Community management is the new black. Everybody is doing it. Everybody claims to do it well. But scan a random sample of brand Facebook pages and you will discover a broad spread of quality. Now check Twitter. Same thing. Brands get that they should be on these platforms. They understand the mechanism of growing or acquiring fans and followers. They even understand that the metrics of an engaged fanbase comes in some form of the “People Talking About This” number in Facebook, for example.
Well. Sort of. I am not convinced that enough brand marketers are committed to learning and codifying the nuanced differences of what makes for great interactions. The NYTimes covered how a Hollywood agency, theAudience, is doing it for stars and studios alike. They are using social networks to strengthen the value of celebrity “brands” including Russell Brand and appear to be paying close attention to the quality of the content and conversation they are generating.
“The goal, explains Jeff Pressman, the chief operating officer of theAudience is “to develop long term emotional relationships.” He adds, “So when it does come time to ask something of these highly engaged fans – buy a ticket, click on a link – you have earned their trust and attention and they are willing to do it.”"
Pretty basic but true. Too many brands are trying to find that “high performing” campaign inside Facebook or even the single post that everyone clicks on versus playing the long game.
Here are three pitfalls that I have noticed lately in community management for brands:
Pitfall #1: Letting industry stats drive the strategy. No big mystery but, statistically speaking photographs, drive more sharing on Facebook than other types of media. Sharing is what shows up in our own personal streams and depending on the vagaries of EdgeRank, it’s what shows up to our friends who follow you. Does that mean you should use lots of photographs in your posts?
One coffee brand who shall remain nameless has produced an endless supply of images of coffee cups, some in clever scenes you’re meant to guess the reference of and absolutely all of them packaged carefully in consistent brand colors. I can just see the junior art directors sweating over their style guides now. In short, I think they may have over done the medium – photographs – in lieu of delivering a valuable relationship.
Sure use images. Russell Brand’s page is full of images and, yes, most of them feature images of Russell Brand. But they represent a mix of shots from the show, impromptu shots of him at home, internet meme postcards, the “gift” he gave David Spade for appearing on his show. It may not be fair to compare a celebrity page with a consumer product page. But still there are lessons of great community management that can be found everywhere and have some application to other brands.
Pitfall #2: Letting your own data drive the strategy. Everyone should be analyzing Facebook Insights and other data to really understand how their content is doing. From the time of day for a post to the type of call-to–action to the “story” behind series of posts, there’s plenty to watch. Still, if you are not careful, you can let your stats dictate too much of your strategy.
For instance, many brands have discovered the light-weight, conversational post commemorating a holiday or shared cultural phenomena. Nothing wrong with that. When you discover that your most engaging post in a while was Happy Valentines Day, don’t revert your content calendar to feature 50% innocuous posts on daily holidays. You might get a bunch of clicks and even shares but what that’s got to do with your brand and what your followers value from you is another matter.
Let your data inform your strategy, not become it.
Pitfall #3: Forgetting to define a brand voice. I like Hugo Boss. I have bought a fair amount of merchandise over the years (not that the brand ever noticed or cares who I am). So, I have an affinity for the brand. But visit their Facebook page and you’ll see that they resort to generic corp comms voice and haven’t put any apparent thought into the voice and personality behind the page.
Compare that to San Pellegrino. Their page is not only clearly focused on an enduring effort to bring us all closer to an Italian experience, the actual voice of the page is consistent and distinctive. H/she is friendly:
“When was your last San Pellegrino Moment?
Our friend Ellen sent us hers
San Pellegrino Moments - Send us yours!”
A hint: write a single paragraph personality statement that describes who the brand is as manifested in the social network of choice. Write another on the tone of the voice – are you playful, friendly, politely helpful, sassy, etc… Finally write a two-column grid of “Do’s” and “Don’ts” – what the brand will say and what it won’t say that brings the voice to life. Clear guidance like this will help you choose a distinctive and appropriate voice and guide the work of community managers ongoing.
The quality of the conversation matters. That's why brands should be investing more and more into their community managers and the content at their fingertips. We can use all the data in the world to make our approach to these communities smart. We just cant delegate judgment to data. Community managers begin to understand the community and what makes them interested. They are perfectly suited to becoming accountable for quality not just performance metrics.