Community Management: The Basics for Success (2023)
In today’s buzzing digital world, building and maintaining relationships is non-negotiable if you want to grow your brand and boost brand loyalty. And community management is a critical tool in achieving that.
Good community management is about engaging with your followers and customers in reliable, tried-and-true ways—but also in innovative and creative ways. The name of the game is keeping your audience interested in what you’re up to and what you have to say.
There’s no single right way to craft a community management strategy, but there are some core guidelines you should keep in mind. Let’s take a look at what those guidelines are and how you can get started with community engagement today.
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What is community management?
Community management is the process of gathering and managing brand patrons and loyalists for your business. It involves using social websites or apps to create a network where you can connect, engage, and share.
What is the difference between social media management and community management?
To distinguish between community management and social media marketing, it’s essential to understand their respective priorities and objectives.
Social media marketing:
- Involves creating and distributing social content to reach new customers and communicate with existing ones
- Emphasizes metrics like reach, engagement, and website traffic
- Goes beyond social media publishing to provide exceptional customer service and engage in relevant conversations
- Begins on a smaller, more intimate scale and focuses on building relationships with customers
- Helps build your brand’s presence both on and outside of social media platforms
To differentiate, community management can be more effective than social media management for building and nurturing a dedicated fan base. With a focus on building tight-knit relationships with customers, it can drive long-term advocacy for your brand.
The basics of online community management
You can sum up a community management plan in four parts: monitor, engage, moderate, and measure.
Also called “social listening,” this is the practice of tapping into what people are saying about you online. The easiest way to do this is by using a paid tool like Mention or Sprout Social, or a free tool like Google Alerts. You can use these tools to search for your brand by name (including misspellings of your name), as well as products or services you offer.
This is the active part: Respond to comments people have left and start your own conversations. At the very least, you should always respond to complaints and help to resolve issues. You can also use the opportunity to thank happy customers and reach out to potential followers. Don’t be afraid to be creative and show some personality.
This part is also referred to as “reputation management.” You should be on the ball to catch any issues that your online community has. In addition to helping solve problems, make sure your profiles are free from spam. You want to cultivate an overall positive, natural, and engaging environment.
Take a close look at your most popular channels and social media platforms. How do people feel about your brand? How do they engage with you? Is there a need to try and protect or skew the conversation in any direction? Reach out for feedback in the form of questions, polls, surveys, and direct messages.
How to create a community management strategy
Let’s look at some basic steps to become a good community manager.
1. Set goals
Your community management plan should be based on specific, actionable goals. This way, you can “reverse engineer” the results you’d like to see. Here are some ideas for goals to set:
- Grow sales and/or subscriptions
- Increase customer retention
- Convert customers to brand ambassadors
- Grow word-of-mouth marketing
- Boost brand awareness
- Generate actionable feedback
- Improve reputation and perception
- Educate about your brand, products, industry, etc.
Ideally, you can attach specific numbers to your goals, like “Grow sales by 10% in the next three months.”
2. Know your audience
If you’re not speaking the right language to your community members, you may as well be shouting into a void. The world’s best community management experts know their audience inside and out: their needs and wishes, demographic details, personal and ethical beliefs, and more.
Who your customers are will be a good indicator of how to connect with them. For example, a Facebook group may be a great way to reach middle-aged customers. Google Analytics data on your website visitors can help you do some basic demographic research to get started. You can also tap into the built-in analytics features in your social media platforms.
3. Make great content
As you’re starting out on your community management journey, great content will look like posts and other content on your public pages, like your social media accounts. But as your brand grows, your content might shift.
It might become separate groups or forums for your audience to communicate directly with you and each other. It might become a membership website that encourages this type of connection in a designated space that’s fully owned by you.
For example, digital nomad community Nomad List has a designated slack workspace to facilitate a wide range of conversations and connections among its members, as well as with the brand itself.
4. Invest in good tools
As you can probably guess, the larger your online community grows, the more time and resources you’ll need to invest into effectively managing it. This can be overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to do it all manually.
Fortunately, there are tons of social listening tools available to help you hear what people are saying. Some tools even allow you to directly manage conversations from inside the platform, so you don’t need to shuffle in between multiple channels.
HootSuite is a popular social media management tool that growing brands use to stay on top of the conversation. There are also more granular tools. For example, Grytics can be helpful for managing your Facebook group as opposed to all channels at once.
5. Measure, analyze, optimize
Thinking back to the goals you set in the first step, now is the time to see how well you’re meeting them with your current community management strategy. Try to look at the metrics that are most relevant to the goals you set, for the period of time that you set them.
For example, if you were aiming to boost awareness for your brand, look at metrics like the number of visitors to your website, your increase in social media followers, and your increase in engagement like likes, comments, and mentions across various social media platforms.
If you’ve been meeting your goals, great! If you haven’t, try and glean bits of data to help point you in the right direction, and tweak your strategy as you see fit. Keep going through this cycle over and over until you’ve mastered the art.
Hiring a community manager
A community manager is responsible for executing your community management strategy and acting as a liaison between your business and its audience. They moderate groups, provide support and engagement, and create content to foster a sense of community among members.
While you can handle community management yourself, hiring a dedicated person becomes crucial as your business grows and requires more attention. A community manager ensures consistency and familiarity with your audience.
Platforms to find community managers
With its massive user base and professional networking focus, LinkedIn is a prime platform for finding top community management talent. You can easily search for community managers open to job opportunities around the world, or post a job listing for free.
Upwork is another popular platform to find and hire freelance community managers. You can post a detailed project description and required skills to attract top talent. With more than four thousand positive reviews, community managers on Upwork are rated 4.7 out of 5 by clients.
With over 4,000 community builder members, Community Club is a great resource for finding community management help. You need to be a member to be able to post and engage with others, but the job submission feature can be used by anyone. Additionally, Community Club offers community-led growth services if you’re looking for help developing and executing a successful community strategy.
Community management best practices
Managing a community takes work, but following these best practices can help you build a strong, engaged audience:
- Establish clear community guidelines and rules to ensure members understand what’s expected of them. Create a document outlining how people should behave and make it a requirement for new members to read upon joining.
- Include a brief explanation of your brand in the bio of all your online profiles, and link back to your site to make it easy for people to learn more.
- Keep your brand’s voice consistent across channels, but adapt your conversation style based on the platform. Don’t be afraid to show some personality, including humor, when appropriate.
- Encourage happy customers to share pictures of your product and use a branded hashtag to increase user-generated content.
- Proactively engage with your community, not just reactively. Create social media posts that encourage comments, such as contests, challenges, or questions, to increase engagement.
Engaged community, strong business
Every successful company has a community management plan. As your business grows, this plan becomes more important and more relevant.
When you have a good relationship with your community, you’re working to build a group of loyal followers—people who like and trust your brand, and are willing to advocate for it. This relationship, in turn, amplifies your ability to spread the word and continue growing indefinitely.
Community management FAQ
What is community management, and what are some examples?
Community management is the art of cultivating a passionate and engaged audience around a brand’s products or services online. One example is Craftic, which is a private community that offers new and seasoned crafters tutorials, online classes, and other exclusive content shared only in the group.
What is the role of community management?
The role of community management is to cultivate and sustain a brand’s following, both online and offline. This involves engaging with members across various platforms and channels, such as social media, Slack, Discord, and in-person meetups, to establish meaningful connections and foster lasting relationships.
What is included in community management?
- Maintaining an authentic and consistent brand image
- Creating brand ambassadors
- Taking and applying feedback from members
- Setting community guidelines and policies
- Building brand loyalty
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