I belong to several different online community management groups via LinkedIn, Facebook and email. Every now and then an aspiring community manager asks, “How do I get started.” For me it’s not a simple “Here’s what you do” type answer, because each community has a different purpose, and thus, a different set of goals.
Once you work out the goals for your community, you can determine a plan of action.
- Is your goal to drive sales? It’s OK to answer yes to this, even though we all want to convince others the purpose behind our community is to get all warm and fuzzy, the truth is there’s usually a bottom line somewhere and it’s usually rooted in money. If one of your goals is to drive sales, your community building efforts have to lead towards sales. This means setting up landing pages before anything else so some community discussions can lead to the sale. It also means you’re going to have to work out how many sales or promotional messages to leave on your discussion pages each day. People don’t want to be pitched to and will leave if everything is a sales spiel. Create a plan to entice the sale, without a lot of in your face tactics.
- Is your goal to learn more about the people who use your product or service? Maybe your goal is to lead to a sale without actually doing any selling. For example, maybe you want to learn more about the people who are spending money on your brand in order to entice more people to use your brand. An online community is the perfect way to do that. So rather than create a sales plan of action, you should create some fun campaigns to learn more about your growing community. This can be through essay contests, polls, quizzes, questions, Twitter chats and open forums. There’s no sale here, but when you know about the people who make up your community you can create advertising and marketing campaigns that will speak to buyers.
- Is your goal to drive traffic? Your goal may have nothing to do with selling or making money, or your goal may be the community itself. If your goal is to drive traffic to your blog or community pages, it’s all about the link - but you have to do it without being spammy. Participate in discussions in like-minded communities and create discussion topics on your own social pages. You can drop links during the appropriate times, and by having more discussion type updates than spammy links you’re creating more trust in your brand and your pages.
- Is your goal to provide customer service? Some community managers are there to monitor the social networks and see what folks are saying about their product or service. They thank the people who are saying good things, and offer to help the people who aren’t having a good experience. In between all that they’re joining conversations, sharing news and creating a strong online presence.
- Is your goal to create a group of advocates? If you’re trying to start a word of mouth marketing campaign, you wouldn’t use the same tactics you would if your goal is to drive more traffic to your blog or website. Instead of selling, you might share instead. Post images of your team at work and share news and updates about the brand. Let your community know what you’re working on and how you’re improving on old ideas. As questions, give surveys and let them know you’re there from them. If your community feels you’re taking care of them, the rest will fall into place.
The biggest community management mistake is in thinking all online communities are alike. They’re not. You can learn from other communities and community managers but you can’t flat out copy them because you have a different community. Don’t come in and immediately put a plan into place. Instead, observe. Talk to your team and talk to your community. Discuss your brand’s goals and find out what the community wants from the brand.
Once all that’s in place, you can start your plan of action.
What’s the goal for your community and what’s your plan of action?