What Is Community Management on Social Media?

What Is Community Management on Social Media?

Community management is the process by which a brand, business, or agency engages a community around its activities to promote shared attitudes, interests, values, and goals. In this context, a community can include customers, employees, stakeholders, fans, partners, and potential clients.

According to the 2020 Community Industry Trends Report, 88% of community professionals reported that having a branded community was key to achieving their company’s long-term goals. Almost an equal number (85%) said communities have resulted in tangible positive benefits for their businesses. In effect, communities are becoming indispensable for organizations that remain committed to standing out in their respective domains.

Successful community marketing initiatives can help mold perceptions about brands and companies, helping to humanize them and make them more relatable. They can also help businesses gain deeper insights into their audience and increase the longevity of a brand’s appeal. This remains true if we’re talking about a small business or a multinational corporation.

In this article, we’ll explore diverse aspects of community management from a social media perspective, from basic concepts to actionable strategies. Below are the topics we’ll cover:

Community Management 101: The basics

Community management is central to building authentic and meaningful relationships between organizations and their audiences—relationships that go beyond short-term objectives like driving sales or increasing conversions.

Although it includes elements of marketing, communication, and branding, community management is substantially more than the sum of its parts. It’s about creating a brand narrative that sustains over time and contributes holistically to the reputation and presence of a business or organization.

The standard advertising and marketing model of one-way communication is wearing out, while the interactivity provided by social media platforms is proving to be more useful. Communities are rapidly brainstorming ways to provide interaction between organizations and audiences.

Let’s put this in perspective by learning what community managers actually do. Here are some of their processes:

  • Plan. The planning stage starts with defining specific goals—whether it is building brand engagement, increasing followers on social media platforms, or increasing reach. Planning also involves setting out a daily, weekly, or monthly calendar of proposed social media posts and activities. Finally, a good community manager creates several versions of each message to cover all potential scenarios.
  • Engage. It’s the community manager’s job to engage with the audience in creative and organic ways. Commenting on people’s posts, replying to their queries, offering help, and thanking them for compliments are all in their domain. It’s important, however, for community managers to write original content each time and not copy paste or automate responses. Community building depends on authentic human interaction.
  • Empathize. Community managers need to practice being sensitive and understanding even when someone in the community conveys a perspective they don’t necessarily agree with. When community managers empathize with ideas, opinions, suggestions, and complaints, they’re conveying their organization’s ability to foster human connections.
  • Curate. Community managers are responsible for keeping their brand’s social media profiles clean. Deleting spam comments, untagging the brand from unrelated content, and flagging abusive speech are all tasks they’ll be in charge of.
  • Collect and analyze feedback. On social media, feedback can take many forms. Tweets, Instagram posts, stories, Facebook comments, and LinkedIn posts all become spaces that need to be monitored so that the businesses can collect customer feedback. This information is then analyzed, and community managers formulate strategies on how to respond effectively. Feedback analysis can help brands reshape strategies, make changes to products and services, and even create new offerings based on consumer needs.
  • Efficient problem solving. This type of thinking allows brands to solve problems quickly. As soon as a customer raises a concern on a social media platform, the brand should initiate a solution.
  • Brand awareness. It’s much easier to launch new products and create brand awareness when you’re talking to a community of consumers that’s already interested.
  • Customer relations. Community management allows brands to directly connect with their customers and offer them a personalized experience. Personalization can help improve customer relations.
  • Organization objectives. The benefits of community management are measured by how much they contribute to an organization’s goals. For example, a business’s prime objective may be higher sales and revenues, while a charity may be looking for more contributions. A successful community manager will use his or her community to help achieve a company’s goals while staying true to the organization’s values and mission.

Types of community management

The SPACEI model, developed by David Spinks on CMX Hub, is a commonly-referenced framework that helps explain the different types of community management. Each type has a different purpose and target audience and is based on an organization’s specific needs.

S: Support

The first letter in the acronym, the S, stands for support. You can create customer support communities where customers can ask the brand questions and problem-solve for each other. They can share best practices among themselves or talk about strategies to use a particular product or service more efficiently. For the most part, it’s enough for community managers to see that these conversations remain productive and wade in only when direct intervention is called for.

Alternatively, businesses can use feedback forms, FAQ documents, or their website to create avenues for customer support.

The Fitbit Community is a great example of a forum where users come together to ask and answer questions about Fitbit products. This in-app community is a great place for members to find fitness-related news, events, inspirational stories, or even friends. The company even claims that Fitbit users with friends on the platform walk an average of 700 steps more than those without them.

P: Product ideation, innovation, and feedback

You can design a space for users to come together and to drive conversation around product improvements. You can then use your analysis of these conversations to improve your products. You’ll be able to leverage ideas and information gathered from customers to develop innovative features.

LEGO Ideas gives us a wonderful example of how you can involve consumers in the ideation process. Users upload new builds, up-vote new projects, and engage in conversations around products on the LEGO Ideas website.

Customer support can be sought in the form of feedback forms, online surveys, in-person interviews, and even user testing. Keep customers in the loop from the primary stages by engaging in these kinds of feedback opportunities.

A: Acquisition and advocacy

This kind of community management takes care of a network of brand ambassadors and brand advocates who go online and promote your products. They drive brand awareness and contribute to converting interest into actual sales.

Marketing overlaps significantly with such community management as more and more businesses are seeing the value of ambassadors and influencers in advertising. An online community helps spread the word about your brand through social media and word-of-mouth.

A great example of acquisition and advocacy is Apple’s “Shot on iPhone” campaign which sourced user-generated, high-quality photos. Thousands of people participated, and Apple finally chose 77 photos to use on large billboards all over the world.

The campaign helped create a larger Apple community, allowed consumers to feel like a part of the company’s vision, and showcased the quality of the cameras on Apple products.  

C: Content and programming

This type of community creates and manages content created for a platform. Typically, a company based on user-generated content and crowdsourcing uses this kind of model.

For example, almost all of Airbnb’s content is generated by users who upload pictures and text about their properties. This content is then used for promotions to advertise to a community of potential customers. Companies who use this model have community management teams to vet the content and make sure it follows all guidelines.

E: External engagement

This is a type of community management that caters to consumers and fans who feel a strong sense of belonging to a company. People who share a common interest and are thus likely to talk about and engage with content are the target audiences here.

Nike, for example, has a community for people who like to run. It's called the Nike Run Club, and it has thousands of users who download the app, use its services, and engage with other runners around the world.  

I: Internal engagement

It’s also important to create internal communities between vendors, team members, employees, partners, suppliers, and employers. These types of communities bring like-minded people together and create a sense of belonging at work.

A community manager, although often hired for external roles, can also help you with internal engagement. With teams becoming increasingly remote, it’s important for someone to take leadership and ensure everyone stays motivated to achieve goals.

Small businesses can easily create an internal community using apps like Slack that have internal channels and help improve communication.

Essentials all community strategies should consider

Once you have identified your demographic and target audience, you can start developing a social media community management plan. While this can include all kinds of marketing strategies, we’ve compiled a few tips for you to keep in mind.

Create on-trend content

What was trending last week might very well feel like old news today. As a community manager, you should try to create engaging and fresh content that keeps your audience interested.

Be aware of what the latest trends are in terms of topics, music, hashtags, video styles, and editing aesthetics. You don’t want to serve up horizontal videos in the age of vertical reels.

Spark new conversations with your audience

Social media makes daily and quick interactions between brands and customers convenient. As a community manager, you can introduce ideas and topics relevant to your life that also link up with the brand you’re promoting. Such discussions can help community members visualize the brand as a living breathing thing, almost like a person they could have a conversation with.

Conversations help give your brand personality. They can attract customers to your products and keep them engaged.

Moderate comments

Moderating negative comments is sometimes a necessary part of maintaining a brand’s reputation. You may find irrelevant comments or spam on your posts, and these should be deleted so your customers get the best possible impression of your company.

Additionally, community managers should engage positively with comments that make legit complaints or criticisms. When brands come across as fair and helpful, they’ll be seen as a business that wants to solve problems instead of ignore them.

Work closely with a community management expert

As vital as community management is for any business, organization, or agency, it can be a challenging task to accomplish on your own. Hiring an experienced community manager can be a good idea if you’d like to  build and sustain an engaged community.

Browse Upwork’s Talent Marketplace to find a professional who can help bring a community to life for you. We’ve got dozens of experienced freelance community managers who excel in their craft, who create vibrant, authentic, and engaged online communities. Start by publishing a job post highlighting your project goals, and get the attention of interested freelancers.

If you’re a freelance community manager, find online community-building opportunities on Upwork that spark your interest. All you have to do is sign up, create your profile, and start applying for jobs today.

Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this article. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.

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What Is Community Management on Social Media?
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