Social Media Community Management Best Practices

by: Dustin Hawley | Monday January 21, 2019

It's difficult to recall a time when some form of social media was not an integral part of our lives and daily activities. So many of our choices and opinions revolve around social media these days. And as brand marketers, social media is essential to growing our business in today's landscape. You don't want to be these guys:

cartoon of executives discussing social media practices

To bring our social channels to life and achieve tangible results, we are relied upon to attract followers to our pages. And there are a plethora of challenges that come with that task. So here are our best practices for social media community management in 2019.

1) Setting and measuring goals

This is a common theme in all things social media marketing. Setting and measuring goals are the prerequisites for not only determining measurable success but for creating the vision and execution of your branding efforts. The primary focus of social community management is the customer experience itself, and the customer journey they have with the brand on social media.

It's difficult to measure your goals on a daily basis, so we turn to Key Performance Indicators (KPI's) the likes of response time, resolution time, and customer satisfaction scores to evaluate performance in both real-time and the long term.

One of a brand’s major goals, for example, should be knowledge sharing. This is an opportunistic venture for your branding efforts because it is measured primarily by feedback and social commentary. This may result in implementing changes to the brand, service or product to improve customer experience based on this feedback. Your brand goals may differ than that of your competitors, but establishing them from the get-go is crucial in achieving success with your community management, no matter your brand goals. 

2) Maintain a consistent brand voice

Having measurable goals is crucial, yes. But maintaining a consistent brand voice is arguably just as important. Ask yourself, "Who is my audience and how do I want to engage with them?" It’s important to keep the brand voice consistent across all social platforms. A consistent brand voice also avoids confusion among your audience. Assets like brand style guides can assist you in determining the tone for the brand and can be a continued point of reference to keep you in line with maintaining that tone. 

3) Monitor Communities

Having an understanding of your community and what makes them tick, both in a positive and negative sense, is a great starting point in monitoring communities. In order to reveal such insights, social listening tools like Meltwater can be essential in developing knowledge of the communities that matter to your brand. There are many social listening tools that offer the ability to track multiple brands, users, and keywords in a single search. This is a much quicker process than scrolling through hundreds of different timelines on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. 

Observe the conversations around your brand and uncover the themes your audience talks about. Where in the world is your community located? What are their preferences of social media networks? Doing the same for your competitors as well will assist you in tracking wider industry keywords. Being aware of competitive and industry insights ensures your community management strategy isn’t created in vain, or with limitations in its potential success. Analyzing your brand, industry, and your competitors will give you a good idea of your media landscape.

4) Learn from your mistakes on social media

Every brand has a different purpose for their social media strategy. The spectrum can vary; from using social channels as a digital billboard for your content, to an exclusive platform for customer service. To that point, it’s difficult to identify mistakes without intimate knowledge of the role of social media plays in a particular organization.

life's too short to learn from your own mistakes. So learn from others. - Unknown

However, there are a few key mistakes that can be seen as an example of what not to do when managing your social community. Many brands struggle with understanding the persona of their audience, such as what their audience likes, dislikes, or what they would want from your brand specifically. These discrepancies commonly exist, despite organizations having a team who engages with their customers on social media on a daily basis. Team members should be very well aware of their audience persona. Brands who use a tool to monitor and track their conversations can even break down conversation types, track sentiment, and can even convert these into business cases to assist you in your efforts.

5) On that note, leave slang to the adolescents

Speaking of mistakes, another common theme in botched social media communication is brand verbiage. There’s a (very) thin line between being a comical and offensive as a brand online. And beyond even being offensive, there's an equally thin line between being comical and being tacky. One key focus in avoiding being in the news headlines for the wrong reasons is to not jump on the latest social trends before doing your research. 

Using slang terms on social media in an attempt to relate with a younger demographic can be a potential death wish for your brand if you miss the mark. Unless you manage social for companies like MTV or Teen Vogue, your brand really has no business using trendy slang or internet terms (like fleek, bae, or lit, for example). This makes you seem out of touch to your audience as a whole, hurts your engagement, and can be potentially damaging to your brand sentiment.

6) Be Timely With Your Content

When it comes to waiting times on social media, customer expectations are rising faster than the popularity of Fortnite. In today's social media landscape, roughly 72% of people who complain about a brand expect a response in less than an hour. Top tier response time is now in the range of about thirty minutes, and some industry response time targets are as fast as 90 seconds. That's a lofty goal for many organizations. But not surprisingly, customers are more likely to buy (and encourage their friends and families to buy) from companies who provide them with a timely response. Not to mention they are far more likely to communicate a positive sentiment towards your brand, and your efforts to rectify any issues they may have encountered.

The ability to resolve issues quickly is critical, yes. But it’s also important to have proactive conversations with those who don’t necessarily follow you or tag your brand on social. Building lasting relationships one interaction at a time is what social media is all about.

7) Design your efforts to Be Helpful to your audience

If you see someone who needs help in a crosswalk, do you stop to tell them how much the road costs to pave? Stop focusing on your features and sale prices and instead focus on what problems your product or service solves for your audience. Social community members want trusted, high-value, and most of all help crossing the proverbial street. 

8) Monitor relevant hashtags

Hashtags are a vital aspect of social media. So does your organization use a branded hashtag? If not, you probably should, because it's a great opportunity to interact with users who are organically engaging with your content. Users sometimes use hashtags rather than the tag and comment features, so it’s valuable to monitor them to ensure all interactions are seen.

instagram hashtag related dates

There are numerous ways to achieve highly effective hashtag monitoring. Your brand can create a saved hashtag search in your social media management platform, for example. Additionally, you can search for specific hashtags each time you check the accounts. This process is also a great way to cultivate user-generated content as well. This particular form of social listening allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of what's happening in your market, so you can stay in tune with your audience and applicable market trends. In turn, this provides additional insight into forecasting potential shifts in those trends as well.

9) Utilize social media management tools

One of the biggest obstacles for any brand is analyzing the geographic scope and landscape of social media. Operating from all over the globe, it is crucial to adapt to various languages, ideologies, cultural differences, and social channel usage to suit specific platforms and content structures. This is where utilizing social media management tools come into play.

With each social channel having multiple touchpoints in the customer journey, community management tools help filter through conversations, streamline incoming engagements, and enable conversation tracking. Additionally, they provide team management features that are helpful in structuring the workflow around community management. The fusion of well-executed social media posts and a tactical approach to community management can produce lasting positive results while shaping brand loyalty and customer advocacy beyond measure.

10) Measure Results to Determine ROI

Speaking of measure, how can you tell if you’ve made progress in your efforts if you do not measure them? It almost goes without saying that being able to equate success or failure to data points is a crucial element in determining best practices. So how do you measure the effectiveness of your community management strategy? Here are a few metrics to start with:

  • Follower count

The infamous follower count. Thought followers are a vanity metric, it is a quick way of discovering whether your efforts have at least grown your community from a volume perspective. Use this metric in collaboration with the others (that we will mention) to paint a clearer, more accurate picture on the true value of your efforts.

  • Engagement

The amount of likes and comments you’re getting per post is a direct indication of its effectiveness, at least in terms of generating reaction and dialogue from your audience. Additionally, notate the number of social media mentions your brand receives.

  • Sentiment

Sentiment is an often overlooked but incredibly important element of your social presence. Are your engagements more positive or negative in nature? Observe the sentiment of social media posts around your brand to see how they’ve changed and developed over time. This is a prime example of the value in blending follower counts with additional metrics. If you suddenly see a spike in the number of people following your brand and take that number at face value, it can potentially spell disaster, because it doesn't tell the full story. However, if we look at following size and sentiment, for example, you can quickly detect if people have hit the follow/like button because they like your brand, or if they just want a front row seat for your social blunders.

  • Website Traffic

An engaged and sizable community should have a relative impact on website traffic. Tools like Google Analytics can confirm this. You can look at metrics like referral traffic to see the source of where people are coming onto the website from, which will help you understand which of your efforts are producing tangible results, and which efforts need work (or abandoned altogether).

  • Share of Voice

Ask yourselves, "Have we grabbed a piece of the (social media conversation) pie from our competitors?" Market share is a major factor in any business, and market share exists online in the form of share of voice in your industry. Having a share of voice instills a level of authenticity and trust that provides both tangible and intangible value. Equal amounts of interest should be placed on how much we dominate both market share in our industry's, and the social conversations around them as well.

Final Thoughts On Community Management

The duty of a social media community manager is not a position for the faint of heart. Community management is an ongoing task that takes time, effort and patience to perfect and fine tune. But as we re-iterated throughout this article, it's an essential element of creating long-lasting results for your brand, on social and beyond. But it doesn't have to be daunting. Executing on these best practices will give you the foundation to build a well-oiled machine for your community management. So get out there, and start engaging with your community! Your brand depends on it.

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