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Community Management Check In: 3 Ways to Take Your Community Management to the Next Level
Welcome to a recurring series where we explore different areas of community management on social media. Community management is all about the relationships your brand has with its consumers in the social space and how you convert consumers to loyalists.

Building that initial relationship can be tough, but it’s important to be responsive, attentive and transparent with consumers to build and maintain their trust. It’s part science, part art – and it’s always changing. Follow along as we delve into different questions we receive and how we approach community management. Brands today are judged based on popular perception. A brand is what consumers say it is, which makes social community management and awareness an important part of brand strategy.

Whether it’s listening to and answering consumer complaints and questions, engaging a community for user-generated content and soliciting insightful opinions, or discovering and celebrating a brand’s biggest fans, opportunities abound to harness the power of the popular collective. Here are three ways to make the most of a brand community and community management beyond just posting content.

What is the Best Way to Reward Brand Advocates, And When and How Should a Brand Do It?

It’s wise to consider every customer that reaches out to a brand (even the angry ones … more on that later) as a future champion and advocate. Once a super fan has been identified, a brand should also consider going the extra mile.

Sharing customer content on your brand’s channels and personally thanking the customer for being an active fan can go a long way. Fans want to know that a brand sees them, recognizes their passion and appreciates it. But why stop there?

While big giveaways and desirable prizes drive engagement and are useful, sometimes a short, personal (Remember our first post?) and signed note delivered by the good old-fashioned USPS speaks volumes to a consumer about how much a brand cares about them.

The ideal reward is a combination of something exclusive that only the brand can provide and something that can be fulfilled at a low cost. Maybe a super fan moves out of town and is pining for a brand’s product, so the brand sends some product with a handwritten note. Or maybe a brand champion disappears for a time and later messages that they’ve been in the hospital, so the brand sends a care package.

These may seem like small deeds, but when it comes to humanizing a brand, forging a lasting connection and creating talk triggers, they can make a big difference in amplifying word of mouth marketing.

For example, here’s how one consumer responded to receiving a gift from an Empower-managed brand:

“I received your gift today! I just wanted to say thank you again! I also love the fact that my info was written by an actual person and not just by some mainstream machine, it’s really great to know companies out there really try to help and are actually personal! I’ll be sure to spread the word of the greatness you have given to me :)”

How Can a Brand Turn an Upset Customer into an Advocate?

Part of community management is customer service. Not everyone that reaches out to a brand is going to be happy when they do it. In the age where attention is in short supply and people are busier than ever, the fact someone took the time to reach out with a detailed complaint means they feel so strongly about the matter they’ve let the brand know about it.

Best practices for community management include responding to complaints and trying to fix the issue for the customer. Sometimes that’s not possible. But sometimes even more opportunity exists to personally address their concerns in a way that will make them an advocate for life.

An example from Empower: a consumer was upset that the marketing materials he saw in his feed from a brand were targeted towards women, rather than parents in general. As a working dad, he reached out to the brand on social to voice that he felt disenfranchised after seeing the brand’s posts. Rather than simply apologize, the social team recognized how passionate he was about the matter and offered him the opportunity to work with the brand and share his experiences as a working dad by developing content. It resulted in valuable insights for the brand, content that resonated with the brand audience and – most importantly – cemented a relationship.

When addressing consumer complaints, think about the person, not the problem, first.

How Can A Brand Turn What Is Learned From Community Management Into Actionable Insights?

A community is, by definition, more than one person. In addition to minding brand champions and addressing individual concerns, leveraging a following includes listening to the community as a whole and soliciting community opinions when possible.

There are a number of ways you can use your community to inform your business. By posting polls asking consumers what they want to see more of or prefer, a brand can gain valuable information about what is important to a fanbase. That intel can then be used to create future content that will really move the needle and resonate.

If many fans are saying the same thing, it’s an opportunity to address a concern more broadly and should definitely provoke further thought. If a community manager is seeing the same thing over and over, take note. Chances are the issue is bigger than social media and extends to the brand as a whole; for instance, if there’s confusion or negative sentiment around a brand or a product, it’s likely not isolated to the digital realm.

Every brand is different, and correspondingly, every brand following is different. But taking the time to thoughtfully provide community management is good for brands. Add a personal or exclusive touch to give a fan social currency and let them know the brand cares. Think of people first, rather than the problem, when addressing concerns. Leverage the whole community to provide guiding insight and brand strategy. Your brand will be better for it.