Six steps to success – take them and you’re 80 per cent of the way to becoming a social business!

I write a lot about cultivating a good community in this Blog, so I thought it only fair to address the question, how do you do that exactly?

It was Mother Teresa who once said “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”. She surely didn’t have community management of social channels in mind when she said it, but the theory still rings true.

Firstly, what does a “good community” look like?

– People helping people – community members self-healing and resolving issues, independent of you
– People feeding back to you – positive and negative, about you do, say and sell
– People referring people – growth of participation in your social programs
– People getting creative – when evangelism leads to crowd-sourcing, integrating and evolving with your brand, to the extent new products and services are imagined along with positions created and filled

Sound exciting? It should. This is the dream – true engagement! So, what can you do to encourage it? I normally stick to four key points on my Blog, but today, I have to expand to six:

Partner! Some guys are out there doing it well already. The likes of Skype, Nescafe, Oreo and Oral-B all have acclaimed social programs with excellent community traits. Remember, sharing amongst community members isn’t the extent of cooperation, it also involves your touch points with other organisations as well. Navel gazing doesn’t work. Think about ways you can integrate with and leverage other brands.

Respond! ASAP! You don’t need to have all the answers immediately, but you need to let people know you are looking for them, and when they should expect a resolution. You need to show your followers that your social channels have your attention. A ‘follow the sun’ model isn’t a bad idea, you just need to make sure you appropriately train your community management team to be sensitive to local market nuances. Alternatively, if you are domestic only, think about setting up alerts so your Manager can quickly see things on their mobile if something urgent comes up. Business is not 9-5, nor is social. Further still, social is nothing without mobile!

Stay fresh! Listen, Read, Learn. Only when you apply this philosophy will people engage. You have to stay across what is important to your community, so listen to what they are talking about, read the same materials, and share your own thoughts on a regular and consistent basis.

Analyse! You can’t manage what you don’t measure. There are some great tools out there to help with this. Check out Hootsuite, Klout, or SocialBakers. Understanding trends is vital, but so is getting personal on occasion. Show you have a personality by dealing with people personally.

Close the loop! Take peoples input and ideas seriously and show how you are using them. It’s a little like a restaurant with an open kitchen. When you can see the chefs at work, you trust them more. Extend this thinking. Let your community behind the curtains so they can see the process at work. If you want them to be a part of your future, you have to be open about the part they play in it.

Reward loyalty! Run a program that encourages behaviour. If you want a self-healing and perpetually growing community, set an open criteria that identifies and rewards people for the willingness to refer and help. The cost is likely to be far less than what you’d otherwise invest in support staff. Show your community their time and energy is valued.

It’s not rocket-science, but it takes effort and determination to invest over the long term!

– My name is Aaron Crowther. Follow me on Twitter @ascommstweeter

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