Daily Archives: February 13, 2013

Five Ways to Love Thy Community

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and love is in the air. It’s the perfect time to reflect on how certain community management skills are exactly like good personal relationship skills. In fact, I would assert that managing a community is like being in a long distance relationship. Here are five reasons why.


1. They Need You Around

Just as your girlfriend in Ohio wants to hear from you more than once a month, your community needs a steady reminder that you’re there for them. A good, strong community is one where the manager is paying attention to needs, and doing what they can to meet them. Your community will notice if you’re absent, and that probably won’t be a good thing. Sticking around and showing you’re invested in the relationship is a great way to keep everybody happy.

2. Communication Is Key

Let’s face it, every relationship has its fair share of miscommunications, but in a community, it’s hugely important to keep people in the loop. Without encouraging your community to speak up about their likes, dislikes, interests, and need, and without speaking up on behalf of your organization, both parties will be in the dark. That leads to resentment, a sense of neglect, and a community manager who doesn’t know why members are leaving the group. Don’t lose touch!

3. Listen!

You’ve got two ears and one mouth, use them in that order! Listening is a huge part of any good relationship, and it is indispensable in community management. Listening to your members, including (especially) when they’re not talking directly to you, will reveal what your strong suits are, where you’re falling short, where you could totally wow your community, and far more. Listening is a constant, active part of being a good community manager, but its importance cannot be stressed enough. Many tough situations can be solved by listening more to inform your course of action. How will you ever know if she wants a diamond or an emerald if you don’t listen?

4. They Need to Know They’re Special

You’d never forget your spouse’s name, why would you ever forget the name of a community member? Now, of course, if you’re working with hundreds or thousands of people, that’s not exactly practical, but every community member should be treated like an individual. Every interaction should make them feel like they’re important to you, as if they’re getting the VIP treatment. When a customer gets a sense that they’re number 6 in line, or account number 33295, they know they’re not a person to your organization. But when you take the time to address their needs and concerns, or even go beyond what was expected, they know that the both of you are human beings, and they’ll walk away impressed.

5. A Little Romance Goes A Long Way

There’s nothing like coming home to a dozen roses you weren’t expecting, or having your loved one take you to lunch unannounced. A community can stay alive with typical everyday interaction and support, but it does not thrive unless it knows it means something to your organization. Arrange a special event or giveaway without announcing anything. Have a customer appreciation day and feature your community members. Show them how much you love them, and ask nothing in return. Whisper sweet nothings into their ears, and capture not just their attention, but their hearts. Community members can love their community just as much as you do, so help them find a little romance to keep them coming back.

A little love goes a long way

A little love goes a long way

How are you showing your community you love them this month?

Listening, Audience Awareness Key to Social Media Success

Melvin Gaal/CC

Melvin Gaal/CC

Listening has always been a crucial skill in informal communication exchanges as well as organizational communications work, and so much of Olivier Blanchard wrote in “Social Media ROI,” resonated with me and reminded me of past experiences.

Blanchard points to “focused listening” and “situational awareness” as critical elements in the social media space for brands and organizations, and essential activities for the social media teams and community managers who represent and communicate on behalf of them. The readings brought to mind some real-world situations and experiences.

My first recollection was of the skillfully-designed “Listening Tours” Hillary Clinton initiated years back, before she was elected as New York’s U.S. Senator.  That was a convincing (if not overt and transparent) public relations initiative, supposedly undertaken before she formally decided to seek election.

These tours comprised a well-publicized, weeks-long effort showing New Yorkers that she could, and indeed would, listen to potential constituents and the media reflected the act of her listening to constituents occurring.



The tours were an effective way of providing ongoing publicity for Clinton, and I watched them with interest because I was a practitioner of political and community-oriented issues PR at the time.

Hillary’s recognition of her audience’s need to be listened to was the first “win.”It was the kind of intuitive connection that all constituencies seek, in my view.

This same human need is also the element that makes social media such an effective two-way communication channel, and so a preferred means of organizational communication today.  Social-channel communication is highly differentiated from traditional PR tactics of pushing messages (only) outbound today.

Blanchard advises that social media programs must begin by asking what the organization should be listening for, not what it should be saying (p. 128). That discovery begins by asking questions  about what might be most valuable for the organization to learn from its audiences.



This discussion reminded me of two situations with national brands where consumer feedback affected corporate decision-making at the highest levels.

A few years ago, Coca-Cola, in what seemed like an “out of the blue” internal decision, changed the formula and taste of its quintessential soft drink product. The company spent millions retooling and advertising an introduction to the “New Coke.”

It was a klinker, a #fail move.

  • Consumers didn’t like the “new” taste
  • They overwhelmingly preferred the “old Coke.”
  • Eventually, consumers won out and Coke retreated.
  • The company pulled New Coke products off the supermarket shelves and returned to production of the original product.

If social media had been a mainstream communications tool at the time, this would have constituted an epic #FAIL.

Another similar consumer reaction to brand changes that did occur within the realm of real-time, online communication shows the velocity and power of these means of communication.  When GAP stores changed the company’s logo, consumers rebelled and rejected the new look, and they did it through social channels. The forceful reaction caused the company to pull the new logo and revert to the original.  As reported on Mashable on October 10 2010 (Ben Parr):

“Gap has announced on its Facebook Page that it is scrapping its new logo design efforts, acquiescing to a torrent of criticism coming primarily from Facebook and Twitter users.”

Blanchard also talks about “situational awareness.” This is the same sort of activity that is typically called “scanning the environment” in conflict resolution practice.

In my personal experience in the public relations and public affairs department of a large and controversial organization, we routinely did on a face-to-face basis what is now possible by listening through online social channels and tools.

The upshot of Blanchard’s contentions is that companies need to have some sort of system in place to “capture, analyze and respond to situations where the organization is being mentioned” online.  An organization or brand is unable to respond to threats and opportunities, he says, “if you are not aware of them in real time.”

That’s why I agree with Blanchard that for any organization or any brand, a plan of  “listening before talking” is essential. Because as he says, “the  more you know, the more you understand about your environment, the more you can react to it and adapt to it.”