The community management practice is still relatively new within organizations, both big and small. And with that newness comes a lot of room for very real growing pains.
In fact, if you were to survey community managers from various brands around the world and ask them what their day-to-day jobs were like, we’re pretty sure the definitions of their roles would be across the board.
So we did just that and, not surprisingly, we got a whole slew of different answers. However, something quickly caught our attention. While it was abundantly clear that the community manager role can’t really be defined in any “cookie cutter” sort of way, what we immediately noticed was that the challenges they regularly face within their respective organizations seemed to be, surprisingly, quite similar.
So what are those obstacles, you ask? Look no further. Here’s a quick summary of what the community managers surveyed had to say. By no means is this an exhaustive list. However, we’re fairly certain you’ll be able to relate to each in some way.
“A wise person once told me to concentrate your efforts on the supporters and not expend energy on trying to overcome the skeptics,” recounts Mark Hopkins ( @Mark_Hopkins) , Community Team Manager at Lenovo. There’s a lot of truth to this. However, as with any new discipline within an organization, there is always a certain amount of convincing required to make people believe that the work you’re doing within and for your community adds long-term value. This is especially true as many senior stakeholders, who are likely many steps removed from a brand’s community, may not actually know what the purpose of a community is or how, by having one in place, a business can benefit. In fact, many may just think it’s an extension of marketing or something to do with “social media.” It’s your job to make them see the light.
To get over the hump of internal resistance – or, rather, to convert some of those skeptics into supporters – it’s important to build a strong business case that clearly identifies how creating, nurturing, and growing a community can positively impact a business’ broader goals and objectives, supporting the argument with solid metrics that simply quantify that impact. A great example of this comes from our friends at Sony Europe. By gaining internal support to migrate Sony’s European community to Lithium, the company not only reduced costs by €4 million, but also drove online sales growth (€2 million) and increased overall user engagement, helping Sony Europe reach the goal of filling its community with nearly 100% user-generated content (vs. 80% pre-Lithium).
Never Enough Resources
Whether it’s a need for additional headcount, updated tools and platforms, or just incremental budget to launch a new program or initiative – community management teams tend to get the short end of the stick. (Especially in the all-too-common cases when said “team” is merely a mighty team of one!) So with the same fervor you used to convince your senior stakeholders to support building a community in the first place, use that energy to chart a course for more resources. “Persistence is the key,” encourages Stephen Fell (@Fellsteruk) , Senior Online Engagement and Content Manager at TalkTalk, “and making sure ROI can be clearly understood.”
It’s easy to feel like you’re getting caught between a rock and a hard place with these conversations – either sounding like the squeaky wheel constantly asking for more budget and resources or endlessly having to come up with creative ways (read: solutions) to do everything that needs to get done without any change to the status quo. Claudius Henrichs (@Claudius) , Community Manager at Skype, suggests, “Ask yourself the question: How can I grow my community without continuously increasing investment for moderation?” While additional budget and resources are always welcome, it won’t solve every single one of your problems. Sometimes it’s a matter of more effectively engaging internal teams or even activating your community in a more direct way to manage through those growing pains.
However, at Lithium, we understand that building an on-going business case with your senior stakeholders comes with the territory of community management. So we’ve created some helpful tips on How to Talk Strategically About Social with Senior Executives that will get you headed in the right direction. It all comes down to being prepared to answer the questions that will inevitably pop up, ensuring you’re never caught off guard when asking for more support.
Forgetting to Actively Listen – and Respond Accordingly
It’s easy to forget, amidst a piling up to-do list, that, as a community manager, your primary focus should always be your community. And while that may seem like a no-brainer, our everyday tasks sometimes get in the way. So it’s important to give yourself the helpful reminder that your role is, first and foremost, to listen and respond to your community. “You need to stand beside your community as a representative of your brand,” advises Timothy Hanslow (@Tim_h) , Social Care Manager at Vodafone Australia.
What makes communities so special is the conversation, engagement, and energy from its members. They are a part of a community because they want to be a part of it – not because they have to – which means there’s a sort of emotional involvement or attachment that comes along with it. But, unfortunately, there are always those times when emotions among the community run high and you are inadvertently put in a sticky situation. Just think of it as your true moment to shine. So then, how do you deal with it? Just listen – actively.
Your members may want to vent about whatever is on their mind. Listen. They may want to share their somewhat unfiltered opinions about your brand. Listen. They may want you to solve an issue for them – immediately. Just listen. (Are you seeing a trend here?) Let them vent, listen closely, acknowledge their concerns, and then find the easiest way to make everything good again. Whether they are “right” or “wrong” should never cross your mind. However, by listening closely, you can glean incredible insights and ideas from them that could, quite conceivably, make your community better and stronger in the long-run. Remember to stay focused on your end goal – to create the best possible community experience for your members at all times – and be open to taking any challenge that comes your way and turning it into an opportunity to innovate.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them?
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Wow, thanks for raising this @niiiiiiiiiik ! This app was published before my time, I wasn't aware it was still around. We'll look into getting it removed from the App store to avoid confusion.
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Thanks @Wendy_S and @Toby, glad you enjoyed the article! We have more like it in queue which we hope you'll find useful as well. And kudos to our Lithium Stars for sharing their experiences and pro-tips!
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Managing communities isn’t easy. In fact, it takes a lot of stamina, willpower, and determination – not to mention, dedication! – to ensure that everything is running like clockwork 24/7. For many of today’s community managers, especially those leading the communities of the world’s biggest brands, each day can be a new adventure filled with twists, turns, and unexpected surprises.
So we thought we’d reach out to some of our star community managers to get the inside scoop on what it takes to succeed in this fun, but ever-changing environment. Here’s what they had to say.
Love What You Do
It’s hard to manage a community without passion. You’ve got to “love your company, love your customers, and love your team,” says Jenn Chen ( @jchen ) , Community Manager at Intuit Demandforce, “These will be the people who can make or break your day.” Those words couldn’t be any truer. As a community manager, you’re the liaison between your brand and the customers who love, follow, and support that brand. You’re just as much an advocate for your brand as you are an advocate for your customers. In many ways, community managers are the most direct link between brands and customers, essentially acting as the “hub” for content and conversation that can build brand loyalty and earn trust. So it goes without saying you’ve got to approach what you do from a place of love and pride – anything less will show.
Don’t Lose Sight of the “Big Picture”
To be successful, you’ve really got to think big. Everything you do should ladder up to broader business goals. “Run it like you would run your own business,” advises Darren Choo ( @darren ), Social CRM Manager at StarHub. Although it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day operations of managing your community – because, let’s face it, there’s never a dull moment – you need to constantly remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing in the first place. Your community doesn’t operate in a vacuum, neither should how you manage it. Every action matters. That’s why it’s important to ask yourself (again and again): How is my community making a positive impact on the business? Managing a community isn’t just about your daily tasks. It’s about leveraging the community to help your business achieve its goals. How your community impacts those goals may be big or small – in many ways, the impact you can make is entirely up to you – but, either way, the work you do should never be seen or done in a vacuum. By aligning your your actions to broader business goals and proving the success associated with helping to achieve those goals, you will not only be more effective (and empowered) in what you do, but also, and more importantly, it will give you a solid foundation to grow your program over time.
Get Everyone On Board
Many people with an organization, especially the senior most stakeholders, are still unclear as to how a community can be core to business success. “Make sure you can measure your efforts to prove you’re constantly adding value,” says Stephen Fell ( @Fellsteruk ), Senior Online and Engagement Manager at TalkTalk. Investing in building a community, creating content that engages the community, and activating that community to serve as an extension of your brand’s customer support services is still not exactly a no-brainer for many companies. In fact, as a community manager, you constantly have to build a solid business case and rally your stakeholders around the benefits that a strong (and growing) community can bring to the business as a whole. You need the support of the people around you – from product to marketing to legal to engineering – to succeed. So be sure to take time to get everyone on the same page. It will definitely pay off in the long run.
Listen, Respond, Engage
Being a community manager takes a lot of love, but it also requires an unyielding sense of authenticity. Communities are sensitive to anything short of being 100% genuine. “Make it personal,” advises Wendy Schippers ( @Wendy_S ), Community Manager at Hewlett Packard, “Get to know your members…and be the glue that ties them together.” Your role is to create a dialogue with your customers, not simply push out content and information to them. You’ve got to tune in to what they’re saying, respond to their thoughts and concerns with empathy, and speak to them as though they are your peers and colleagues. Timothy Hanslow ( @Tim_h ), Social Care Manager at Vodafone Australia reiterates that you’ve got to “be humble, always.” There’s no place for ego in community management. Your role is to support your community every step of the way.
Stay Ahead of the Curve
As technology evolves, your community must evolve, too. “Stay on top of the latest platforms, features, industry trends, and best practices,” advises Claudius Henrichs ( @Claudius ) , Community Manager at Skype. “You need to constantly improve your community so that it does not ever fall behind.” It’s important to keep an ear turned towards what’s happening in the world around you. Technology is changing at a frenetic pace these days. It’s your responsibility to seize, embrace, and take advantage of every opportunity to make your community better. In doing so, you’ll keep the experience fresh for your customers, help them stay engaged, and position your brand as a perennial trend-setter.
What other pro tips do you have to share?
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