February 25, 2013

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6 Critical Community Management Skills Community managers are in great demand; even though the job description changes from brand to brand and agency-to-agency. Ideally a great community manager is a flexible, curious, literate people person with a minor case of OCD. Community managers are tasked with creating and maintaining a branded social experience that respects and engages customers and prospects. They must present the brand in a positive light plus encourage interaction, conversation and sharing in ways that ultimately satisfy the members of the community and lead to growth in followers, engagement and brand preference. Finding skilled community managers is as hard to do as is doing the job well. Maybe it’s because of the complexity of the skills, sensibilities and tasks required. Consider the 6 essential skills that are central to the job. Brand Sherpa. A community manager has to deeply understand a brand and its audience. He or she must intuitively get the brand voice, personality, tone and manner as well as the positioning of the brand both in customers’ minds and in a competitive arena. By knowing how a particular brand would speak react, respond and converse, in an array of situations the manager can develop a content strategy and an editorial calendar. Social Native. Managers have to inherently understand the always—on nature of social media, the nuances of each platform/channel and the emerging social norms that govern how people present themselves in community. They need to have the same feelings about Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and others that their audiences have. They have to feel it naturally and they have to be facile at real-time communication with a finger on the pulse of trending topics and the kinds of content with viral potential. Customer Service Rep. Given the large number of brands interacting on social media, a manager must have a keen sense of urgency around customer service issues both in terms of solving individual problems and shaping the community’s perception of how the brand manages customer service. Part helpmate, part traffic cop and part apologist, the community manager must understand the business and emotional impact of problem solving both for the individual’s involved and for the impact on the larger community of fans or followers. He or she needs to help resolve issues and then merchandise the solution since customers who have had problems resolved tend to tell many more people about the experience. Hall Monitor. A community manager has to enforce norms of civility and good taste in social media. And while each platform has tools to filter racist, vulgar and other forms of unacceptable expression, the manager has to be on the look out for nastiness, sarcasm, and fair play. The objective is not censorship but respectful conversation, even-handed criticism and openness to many different perspectives. Social Director. The community manager has to connect the branded conversation to trending topics, larger cultural issues and the interests of the community. Cadence, frequency and forms of expression are the tools of the trade. Mixing direct one-to-one with one-to-many communication, a manager can direct or expand the conversation, prompt viral sharing and encourage different forms of participation. Being present and involved also means understanding who is at the party, why they are there and what they expect to see, hear and feel and then delivering on these expectations. Analyst. Successful community management is a function of playing close attention to what happens and leveraging those learnings to increase customer interest and satisfaction. Measuring the impact of topics, posts or images to create better conversational rhythms or to insure that more followers see or engage with content are key parts of the role. Developing best practices and tactics to use the idiosyncrasies of each social network to the benefit of a brand and its followers is the objective. Today’s community managers are the digital equivalent of famous hostesses like Pamela Harrison, Susan Mary Alsop or Pearl Mesta and/or legendary TV talk show hosts like Phil Donohue, Sally Jessy Raphael or even Oprah. If they have these six skills they can make all the difference.
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Social CRM Prompts Skepticism There’s a lot of talk about social CRM but much less action. The idea of mining social media to develop one-to-one relationships, curry favor with customers and prospects and develop loyalty is a seductive illusion. The reality is that very few companies have a clear understanding of what social CRM is, why they need it or why they should invest in the time, energy or technology to make it happen. A recent survey in CRM Magazine found that 41% of a thousand companies surveyed had no CRM program and that 47.5% are either evaluating social CRM or doing it informally, whatever that means. A mere 11% of those surveyed have a formal program in-place. We are looking at a slim segment of early adopters and a great mass of wait-and-see marketers. Part of the slow uptake is a growing skepticism about the genuine business value of social media. Part of the hesitation is uncertainty about access to reliable data, doubts about dealing with Facebook, Twitter and their ilk and confusion about the ROI of undertaking a labor intense social CRM effort. The leading business goals of social CRM are lead generation, community building, brand awareness, marketplace intelligence, increased web traffic and customer satisfaction. But hardly anyone can connect the dots between the available solutions set and achieving these business goals. To a certain extent, marketers The common objective is actionable customer insight. Conventional CRM wisdom is that the more data points; the better. The big software firms offer what appears to be the whole enchilada -- an online-offline aggregation of purchase history, contact, campaign and response history, web traffic, mobile usage, social activity and geographic location. The upstarts offer social data and social activity with the promise that these data sets can be married to others but more importantly they can drive real-time communication through pre-fabricated digital, social, mobile or location-based apps or messaging. Both sides will provide software-as-service (SaaS), secure cloud storage and consulting help. Most will provide ways to analyze the data or dice and slice on-demand. Unfortunately there are very few successful case studies and nobody is touting their business results from marrying up with either the start-ups or the established players. The key to unleashing social CRM is building a business case and positioning this emerging tactic in the context of an overall marketing effort. Making smart social CRM decisions will turn on the answers to these five critical questions, which will be unique for each brand: What are your business objectives for social media? What function is social media playing in your marketing mix? Do you collect, aggregate and use offline customer data now? Can you aggregate, analyze, mine and report on social media data today? What will you do with what you learn?

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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