Seal the Deal: Making Community a Permanent Fixture

By perksconsulting |

Okay, this is it. The final installment of our Community series, in which we will wrap up by covering every other aspect of community management and tying it all up with a pretty pink bow.

Well, not exactly. In fact, we have only scratched the surface of community management and what it can do for your organization. But if you’re at all intrigued by the idea (and you should be, by now), then these posts can serve as a primer for your first steps into this incredible 24-hour people-powered party centered on your brand.

Let’s do a quick recap. So far we’ve learned…

-       Why building a community is so much more than managing a social media account.

-       Why building a community is a smart business decision that will yield real results.

-       How to measure and track those results according to relevant metrics.

And now we pick up where we left off. Our last post’s cliffhanger posited a few questions: how do you pitch community building to the decision makers in your organization? How do you keep them convinced during the early stages? And once you’ve got the go-ahead, how do you hire the best people to nurture and scale that community? Let’s dive in and find out.

The Pitch

Who cares? (Ideally, everyone!)

While every team at your company (hopefully) operates in service of its main mission, it’s likely that different departments will have differing opinions on strategy and areas of focus. Your first step is to identify the key stakeholders across your organization and find out what is most relevant to them. What do they care about and what are they accountable for? The answers you come up with for the Operations team may be completely different from those of the Product team, but the unifying thread is this: all teams are made up of human beings with goals, desires, worries, and needs. Sorry to be Machiavellian here, but you need to appeal to their vanities. Show them how your plan will bag them their big bonus this year. Show them how it’ll make them a star. But be sure to back it up with data and insights—even the most vain of the C-level set will want to see some substantive data to back up your promises.

The Follow-Through

Follow the money and see where it goes.

So now the community initiative is underway. Is it time to declare this mission accomplished? Not so fast. Just like any new component of an established business, there will be a lot of eyes on your experiment, and you’ll have to continually prove its worth in relation to the bottom line. Learn how to track the effectiveness of your community and demonstrate the ROI of your work, and you’ll never have to worry about being on the business end of a cutback.

Here’s an idea: Put together a monthly performance report to track your work and communicate your progress to the folks up the chain. This report should tell a story (which you can and should tailor to each reader). Think back to Part 3 of this series—start with a goal, then identify the data-proven community action that serves this goal, and wrap up with insight you’ve gathered from your tests. Don’t get TOO caught up in the minutiae. Your report should be data driven yet simple and clear. If it’s a chore to read, your stakeholders aren’t likely to look forward to receiving it no matter how exciting your results are.

The Talent Search

Get by with a little help from your CM.

While it’s arguably possible, it’s extremely difficult to manage a community alone—especially if you’re also responsible for another role within the business. If you want to devote the necessary attention to scaling your community, you will need to assemble a team, and be thoughtful in doing so. After all, you likely won’t have carte blanche to hire however and whomever you want.

You may be pressured to hire less experienced personnel to keep costs down. This is a mistake. The key players on your community team should be chosen with the same level of consideration reserved for a head of Marketing or PR position.  Similarly, be wary of any plans to place the Community team in an obviously low position in the company’s org structure. This could send the message that customer relations are a very low priority for those in charge, and it could neuter your community initiatives before they can get real traction.

If you’re doing the hiring, discover your baseline needs by asking yourself a few key questions…

1)   What does community mean to various parts of your organization?

Does every department—from customer service to finance—understand the role and why there’s a need for it? How will the CM serve company goals?

2)   What does community mean to your customers?

How would they like to interact with your organization?

3)   What will the CM’s primary responsibilities be within your organization?

How would you outline the role in a job description? What department would it fall under?

4)   What are your must-have qualifications?

Our recommended recipe of proficiencies: caring, connecting, listening, conversing, believing, and strategizing. Is there anything you would add to your own list?

 

SIDE-NOTE: In our opinion, well-rounded candidates possess a balance between community expertise and business expertise—they don’t have to have an MBA, but a working knowledge of the connection between the “fun” stuff and the financials is a must.

The End(?)

That’s not all, folks!

As we said earlier, we’ve just explored the tip of the community iceberg in this series. But with any luck, we’ve started you down an exciting path towards increased brand awareness, a direct line to your customers’ insights, and an influx of revenue that will satisfy even the most skeptical of stakeholders. But if we have any parting advice, it’s this: Always remember to keep the focus on your users/members/followers—treat your community with respect and they’ll do the same for you. We are all connected, for better or worse. But today’s most successful companies contribute to the former by uniting their fans and bringing them into the fold. From your CEO to your next Facebook follower, we are all now in this together.

 

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