Tag Archive for communitiy relations

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?

Community Relations Past and Present

Flickr/arkove

Flickr/arkove

Our initial course readings have caused me to think about what contributes to the development, cohesiveness, and maintenance of an online community. My questions include:

  • What makes a diverse range of people want to spend time together online?
  • What elements truly bond them?
  • How does a community manager maintain their interest?
  • How do connecting bonds serve the community itself, or an organization that has developed the community via ongoing conversations and outgrowths?

I’ve related these new concepts to my earlier work of one-on-one, face-to-face, individual and group community-building and advocacy, functions that comprised “community relations” for the organization where I once worked.

Community Relations is typically part of an organization’s public relations, and my varied efforts then had definitive goals:

  • We sought improved understanding
  • We hoped to gain friends (and “acceptance”)
  • We sought better relationships than what existed

One of these CR initiatives was “Community Appreciation Day,” a block party event of vendors, crafters, food trucks, music and dancers (and the perceived chance to build good will and provide recognition through an official celebration of affinity and mutual recognition).

Today, a new technology showed me a much more effective and efficient way to convey that same type of sentiment online. VSnap has instituted a weekly “thank you,” using its 60-second video technology to reach members of its community. The effort was sincere, convincing, and it was easy to see how it could replace other efforts.  Click here for the thank you blog to find out more.

So it seems my work then was somewhat akin to that of online community managers, in developing and sustaining affinity groups or communities. It’s a discipline that’s played by ear, person by person, towards an end goal.  But it’s not easy or simple work. This infographic  depicts the many hats and the multi-faceted elements that go into the complex array of tasks involved in online community management work:

 

http://getsat.presscdn.com/wp-content/uploads/Many_Hats_of_Community_Manager_infographic_Get-Satisfaction.png

 

So what really makes a community of diverse folks want to “hang?”

Our course readings provide some answers:

Enterprise

When the online community is connected to an enterprise, the opportunity to provide consumer feedback may be enticing. For an enterprise, obtaining ideas from the community that embraces its products/services may also be a smart idea. The advantage that businesses can obtain from consumer input, through open source communities, is described in this article from Taylor and Francis online.

Engagement

 The opportunity to belong to an interest group (sociability) attracts participants. In Grace Lau’s article on World of Warcraft, Lau cites elements that WoW creator Wegner says are ingrained in that community of practice: mutual engagement, a joint enterprise, and a shared repertoire.

Lau says, “Communities of practice describes the kinds of learning networks that people build over time in pursuit of a common goal.” Learning opportunities are in themselves an attraction for online grouping. According to Lau, Wegner cited these elements as evidence that a community of practice exists:

  1. Sustained mutual relationships – harmonious or conflictual
  2. Shared ways of engaging in doing things together
  3. Rapid flow of information and propagation of innovation
  4. Absence of introductory preambles
  5. Very quick setup of a problem to be discussed
  6. Substantial overlap in participants’ descriptions of who belongs
  7. Knowing what others know, what they can do, and how they can contribute to an enterprise
  8. Mutually defining identities
  9. Ability to assess the appropriateness of actions and products
  10. Specific tools, representations, and other artifacts
  11. Local lore, shared stories, inside jokes, knowing laughter
  12. Jargon and shortcuts to communication as well as the ease of producing new ones
  13. Certain styles recognized as displaying membership
  14. Shared discourse reflecting a certain perspective on the world.

Do you believe that your organization can support a community of learning, and therefore an online community of practice?

How can your organization benefit from developing a virtual community of interested consumers and advocates?