Online community management: Stop. Look. Listen.

In the words of the Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Chernov:

“Without content, social media is a sports car with an empty gas tank”.

No one knows that better than an online community manager. But what that community manager also knows is that accelerating your social media activity straight to sixth gear is risky. Without proper road safety, you might say, that sports car could find itself on a collision course with a ditch.

Continuing our series on online communities, we’ve pulled together our ‘top four road safety tips’ for smooth and secure community management.

1) Stop, look and listen

As Brian Solis said earlier this year, the days of a lone community manager watching out for a few keywords to react to are over. The overwhelming amplification of online conversations has made it impossible for larger and certainly global brands to expect one person in front of a screen to be able to keep track of the potentially thousands of brand mentions taking place on any given day. Today’s community manager needs to listen out for conversations as much as they need to interact with them. Thankfully there are multi-purpose tools that make this more manageable, for example, Lithium combines social media monitoring with a CRM networking solution; while Radian6 offers social media monitoring as well as an engagement console.

2) Watch your speed

If a brand has lots to say and a stack of rich and shareable content, things couldn’t be better for the community manager. But it’s important to resist the urge to shout it all out at once. The content might be flooding in now, but there could well be a drought four months down the line. A clear content strategy and plan will enable the community manager to spread out that content, make it flow in a logical and structured fashion and ultimately make it last. Too many posts in one day can also be seen as ‘spammy’ – so we generally recommend 2-3 a day on Facebook and 4-6 on Twitter.

3) Don’t drive without insurance

In an ideal world your community will chat happily amongst themselves and drop some nice brand evangelism into every other sentence. In reality there will always be the odd trouble-maker, which is why you need to take out an insurance policy: engagement guidelines. By making them clearly visible on your owned social platforms, the community manager is within reason to warn users, remove their posts and if needs be, block them altogether. The Alzheimer’s Society, for example, has a neat Guidelines tab on its Facebook page explaining its rules of engagement, without sounding draconian.

4) Don’t drink and drive

It might sound obvious to say that community managers should always be sober on the job, but the role can require out-of-hours checks on evenings and weekends. Tweeting after one glass of wine might seem harmless enough, but embarrassing hiccups are oh so easy when Twitter platforms are involved. Platforms, such as Tweetdeck, are a great way for brands to keep track of multiple conversations, but when a combination of personal and branded accounts are streaming through a single platform, it’s simple for that manager to find themselves telling their friends about a 40% rise in market share, while their branded community gets informed how pissed they plan to get that evening.

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