Community Management today has extended beyond the bounds of the physical realm and into the online world, just as the traditional role of PR has expanded to include virtual communities and social media followers. Our Online PR guide is a great resource filled with practical tools and provides an overview of the how’s and why’s of Online Community Management. This checklist will take a closer look at this important PR function.
What is Online Community Management?
Online Community Management is the process of growing, building, and guiding an online community whether via social media or another owned platform. It is an important aspect of any business platform because aside from making customer retention easier, it cultivates relationships with existing customers and helps turn them into brand advocates. Maintaining a robust online community will help you develop your brand, products and services through continuous engagement with your customers. It improves your brand reputation and is instrumental if you want your business to be seen as an industry leader in the long term.
This checklist serves as guide for businesses looking to hire the perfect community manager, whether as an in-house employee or as an outsourced consultant. If you’re a community manager, this checklist aims to help you in your current role.
Online Community Management for Companies
Checklist #1: Before Hiring A Community Manager
A community manager must be equipped with the right tools to enable them to properly perform their function. If you want them to increase your brand visibility and improve your online presence, you must first help them by providing them with these essential resources. You can’t expect your community manager to have a dramatic impact on your number of followers unless they have these at their disposal.
Make sure that your newly hired manager knows how much is allotted for promotions and advertising, and what part of the budget he or she can use to promote growth through collaterals or advertising.
- Hi-res image logos
Branding is an integral part of your online identity. See to it that you can provide your community manager with hi resolution files and logos to be used on social platforms and to elevate your profile image.
If you don’t have an in-house graphic designer, then this responsibility typically falls on a Community Manager’s shoulders. Provide them with software apps or programs that will help them produce images or even some video content for your business.
- Existing social media platforms
Give the URLs of any online networks or platforms you may have worked with in the past, or any existing ones your business is currently using. They need this to create a consistent message and a uniform online presence for your company, which will avoid confusion.
- Brand usage guidelines
A brand book contains a detailed description of your company identity. It should include anything pertaining to company image such as colors, logo usage and the like. This will help the Community Manager in developing posts, online ad copy, and figure out what “voice” to adopt when engaging online.
- Customers to take note of
There will always be customers who voice their complaints in your company’s online platform. Make sure that your community manager knows who these people are and are informed about the status of any ongoing complaints, if any. This will help them deal with these situations properly.
Checklist #2: Qualities of a Good Community Manager
A successful online community isn’t made out of thin air. There’s bound to be a community manager behind the scenes, implementing effective strategies while nurturing relationships online. Look for these characteristics when hiring a community manager for your organization.
Being responsive is not enough. Community managers should have the foresight to see a potential issue from going out of hand, and resolves it before it’s too late.
They should be cool under pressure, and can handle complaints with poise and confidence.
There’s a saying by Eleanor Roosevelt that perfectly sums up this trait: Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. He or she should find creative solutions with what is available around them.
Lika a parent, they should engage with the community objectively and fairly, without playing favorites.
They should have a high tolerance for unusual and unconventional ideas, thoughts, and perspectives. A community manager should ideally be unconventional themselves, because this makes them stand out from the crowd.
- Curious and all-knowing
A community manager should have their finger on the pulse of what’s going on in their community, and the curiosity to predict trends.
They should be willing to give more than what’s at times necessary, and have the desire to extend a helping hand whenever possible.
Checklist #3: How to Evaluate Your Community Manager
Congratulations, you’ve found your candidate! You now have an Online Community Manager on your team, or a professional services group to consult with as an outsourced expert. How do you know that they’re a value-added resource to your organization? Here are some metrics to observe to evaluate their performance.
- Ask the community for feedback
Talk to the people that your community manager is in charge of. A survey coming directly from the community he or she is managing is the best way to check for the level of involvement and feedback to improve.
- Returning visitors
This is a good indicator of customer experience and high engagement, because returning customers will tell you that the community manager’s job is resonating with the right audience, and is making a good impact.
- Quality of content
Being able to churn out posts and tweets like clockwork is important, but not at the expense of quality content. You can measure quality through replies, comments from social media and other online platforms to enable you to give strong brand message and image that audiences can relate to.
This is a concrete way to see how happy the community is based on how the community manager is doing their job. If clients are actively referring your brand to their own network, this will eventually lead to a robust bottom line, which can be directly attributed to how well your community manager is doing.
- Milestones unlocked
An experienced community manager is in the best position to set milestone goals based on what’s going on in a platform he or she is handling, so discuss these metrics with him or her to make sure you’re both on the same page, and to make your manager accountable for what you’re aspiring for.
- Ability to encourage conversations around your brand
Nurturing a community around your brand means that your community manager should have the ability to spark conversations that will elicit an enthusiastic response from your audience. You know you hired a good manager if key influencers in your industry are taking notice and are echoing your sentiments.
- Level of engagement
Customer satisfaction surveys and referrals are some of the tangible ways of measuring customer engagement. A proactive community that gives constructive feedback on your online platforms is also a good indicator of active involvement and an engaged community that feels like they belong.
Online Community Management for Community Managers
Checklist #1: Qualities of the Perfect Community Manager
Online Community Management goes beyond answering Facebook queries and monitoring customer feedback. Having technical knowledge and experience working with social media platforms are an integral part of it, but you can’t discount the importance of “soft skills” as well. The role is a combination of technical knowledge and customer service expertise, and the perfect manager knows how to balance these traits to form a successful online presence for your brand.
The ability to adapt is an important trait because no two working days are alike for the community manager. The job means that they might need to act like a PR representative one day, function like a marketer on another, and be a customer service rep or be the official voice of the company.
- Excellent communication skills
This goes without saying, but it bears repeating because this skill set cannot be emphasized enough. Strong communication skills include the ability to communicate your brand message effectively online, on print, and verbally. They’ll be expected to craft blog posts, articles, emails, social content, and will also be networking regularly, so they should be relatable and approachable.
- Strong organization skills
Multi-tasking comes with the territory, because a community manager must oversee so many moving parts. From multiple online platforms, analytics, responding to queries, and tracking results, they need to know what is happening. The ability to prioritize all these things promptly is key.
- Background in analytics
Knows how communities are responding to engagement, and can determine what efforts are working and not working.
- Branding Ability
A clear understanding of the brand, what the business wants to accomplish within the social network, and the ability to live the brand.
The ability to make the most of what is readily available and to work within various constraints is an important trait. They should know how to sustain and grow the community despite setbacks.
- Knowledge of the organization they belong to
A community manager must know the ins and outs of the organization they are representing in order to communicate this effectively to the community they’re handling.
- Good judgement
Being level headed enough to handle feedback and knowing how to respond appropriately in difficult situations is an important trait. Having strong diplomatic skills is important in this role
- Passion for the brand
As the official voice of the company, a community manager lives and breathes the brand they’re representing, and having a genuine affinity for the company is the most efficient way to manage their online community.
- Ability to empower the community
Building a community is a two-way street, and the best way to encourage engagement is by giving followers and members of a social network a voice that is acknowledged and validated by the community.
Checklist #2: Getting Started in Community Management
Every expert was once a beginner, and there’s no better time to start today if you’re looking to begin a career in community management. Here’s what you should do to get you off to a good start.
- Know your metrics
Know your goal, and establish the metrics to measure it. It’s the best way to know which of your strategies worked, what needs improvement, and which ones you can tweak for best results.
- Follow the right people
Look for the ones you want to emulate and follow them online. Start by finding out who’s behind the Facebook pages, Twitter or Instagram accounts of brands you like.
- Set up an actionable plan
Be clear about what your goal is in building your community, and write down how exactly you’ll carry out that goal. Have a strategy that every member of the team can look at to ensure that everyone is literally and figuratively on the same page.
This includes setting up a calendar to implement your strategy. Schedule posts and content, and monitor consistently. Track which ones are effective, which ones are not getting responses, and adjust accordingly
- Always be available
Be there 24/7 as much as possible, because your goal is to engage with your audience, whatever time of the day it might be. As the front liner and community leader, you’re expected to respond promptly on all your social networks and online platforms.
- Join events
Sign up for media events and conferences to keep yourself abreast with the latest in the industry, and network with your peers.
- Be omniscient
You should always keep up with online trends and be aware of what’s going on in your industry. This will best inform your content strategy and will help you craft posts that will resonate with your audience.
Checklist #3: Your Goals as Community Managers
Growing and nurturing an online community requires a lot of diligence, organization skills, and drive to push the envelope. To succeed, you need to define your goals and come up with a detailed agenda to measure your performance, and tweak your strategies as needed. Here are some of the online community management goals to stay on top of at all times.
- Moderate online discussions
Watch out for any inappropriate comments in the online community you’re managing, and set up a clear set of rules for handling obscenities.
- Set up quality control standards
Strive for consistency when presenting your brand identity online. See to it that all blogs, videos and other forms of content pass your standards before being rolled out.
- Measure results
Monitoring your efforts will show you how effective your strategies are, and which ones you need to improve on. Google Analytics are useful tools for providing reports on metrics you’ve set up, and to see how you’re doing.
- Manage online content
Provide direction for the social media activities of your online platforms, and work closely with customers to curate content to promote engagement.
- Provide technical support for your community
As your brand front liner, see to it that your online interface is usable and functioning properly for your customers. The user experience should be a priority, so don’t neglect this area.
Checklist #4: Daily Community Management and Positive Growth Online
With so many moving parts to monitor, online community management can be an overwhelming task. It’s important to have a clear strategy in place. This is to ensure that you don’t get lost in the day to day activities at the expense of your ultimate goal: encouraging relationships, nurturing growth, and promoting engagement.
- Check your networks
Go through the online communities you’re handling, read through the messages and comments, and start crafting your responses.
- Monitor your ongoing campaigns
If you have a campaign or contest that is currently running, see to it that you check it on a daily basis to see what’s going on and respond as needed.
- Check content timelines
Take a few minutes to check for any future events and how you can use it to inform how you’ll create your content in the coming weeks.
- Gather content ideas
This is the time to curate and gather shareable content and get some ideas for future blog posts. Limit the content to those that are in line with your online content strategy so as not to waste time while online.
- Writing content
Use all the resources you’ve gathered to write relevant, useful, and shareable content that your community will hopefully find helpful.
- Report and analysis
Always stay on top of your ongoing campaigns, and find reports that can help you decide what strategies to implement next.
Always keep a pulse in the industry you’re working in. It helps to be passionate about the brand you’re representing so that this doesn’t feel like a tedious task, but something you’d gladly do even on your down time.
The ideas you generate during a brainstorming session should be a good fit with any future marketing initiatives, and should have measurable metrics to evaluate against.
- Put a strategic plan in place
Write everything down on paper, and hash out specific plans to carry out the fruits of your brainstorming session.
Checklist #5: Facebook and Twitter Daily Management: Checklist for Community Managers
Online community management is a two-way communication channel, unlike traditional advertising where there’s only the brand’s voice to be heard. Customers’ voices are just as powerful & influential as any business communication being broadcasted out there, and social media platforms encourage that. Managing this activity is central to the task of online community management, and this checklist outlines how to leverage Facebook and Twitter to drive engagement.
- Reply to comments
Respond to page notification at least once a day, and that the Replies functionality is turned on in your page settings.
- Post relevant status updates
Post an article, image, or video that’s useful for your community at least once a day. Don’t promote anything on this post, but offer genuine value that’s focused on answering a need.
- Check Facebook Insights
Look for correlations with other activities or campaigns that can be attributed to any sudden increases in engagement, or referrals to your page. Review trends and iterate successful ones.
- Review stats on any ongoing ads
Ideally, you should check any running Facebook ads at least twice daily, and monitor results
- Create a community policy
Put up a comments policy that clearly states how obscenities or negative comments will be dealt with. Create a set of expectations to create a community free of spam and that encourages constructive feedback from members.
- Leave a comment on another relevant or similar Facebook Pages
This widens your circle and exposes you to another community with similar interests. Of course, you should be respectful of their rules and add value in your commentary.
- Ask one thought provoking question
This will encourage engagement and spark meaningful conversations around your brand.
- Take note and promptly reply to every potential lead
Queries from those who are interested in your brand should be answered immediately and attended to in a timely manner.
- Like or leave a comment on at least 7 status updates
Seven is an arbitrary number, but it give you clear benchmark as to whether you’re actively engaging with your community or not.
- Be a go-to resource
This is where your value as an industry insider comes in. Share valuable posts or articles with your community, where you can establish your position as an industry leader and key influencer.
- Your official Twitter page should follow at least twenty people
Choose those who have a prominent position in your industry, and who have a achieved credibility in your niche. Their insights will be invaluable when crafting content for your community.
- Follow back at least 10 of your own page’s followers
This ensures that you’re in touch with your followers, and can respond or interact with them on a regular basis.
- Thank retweeters
It’s not only good manners to acknowledge this who retweets or mentions you, but it establishes a relationship with followers as well.
- Make it a point to reply to messages
Let them know that there’s an actual person behind the account, and that you’re there to answer any queries customers might have.
- Unfollow inactive accounts
Clean up your network and monitor active participants.
- Post and retweet relevant articles or content on Twitter
Tweet at least three relevant posts that your community will find helpful. Include any blog posts from your brand.
- Make recommendations
If you have any followers or Twitter users you admire, don’t hesitate to recommend them on Twitter.
- Engage with users
Chat with some of your followers with Twitter. Reply to comments, or initiate contact to show that you’re an active user, and are willing to help.
Checklist #6: Community Management Tools
The sheer number of online tools and apps available can get overwhelming. For anyone tasked to oversee online community management duties for their brand, there’s almost an infinite number of tools you can use, some of which are even free. But the good news is that there’s bound to be software that will respond to your specific needs. Here’s an initial list to get you started.
This is an excellent resource for monitoring and reporting purposes. It is used for tracking engagement, publishing schedules, and monitoring analytics
A great platform for scheduling multiple feeds, track conversations, and customize reporting.
One of the most useful tools for gathering information, understanding client demographics, and monitoring ROI for each of your social media networks.
For blog comments, this helps you moderate and encourage engagement, tag others in conversation, and even filter spam.
You need to always be on top of what’s going on in your industry, and this tool will help organize the list of news sources you monitor regularly.
This is a great collaboration tool for when you’re working on a single document with your team. It backs up all your documents on the cloud, and has useful functions like similar to Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
Aside from shortening links, Bitly monitors the most popular links and reports the number of clicks. For an extra fee, you can also customize keywords for reporting and analytics purposes.
This tool scrapes content on your behalf and arranges your chosen keywords in a newspaper format on Twitter, useful for your content curation needs. You can also use it to embed and schedule updates.
This is an event marketing tool that integrates with Google Calendar and makes it easier and faster for you to plan events.
Sometimes the best sources of support and inspiration are your peers. This online community is a great resource for new ideas, tools and guidance and to network with fellow community managers.
Checklist #7: Community Management Best Practices
Different businesses have different online community management needs, but there are a few non-negotiables to be followed. Here’s are some of the best practices and habits that the most successful online communities have used to achieve success.
- Adjust your approach to fit the needs of your community
There’s no cookie-cutter, one size fits all approach to managing a community. Just as each individual has their unique fingerprint that sets them apart from the rest, each network will have their own sets of quirks, requirements, and concerns. You need to customize how you handle them, because what may have worked for one brand might not be relevant to your own community.
- Have a clear definition of your community goals
What is your community designed to achieve? What is its overall purpose? Create an elevator pitch that can be easily grasped by every member, such as “a one-stop shop for all to share project management ideas”. From this, you can make a list of specific metrics to be monitored to ensure that you’re well within the bounds of your goals.
- Provide valuable content for your employer and community
Know what their concerns are, and find relevant content that will help solve those problems. Take the time to search for articles or videos that will add value and positive impact to every member.
Active participation should be encouraged. Listen to key community members, and don’t just dismiss any negative feedback or comments that you see on your feed. Constructive criticism should also be encouraged to ensure that you’re correcting any mistakes, and this shows that you’re truly listening to their concerns. Respond appropriately, and make useful comments.
- Empower key community members
Provide incentives to your most active and vocal members who contribute the most. Listen closely to what they have to say, and let them know that you value their opinions. Positive contributions should be recognized and validated, and sometimes giving your full attention is all they need to feel valued.
- Create a sharing culture
Promote a spirit of generosity and positivity in your community. Lead by example, and don’t hesitate to share anything valuable to your members. Show passion and genuine interest your community, and chances are, they’ll mirror this behavior back.
- Measure and analyze metrics
Regularly evaluate traffic numbers, and monitor your analytic tools to see trends and see the impact of your efforts. Iterate initiatives that worked well, and tweak those that required improvement.
Checklist #8: When Online Crisis Strikes: A Community Managers Checklist
When the unforeseen happens, and tragedy occurs, you need to know what your next steps should be to address any issues and situations that can potentially impact your brand. Let this list guide you in handling these difficult but often times inevitable situations.
- Put a temporary hold on scheduled posts
Take a look at any upcoming updates or posts that might be inappropriate in light of recent events. Pause any scheduled posts in the meantime and re-assess.
- Look into your existing media plan
Contact any of your collaborators or media partners to ensure that your message remains consistent and that it addresses the current situation appropriately. Don’t be quick to make an official statement or send a response immediately after the incident; its best to wait it out before making any comments you might regret later on.
- Listen to your community, and adjust your message as needed
Take note of how your community members will be affected by the tragedy. Find ways to help, as necessary, and be sensitive to their needs.
- Offer help
Contact key individuals or institutions where you can channel resources to assist in any way possible.
- Monitor your feeds and online presence closely
It’s your job as community manager to keep members up to speed about any updates or news that will affect them directly. Make sure you’re there to respond.
How We Can Help Improve Your Online Community Management
As you can see, Online Community Management requires many skills and a myriad of tools to see concrete results and achieve measurable results. This checklist gives you a glimpse of what it takes to run effective programs that will drive engagement, encourage feedback, and inspire loyal brand ambassadors.
If you are a business owner, this checklist makes sure that you are equipped with the tools and knowledge you need to help you in hiring a community manager on your team, and what to monitor to see an impact to your bottom line. If you’re a community manager, this checklist should serve as a reminder of what you do on a daily basis, and reinforce what you already know by heart.
Outsourcing the Community Management function is an option that can always be explored for businesses with budgetary constraints as well as organizations in need of digital marketing professional expertise. Infinit Datum has a range of services and products to suit your PR and Community Management needs. Our experienced professionals are well versed in digital media and can tailor packages to help you in effectively managing your online community.