Strategic Social Media Community Management

In their recent article “Social media:  The new hybrid element of the promotion mix” , W Glynn Mangold and David Faulds give some tips for using social media as part of an organization’s integrated marketing communications strategy.  What I found most interesting was their conclusion that although we can’t control the discussions on the social web, we can, and should, shape them “in a manner that is consistent with the organization’s mission and performance goals.”

Here’s what I think this means for organizations building online communities:

The first change occurs in the design stage.  It’s heartening to hear all the customer related words in the mission statements for online communities, but you also need an equal dose of enterprise strategy.  Exactly how will all this customer engagement and empowerment advance specific strategies?  In many cases this comes down to how it will create demand for a product or service in which you have a competitive advantage.

Next, think about what kinds of conversations are likely to stimulate that demand.  On a broad level, discussions about how your product category is being used may give people new ideas.  However, you’ll want most discussions to explore areas in which you are the most competitive.  The people at Innosight have a “jobs to be done” concept which is very helpful here. For what job do you want your customers to “hire” you? Conversations related to those jobs are the ones you want to nourish.

Then, consider the different ways you can create these flows of knowledge.  Blogs, private networks, public networks, bookmarking and other platforms are all tools you can use towards this end.  What’s the best mix?  Why?

Once you’ve selected your mix of platforms, figure out the details for each.  You’ll still have to answer the same operational questions, but with the new goal of shaping conversations.  For example, you’re tweets will be pointing people to places that will stimulate curiosity about areas in which you have an expertise.

Shaping conversations requires a very different kind of social media community manager.  Instead of a platform expert who generates buzz, you’ll want a strategic thinker with a deep understanding of your competitive position and an ability to look at the myriad of social activity and opportunities from your perspective and:

See connections to your strategy in conversations,

Read people’s profiles and prior comments to see where their interests converge with yours and suggest discussions for them to participate in and start,

Find other web assets that support your message, and

Identify new people with interests that intersect your strategy and bring them into your community.

What do you think of their idea?

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