Many companies only use social media and email to push out messages, announce promotions or randomly send out trendy stuff. Entering into a meaningful dialogue with your community should instead be a broad based strategic initiative that covers observing, listening and responding. And even though it may be effective to hire a specialized company to help design this community management strategy, it is essential not to outsource the actual interaction.
So rather than jumping on the bandwagon because everyone else is ‘out there’, define clear goals: who do you want to be in the virtual world, what story do you wish to tell, and what is it that you want to accomplish via social media and email? Based on these goals, choose the conversations that you will respond to. Think about how you can stay in touch with the messengers and ensure to reach out to them only with what they’re interested in. Forget about auto-DM and show that you are listening by giving timely and authentic responses.
Beware that reaching out by crowd-sourcing can be interpreted by the community as fishing for free creative input and make your company vulnerable.
The initiative by Gap to involve its Facebook fans to come up with a new logo design was met with distrust: graphic designer Nicole Specht warned her colleagues on Facebook to ‘… not post redesigns of the Gap logo. Crowd-sourcing allows companies to ignore copywriting. We are professionals that deserve to be compensated adequately for the creative work done.’ This case shows the importance of maintaining a strong identity towards, and not making yourself overly dependent on, your community.
The key to successful community management is to create and maintain a link between the inside and the outside of the company, in both directions. You can do this in different ways. You can appoint a community manager, whose job is to channel what he sees in the community to the appropriate place in the company for the response. Alternatively, you could have a temporary community manager to build awareness in your company; once this awareness has become part of the company culture, you can then move it to the departments. Other companies, usually smaller ones, have all employees monitor and respond to social media. As long as your choice is based on an integrated strategy that suits your company’s goals, it will most likely work for you.
Written by Esther with the material from the forthcoming book of John Sadowsky.