Monthly Archives: April 2013

#CMGRCHAT – “Battle of the Sexes”

CM  avatar images

 

I took the opportunity to check-in to the Twitter chat  of #cmgrchat on Wednesday, April 10th. I found the experience to be very enlightening and entertaining. The topic was formatted as “Battle of the Sexes”, which become apparent throughout the conversations that it was not really a battle but more of an open, honest conversation.

I wasn’t completely sure how to jump in to the conversation so I sat back and “listened” for a bit. The conversations were fluid with people shareing ideas and responding to tweets. It was apparent to me that most of them had a great familiarity with one another, which seemed to allow an open and “real” conversation regarding everything from pay scales (By the way, in case you were wondering about the pay, @TheCmgr shared this – “In 2012 men made an average of $54,880 to women in the same role making $50,400. How can women close the gap?”) to advice for communities and deliberating the possibilities of male and female roles as a community manager. The question was posed  regarding the possibility of an ungendered community manager position. Some examples that were given were “only a female could be the community manager of a feminine hygiene product”, or “could a female represent a predominantly man’s brand and get a good response from the community”.

m vs f

The majority of the CM’s on the chat seemed to agree that it is about connecting with your community regardless of gender. I personally have to agree with this statement. From what we have been learning and what I have observed online, a good community manager can connect with their community and engage well regardless of their gender. I think there may be only a few times where gender can matter. One was mentioned in the chat as dealing with women who have been abused. They may not be open to having a male as the community manager or feel they can openly “unload” in that space. @DebNg said it well with “It shouldn’t be tied to a specific gender, but how will the community react?” This is the primary question that should be asked and answered. It it is the community that ultimately will decide the effectiveness of its manager.

Community Connecting

My personal experience with this chat was amazement. I was very impressed with the open conversation in the safe environment that has been created there. People shared their opinions openly and were met with honest responses. That seems to be what a community should be all about. I also was impressed with the amount of great information sharing that took place there.( I can’t wait until I have time to check in weekly!) The take aways I gained from this experience were:

  • Sometimes you must agree to disagree but always be respectful about it
  • A key is being sensitive to needs of your community
  • In most cases it *shouldn’t* matter what the gender of the cmgr is. In some cases is absolutely matters.
  • A great #CMGR transcends gender and creates a community around a product, mission, goal, interest.
  • The best person for the job is the best person for the job, regardless of gender

Looking forward to all that this talented and creative group of community managers has to share in the future. It seems to be a great place to connect with knowledgeable, intelligent and kind people. Great community of Community managers!

Justifying Your Community Through Meaningful Data

question markWhy do we create online communities?

This week we are concentrating on the topic of metrics and how it can justify the expenditures of creating an online community. According to Richard Millington’s book “Buzzing Communities”, many organizations develop online communities in order to meet objects that aren’t suited for communities. An example of such an objective is to reach new audiences with the intent of them buying a certain product or service.

Such objectives raise questions on why would someone participate in a community for a product (or service) that they currently don’t buy? How do you attract new customers? Initially, you don’t, according to Millington, you should concentrate on your existing customers. If you create a community of your existing customers, they may bring in their acquaintances, friends or family, ultimately bringing new customers to your community.

Once you have an established community, you can begin analyzing its behavior. Monitoring is vital to justifying the amount of resources that you are spending on the community’s development and maintenance. According to Harry Gold’s article, some of the social media ROI metrics that are commonly used by companies include:

  • Engagement Rates: Ultimately, this is a clear indication of the community participant’s loyalty to your company. Loyalty can potentially result in repeat purchases and new customers through their own recommendations. In Harry’s examples, engagement rates metric is the total amount of Facebook likes and comments divided by the total fan count.
  • “Talking about this”: This is a “buzz metric” that indicates how many people are talking about you on Facebook. Can provide insight on how well a marketing campaign is being received by your audience.
  • Facebook Reach: Metric that Facebook generates based on the organic, viral and paid searches. This metric is very useful for determining how well each of your registered search terms are being utilized by community members.

The items above I believe are some of the most important metrics to use while justifying the costs of an online community. Engagement rates are vital, these indicate loyalty between customers that are participating in your online community. These are just some of the metrics that can be used to show upper management how important community management can be.

Reflection: My Own Experiences

During my time working with a previous employer’s marketing department, I gained some experience with tracking conversion through our social networking presence and public website. Through our consulting agency, we were able to track how many people interacted with our Facebook and Twitter page. Once we had a detailed view of who had been using our social media pages, we were then able to link the person to an appointment in our system, thus linking actual revenue to our online community.

Our ability to link our customer engagement to a specific dollar amount was instrumental in justifying our significant costs to upper management. Incurred costs included the day-to-day maintenance of our Twitter feed and Facebook page, along with general updates to our public website. Overall, this was a great learning experience on how to explain the value of investing in an online community.

The Quest for Blogging Inspiration

flickr_Tiago DanielAs an undergraduate in the Newhouse school’s print journalism track, I once received some great advice from the chair of the magazine journalism department, Professor Melissa Chessher. I sat with my classmates around the dinner-style table in the magazine lab room one day for a session of MAG 406: Magazine Article Writing, when she exclaimed  we should all be carrying an idea notebook everywhere we went. Better yet, we should regularly take clippings of articles, pictures, even phrases that we loved or wanted to follow up on, and that we should keep a binder of all those juicy tidbits closeby our writing desk. I’ve now received this advice twice – most recently, from blogger Darren Rowse of ProBlogger.net, as part of our readings for CMGRClass.

Stay Motivated!

Rowse recommends keeping a journal of titles or phrases that could be made into blog posts someday, as a method of fending off the apathy which can set in when you’ve been blogging regularly for a long time. In addition, he suggests varying the kinds of stimuli bloggers turn to for information. Reading a book, subscribing to new sources of information and news, flicking through TV channels for relevant clips (whilst consciously resisting getting “sucked in” to the tube), and even taking a walk are methods I’ve found helpful before.  However, he adds that it can be helpful to start a content series, which sounds like it will become a second battle to keep up with. Still, whatever helps you chip away at the writer’s block!

Teamwork

Bringing community and conversation to your content stream sometimes sounds difficult, but many of this week’s readings address this concern. Whether it’s through recruiting bloggers and retaining them through a rotating editorial calendar (and showing how valuable they are by providing them tangible rewards), or involving the community by addressing questions, putting out a survey, sharing suggestions, or holding a competition/project (see “Meme it Up” in Rowse’s post) interactivity is the way to attract participation. Most importantly, interacting with people – other bloggers, professionals and fans within your niche can provide both the ideas, motivation, and support to achieve more on your blog. It’s as we discussed on Google+: get out, try the one-hour challenge to produce content quickly, and just write something – anything. Sometimes breaking through a writer’s dry spell is as simple as deviating from your personal norm.

The Similarities Between an Online Community and Non-Profit Development

Most of the examples provided to us in the books that we are reading for #CMGRclass showcase for profit businesses.  Since I work in Higher Education, I’m trying to figure out ways to translate those examples to be helpful for non-profits.

buzzing communitiesIn Buzzing Communities, Richard Millington writes, “For non-profit organizations, a community may often serve no other purpose than to directly support the organizations mission”(Millington, page 214). Although this is often true, I believe social media and online communities can also be directly related to donor dollars for non-profit organizations.

After reading Chapter 5: Influence and Relationships, the similarity between growing a successful online community and non-profit development really stood out to me. Receiving donations is based around the relationship a person has with a certain institution, organization or cause. The job of a development officer is not only to develop new relationships, but to also maintain them, so that they do not fade away, and as a result, the donations don’t fade with it.

Screen Shot 2013-04-07 at 11.43.54 AMIn this chapter, Millington does a good job explaining how to build, maintain and strengthen relationships. Topics he covers include: relationship criteria, building insider groups, volunteers, and recognition. However, the information is not new; non-profit organizations have been using these tactics for off-line relationship building for years. It is almost as though non-profits have done what Millington has done with online communities reversed. Non-profits develop relationships off-line first, and then organize an online community to grow those relationships and continue the conversation.

donate now buttonsWith my experience in Higher Education,  it appears as though some non-profits are struggling to find successful ways to cultivate online relationships and having a hard time proving that they are aiding in bringing in donations. But just because a relationship is formed online, it does not make it any less powerful than an in-person relationship and should be treated equal.

This is the list of relationships criteria that Millington lays out in his book. Your online community will most likely be with members who fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • High levels of activity
  • High levels of expertise or passion for the topic
  • Distinctive contributions
  • Interesting real-life positions
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Great contacts
  • Strategic fit

This is the same exact list that a development officer would use when forming in-person relationships with potential donors. Cultivating people online is really no different.

Do you work for a non-profit organization? Do you find community building to be beneficial to your non-profit’s financial goals? I’d love to hear!

Disclaimer: I encourage online relationships to turn into in-person ones. Social media is a tool to make relationships stronger, but does not replace the importance of in-person relationships.

Satisfied Isn’t Enough – Turn Happy Customers Into Ambassadors

The Internet can sometimes be a negative place, and social media is by no means an exception. I know I’ve noticed far more complaints in my social feed than I’ve seen unsolicited praise, especially for brands, products, or services. The Internet can be a bit of an echo chamber, so when somebody says something negative, like “Apple Maps steered me into the Atlantic!,” others will eagerly chime in with their horror stories. The problem is that it doesn’t always work in reverse; after all, an unhappy customer wants somebody to fix the problem, whereas a happy customer may not have anything they want to say. Therefore, satisfied isn’t enough anymore, and you need to figure out how to empower your happy customers to speak up and advocate your brand.

Blog12_ThumbsUp

A good starting point is to identify influential customers you have. They may have already mentioned you, which is a great start. In my own social accounts, I rarely talk about products, but when I’m happy with a brand I’ll go out of my way to recommend them given the proper context. One big example for me is Baratza, a manufacturer of home coffee grinders. Whenever the subject comes up and my input is welcome, I’ll name-drop them to make sure they’re represented. I love their business, their products, and most of all, their customer service. If they had an ambassador program, you can bet I’d be in line for the opportunity. Chances are your brand has people like me who would jump at the chance to help you out.

This brings up another key element of a good ambassador – they have to be passionate, and to a certain extent, loyal to your brand. “Fanboys” and –girls can be overly pushy and annoying, so they’re not always the people you’re looking for, but those who would consider your brand first in your industry are the ones who will be the best performers as ambassadors. Britt Michaelian writes that loyalty comes from a sense of connection, especially when a community is built for each member to have an important role. The more they love your company, the more they’ll want to spread the word.

He may be loyal, but is he a good spokesperson?

He may be loyal, but is he a good spokesperson?

The final key point I’d like to make is that ambassadors aren’t free. As Mack Collier notes in this week’s reading, you need to make it worth their while. They already love your company, but to help them help you, you need to offer them a bit more for their efforts. Empowering them with the tools and resources, such as exclusive membership to an ambassador community, is one thing, but actual compensation is often a must. Ambassadors don’t need to be paid monetarily per se, but other options, like discounts, “swag,” access to events or figureheads in your company, are all options to be considered. Ambassadors have a different relationship with your brand than customers, so they need to be treated a bit differently and rewarded for their efforts. Essentially, if you reward them for their hard work and loyalty, they will reward you in kind. And most of all, don’t forget to thank them!

How do you turn your most vocal supporters into ambassadors?

Who’s Really the Face of Your Brand?

This week’s #cmgrclass readings highlighted the importance of establishing a brand ambassador program. What are brand ambassadors do you ask? They are an extension of your brand, advocating on your behalf to promote products and services. They are the force behind generating word-of-mouth marketing and are skilled at creating buzz around your brand. Brand ambassadors are important because without dedicated members of your audience, your brand’s message would not be heard.

Finding Brand Ambassadors

Start with researching who embodies the qualities that your brand exemplifies. Your ambassadors should identify with the demeanor, ethics, and values as outlined in your company’s constitution. As Mark Collier mentions in is post, 10 Things to Remember When Creating a Brand Ambassador Program, you’re essentially transferring ownership of the program from the brand, to its ambassadors. The goal is to have your most passionate members take over the program while executing the vision and strategy set forth by the originator.

Building Fierce Loyalty
Another class reading by Britt Michaelian called How to Build Fierce Loyalty for Your Brand Community states that loyal brand enthusiast comes from a genuine connection. As community managers, we recognize the importance of not just connecting but building communities. A tight knit group of individuals with common goals and interests. Community managers should provide opportunities for its audience to connect digitally and personally. The Internet should not be the sole form of communication. Events hosted in public spaces are strongly encouraged. This allows community managers to bond with members and members to bond with other members. This establishes loyalty. Also, remember you cannot expect folks to take an interest in you if you don’t invest time in getting to know who they are. Let your supporters know you care by reading the article they posted to Twitter (retweet it), visit their blogs and share their content, an document on their Facebook posts so they’re aware that they’re on your radar.

The stronger your bonds are with your advocates, the more effective establishing a brand ambassador program will be. No business survives without the unselfish and undying support of outsiders who willingly commit their time to what they feel is worthwhile. Think about the brands you love. Do you consider yourself an advocate for these brands? Even if you cannot personally identify as being a brand ambassador, are you familiar with other brand ambassador programs implemented by corporate brands? We’d love to read your commentary!

Brand Ambassadors as Champions

This week, #CMGRclass learned about brand ambassador programs.  In 10 Things to Remember When Creating a Brand Ambassador Program, Mack Collier outlines key considerations when establishing a brand ambassador program.  I’ve paraphrased them here, grouping them into the themes of program planning, administration, and sustainability.

  • Planning: up-front planning is key to a successful brand ambassador program.  Identify brand ambassadors using both online and offline communications (#2).  More does not equal better: a small number of passionate advocates is more powerful than a small number of fans (#3).  Internal communication within the brand is as important as external communication to brand advocates (#1).
  • Administration: brand ambassadors are motivated by access.  “Make membership exclusive” (#4).  Reward your advocates with exclusive perks (#6).  Provide your ambassadors with access to high-level executives (#7).
  • Sustainability: Facilitate connections with and between brand advocates (#5).  “Create a feedback loop between the brand abmassadors and the brand” (#8).  Empower ambassadors to identify other potential brand advocates (#9).  Transfer ownership of the program from the brand to its ambassadors (#10).

Brand Ambassador Wordle

Royal Champions

One of the central themes of #CMGRclass has been “the who.”  Just as considerable time should be devoted to identifying the audience of an online community, time must be invested in determining who a brand’s ambassadors should be.

Previously, I wrote about how Royal Caribbean cruise line could more effectively engage its customers online.  Despite recent headlines (Carnival Triumph, anyone?), the cruise industry is growing and extremely competitive.  While many repeat cruisers hop between different lines, others are extremely loyal, sticking to one cruise line or even a particular ship.  Surely Royal Caribbean would benefit from developing and nurturing a brand ambassador program, right?

It turns out that Royal Caribbean has already done exactly that.  In 2007, Royal Caribbean partnered with Nielsen Buzz Metrics to identify 50 frequent supporters in online communities.  These individuals, dubbed Royal Champions, received exclusive benefits, including access to company executives and free cruises on pre-inaugural sailings.  Here’s where subsequent reports and analysis seem to vary, though.  Some sites applauded the move, applauding Royal Caribbean’s move to understand online sentiment and potentially influence online conversation.  Others called foul, saying Royal Caribbean crossed the line by granting incentives in exchange for positive reviews.

This is sticky.  As Tamar Weinberg writes in her positive post, When is Brand Evangelism a Crime? Exploring the Royal Caribbean Promotional Marketing Strategy, Royal Caribbean (most accurately, its consultant) did the work to monitor online channels, listening to supporters and detractors alike, identifying its most “ardent supporters.”  However, as Anita Dunham-Potter explains in Paid cheerleaders: Does Royal Caribbean’s viral campaign cross the line?, there was significant backlash among online community members not tapped for the elite Royal Champions group, claiming the posts were planted by the cruise line.

Improving Royal Champions

Not knowing whether or not Royal Champions still exists (the most recent search results are dated 2009), Royal Caribbean could evolve the program based on the principles of loyalty and transparency.

  • loyalty roomLoyalty.  As Collier writes in 10 Things to Remember, one key to a brand ambassador program is exclusivity.  Potential brand ambassadors should be identified not solely based on frequency of online posts, but completion of Royal Caribbean cruises.  RCI’s Crown & Anchor program, comprised of repeat cruisers, would be an ideal starting point for identifying potential brand advocates.  These cruisers have demonstrated loyalty to the brand with an important factor: their wallets.
  • TransparencyTransparency.  The extension of benefits to ambassadors should not be predicated on positive endorsement.  Royal Caribbean should want to hear positive and negative feedback from the perspective of their most loyal customers.  As Collier writes, “make special note of the customers that go the extra mile … even if they sound negative.”  To combat potential backlash from consumer sites, brand advocates should openly identify themselves as such in online posts to anticipate accusations of “pay-for-play.”

What do you think about Royal Caribbean’s Royal Champions program?  Was it ahead of its time, as Weinberg suggests?  Or, was the program too opaque, as Dunham-Potter argues?

(“Loyalty” image by Flickr user untitledprojects; “Transparency” image by Flickr user jaygoldman.  Featured image and Wordle by author.)

Ambassador-Building: A Lot Like Good Lessons from Grade School

Judy Baker - Flickr/CCSome of the guiding words essential to brand-building through social media channels are alot like the lessons  of good citizenship from grade school. Listening. Sharing. Liking.  Befriending. Connecting. Recognition. Reciprocity.

Not only are these wise words to remember, they are the motives, behaviors, and communication styles that can lead  your efforts to create, grow, intensify and maintain positive feelings of the community members and consumers of your company, product, or brand.

Don’t worry; you likely won’t have to do the work alone.

You can attract a cadre of others who are apt to be quite willing to help. These are the brand ambassadors, product fans and company advocates you can influence and attract through social channels to help you achieve this important task.

The authors of this week’s readings hold similar viewpoints about how to create an ambassador program. There are endless ideas and tactics that can be used, but the motions, emotions,  communications and community-building recommended by this week’s #CmgrClass authors are pretty consistent.

Flickr/CC

Flickr/CC

Buzzing Communities” author Richard Millington advises taking a page from the “time-tested” advice of Dale Carnegie, who advised that you can influence others by showing genuine interest in them,  making others feel important, admitting mistakes, appealing to noble motives, and by not criticizing or complaining.

Mack Collier suggests that you plan to start small and grow your ambassador group gradually by creating some exclusivity; connecting ambassadors to one another; compensating them in meaningful ways; providing direct access to the brand; permitting ambassadors some ownership; and empowering these friends and fans with some tools and resources to help them promote your brand.

Community-builder  Britt Michaelian says that brand marketing today is no longer about promoting; “ it is about people and more specifically: connection.” Britt cites as especially important the ability of brands to strategically reach out and build relationships with their audiences.

There is an excellent new example of real genius in ambassador-building on social channels right now, in my view.

The Following/FOX

The Following/FOX

The new TV show, “The Following,” has all the standard social accounts, but it is the innovative way they are using them, and the unique, engaging ideas they employ for providing super-inclusive methods for fans to connect that catches my eye. They do this before, during, and after the show in superb examples of  ambassador program best practices. Here’s why:

  • The “Show” account tweets hints about the upcoming episode’s twist—peaking advance viewing interest (fan involvement and allowing us “inside the tent.”)
  • The show’s “dark character” also has a Twitter account and will even follow you (Eeeek!)
  • After-show recaps are posted on Facebook and the website, with video clips in case you missed some moments.
  • The site offers “sneak peeks” video clips of upcoming episodes.
  • There are short videos with show writers and producers that provide ambassadors and fans with direct access to the upper echelon  of the brand –  both compensation and gratification.
  • From the get-go, fan groups (much like Lady Gaga’s highly successful insider group, “Little Monsters,” are being built through in-episode activities that offer “insider” treatments, such as specially-fed content and episode stickers. These serve to connect viewers directly to the product and brand.
  • Encouraging insider participation and inter-active “ambassadoring” by asking viewers to take and submit pictures of the shock on their faces as they watched the horror-of-the-week for that week’s show. The fan shots were then posted on Twitter and Facebook during the episode. The immediacy provided recognition and instant fan payback. An upload tool (tumblr) was provided as the resource. ( In follow-up, the website’s “photo booth” upload function  also provided a lasting and visible ambassador connection.
  • A “shock cam” section is hosted on the site, consisting of viewer-submitted content curated (connecting fans/ambassadors to see and connect with one another visually and socially).
  • A blog that lets you further become connected to other frans is an  “inside story”blog. It provides detailed backstories and other information about the storyline and the characters’ backgrounds as a tumblr.

The evidence of the program’s success has been visible week to week, as followers, likes, and other metrics expanded by leaps and bounds.

Pictured below is another great brand whose ambassadors and fans have been playing out the story, support, and connections as ambassadors to the world, all this week, in live-action fashion as the Final Four has advanced. Otto’s Army  and SU fans  are a great example of sustained brand -building and good examples of the word “fan” (derivative of “fanatics.”)

Syracuse University

Syracuse University

Have you ever been and enthusiastic member of a brand-ambassador program?

What attracted you in the first place?

What keeps you there now?

What kinds of rewards and gratification do you get out of your affiliation?

Please let us now about your great experiences!

 

Becoming a Brand Ambassador: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Joining Hands

Image courtesy of adamr FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I recently read the book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith. Goldsmith is an executive coach and the book identifies twenty obstacles that successful people may face when they want to take their careers “to the next level.” As I was reviewing the literature on developing brand ambassadorship programs and building brand loyalty in communities, I was reminded of many of the admonitions from the book. It seems that building strong relationships in a community requires overcoming many of the same obstacles that Goldsmith’s executive clients must overcome to advance their careers.

An Excessive Need to be Me

Goldsmith identifies “an excessive need to be me” as one of the most difficult flaws to overcome. As people we have certain notions of ourselves that we cling to, resisting change, because think we’re being true to ourselves. Goldsmith points out that it’s not about us, its about what other people think of us. Similarly, Christopher Barger points out that one of the first hurdles that brands and potential brand ambassadors both need to do is to “get over themselves.” Brand managers need to realize that regardless of how mighty and powerful their brand is that they can’t build a strong relationship with potential brand ambassadors by attempting to coerce them into doing their bidding. Likewise, brand ambassadors need to realize that even if they’ve successfully built “large” communities that brand managers are used to dealing with much larger communities; consequently, brand ambassadors also need to bring a sense of humility to the table.

Making Destructive Comments

Making destructive comments, even if true, will not engender trust between two parties trying to build a relationship. Brand ambassadors need to be careful not to label the brand/brand manager as “stupid”, “shout” at the brand, or organize a group of vigilantes against the brand. Brands should be given the opportunity to fix mistakes without the brand manager and/or community “piling on”. Also, just because a brand manager disagrees with the brand ambassador over the best course of action to be taken, does not mean that the brand manager should be labeled as “not getting it” or “stupid”. Goldsmith counsels that destructive comments can be avoided by first asking yourself “Is it worth it?” and “Will this comment benefit anyone?” If the answer to either question is “no”, it is better to say (and post) nothing.

Not Listening

According to Goldsmith, “not listening” is a key flaw that sends messages to others that you’re rude and that you don’t care about them. Likewise, Barger and many others point out that failing to pay attention to what potential brand ambassadors write about and making inappropriate pitches to them does not communicate that you are “listening” to them. Brand managers also need to sincerely listen to criticism from brand ambassadors and take action when appropriate.

Failing to Express Gratitude

The easiest failure to overcome as identified by Goldsmith is the failure to express gratitude. He emphasizes how easy it is to say “thank you”, but how often people neglect to do this. Barger emphasizes that brand managers need to follow up meetings with potential brand ambassadors by reaching out to them and thanking them for their time and contributions. As he states “thank you goes a long way” (in building trust relationships).

It appears that the skills needed to build strong relationships with brand ambassadors and in brand communities overlap with many of the general skills needed to build face-to-face human relationships. What other examples of common relationship blunders have you experienced while attempting to develop brand ambassador or community relationships? How could these have been avoided?

I Love This Brand, and You Should Too.

Building a brand requires the company to build a relationship with their customers. They must take the time and use their resources to establish a dialog with each and every consumer that conducts business with their company every day. Each interaction with a customer can have a profound impact on their opinion of your entire company based on their feedback, which they will share to their friends, family, and their own online community.

Photo by Valerie Everett

Photo by Valerie Everett

Who needs loyalty these days?

According to Britt Michaelian’s article from WorkSmartLifeStyle, “When you build a brand, one of the most important aspects of being successful is building a community of brand loyalists who will listen to your words, read your posts, show up at your events, purchase your offerings and connect with like-minded individuals.” In order to establish such loyalty, a company must create an active relationship with their community; a feeling of being wanted and needed in the community. With the age of social media upon us, reaching many people that may be interested in your community is easy, but making them invest their time is difficult and requires a significant amount of dedication in the business.

Connecting with your audience is key, which will drive their interest in your brand and product(s). Another article written by Britt Michaelian includes a list of ways to connect with an audience through social media, some of which I found very interesting. Here are a few that I think are the most important items out of his list:

  • Engage in meaningful conversations with their followers on a consistent basis.
  • Keep social exchanges positive and uplifting.
  • Don’t just broadcast an advertisement, connect with the followers and establish a long-term relationship with them.
  • Don’t be afraid to make a mistake.
  • Without their audience, the message will not be heard; express and show gratitude often.

I think one of the most important on the list is engaging in meaningful conversations with your followers. I currently follow over 50 businesses on Twitter, the majority of which post advertisements 90% of the time. Majority of the businesses seem to use Twitter as a central hub for their latest headlines and/or marketing campaigns, which is understandable, but lacking on relationship development. Due to their apathy, I generally disregard their posts and feel as though I don’t matter to their bottom line.

I’m currently working on establishing my own brand for my consulting business, Billington Consulting,LLC, which requires me to post daily on Twitter and Facebook. Creating a community is difficult, especially when your initial members will consist mainly of your clients. Throughout Britt Michaelian’s articles, he indicates that building your brand is like raising a child; both require time, effort, energy, and some “love”.

Outreach and Loyalty

While expanding a community and attempting to establish new relationships with potential customers, a Community Manager must understand their audience prior to engagement. Reaching out in an informal sense through social media sites (i.e. Twitter) is a great way to begin dialog. Erica Moss’s article contains some great ways to engage bloggers that may have their own followers, which will enable the brand to reach multiple audiences.

Overall, loyalty ensures that customers will champion the brand and any products that they purchase. Concentrating on your target audience is a good start and remember that not everyone outside of your target audience will like the brand and/or its products. As a Community Manager, we can utilize social media to develop the dialog with our customers that can lead to a long-term relationship