How To Optimize Your Brand’s Community Management Efforts

People have a lot of interests nowadays. The only thing they enjoy more than partaking in their personal interests is talking about said interests with like-minded individuals.

For the first time ever, brands have the unique opportunity to facilitate conversations like these via online communities. They have the ability to create platforms for users to be heard, interact with one another and truly immerse themselves in their passions.

So how can you, the community manager, optimize your brand’s online community to capture greatness? Follow these key strategies to foster a thriving brand community.

Define your brand’s “Why?” and build on it

Author and TED speaker Simon Sinek speaks often about the importance of “Why?” in terms of your brand. Everyone may know “What” you do (e.g., your product/service) and some may know “How” (e.g., innovation, trust, etc.), but the most important component is “Why” you do it. Sinek’s prime example is Apple: “challenging the status quo.” This statement drives everything the company does. Not only is it the backbone for every product/service it offers, it also gives consumers something to relate to.

Just as the old adage advises you to build your house on rock, not sand, you need a strong foundation for your community. Determine what your brand stands for, the bigger picture, and use it to drive your content strategy, persona and attitude. If you don’t define what you stand for, why should anyone care?

No matter what you do, be relevant

Now that you’ve determined your “Why,” determine how your content will engage your online community. There are three forms of relevance, and at least one should be incorporated in your messaging:

Identity ­­­– Does it appeal to a certain kind of person? Not just a certain age group living in a certain part of the world, but someone who truly fits into your brand’s target audience. People love to identify with a cause or lifestyle. The goal is to make being part of your community a “must” in order to fit in within a specific identity (e.g., adventurers, foodies, craftsmen, DIY moms, etc.).

Emotion ­­­– Does it make an emotional appeal to your audience, whether that’s happiness, humor or nostalgia? Have a point of view, and make them feel something.

Information ­­­– Does it provide information that people will want to share? As Jonah Berger shares in his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, one of the key elements to his findings is “Practical Value.” Simply put, people enjoy learning things they can use.

Take it offline as much as possible

Yes, this is about your online community, but it’s important to think of how to engage people offline as well. This can be a call-to-action to visit a store, entreaties to try something out in the real world or even invites to exclusive events for community members.

Pie Five Pizza recently used Snapchat to send out secret phrases to its community that enabled them to snag a free pizza when they used these phrases in store. Think of how to turn online engagement into offline conversion.

Customer service is never going away

All the tools in the traditional customer service bag still apply to online communities, and maybe even more so since everything is so much more immediate. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep your promises. If you say you’re going to do something, make it happen.

  • Show appreciation to thankful customers.

  • Sharpen your communication skills. Be friendly but direct.

  • Welcome feedback and criticism, and take it with a smile. You need feedback to improve, even if it stings sometimes.

  • Make it fun. Life is short.

Facebook’s new private message feature and Twitter’s update to direct messages (giving users up to 10,000 characters) are useful new additions for brands looking to step up their customer service game.  Besides, there’s really no excuse for poor customer service.

These four strategies can help ensure your online community is a healthy one, one that people can’t wait to be a part of. Test these methods out and leave us feedback on what works and what doesn’t. After all, we’re all open to feedback now, right?