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?

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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

 

#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

 

 

Before The Wheels Come Off The Wagon

o-COMPLAINING-facebook

Your company has an online community and utilizes social media – GREAT!  Listening to and engaging with your customers is always a great idea, but this blog is not about social benefits; I am going to discuss planning for the inevitable problem.

No matter your product or service, there is no way to avoid problems and the public complaints that follow: mistakes will be made and customers will get upset.  They will turn to Twitter, Facebook, or your Community to let you (and the public) know about their pain.  How are you going to triage and manage these complaints and keep drips from becoming a flood?  Have a plan.

Each firm has different staffing levels and available resources; this chart is a guide to help you formulate your triage plan.  No plan is perfect, nor will it prevent issues; however great companies do not hide from trouble, they take ownership and tackle it.

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Don’t let your fear of public complaints keep you from utilizing social media or creating a community.  Have a plan and the thick skin to deal with it – your customers will reward you for it.

I welcome your questions and comments.

Best,

Toby

#Bufferchat: Building Digital Skills

Buffer

My recap of the 9/13/2017 #Bufferchat hosted by @buffer.  Join the conversation every Wednesday at 12pm EST.

Q1: How do you make time for building new skills?

  • Building new skills must be done – boost your productivity and work smarter
  • Often I learn about new tools during tweetchats, make note of them, then check them out later
  • You cannot afford to not continuing to educate yourself

Q2: In your opinion, what are the 3 key skills marketers need today?

  • The ability to listen – The willingness to respond – Pick the right social networks

Q3: Do you feel like marketers need to learn coding skills? Why or why not?

  • Coding? I guess it depends on how the marketer is reaching their targets
  • Having HTML knowledge is important

Q4: What do you think businesses can do to help close the “digital skills gap” that exists today?

  • Do a better job with FAQs or Self-help documentation for their products
  • Set up online communities so customers can visit, discuss, and learn from each other
  • Online communities help your customers help each other (and lower costs) Sponsor meetups or write blogs that cover how-to issues
  • Send their employees to training sessions

Q5: What are low-cost ways you can strengthen your digital skills toolbox?

  • Tweetchats!
  • There are many (free) online tutorials, start with YouTube
  • Don’t just consume – blog about or upload skills you have – you may make some great contacts – share your knowledge
  • Do some searching and find a community that covers the software or skill you want to learn

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

Cheers,

Toby

 

Engagement Before Membership

As a Community Manager, I love interacting with my members as well as talking shop with my fellow CMGRs.  We agree that creating a supportive environment that encourages problem solving and knowledge sharing is the most rewarding part of our job.  We are also metrics junkies always seeking the quantitative data that helps us tell our stories.  Which to you think is more valuable: total membership or engagement?  It is true that the greater your membership, the greater potential you have for reach and engagement; too bad one does not guarantee the other.  No matter your social network or community, without engagement and collaboration your large count is just a list of individuals. Social media networks and communities are about interaction and the sharing of knowledge; the more members / followers who contribute, share, and collaborate with each other, the more valuable the network.

The charts below are from a personal foodie community I created, manage, and am very proud of: We Love to Cook (and Eat) : stop by, ask a question, post a picture, or get hungry.  This group is 564 members strong, very engaged and responsive to one another.

In the last 28 days, 416 of the 564 members are active, that’s 74%!  From the 2nd chart: for 136 posts, there are 426 comments and 1,609 reactions .  Numbers like this make me proud: not only are members active (4.85 posts per day), but they are engaging with and responding to one another.  No matter your social network or community, without engagement and collaboration your large count is just a list rather than an asset.

How can engagement make a positive impact in my B2B community?

  1. A better educated customer
  2. Reduced volume of formal cases
  3. A knowledge base of solutions and best practices
  4. Problems get solved by other community members (customers)
  5. A consistently growing volume of keyword rich content boosts SEO
  6. Company participation builds trust, rapport, and loyalty with customers

In short, build your community and engage within it; membership is easy, but engagement provides value.

I look forward to your questions and comments.

Cheers,

Toby

Please note: Facebook defines Active Members as: Members who viewed, posted, commented on or reacted to group content.