The social media marketing trend is an important trend for businesses of all sizes. Business leaders and marketing managers are realizing it can be used to help strengthen relationships and perceptions people have with a company, a brand, a product.
Most social media marketing efforts today need to apply the basics of community marketing and management. Because at the heart of it, social media marketing efforts should be launched to strengthen relationships the target audience has with the topics and people that are important to your company’s success. A successful community can accomplish that and more.
I see many social media and community marketing efforts fail because of lack of funding for community management resources. Many of these social sites and community efforts are developed to support a product launch and then a few months down the road the blog posts dwindle to a few posts a month, the tweets slow down, and the conversation stops.
To be highly successful, communities need to be funded for and supported by dedicated professionals fulfilling certain functions. There are four key functions that can help result in a successful community.
- Exec Sponsor(s): Serves as the group’s champion, internally and externally. Is able to envision the value of the community over time to both the members as well as the organization.
- Community Leader(s): Plays the most critical role in the community's success by energizing the sharing process and providing continuous nourishment for the community. Communicates a sense of passion and guides the community towards its goals through consulting, connecting, facilitating, helping, guiding
- Community Council Members: Advises community leader in launching and sustaining the community. Frequently takes on additional roles as listed below.
- Community Members: Without these there is no community; the essence of a community is its members. Contributes and extracts value via content, programs, and social/professional network
The community leadership is the most important function. My experience tells me that many in management think that communities 'can run themselves' without dedicated community leadership. Without dedicated community leadership, communities are subject to the momentary whims of the members, relying on the members’ discretionary willingness to perform such functions. In most cases, leaving the community to the membership results in a decline in activity. It is a rare community that can continue to survive without dedicated support.
Forrester says that there are four key tenets of a community leader:
- Community Advocate: The community manager’s primary role is to represent the members of the community. They must listen, monitor, and respond to requests and conversations, both within the community platform and in email.
- Brand Evangelist: Community manager promotes events, products, and upgrades using traditional marketing tactics as well as being part of conversations within the community. The community manager must first earn and maintain trust.
- Facilitator: Defines, plans, and executes content strategy. Uses forums, blogs, podcasts, and other tools to create content. Mediates disputes: Encourages advocates and deals with — or when necessary removes — detractors. Works with corporate stakeholders to identify content, plan updates, publish, and follow-up.
- Research and Development Contributor: Gathers the requirements of the community and presents to product teams. Plans and analyzes results of surveys or focus groups. Facilitates relationships between product teams and customers.
To Forrester's list I'd add the following tasks that many community leaders end up performing themselves:
- Social Media Manager: Manages the communities presence in the social media and collaboration sites
- Meeting Facilitation: Schedules and facilitates meetings. Ensures meetings stay focused on goals of the community.
- Subject Matter Expertise: Shares knowledge and experience. Ensures the community continues to seek out new and innovative solutions and methods.
- Relationship Management: Builds relationships between the members to strengthen the overall community.
- Knowledge Management: Gathers, posts and organizes the community knowledge. Ensures all members have access to content created or referenced by the community.
- Analyst: Analyzes the community content and membership network to identify and extract value.
- Technology Management: Ensures that the community platform and tools supports the goals and objectives of the community.
These responsibilities do not have to be managed by a single individual. Many times there is more than one community leader. Also, a good community leader has a good group of council members and one or more of the council members may be accountable for multiple responsibilities, which is likely in the early stages of community development.
So what type of skills are needed by the Community Leader?
- Strong online communication skills
- Approachable and conversational
- Has the ability to relate to members online and offline
- Comfortable with Web 2.0, social media, and collaboration tools
Two other important requirements. The community leader must
- Have a passion for the community domain (topic area)
- Have a passion for helping others learn and collaborate. They must experience job satisfaction from helping others.