Online community management is becoming a new hub for sales and customer service interactions. Everyone is turning to online communities for answers, questions, and more. They want to reach you on social media, and others who use and enjoy your products. It’s vital that you are active in your online community, no matter how big or small it is. How you respond and act online tells potential customers a lot of what they want to know, and the absence of engagement may say all they need to know.

You probably already know you need to be engaging in online community management, but if you have never done it before it can be challenging to know where to start. In this article, we’ll cover four ways to get started in community management. 

1. Build Your Audience Personas

The first thing you need to do is build your online audience personas. Personas are a representation of who is engaging with your content online and likely to buy your products. You might already be familiar with buyer personas, and even have some built already. 

Even if you do, they need to be revisited for your online communities. Some personas use different social channels, and others might not be tech-savvy enough to purchase online, so there may be different ones than what you have built. 

By building your audience personas, you can start to allocate time and resources to the right channels, at the right time. You are able to optimize any opportunity and create and connect the right content to your audience in your online community. 

2. Identify Your Online Community Management Goals and Objectives

After you have your audience personas built, you can start to examine the why behind what you want to do. Why are you trying to engage with this persona, and what are they trying to achieve? 

From there, you need to define what success looks like and who are the relevant stakeholders in your company. It’s a common pitfall to start participating in online community management without knowing why it’s necessary for your company. 

When determining your goals, here are a few good places to start:

Brand Loyalty — Great for keeping existing customers engaged, inspired, and interested. The end success here is that they keep coming back to your company with their business. 

Brand Awareness — The more you are engaging with your followers, the more exposure you can get. We know that Facebook will potentially share your followers’ interactions on their news feed. By starting conversations with customers, you can begin to attract new followers. 

Actualized Revenue Results — It’s essential when building or activating a campaign to tie conversions back to their source. Social media is becoming a stronger business driver and with better and stronger tools to track their impact on your revenue. 

Set Your KPIs

When setting your goals, determine what you will define as your key performance indicators (KPIs). These will be your primary measure of success. Here are a few to get you started:

Engagement — This takes many forms across multiple platforms. Engagement catalyzes improving all other KPIs. It’s not a vanity metric to count your likes; it shows intent and action based on your content and what they had to say.

Share of Voice — Tracking social share of voice will require a social listening tool or service of some kind. Social share of voice is what percentage of the conversations happening about your product or services are about your brand versus others. 

Active Followers — Having a more engaged audience is important; it doesn’t matter if you have a billion followers if not a single one ever looks at your content. Tracking active followers helps you determine how effective your content is over time. 

Traffic Data – What percentage of website traffic is coming from your social media? With the right tracking, you can start to see the true ROI of social media as you track your audience’s journey from interaction to purchase. 

3. Create a Social Media Strategy

Hope isn’t a strategy for social media. Neither are random acts of marketing. You need to sit down and create a strategy based on your audience and goals. If you’ve taken the right amount of time to identify your audience and determine what you want to achieve, you can start finding the solutions to be successful.

When your main goal is to resolve more customer service complaints and requests in real-time, then your strategy might be social media training for customer service representatives and support documents for their content. If it is on-site sales conversions, you can tailor your content to guide your audience toward your online store. 

It’s easy to want to run before you can walk, and strategy is often what is skipped. The right strategy will help you craft your content on the right platforms to the right audience. 

4. Start the Conversations and Don’t Let Them Stop

Social media management and community management requires an investment of time and resources. The most important thing you can do when starting to engage your community online is to keep the conversation going. 

Keep your audience engaged and asking more questions. There’s an art to this, and it can take time to learn and master. It’s important to review the data and adjust your content and strategy based on the results. As you do this, you’ll begin to anticipate what your customers need to stay engaged and talking with your brand on any platform. 

Scaling Community Management Services

While these steps get you started, you’ll need to be ready to scale as your community grows and becomes more engaged. You need to make scaling options part of your social media strategy. The more customers engage with you, the more time your social media manager or community manager is going to need to spend creating content, responding to comments, and managing customer service interactions. Eventually, you’ll likely reach a decision point, do you expand your staff or do you hire a community management services company? 

Scaling a social team is a large investment and work/life balance factors such as 24/7 availability are hard to resolve. The right social media management services partner will have staff ready and trained to interact and keep your audience engaged. When looking for a partner, make sure they offer the services you need now and might need in the future. You may be focused on community management today, but eventually may need more content generation, reputation management, and more. 

So as you start to become more successful in engaging your online community, keep thinking to the future so you can grow with your audience and keep the conversation going. 

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