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Building an online community is a delicate art form. Community development is not as easy as it may seem. The first step is to attract people to your social media profiles and engage with them. Not quite rocket science. Howevepicture-99r a new University of Maryland study indicates that many small businesses are still using social media primarily as broadcasting tools. Thus, the art of community management needs to be more clearly stated and emphasized.

“It’s all about the conversation.”   This is what any social media professional will emphasize when speaking about their craft. You need to have an entertaing conversation with your community to truly build a successful social media campaign. Take the infamous cocktail party analogy. Would you rather be the person who attracts a crowd and is gregariously conversing to eight people at once? Or the person who parks in front of the punch bowl and has brief and awkward interactions with anyone who casually approaches the punch bowl? Obviously your company needs to be that person who is talking to eight people at the party. How do you become that person?  Through genuine, meaningful conversation.

Engagement is the golden key to being the life of the party. As the University of Maryland study indicates, many small businesses are utilizing social media but far too many are just broadcasting their marketing messages. Too few are using platforms like Twitter to connect and use it as a customer service channel. Brands often ask, “Why isn’t anyone coming back to my fan page?” The answer: you’re not engaging them in an interesting and strategic manner. This is where the knowledge of an online community manager comes to play. It takes a skilled communicator to build a community and develop it in such a way that your connections become your brand evangelists. picture-98

There is no perfect formula to build a community. Each community is different according to the brand. It’s pertinent for the community manager to recognize the tone and behavior of the fan base.  In turn, the manager must work with this information gathered through observation to build the community. How often are your visitors coming to your page? How much time in between posts? What types of messages are people responding to? The answers will help dictate the conversation, which will keep visitors connected to your profiles and returning in the future. There is a learning curve between manager and community at the start of every campaign.  Through calculated trial and error a veteran community manager will find a groove that induces conversation amongst the online community. I’ll cite a previous post I wrote about sending people to your Facebook page as the reason why community building is so important. In short, the more time consumers are engaging with your profiles, the greater the positive association they have with your brand. Therefore, through fans’ news feeds or physical word of mouth, your community manager’s efforts will result in larger numbers, greater awareness, and more dedicated consumers and brand ambassadors. This connection with your online community is the true value of your social media campaign.

In order for your brand to be the life of the online party, resist the temptation to simply broadcast your marketing messages. Have a knowledgeable community manager who can develop, engage, and manage your online community so that in the long run your community will work for you. Community management is an art that many fail to adequately grasp. If you think your social media campaign is like talking to a wall, contact Wpromote’s social media team and we can help you properly manage your online communities. smo@wpromote.com // www.twitter.com/wpromote

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