Beyond having an up front strategy and pushing out good content, successful brands also invest time and resources into managing their online communities. Sprout Social explains community management as “being able to navigate the online sphere of promoting your brand while engaging with your customers.” It requires a balance between authentic engagement and advocating for your brand.
Okuley emphasizes the importance of using social media to maximize the overall brand experience. “Brands need to create an online and offline experience for the consumer that:
1) gives them something worth talking about, and
2) makes them feel a part of your brand and feel like they’re valued as a consumer of your brand.”
The goal is consistency across all experiences.
JetBlue Embraces Customer Service On- and Off-line
Several years ago I asked students to work in groups to prepare a brief presentation about a brand’s social media actions that illustrated a “best practice” or “worst practice” and justify what the brand did well or failed to do. One group presented about JetBlue. Honestly, I don’t remember now what the best practice was. What I do remember is that as the class was live-tweeting the presentations, JetBlue noticed and responded to students while we were still in the midst of the presentation. After learning that the tweets were coming from a class, it asked who the instructor was and sent a tweet to thank me for the positive conversation and tell me I was on JetBlue’s holiday card list. Sure enough, months later I received a tweet from JetBlue wishing me a happy holiday. The brand’s emphasis on customer service and responsiveness sailed through and earned it a gold star for community management.
Creating a Tribe
Okuley says tools like location tags and keyword and hashtag searches can help identify people who might be interested in your product or experience and aren’t there yet. One of his clients is a coffee shop that watched the social media channels of other coffee shops just to see who’s sharing content or even posting while they’re in those spaces. This allows the company to identify potential tribe-members – whether it’s the coffee tribe, the Columbus tribe or the supporting local business tribe. It also can highlight potential influencers who could become part of a more strategic effort to build a community.
Monitoring is an important part of community management, but it is also a formal part of the process of managing social media channels. The following chapter explores the role of analytics and reporting in writing for social media.