Written by PIJAC Canada Member and Guest Author
Stephanie Dumont, Founder & Creative Director of StreetDog Marketing
Community management is often used interchangeably with social media, but the truth is, community management can span multiple platforms and becomes critical to engaging audiences as your customer base grows!
In a nutshell, ‘community management’ is all about relationships and how your brand nurtures a relationship with its customers, especially in public forums (like Instagram).
If you’re looking to grow your audiences online or increase engagement with your brand, you’ll definitely want – and need – to invest in community management.
What exactly is community management?
Your audiences are active in more than one place, and the audiences you have on Instagram are probably different from those on Facebook or in your newsletter list. So managing these communities means paying close attention to what followers, customers, and potential buyers are saying about – and to – your brand.
Without a strategy for managing your communities, you may miss out on opportunities to expand awareness of your brand, interact with customers, turn followers into loyal buyers, and monitor the sentiment around your brand.
Sentiment matters, because it denotes how people feel about your brand, and one of the most effective ways to determine how people feel about your brand is by listening to what they’re saying online!
But when it comes to your strategy, you have to figure out how you’ll respond to questions, comments, complaints, and sentiment online.
Isn’t community management the same as social media management?
The easiest way to differentiate between community management, and social media management, is to think of them as ‘before and after’ strategies.
Social media management is creating and distributing content for the purpose of growing a following and reaching new customers. You measure things like reach, engagement, impressions and more. This is the “before”!
But community management is what comes after you’ve done that; it’s sort of like customer service, because you listen and respond to your customers and what they have to say. This is the “after”!
With community management, you can get more personal with your audiences and show them that you care about your customers.
Why should you practice community management?
Have you ever seen a post on Instagram or Facebook that has a slew of negative comments or questions from followers, but the brand isn’t answering them? Or maybe a brand rep has given generic responses to customer concerns, and people are angry!
Customer complaints on social media have increased by 8% since 2014, which means more brands are taking initiative to strategize how they mitigate negative sentiment online.
For pet brands, it’s critical that you practice community management for a number of reasons, but the four key reasons can help you build better relationships with your customers! Let’s break them down.
This is the key to community management because it’s all about listening to your customers.
If someone is complaining about your product online, you’ll know how people feel because you’ve listened to what they’ve said – and now, you can help solve that customer’s issue.
The same thing goes for positive comments and conversations online; by tracking what audiences are saying about your brand, you’ll know how to respond. Many businesses use tools like Google Alerts and Google Analytics to follow what people are saying online, and this helps track trends, too.
So you’ll know why people feel the way they do and how you can help.
A negative conversation online can have a big impact on your business, and as a pet brand, any negative comment can spiral quickly, because people are serious about the products and brands they use for their pets.
You not only have to join in on conversations online but also initiate them – give your audiences reasons to interact positively with your brand and show them that there are real people behind it.
By monitoring, you’ll find new opportunities every day to engage with customers. The key is to do it organically; forget canned responses or copy + paste. Take the time to talk with your customers. Here are some quick tips for successful engagement:
• Don’t engage with internet trolls or audience members who only want drama –
this can create negative sentiment around your pet brand
• Keep the tone and voice of your responses consistent with that of your brand,
but remember, you don’t want to copy and paste generic responses!
• Be proactive, not just reactive – that means initiating engagement, not just
waiting for it to happen.
Just like monitoring and engagement, moderating your brand online is an important aspect of community management. You’re essentially moderating spam and negativity on your online profiles and addressing negative feedback in a proactive (not reactive) way.
You can take certain precautions on platforms like Facebook to automatically help moderate negativity, like Facebook’s profanity filter on business pages.
But overall, you want to…
• Positively address negative feedback by providing a solution
• Watch for spam
• Hide or delete offensive comments that harm your brand or audiences
So far, you’ve listened to your community and have monitored your reputation online, but now you have to collate data. It sounds scary, but that’s what StreetDog is here for!
You can’t be everywhere at once, all of the time, so measuring the health of your brand online can be complicated. With StreetDog, we do the heavy lifting by measuring sentiment.
For example, by prioritizing channels where your target audiences are most active, and establishing which objectives are most important, we help you analyze how your pet brand is doing. If driving traffic to your website or building brand awareness is the key objective, we help measure this through proactive community management.
In the long run, community management will build authentic connections with the customers you want to target, and the audiences you’ve been nurturing from day one. It not only shows your customers that you care about them, but it also creates a positive brand image that can help your pet brand stand out among the crowd.