In “Social Media Will Not Save Your Business, Part 1” I (hopefully) made the point that you can’t expect to get business results from your social media activity if 1) social media is not integrated into your business processes and 2) some of your social media activities aren’t deliberately driving toward a business goal.
In the next “Social Media Will Not Save Your Business” post, I’ll explain what I mean by integrated social media and give some concrete examples. But first, let’s talk community management–what it is and why businesses need to get this right first and foremost.
When people talk about “doing” social media, most often they’re referring to the functions of community management. In essence, community management is the deliberate development of a relationship between a brand and it’s customers (and prospects) on a social media channel. At its most basic, the goals of community management are a) to increase audience size, b) drive socially-visible engagement actions, and c) increase trust, loyalty, and even love (or at least affection) for a brand.
And I can assure you, you cannot buy love like that. Like any solid relationship, it will take time, persistence, charm, and yes, even a bit of “romancing” for all that effort to pay off.
It also takes a community manager who not only knows your business inside and out, but also has a deep understanding of the technology and tools at their disposal AND how specific types of content drives specific engagement “love metrics.” (More on what you should look for in a community manager in an upcoming post)
Community management is hard, takes time and resources, often takes a bit of trial and error to get it just right, and you can’t immediately measure business results.
So why do it?
- When you’re building your community, you’re laying the groundwork for a referral engine
- You’re staying top of mind
- You’re putting money in the bank against mistakes or bad publicity
- You’re creating a channel where you can quickly and easily communicate news and announcements
- You’re adding value to your business by delivering relevant information to your audience
- You’re cultivating a space where customers can quickly and easily get their questions answered and their problems resolved–and your business gets to show off how responsive you are to your customers’ needs
- You’re creating a forum where you can learn about your customers preferences and needs
- You’re developing a network that rubs up against millions of other networks
- Most importantly, you’re creating the conditions to let your customers do your marketing for you
There’s no amount of marketing you can do or money you can spend that will equal the recommendation of friend.
Effective, well-supported community management is a long tail investment. You may not see the “return” on it for months to a year (or even more) to come. But like any good thing, it’s worth investing in and waiting on because of its potential power.
The trick is to nail the community management piece, and then layer in specific business drivers appropriate for the channel.