By Scott Sargent

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Michelle MacPherson, principal at Maven & Mention. Michelle is an expert in content creation, strategy and community management. She also happens to be a director with IABC/Calgary.

Michelle describes her role as a storyteller of meaningful content, nurturing an authentic social media presence and building brand trust among communities.

4 Key Things to Keep in Mind for Social Media Community Management

Michelle MacPherson is principal at Maven & Mention and an IABC/Calgary director.

Michelle was clear on several points she has learned from managing social media communities for clients – big and small, local and national. Quite often, a community manager will act as the online eyes and ears of a business or organization. 

“I think first and foremost, a good community manager is a good listener,” says Michelle. “Often there are opportunities to ‘hang your hat’ on something new, share news with your audience or share an opinion. And, I think what’s really important to do first is to listen, find ways to contribute to the conversation. This goes a long way in helping to build your voice within the social media arena.” 

Michelle also shared her thoughts around four key things to keep in mind for social media community management: 

  1. Listen.

Listening to your audience in terms of the content that they’re looking for, the questions that they have, the trends that are happening within the industry. It’s important to focus on the engagement side of this, but first you need to hear what the audience is saying. 

“It’s key to find out what your audience is really looking for,” Michelle explains, “and what they’re thinking and how you can help them.”

  1. Be Responsive. Be Available.

There are a range of scheduling tools for posting social media content, and we’ve seen the rise in ‘virtual assistant’ chat windows that offer automated responses before you can get to a human. This can sometimes send the wrong message, as there is less personalization to a conversation.

“I definitely think there is a huge appetite for being more engaged in the conversation,” says Michelle.

This approach may take the form of answering questions, probing or chiming in on certain industry-related topics that have seen a lot of chatter. Build trust by being present, being genuine and having a real (not forced) conversation.

  1. Be a Community Builder.

Being authentic to the brand and voice is also highly important to building your brand’s credibility. Most folks today are savvy enough to detect when someone is overstating a point or stretching the truth. Nurture a community with honesty and authenticity while using empathy. Give your audience something to respond to and don’t forget to thank them occasionally too!

From time to time, an online community can also be downright merciless regarding falsehoods or a heated topic via social media. Questions or conversations that escalate may be missing context. If that is the case, it may be wise to take a diplomatic approach and move the conversation offline to seek a remedy. 

  1. Create Great Content.

Make sure your content is relevant, compelling and on-point – your audience will appreciate it. Talking strictly about your brand, sales or a constant ‘self-focused’ approach will cause you to lose your audience very quickly.  Start by discussing current events or industry trends and addressing the needs and wants that your demographic is interested in and watch a community grow organically.

Challenges Faced by Community Managers

As Michelle deftly points out, community management for national or international brands may run into time zone issues.

Time management and finding conversation at the right time will be key. Obviously, this is a big challenge for community managers, especially if they are flying solo. Humans need sleep. If you are the sole community manager, there may also be times you need to juggle your schedule (including evenings and weekends) around important events or milestones. 

The Changing Landscape

With the constantly changing digital landscape, Michelle also mentions one common question that community managers often encounter: 

What’s the latest social media channel and how do I add that into my content mix?

There is the temptation to jump on the latest social media bandwagon, but this is where community managers are needed to assess each channel individually for merit and fit with a brand. It must make sense for your social media mix, what type(s) of content it requires and where your target audiences spend their time and energy. Start with only one or two social media channels that are relevant to the business, understand your audience and be excellent with those channels first. Then, see how the conversation evolves and grows.

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