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The (unofficial) guide to community management

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Community management has become an integral part of online marketing and social media branding—if you do it right, that is.
With that in mind and based on my own firm’s experience, I give you “The (unofficial) guide to community management”:
Time online should be time well spent: Working regularly with startups and nonprofits means we’re used to working with limited hours and budgets. To maximize those hours (and dollars) when we set their social media strategies, we typically home in on just two or three networks—focusing only on those we think will drive the best results. Once we feel our presences on those networks are thriving (or we see that our audience is spending time on other networks), we add more. This ensures that all our time spent online makes a meaningful impact.
Build a community, then activate it: A “like” doesn’t constitute community. It’s just the first step in a longer journey toward becoming a true brand advocate. We don’t just help our clients amass fans and followers. We also help them drive conversations, build relationships, and inspire community members to take action.
Nail the basics, then ‘add some sizzle’: Once we’ve established strong, interactive communities, we take it up a notch to sustain growth and engagement. How do we do that, you ask? This encompasses everything from integrating contests and content campaigns to hosting virtual events (scavenger hunts, Twitter chats, Facebook Q&As, etc.), launching social ambassador programs, or surprising and delighting fans with unique experiences and rewards.
Monitor short- and long-term trends to improve performance: We’ve created content scorecards that we use to measure every piece of content we publish. That way, we can quickly determine which types of content drive the most network growth and/or engagement, what topics our fans are most interested in, and when our audience is online. As we identify what’s working (and what’s not), we can adjust our social media strategies to maximize efficiency.
If you’re not quick, you’re not relevant: Online audiences expect near-immediate responses. That means it’s our job to respond to questions, concerns, or suggestions within hours.
‘A-list’ influencers aren’t always best: At my firm, we’re big fans of tapping online influencers to help our clients expand their social media footprints. However, we don’t limit ourselves to engaging only “A-list” celebrities. Instead, we focus on cultivating relationships with the “magic middle”—highly targeted groups of people who might not have the largest networks but who are genuinely excited about the brands we’re working with and want to help them succeed.
What community management best practices have you established? Please offer your insights in the comments.

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