, or social media pro, you (should) seek to gain trust and the loyalty it provides.  Trust.  So hard to earn and so easy to lose.

You reach a crossroad and you are not sure which path to take; do I need to defend my brand or organization?  When that time comes, ask yourself and those in the room: will this decision pass the “sunlight test?”  If what you are trying to hide reaches the sunlight, what will people think?  Why would you be hiding this in the first place?

You may need to break a tie or relationship, but you will be right with a clear conscience and respected reputation.

Your comments are welcome.

Best,

Toby

You Need A Clubhouse

Clubhouse

Online communities have proven value and you need one:

  • A low cost and trusted customer service channel
  • A focus group that will yield better results than a survey
  • A way to interact with and build trust with your customers

Great. Let’s build that clubhouse, but where?  What are the features we want?  How can we provide a great user experience?  How much will it cost?

If you are looking to do this on the cheap, LinkedIn Groups or a G+ Community (yes Google Plus is still around), are fine options without any cost to you.  The snag with both is limited or no reporting regarding community health as well as cataloging / recalling conversations.  Check out both by joining group on both platforms (before starting yours) and make notes of what you like and what you don’t.  Maybe you do have some money to spend.

If paid options don’t scare you, I recommend Jive and Lithium.  Both of these platforms are easy  for your customers to use and can be utilized for internal and external communities.  There is quite a bit more set up required for these options, but the reporting and user experience is much better.

No matter your budget, do not go forth without a Community Manager, clear goals for your community, and metrics that define success.  Building a community takes time and I am happy to discuss that too; first decide where you want to build your clubhouse.

As always, your comments and questions are most appreciated.

Best,

Toby

Don’t Be Afraid – Engage

Constructive

Social media is a funny thing: brands covet its reach, but often forget about engaging with those who provide valuable feedback.  Finding the right channel(s), social listening, and crafting the right outgoing messages are important, but without engagement, you will not be trusted; without trust, you will not succeed.  Let’s discuss keys to engagement and resolution.

Problem:

The customer reaches out via Tweet, Facebook, or a post within your community with a constructive, objective issue they have with your product or service.

Process:

  • The customer should receive a response within the hour
  • Apologize and show empathy
  • Research the customer’s history:
    • Products utilized
    • Their past issues
    • Is there already an open case for this issue?
  • If possible, answer the question at the initial contact; if an off-line chat is needed, offer the customer communication options:
    • Instant message
    • A link to a related discussion within your community
    • A private chat room within your community
    • A one on one phone call that may include a WebEx session
  • Engage, listen, understand:
    • Problem scope
    • Business impact
    • Pain points
    • Customer expectations
  • Offer solutions that are a win-win
  • Get customer buy-in to your solution and its timeline
  • Deliver results
  • Confirm customer satisfaction

Reminders:

  • Never take things personally or argue publicly with the customer
  • This may be an opportunity to improve your product or service
  • If this is a recurring issue, eliminating issue eliminates future cases
  • The customer may not be as familiar with the product line as you; he is frustrated and deserves your attention and help.
  • All companies and services encounter problems, the very best acknowledge them and respond creating brand advocates and loyal customers.

critics

Don’t fear complaints.  Engage with customers, take ownership, fix the issue, amaze them, and build advocates.

What are your engagement challenges or fears?

Best,

Toby

 

 

 

 

 

Sticks, Stones, and Advocates

Trolls

If you are a blogger, community manager, or simply spend time on social media, you have had a run in with a troll.  Rather than using their experience to help others, trolls concern themselves with asking “gotcha” questions or starting arguments with other others for the purpose of attention.  It is important to have an engagement plan of how to deal with them.  Here are some simple guidelines to get you started:
If the post, tweet, or comment is a legitimate complaint:

  • Your response should come within the hour
  • Apologize and show empathy
  • Answer the question or provide a resolution
  • Confirm resolution, satisfaction, and thank the customer
If the subject seems to be a troll’s rant:
  • Your response should come within the hour
  • Ask the poster to define his expectatiions
  • Offer a private engagement channel like phone or email (NEVER argue with troll in public)
  • Fighting with a Toll will only encourage him to continue – sometimes ignoring or deleting the comment is best

Before responding, step back and remember there are objective third parties who see the difference between a legitimate customer complaint and a troll’s rant.  If the post is a legitimate complaint: excellent, you have an opportunity on your hands because all brands encounter problems from time to time – the great ones acknowledge and overcome them.  It is not always what is said about your brand, but how you respond to it.  People follow you on Twitter or join your community to learn from and engage with like minded folks; they do not want to be bullied or read fights.  It is often best practice to not respond to trolls, but sometimes these folks can be transformed in to brand advocates.

As always – I welcome you comments.
Best,
Toby

Growing Your Community

Hootchat

Improve your customer engagement and customer service with an online community.  This is my recap of the 12/17 #Hootchat hosted by @HootCommunity.

Q1: What are the first steps to building a new online community

  • Know why you are building the community: customer service, engagement, marketing
  • Determine the best platform: Paid: or Free: LinkedIn or G+

Q2: What are some strong brands with online communities

Q3: What are common mistakes when trying to grow your online community?

  • Trying to grow too big too fast & prioritizing member numbers over engagement
  • Not having a clear definition of success
  • Putting up a community without a Community Manager

Q4: What are ways you can engage your online community offline?

  • Engage via: private chat, email, or my old school method… the phone & have an actual conversation
  • WebEx conferences with community members – Google Hangouts or Skype work too
  • Some platforms allow private groups – create one and invite your MVP / power users

Q5: How does growing your online community help build brand credibility?

  • The more conversations you have, the more loyal your customer, the more loyal – the more they talk about you
  • Along with credibility, you have a great customer service and solutions place as peers trust each other
  • Support communities are AWESOME customer service centers: trusted, fast, and low-cost

Q6: How do you identify potential advocates and ambassadors from your online community?

  • Analytics: How often they come, how many answers they provide, answers marked correct by others
  • What is the “tone” of their conversations? How do they engage other members?
  • Get into your community and participate

Q7: What are some non-traditional ways to grow your online community?

  • Start with a tweetchat, build a list, slowly invite people from the list into the community
  • No matter how you find and invite – DO IT SLOWLY – set up the space, be ready for volume, have content
  • NEVER invite ppl to an empty room – have a team to greet & respond as well as content for them to consume

Q8: What is one thing you can do right now to start growing your online community?

  • Know WHY you are building it
  • Have customer-centric content
  • Participate & respond to questions

A more complete transcript is available in my Storify recap.  Please join #Hootchat every Thursday at 3pm EST.  Thank you for your attention; please leave your comments and questions.