Daily Archives: December 6, 2013

Listen up!: Using comments, blogger outreach, and ambassador programs to build your community

When trying to grow or maintain your community, it is essential to provide your audience with unique opportunities to interact with your brand. Comments, blogger outreach, and ambassador programs are all paths through which a CM can better connect with the community. Read on to see what I’m talking about.

Comments
Read between the lines

As if it hasn’t been said enough times, Buzzing Communities reminds us that the customer is always right! ALWAYS. Take it from someone who has angrily reached out to brands on social media many times, I always remember which brands were pleasant to deal with, and which were not. Online conflict resolution is not only vital in that it calms dissatisfied customers, but the manner in which this resolution is dealt with speaks highly to the brand — and the reason why it’s included on this list.

Blogger Outreach
Why is this even necessary?

Unlike journalists, most bloggers are not constrained by traditional media models. In The Best Practice Guide for Effective Blogger Outreach, an eBook by InkyBee, it is noted that bloggers have instant and exponential reach. They are also a source of “earned media,” a relationship that is based on a real connection — both on and offline. PR professional Sally Falkow said that a BlogHer study showed that women in the US rank blogs as their “number one source of information.” That’s a lot of people. That’s a lot of power.

The first steps

Once you decide blogger outreach is the way you want to go, you need to devise a plan. First, consider all of the possible outcomes that, according to Jenn Pedde’s “Building Community in Blogger Outreach” presentation, blog outreach can yield:

  • SEO/link building
  • Increased sales
  • Engaged customers/users
  • Product testing
  • Being the dominant voice in your industry
  • Being the most trusted voice in your industry

Next, InkyBee recommends identifying the blogs where the target audience lives. And Pedde reminds us that not all blogs are created equal. In fact, according to a chart entitled “Blogger Outreach: Tiers of Blogging and Link Building” (Fig. 1) in her presentation, there are five tiers of blogs: news outlets, large blog outlets, influencers, specific subject, and everyone else.

Blogger Outreach: Tiers of Blogging and Link Building (via Jenn Pedde's "Building Community in Blogger Outreach")

Fig. 1: Blogger Outreach: Tiers of Blogging and Link Building (via Jenn Pedde’s “Building Community in Blogger Outreach”)

Perhaps the most important piece of advice offered from InkyBee is to remember to personalize your pitch to the blogger. Investigate how they prefer to communicate — Twitter, Facebook, Quora — and capitalize on it. You need to offer something that mutually beneficial; no one likes to walk down a one-way street.

Keeping it going

Once this mutually beneficial relationship is established, be sure to not let the relationship die. You’ve worked this hard – so keep it up! Thank them, continue providing them with good content, and maybe treat them to a nice lunch 🙂 Be sure to also store his/her contact information and maintain and updated blogger database.

Brand Ambassador Programs
Say what?

brand ambassador program, as defined by Mack Collier:

… allows for an ongoing, working relationship with special customers who are fans of your brand. Their job is to stay in constant contact with your customers, not only promoting you to these customers, but also giving you invaluable feedback on what your customers think about your brand.

As a result, as a CM, you gain a greater understanding of your target and can pass along valuable insights to your marketing and advertising teams. Brand ambassador programs are especially helpful for larger companies, who find it overwhelming to connect with their consumers.

Collier offers 10 tips for creating a brand ambassador program. Three of my favorites are:

  • Spread the world internally as well as externally
    • If you don’t have the entire organization behind any given initiative, it’s doomed to fail
  • Make membership exclusive
    • You want to ensure that you are giving “membership” to the customers who are true advocates to the brand and who are truly committed. No phonies allowed!
  • Give your advocates direct access to the brand
    • Be sure that your ambassadors have access to some executives or people of significance at the company. These people are the “brand’s biggest defenders and advocates,” so it is essential that their voice is always heard by someone who has the power to enact change.

Buzzing Communities also recommends that brand ambassadors meet at least one of these criteria:

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

 

Many agencies and brands who are looking to reach college students are now targeting these same students to be their brand ambassadors (image via MrYouth http://mryouth.com/)

Many agencies and brands who are looking to reach college students are now targeting these same students to be their brand ambassadors (image via MrYouth http://mryouth.com/)

Choose wisely!

 

Which of these three avenues do you think best suites your brand? Try them out and let me know!

 

Being More Than Just a Representative

Monitoring Social Media is One Thing… Being a Community Manager is So Much More

Social media and community managers seem to be closely affiliated; however, their roles are drastically different. Some companies need to have a community outside of social media, while others would simply be wasting their time and money. But how do you decide whether or not to have a community, and where do you get started?

 

What should a social media manager or an online community manager be doing for your company?

Vanessa DiMauro, in an article titled “Social Media Manager vs. Online Community Manager: Same or Different?,” talks about the different roles of a social media manager and an online community manager within an organization.

Social media is tied to sales & marketing. Online communities are tied to product development & customer service. In the end, it all equates to money. Photo taken by Zachary J. Prutzman. All rights reserved.

Social media is tied to sales & marketing. Online communities are tied to product management & customer service. In the end, it all equates to money.
Photo taken by Zachary J. Prutzman. All rights reserved.

Social media managers can be tied closely to marketing and sales – they try to drive leads, raise awareness of products/services, give visibility to the company and its products, increase sales, and increase event attendance. They are trying to have as many people know about the company as possible.

Online community managers take on a role that can be tied more closely to product management and customer service, with a little bit of sales as well. They take feedback from customers and implement it into product development. They increase the utilization of the products. They answer customers’ questions and seek to reduce call center traffic by allowing customers to help each other. And they promote events and achieve customer retention/satisfaction.

 

Does your company even need an online community?

For most companies, social media itself is enough – there is no need for a larger online community. The key indicator is complexity; is the market and/or your product complex enough to deserve a community?

Simple, cheap products -- such as Sharpies -- do not need a community outside of social media.  Photo taken by alecs apple. All rights reserved.

Simple, cheap products — such as Sharpies — do not need a community outside of social media.
Photo taken by alecs apple. All rights reserved.

When it comes to low complexity markets, social media is king. An article by The Community Roundtable, titled “Differentiating Between Social Media and Community Management,” uses Sharpie pens as an example of a low complexity market. The product is simple, and the company just needs to create awareness and a sense of connection to the brand. Sharpie’s business model does not support spending hundreds of dollars to create a deep relationship with a customer who buys five bucks worth of product. Also, customers rarely do background research on products that are relatively cheap, and do not need a “How to Use Your Sharpie” pamphlet (it’s pretty self-explanatory).

On the other hand, high complexity markets and complex usage markets need to develop an online community (according to The Community Roundtable’s article). In these types of markets, the decision-making process is much longer and it is tough to achieve conversion. An example of this would be the Adobe Creative Suite, which is extremely complex (and expensive). Customers benefit greatly by interacting and building relationships with other customers, along with being recommended towards affiliated product and service providers. And in these markets, the price point is much higher – meaning that the business model supports this type of community engagement.

 

So you need a community… where do you get started?

If you’ve decided that building a community via social media the way to go, there are a few things you should know to help you get started. Megan Berry, formerly of Klout, has put together a great list of how to get your social media community off the ground. You can find it here.

If you’re trying to build an online community platform separate from social media, Stephanie Gehman has produced a nice article that looks at the approach that JetBlue has taken towards developing their community. You can find that article here.