Brian Oblinger is a Senior Social Solutions Consultant at Lithium, applying his 7+ years of experience in community management and moderation to help customers get the most out of their communities.
He is a dedicated member of the Lithosphere and goes by BrianO there. You can follow him on twitter at @brianoblinger.
For many organizations, it might sound something like this:
“You’re hired! Now go run our entire social program! Be sure to make us extra social-y!”
“We know that you’ve been working in <insert department name here> for the past few years. Do you think you can run a community thing for us? By the way, that’s not really a question. You can start today.”
Or even this:
“We saw that you have a twitter account and have been responding to customers. When was that added to your job description? Oh, it wasn’t? Well, keep up the good work. Can’t wait to see the weekly report every Monday morning!”
No matter how you arrived on the community management scene, there are some things that you should know to help you get started. In a recent post on prdaily.com, Janet Aronica laid out 10 tips for the new community manager that ranged from tactics to tools of the trade. That got us thinking about some additional things we’ve learned in the last 10+ years at Lithium around Community Management, and naturally, we thought we’d share.
Audience, Culture, and Voice – For anyone entering the community management space, it is extremely important to understand both the internal and external audiences that you will be interacting with on a daily basis. Once you get a sense of the culture that permeates from within each, you can begin building a voice that resonates with key influencers. With each status update, tweet, post, and e-mail, you are not only working to build your organization’s brand, but also your own personal brand.
As a Community Manager, others will look to you as the face of the organization. As such, it is critically important to gain the trust of those you communicate with and build a reputation that suits the culture of your peers and external audience. The stock you build each day will become increasingly important down the line.
Understand the Brand – Often times there is a disparity between the way that an organization starting out with a community initiative perceives its brand versus the way customers perceive the brand. Social interactions with your customers will bring those disparities to light, and as a Community Manager it is your job to communicate back into your organization what your loyal customers really think about your products/services and affect change.
Your community will tell you what they really think. You just have to listen, respond, and act accordingly.
Who owns this thing? – Although you may be the one appointed to oversee the day-to-day operations of a community and make sure that things run smoothly, it is important to pay attention to feedback from your users and allow them some say in what goes on in the community.
Dictatorships coupled with harsh moderation tactics don’t go over well in the social space. Instead, work with your users to ensure that they are getting the most out of the community and have a positive experience. Granted, there is a fine line between working with your users to create a positive place and letting the inmates run the asylum. Do your best to strike a balance that works for the majority of your user base (hint: you’ll never please everyone).
Build Your Case – Chances are that you won’t go very long without being required to regularly prove the value of the community to key stakeholders within your organization. Set forth a reporting plan from day one that captures metrics, anecdotes, and ROI information.
Create and regularly update an easily-digestible 1 or 2-page report that you can hand to anyone in your organization at a moment’s notice that displays the value of the community (to help you get started, Lithium provides a robust set of metrics including the Engagement Center, which displays key metrics in a dashboard format). Don’t allow yourself to be caught in the scramble when the CEO suddenly discovers the community and wants to know why he/she is spending good money for customers to complain about your products/services (from his/her perspective at first glance). It is your job to educate folks internally.
Ask For Help – Don’t know where to go from here? Aside from successfully advising Community Managers for the better part of the last decade, many members of the Customer Success Team at Lithium have years of direct community management experience under our belts to pull from. We would be happy to help!
Additionally, we have spent a great amount of effort to make the Lithosphere one of the best resources on the web for Community Managers. Feel free to take a look around, ask for help, and connect with other Community Managers right here.