Social media is about communities: people who are there to communicate with other people who share their interests. For a brand, those people are often customers or service-users. Community management is the practise of creating and managing online spaces that enable dialogue with, and between, members of that community.
In the context of a university, that might mean a Facebook Group for students on a particular module, a hashtag for online discussion between a community of academics, or a LinkedIn Group that helps students access university services.
Organisations often want to use social media to promote, or ‘shout about’, things they’re doing, but community management allows us to interact with our audience in ways that create and enhance brand affinity, and lead to tangible outcomes.
How do you do it?
- Work out what your community is comfortable with. Ask them how they’d prefer to connect and interact.
- Once you’ve settled on a platform, be clear what the purpose is for the community – edit the group description to reflect this, or write a blog post about the discussion topics.
- Keep an eye out for mentions that have a positive sentiment, such as ‘I can’t wait to go to @sheffhallamuni’s open day’, or comments that say ‘this looks awesome’. Interact with them, and start conversations.
- When you post something, think about the response you want to elicit from your followers. Try to make them stop, reflect and respond.
- Ask your fans and followers questions about themselves. Make your posts about them.
- Reply with something fun and shareable. They might like, share or reply, and then it becomes a conversation. Conversations build trust.
- Look at who your most engaged followers are, and build up a rapport with them. They’re brand ambassadors.
- Have conversations online, without feeling the need to market products and services at your audience.
Three tips: listen to your followers and learn about them, try to create advocates by having fun conversations, think about what responses you want to generate.
Further reading: ‘26 Tips for Managing a Social Media Community’ [Social Media Examiner], ‘Why Community Management is Different From Social Media Marketing’ [Forbes.com]