Community management can be a great tool for startup businesses — it allows you to build brand awareness and build up a base of interested and loyal followers.
Not sure what community management means or where to start? This guide covers everything you need to know as a startup.
What does community management mean?
If you’re running a startup and looking into ways to use social media to boost your marketing efforts, you’ve probably heard the term community management.
It’s often used interchangeably with social media management — but it goes far beyond just managing your social channels, and it should be a key part of your social media strategy as your startup grows.
Social media community management is an important part of establishing and developing relationships, building up an online presence, and making people aware of your brand.
Your ‘community’ refers to current customers, your target audience, and anyone who interacts with your brand online. This is primarily on social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Pinterest. But it can also cover channels like YouTube, forums, and people that read and interact with your blog content.
Social media management vs community management
When you talk about social media marketing and management, you’re referring to creating and publishing content across your social media channels. You’re focusing on what kind of content you can share that engages followers and potential customers, what will drive engagement and encourage people to visit your website.
Community management is the next stage after you’ve published that content.
It involves interacting with your followers, responding to their comments and messages, encouraging them to engage with your content, and participating in relevant conversations online. It’s about building up a community around your online content and your brand.
Why community management matters
Community management helps your brand to stay relevant and involved with current conversations and trends. It also adds credibility to your brand and can help establish you as a thought leader. You’ll be able to share your opinions and insights, and demonstrate your expertise through the content you’re posting, as well as interacting with other people and brands within your industry or niche.
You can also use community management to make your brand seem more personal and human, through real conversations with your followers.
How can community management increase brand awareness?
One of the biggest advantages of community management is increasing brand awareness. It’s often a slow process to build up a community, but it leads to a lot more engagement.
Publishing regular content online is a good starting point, but taking the time to engage and manage a community is what will really help to build stronger connections with your followers.
This means more people are likely to start following you, your followers will share and recommend your content and your brand to others, and you’ll organically develop a loyal and enthusiastic following over time.
What does a community management strategy include?
You need to be able to put the time and effort into building up your community over several months or years, but here’s how to get started with a community management strategy.
Choose which social media channels to focus on
As a startup, your resources are probably limited, and it’s important not to stretch yourself too thin.
You want to focus on one or two social media platforms to build up your community at first so that you can be as proactive and involved as possible. Consider which social media channels are most used by your target audience and make those the focus of your community management efforts.
Set goals for your community management plan
You need to be able to measure the success of your community management so it’s important to set out some goals as part of your strategy.
These should align with your overall business plans and marketing goals. You might keep track of your progress towards them by focusing on these metrics:
- Number of followers on social media
- Sign-ups to your email newsletter or subscribers to your blog
- Mentions and discussions about your brand online
- Engagement with your social posts — likes, comments, shares etc
- Awareness of your brand
- Traffic to your website from social channels
Whichever metrics you choose, make sure there’s a reason behind them — celebrating achieving metrics is pointless if they don’t tie into your marketing strategy and your wider business goals.
Post regular content
Your community management should be closely aligned with your social strategy; you need to be posting regularly on the channels that you’re trying to build a community on.
Put together a calendar for your social media content and schedule it ahead of time so that you are constantly posting on each channel.
Engage with your audience
You should respond to all the comments and posts about your brand on social media, to demonstrate that you’re listening and engaged (plus, it’s just polite). If you want, you can also interact with the content that your audience is sharing as well.
Using user-generated content (UGC) — for example, sharing photos that customers have taken of your product on your Instagram or Stories — is a great way to engage with your community and celebrate them, as well as generating fresh visual content on your grid.
Measure your progress
To make sure your community management strategy is effective, you need to measure the results against the goals and targets that you set out.
These are some of the ways you can measure your community management:
- Social platform analytics: each social media platform will have built-in analytics tools so that you can measure how well each post does
- Analytics tools: tools like Google Analytics will help you to measure the traffic that comes from your social media and community management channels to your website
- Social listening: you can monitor your social accounts and track the number of mentions, keywords used by your audience, customer feedback, and any discussion about your brand
Using these different tools will give you an insight into your audience and how you can connect with them better in the future.
Community management best practice
These are a few best practice tips to ensure effective community management.
Create guidelines for your community
The online community that you build needs to align with your brand and its values — as does how any of your team communicates with this community on behalf of your brand.
As such, it’s important to create a set of guidelines to ensure everyone who works on your social media channels and community management is on the same page. The type of guidelines will depend on the channels you’re using, your brand, your audience, and how you are creating your community.
You can develop this as you grow, but a good starting point is creating a document for your community managers and team members that outlines:
- How they should communicate
- The tone of voice and brand guidelines
- Responses to common questions and comments
- How to deal with any issues
Try and cover as many scenarios as possible to start with so that the guidance is there for anyone new working your accounts — then you can add to it as more questions or scenarios arise.
It’s important to be just as consistent with your engagement as you are with publishing content.
Set aside time each day to go through all the social networks and channels you’re trying to build a community on. Make sure that you don’t miss any comments or messages and you respond to them within a reasonable time.
Ensure that you’re paying attention and engaging in an authentic way — copy and paste comments aren’t very personal and won’t make your followers feel valued, especially if they see that you’ve just posted the same message to everyone else.
To build up a community you need your followers to feel like you’re listening to them and that you really value them.
Establishing a community
Once your audience on certain channels grows, you might want to think about ways that you can clearly establish a community for your brand — for example, setting up a Facebook group that people who are really interested in your brand and content can join. Alternatively, you could create a forum on your website for people to discuss your products and other relevant topics to your brand (though beware, forums do take extra time to run and monitor).
If you do set up a community group or forum, you will need to create a set of guidelines that covers the purpose of the group, and rules about what members can and can’t share.
Community management is an effective way to build up awareness of your brand, which should be a big priority as a startup — but it takes time and consistent engagement to create a loyal community that’s really invested in your brand.
That’s why it’s essential to plan out your strategy and ensure you have enough resources to dedicate to your community management. Do this though, and your startup will definitely benefit in the long run.