Community managers are tasked with multiple job descriptions. And the job is often misunderstood by the people giving orders.
Every community that grows up around a product, service, or business is different. There are no all-purpose techniques that will work for every business. When a company is just starting – or if the community around it is small and disconnected – community management is just conventional customer service. However, when a community coheres – when there are stable relationships formed among customers centered around the business – it becomes necessary to observe, communicate with, and direct that mass of people.
Customers don’t want to talk to your community manager. They want to speak with the people involved in building your core service. In online games, for example, the customers want to hear from the developers. They want the programmer who built their virtual sword to log in to the forums to talk about their decision making process.
But that programmer is typically too busy to know that there’s demand among the unwashed hordes of gamers to hear what they have to say. The community manager needs to act as that intermediary. They shouldn’t be the sole point of contact between the company and the community. The community manager will never have the combined expertise of the other specialists at the company.
In more conventional businesses, community managers need to dig up discussion of the company online. If someone tweets about problems with an airline, that data ought to be collected and acted upon quickly.
Happy Customers are the Best Advertisement
People are more connected with one another than ever before. If a company has a problem, PR spin is now largely ineffective. It’s easy to persuade reporters to see things your way. There aren’t many of them, they’re overworked, and they have a silent financial incentive to communicate a pro-corporate line thanks to advertising.
But when someone blogs, tweets, or updates their Facebook about a company, they will persuade their friends. If they’re saying positive things about your company, it’s magnificently effective free advertising. When they trash your company, it wounds your brand until you can staunch the bleeding.
Complaints, however, are a good sign. It shows that someone cares enough about your product to complain about it. And if you can respond to the complaint, it’s likely that you can engineer a reversal.
People love to feel like their concerns have been validated and acted upon. That’s how to convert a whiner into an evangelist for your brand.
[Photo credit: Mararie, Flickr]