However, as the role of ‘On-Line Community Manager’ has only existed in its present form in the last couple of years, the job description varies greatly from one organization to another. Below is a rough list of things you'll need to keep in mind to help ensure you hire the right person to successfully manage your on-line community engagement needs.
- Your community must have a purpose, and this purpose can’t just be ‘so we make more money’. Rather it must exist to fill a need in the community you’re attempting to reach.
- Use whichever tool or platform your members are most familiar with and most likely to use daily. In other words, don’t use something archaic like MySpace, just because you have fond memories of it. And by the same token, don’t use the latest shinny new web 2.0 platform, just because you want to feel ‘relevant’. As always, GO WHERE THE PEOPLE ARE.
- Communities are about the people who populate them. So create lots and lots and LOTS of NEW, ORIGINAL CONTENT for them (and encourage them to comment on it, discuss it and share it with their friends). There is no other way to do it.
- Build personal relationships with your community, and especially with your top web 2.0 contributors. Getting lots of ‘likes’ (etc) is driven by the quality and relevance of your content, and impacts greatly on their ability (and interest) in interacting with that content.
- Encourage debate and do not be afraid to push the envelope with the content you post. Challenging / edgy topics get the most comments and likes and re-tweets, etc. So don’t become a prisoner to the PC brigade. Have an opinion.
- Building an on-line community is a never ending process. So build it slowly and steadily and don’t expect to be the most popular kid on the block in only a few months. Anything on the web takes 6-12 months at least to gauge and chart growth. And community engagement (like trust) takes years.
- Stop selling! There's nothing that'll stop people reading your blog or Twitter feed or Facebook page quicker than trying to sell them things EVERY TIME YOU POST. If you must push a product or service, try to keep it to 30% sales and 70% giving away or linking to information that is relevant to your audience. Keeping in mind that the information you post doesn't always have to be yours (though it's better if it is) because some of the best blog posts are ones that reference something somebody else has written elsewhere on the web, with you adding your 2 cents into the debate (based on your experience and expertise). But remember internet etiquette 101: if you use or reference someone else's content: always, always, ALWAYS link back to the source (thus sharing the Google love with those who deserve it).
- Give away free (relevant) information and content to your community at every opportunity to give them a reason to keep coming back. In the Small Business and SME space, People 'Like' / 'Share' / Link To individual pieces of content, far more than they 'Like' / 'Share' or Link To a company or a brand. The more you give to your community (without asking for anything in return) the more inclined your community will be to come back or share what you've posted with their friends.
- Encourage members to recruit friends. The best way to grow an on-line community is by referrals. So create a referral strategy which rewards members who invite their friends and link to your content.
- The web is a visual medium. And if, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’. Then rest assured that, 'A video is worth a thousand pictures'. So populate your website and web 2.0 platforms with lots of video content as well as relevant, SEO optimized written content. Ideally every page should have a video, as this helps engage your audience. These videos should be short (1-3 minutes tops) and stick to a single subject or topic. The people in your community are busy, so spoon-feed them bite sized chunks of content.
To quote Spiderman, ‘With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility’. So never use your admin powers unless absolutely necessary. Nothing is guaranteed to make people check out quicker than an overpowering web 2.0 Administrator who deletes content that he doesn’t agree with.
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