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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