Why community management isn’t really new

Everybody is talking about community management these days and newcomers sometimes struggle to grasp the concepts behind this practice that’s burst onto the online marketing scene. What separates community management from social media marketing? Are Twitter followers a community to be managed? How does community management translate into profit?

These are all relevant questions and answering them will help you get to the core of what community management actually is. But the first important thing to realize is that community management isn’t really new; it’s been around for a long, long time. The only difference in recent years is that communities are finally flourishing online and marketers are cracking the code to purposefully build up and mobilize them on behalf of businesses and products.

Let’s consider what a community actually is. What are some communities we all know from before the digital age? There religious congregations, neighborhood organizations, fans of a particular team or even a particular sport and many, many more. What do these examples all have in common? Several things, in fact, but one element, in particular, makes all of the communities: complete strangers being brought together in cooperation around a shared interest.

In religious communities, that shared interest is faith and, basically, the morals and rules that govern life and the universe. As we all know, this is a particularly powerful common interest, but one that can be broken down into countless smaller denominations, each of which forms a community inside of a community. Neighborhood organizations share the interest of maintaining a clean and safe neighborhood while sports fans care about their team winning and sharing the good and bad times with other fans.

These same principles can be applied to brand communities. Let’s examine the Nike brand as an example. Of course, no one is going to believe in Nike gear the way they have faith in a deity or root for Nike’s success the way they would for a sports club, but they can believe in the values that Nike actively promotes and the persona it creates for itself: fitness, health, high performance, invigorating physical challenges and even a sense of adventure and accomplishment. When you buy Nike, you aren’t just getting a pair of cool shoes, you are pushing yourself to achieve more and tackle life head-on.

Communities of the past tended to grow somewhat organically (even religious missionaries can be thought of in many cases as individual activists from within the community) but today, communities like Nike’s are grown and fed with purpose and direction. Nike’s community managers help promote the values that bring strangers together to cooperate under the Nike umbrella (and buy its products). Nike hosts and promotes fitness events for its community and gives them tools to connect and communicate with one another in workout groups and apps that share your running stats.

As we can see, communities are nothing new, they are simply being pursued with nuanced understanding and purpose in a way they never have. But what about community management specifically? If communities in the old days developed naturally, who were the community managers?

Well, pre-internet community managers probably didn’t see or understand themselves as such. But they were community managers nonetheless. A priest, a rabbi and an imam walk into a bar. “What can I get you?” asks the bartender. “A pint of whatever we can give our followers to make our faith more valuable to them,” they reply. Religious leaders have been some of history’s most organized community managers, bringing believers together and communicating messages that connect them more intimately with their faith. True, these messages sometimes included intimidation and fear, but it worked.

Clergy members throughout history engaged in philanthropy, resolved disputes, forgave sins and threatened followers with eternal damnation all in the name of the building and maintaining a community surrounding their religion. To varying degrees, all communities have had community managers, they just wouldn’t have labeled themselves as such.

Now brands can see that community management is essentially tapping into an ancient, biological need among human beings to coalesce and cooperate around common goals and interests. This new perspective on communities is allowing businesses to not just attract customers, but entire groups of engaged individuals who believe in what a brand does and produces, becoming advocates and a trusted base for business along the way.

5 interesting stats about brand communities

What’s all this hype about brand communities? It seems like a lot of extra work for little gain. Why put in all that effort to build a community of people who might be interested in your product but spend most of your time and resources discussing things that are only vaguely related to your business? Doesn’t this fall into the counterproductive category?

Well, there are plenty of reasons what it doesn’t. You expect your family and friends to be there for you when you need them and that’s what a brand community is to a business, not to mention between members. The brand community is your base to build on, and it’s made up of people who believe in what you believe in. Still not convinced? Here are a few interesting stats that show the power of brand communities:

1. 30% of consumers follow brands on social media

If you want to reach your audience where they are, there’s no better place to do that than establishing a strong brand presence on social media. According to Global Web Index, one-third of consumers actively follow brands on social media. Perhaps a clever post made them laugh once, or maybe they get useful information about products they own or future sales by subscribing on their social feeds. These are people actively engaging with brands – definitely the mindset you want in your core audience.

2. Almost as many use brand communities for research

Nearly the same number of consumers use brand communities to get information, solve a problem or research what brand of product to buy. Without a strong community of your own, you’re missing out on an opportunity to have interested consumers find you. This is all about availability. If people can’t find you, how will they know about you?

3. 80% of marketers say brand communities has increased traffic

Hubspot statistics show that an overwhelming majority of marketing experts have enjoyed significant increases in traffic because of their brand communities. Think about it. The content you share in a community is being shared with people who you already know are interested and are therefore likely to click through, not to mention share it with others. By providing added value to a targeted group of individuals, you are extending your reach and bringing more attention to your brand in the best way possible.

4. 80% of consumers choose to follow brand they feel are authentic

What we choose to follow and engage with on social media platforms is somewhat indicative of our priorities in life, and no one gets very excited about an inaccessible, unfriendly company. Building a strong brand community requires authenticity, but also produces authenticity. You are making yourself available for interaction and showing in one way or another that your goal isn’t to sell a product or service, it’s to positively impact lives through your service or product. There’s a big difference.

5. 64% of brands say their communities have helped them make better decisions

But brand communities aren’t one-sided relationships. While consumers get the kind of interaction they want from a company, you get to enjoy an easily observable pool of knowledge and public opinion that will help you improve your business and your product. The community is your safe place, where you can ask for input, discuss possible futures and take note of reactions before aiming for a larger audience.

Building a community may seem like a bit of extra work at first glance, but dig a bit deeper. These stats and many others are proof that these communities are no trend. They are the most effective way to establish a base of customers and then spread the word from a place of stability. Isn’t that the dream of every business?

 

How brand communities can help in a business crisis

One of the best reasons to keep yourself surrounded by a strong and carrying community is to have the support you need when you need it most. People often turn to their religious communities if they’ve lost a loved one and homeless people go to soup kitchens for food provided by the community in times of need. That is also one of the greatest benefits of keeping your brand community close at all times.

Imagine you’re in crisis mode. You’re in the grips of a PR disaster or sales are plummeting as complaints emerge about one of your core products. What do you do, release an official statement? Consult big data and industry experts to try to find where you went wrong? Stay silent and try to ride out the storm? Maybe. But a brand community opens up several other options. It can help shield you from the worst effects of a crisis and get you back on track sooner than planned.

Brand communities are an extension of yourself – well, sort of. In a time of crisis, they can certainly be thought of as an extra arm, another tool you can leverage to do some damage control. Ideally, this same characteristic of brand communities will help you prevent crises from arising in the first place, but shit happens.

How does a brand community function as an extension of yourself? Well, think of it as an external, organic PR department, effectively multiplying your workforce and ability to spread the message you want to get out there. You can send an official statement out into the void and hope customers see it and are convinced, or you can channel your message through your brand community, where participants are already on your side.

In some cases, you can even ask the community or specific members directly for help in defending your cause. They’ll help you make your case online and show the world that you’ve still got a base of loyal customers. Not only will they help spread your message, but they’ll also be more convincing than any statement you could make thanks to their completely independent status. They aren’t trying to sell anyone anything. They’re just sharing their experience and telling everyone why they still think you’re the best at what you do – like a recommendation from a friend.

Your brand community is essentially the most powerful influence you can have online in case of an emergency. Not only that, they can give you ideas of the best ways to respond, improve a product or change behavior to get yourself out of the hole. They are the trusted bridge between yourself and the rest of the world. Use them wisely.

The difference between discussion platforms, from Telegram to social media

Perhaps the single most important characteristic of the internet is its diversity and flexibility. People from around the world with different ways of looking at any number of topics, small or large, have been able to create an online space for themselves, reflecting who they are and, inevitably, finding others who think similarly.

And this diversity hasn’t only been expressed in the opinions and points of view on various platforms online – it has also been manifested in the platforms themselves. If you see the glass half full, someone else is sure to look at the same glass and see it half empty, and not in a bad way. It’s simply a matter of perspective. In the same way, one person might look at Facebook and see it as the best tool to connect with friends and businesses around the world while someone with a slightly different perspective might find more value in the anonymity of platforms like Reddit or Telegram, the more professional atmosphere of LinkedIn or the length limitations of Twitter.

If we were talking about a set of rules to remember here, this would be the first one: everyone thinks differently, and the diversity of online platforms are a direct reflection of those subtle differences. And rule number two? Online platforms influence the way we think.

Think of it as a circle. We can use the film industry as an example. Filmmakers produce works of art that mirror in many ways what we experience in real life. Films wouldn’t be relatable otherwise. In that way, films are influenced by who we are and how we see the world. But movies also make us see the world in different, sometimes unexpected ways, driving our own evolution. It’s a circle that can’t be stopped, and constantly expands our view of life – and discussion platforms online are very similar in that regard.

The third rule would be that the structure of certain platforms makes them better for certain topics than others. In other words, certain people may be attracted to a certain platform, but certain communities are likely to find a home for discussion based on their shared interest. Telegram is big in the crypto community in part for its notorious level of security. Discord and Twitch are great for gamers and Reddit is good for… well, just about everything.

And why is it important to understand all these nuanced differences between platforms? Because as a community manager, marketing strategist, or even a business owner, you need to know how to reach your audience where they are. You need to know where your product and brand fit in among these online communities. And what if you’re making something completely new that doesn’t fit in anywhere very comfortably? Well, you need to know where to reach the right people who might be attracted to your new type of community.

So don’t take the differences between online discussion platforms for granted. And unless you’ve got an endless budget, don’t try to force a presence everywhere at once. Target the platforms where your audience is and you’re guaranteed to get the best results.

#COMMUNIDAY

Keep networking – You’ll never sustain a strong community if you can’t expand it and grow continuously. Growth doesn’t have to occur on a massive scale, but it must be ongoing and the new people you bring into the fold must be high-quality, engaged participants. Without this continued growth, whatever community you’ve managed to build will eventually stagnate. Older members stop posting and there’s no new blood to bring excitement and new ideas.

The only way to maintain this basic element of growth is to keep networking. And that means being active across multiple channels, even ones where you have no existing community. You never know where an opportunity may come from and you should be constantly exploring every open avenue.

You must also constantly engage in personal one-on-one interactions. These might feel like a heavy investment of time, but the return is well worth it. Personal interactions often bring in the most dedicated individuals to be a part of your community or give rise to the best ideas for you to pursue.

Your community will not grow if efforts for engagement and interaction only occur within the existing cohort group, in other words, within your existing community. While your community certainly can’t be neglected (why did you build a community in the first place?) the only way to maintain your momentum is to keep growing.

 

Community management is an evolving field. Luckily, there are lots of communities around the web you can learn from and get help—whether you prefer Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

Chill Corner– A friendly Discord community to chill out and have fun with friends. Meet new people from all over the world! 

 

“Your people love being part of a community because they may provide friends and relatives with glowing recommendations about the product, offering testimonies about the multiple benefits that can be had through the brand.” (#EmissaryGuildCommunity)

#COMMUNIDAY

Don’t forget to follow up – How do you know when someone is paying attention to you? Here’s a hint: It’s not only about your initial engagement. Let’s say you’re engaged in a conversation with a friend. He seems interested at first but suddenly goes quiet and stares off into space. He won’t reply to you or even acknowledge your existence anymore. Awkward huh?

The case is similar to your followers. Managing a community and engaging with your customers is all about making your brand feel more like a human friend than a business entity bent on taking all the shortcuts to a profit. To that end, it’s up to you to engage with members of your community like you would with a friend. And that means following up with everyone, everywhere.

If one of your followers asks you a question, respond immediately. They certainly want to know you’re there right away. They want to be seen and heard, otherwise, they wouldn’t have reached out in the first place. But also set a task in your social CRM to follow up again later to check in and get an update.

Your follow up could be making sure that their problem was solved or just to ask the person how they’re getting along since you last connected – no matter what you talked about before. This is a key step in showing your company really cares and isn’t just following the basic rules of engagement.

But make sure you follow up achieves another goal as well: it drives the further conversation, which is what your community is all about. By taking the opportunity to follow up, you might be creating additional opportunities for yourself, inspiring more people to join the conversation or getting to explore a new topic that’s of interest to you and the entire community.

 

Community management is an evolving field. Luckily, there are lots of communities around the web you can learn from and get help—whether you prefer Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

Guinness World Records– One of the best communities around the world! Guinness World Records’ worldwide television programmes reach over 750 million viewers annually, and more than a million people subscribe to the GWR YouTube channel, which enjoys more than 300 million views per year. The GWR website receives 18 million visitors annually, and we have over 10 million fans on Facebook.

“Your people love being part of a community because they can have a free flow of information and research without working hard.”
(#EmissaryGuildCommunity)

 

How we managed to create a strong team of moderators/admins

Community management is all fun and games, but you have to get a solid group of reliable admins and moderators behind you. These individuals help you filter through and monitor the content in your forums, effectively extending your capabilities and allowing you to oversee a larger community. We’ve gotten pretty good at it and that’s thanks, in part, to our successful recruitment of moderators and admins.

1. We built a clear schedule to onboard new customers and manage their community. There’s nothing like a solid bit of planning. By laying out a path that had already brought us success in the past, we were able to establish clear timelines and meet projections for growth and reach. This kind of stability and the accompanying success attracts good moderators. And we took on big exciting projects that moderators wanted to be a part of.

2. We updated and upgraded content on our website. This might sound trivial at first, but your website is where everyone goes to get detailed, up-to-date information on who you are, what you do and where you’re headed. Moderators and admins especially rely on your website being filled with helpful, updated content they can refer to. Basically, we tried to make their job effortless.

3. We posted at the right times in the right forums. Every subreddit, Facebook group or Telegram chat has its own characteristics. Where are participants from? Will they be awake at night? When’s the best time to catch the attention of users who will be interested in working with your project? This takes a little trial and error, although you get better at it every time you do it. Without knowing when to post on which platforms, you’ll never reach the potential moderators and admins you need, no matter how interesting your company is.

4. We reached people who believe in us and liked how we worked. We followed up on leads and identified opportunities wherever they cropped up. This sort of go-get-em approach eventually leads you to the right people who will like what you do. Then you know you’re in the groove.

The bottom line is that the moderators and admins we work with came to us. It was our job to show our dedication and put ourselves out in the public sphere for exposure and opportunities. They saw we were good and strong and they got as excited about us as we were about them. That’s the meaning of team.

#COMMUNIDAY

Be authentic in your communication – There is nothing worse than social updates that sound like a press release. It’s impersonal, boring and even patronizing at times. Ain’t nobody got time fo dat! You’re a consumer as well as an entrepreneur, so ask yourself, what kinds of content do you engage with from other companies?

Odds are, you don’t willingly interact with anything that’s too businessy – and you’re a businessman! Now imagine average consumers, worried about their own jobs, their families, their relationships and a billion other things; they’re only going to take time to engage with something that introduces extra value into their lives, and a product that might be a little useful sometimes isn’t enough. Your audience wants to connect with someone real.

Connection with a real, caring human being is perhaps the one thing we don’t seem to be getting enough of today. We are inundated with product, projects, responsibilities and endless entertainment options to keep us from breaking under the stress. Our lives have moved online and into our phones and many people are feeling the lack of honest connection with someone real.

No, your brand probably can’t satisfy any deep, emotional social needs, but you can be authentic at the very least and let the person on the other end know that they’re dealing with real people who care. This is often as simple as maintaining an approachable, down-to-earth tone in all your interactions with consumers, but it can also mean reaching out to your audience on a specific platform or just making yourself available.

The reward is an audience that wants to engage with you and will show more interest in your product. Besides, you’ll make lots of new friends and you’ll have a great time doing it!

 

Community management is an evolving field. Luckily, there are lots of communities around the web you can learn from and get help—whether you prefer Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

/r/TodayILearned That’s the community to learn new things every day. This subreddit features interesting articles about uncommon knowledge. This subreddit is an interesting way to learn more about the world, plus the things you learn here make for good casual conversation during dates or group gatherings.

 

“Your people love being #part of a #community because they can have a free flow of information and research without working hard.”
(#EmissaryGuildCommunity)

 

How our gaming method got us 78K claps on Medium

There’s more than one way to skin a cat and there’s more than one way to reach your target audience and get the exposure you need. Sure, you can spend your entire budget on social media ads and other types of promoted content, or you can take a more organic route, letting others do your advertising for you.

We were able to take this kind of approach and get 78K claps on Medium, spreading our message far and wide across this popular platform. The best part is that we accomplished all this for a fraction of the budget we would have spent on traditional advertising. So, what was the key to our success? Gamification.

The turning point was when we were essentially able to recruit Medium readers to like, share and/or comment on our posts, becoming unofficial ambassadors of sorts. No, we didn’t pay for likes or create fake accounts to share our posts, we simply offered intriguing incentives to spark conversation and action.

The people who ended up helping us out weren’t necessarily from among our target audience even, but they formed a small army of individuals who were in it for the incentives, the community or just for fun. Together, they formed a powerful network of users helping us reach ever larger audiences.

The gamified incentives we offered largely took the form of bounty programs, offering rewards and prizes for shares, likes, and comments. Not only did this method help us reach a large number of people for less money than advertising, but our outreach was also more effective than it would have been otherwise since word of mouth is by far the most powerful tool for spreading your message.

In the end, as long as you have the budget for it and depending on what field your own project is in, it will probably be best to mix both methods, since advertisements help you reach a very targeted audience very quickly. Organic outreach based on gamification is more effective but takes longer. If you plan carefully, both fronts can be used simultaneously to complement one another. How much time and energy you invest in each is up to you.

So, what method do you think is right for your brand? What other methods of outreach have worked for you? Think you can beat us at our own game? Let us know if you’ve got more claps on Medium and how you got there.

#COMMUNIDAY

Customer Connection – Attention has become one of the world’s top business resources. First and foremost, you want consumers to recognize you. Then, hopefully, you can retain their attention and keep them coming back for more. That has always been the marketing model, but with more competition and an increasing pace of life in general, it’s become a more challenging ideal to attain.

It is no longer enough for companies to have expert testimonies or research that backs up their claims in a fancy infomercial. Instead, as businesses become more and more viral, social networking and connection have become the new necessity for a successful business plan. Today, you have to engage with consumers on a more fundamental level to effectively get their attention, providing buyers with a sense of real personal connection.

As everyone’s lives get filled with more and more stuff – multiple jobs, personal projects, family, friends, networking etc. – we’ve been forced to cut out the non-essential parts of life. Advertisements use to make us wonder if we might actually find a use for an interesting new product, but today we ignore the vast majority of them. We were once looking to add to our lives. Now we feel the need to shed a few layers.

Brand communities are one of the most effective tools we can use in this climate to capture and retain consumers’ attention. Why? Because brand communities bring extra value beyond a potentially interesting product. They effectively build a connection between community members and the brand, making it feel more like an important relationship than a sales pitch. In a brand community, consumers can feel that the company cares for them. They build trust – that thing that every important relationship is built on.

Even for consumers who aren’t ready to be best friends with a company or others they meet online, brand communities provide useful information and opportunities, while businesses get a simple way to answer their client’s questions, provide instant customer service and interact daily with their customers in a friendly, public manner.

 

Community management is an evolving field. Luckily, there are lots of communities around the web you can learn from and get help—whether you prefer Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

Vans originally a maker of cheap deck shoes, followed the interests of its dedicated customers to expand into custom surf shoes, surf competitions, skateboarding shoes and gear, skateboard parks, touring music festivals and even a feature film. And within each of those businesses, new products, features, and ways of marketing were generated through a continuous flow of ideas from the grassroots.

 

“Your people love being part of a community because they can get good tips and nice tricks from others.”  (#EmissaryGuildCommunity)