Four essential skills for great community management

Posted by: Roxanne Hayden, Cedar 

The role of community manager has evolved radically over the years, becoming a 24/7 industry. You are the super-end user, representing the brand yet also participating in and fuelling the online conversation.

But it’s much more than just good chat. Here are the four essential skills you need to take community management from general banter to art form:

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1. Be a good listener

A few years ago community management was simply about basic online conversation starters, with just a little monitoring to help you keep things relevant. Nowadays though, it all starts with listening. Every interaction matters, and knowing your audience is essential if you’re going to predict how your content will play with customers at any given moment. 

We are, after all, in the age of hashtag hijacking. Fans are smarter than ever before and, unlike with TV ads or other forms of broadcast style media, can take a carefully crafted campaign message and turn it into something infinitely more amusing (think#WaitroseReasons or #QuantasLuxury). 

It can happen to anyone, but if you have a good ‘read’ on how your audience behaves it’s less likely to happen to you. Analysing every comment, mention, reply and keeping the two-way conversation flowing 24/7 – all day, everyday – allows you not only to filter and respond to negative comments and hashtag guerillas, but also to pick up the general sentiment of how your brand is perceived online.

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2. Be organised with your content

This applies to most roles in digital, but is crucial to a community manager, as our#askmcfly chat showed last year. All your content must be planned and scheduled in advance, from words and images to video and links. This is especially important for big cultural events where you may have an opportunity to increase your online reach tenfold with a well timed tweet – legend has it that the controversial Oreo’s dunk in the dark moment was the result of over a year of real-time planning and process testing.

Preparing in advance is important because it allows you to pick up any problems that may normally surface only at the time of scheduling. For example, for International Women’s Day, #IWD, @CedarContent organised a Twitter takeover with Cedar women sharing their tips for success and Cedar men sharing what they respect most about their female colleagues. Creating the impact and engagement that the takeover received meant not just timely scheduling of content, but also testing different imagery formats. Our initial attempts featured one image per tweet, which looked all right, but meant we couldn’t make the most of the variety of tips we had on offer. Which is why we went with the grid-like format you saw on the day.

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3. Be open to criticism 

Being a community manager requires a lot of patience. Interactions are observed and assessed by a wide range of customers and other public audiences. Responding to all customer service queries is a priority and every complaint is not only an opportunity to help a customer but also to create brand advocacy (ie. yes, sometimes things go wrong but problems will also be resolved). This transparency can convert a negative complaint into a positive and public recommendation. 

4. Be human and inclusive

Building strong loyalty is not just about listening but also taking action and engaging with the conversation. Ideally, the goal is for your brand’s social channels to spill over into people’s lives, bringing inspiration and entertainment to their newsfeeds so that they like, share and respond.

Community managers can really humanise a brand. We can have fun, we can play around, we can ask the silly questions which you might never do in other forums. I recently asked our @TescoFood fans: ‘What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten for breakfast?’. Here are some of the responses we received: 

This simple question sparked very interesting and unexpected answers from fans who were happy to share these funny experiences with us, creating a more personal relationship between brand and fan. 

So finally...

Community management isn’t anything to be afraid of, but does take a good dose of well-tested planning, topped up with a problem-solving attitude and a knack for understanding how audiences are likely to respond to your content. Keep all that going, 24/7, and you’ll do just fine!

Posted by Roxanne Hayden, Tesco Food Community Manager, Cedar 

Posted in CMA blog
14thApr 2014

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