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Published January 22nd 2024

The Ultimate Guide to Community Management

Looking to elevate your community management skills? Discover all aspects of community management, from strategies to tools to fostering meaningful connections and maintaining a positive brand image online.

Effective online community management is vital to keeping a finger on the pulse of consumers and building loyalty in the process. 

With the proliferation of online spaces consumers can go to discuss their experiences with brands, community managers will play an even more important role in every organization. 

We’ve put together a complete guide to community management to help brands successfully engage with their audiences. 

Keep reading or jump directly to each section.

What is community management?

As the digital landscape has evolved, an increasing number of consumers sought and embraced digital-first experiences – think reviews and forum discussions – emphasizing the need to manage those conversations and communities.

Businesses have grown to understand that maintaining healthy online communities benefits everyone: customers, prospective customers, and the business itself.

Today, we can define community management as a strategic practice of cultivating, nurturing, and actively engaging with an audience, aiming to transform it into a vibrant community of brand promoters. The purpose of community management extends beyond fostering connections and includes important functions like customer service, sentiment analysis, and monitoring for crises.

Why is community management important?

With a growing number of consumers engaging and expressing their opinions online, brands must have a way to promptly surface consumers’ opinions, needs, and motivations to meet and exceed their expectations.

Effective community management is vital for your organization because it:

  • Acts as the liaison between a brand and its online audience, establishing trust
  • Ensures that consumers’ concerns are addressed promptly, contributing to a positive brand image
  • Provides valuable insights into consumer preferences, helping brands to refine their strategies and product offerings 

With that, community management is an important business practice because it can help transform passive and negative audiences into a network of active and engaged brand supporters, contributing to the overall success of the business. 

“Communities are important spaces for brands and have the power to create loyal advocates. But this does not happen overnight. Brands must invest in their communities or risk falling behind competitors who have accurately identified their customers’ and prospects’ need for trusted peer content and social validation.” – Ian Ferguson, Brandwatch Community Platform Manager.

Maximizing the impact of community management

In the previous section of the blog, we discussed how community management has evolved, going beyond just posting and replying on social media. Now, let’s explore how your organization can make community management more impactful, building a stronger and more engaged community and giving your brand a boost.

1. Social media monitoring 

Community management is essential for brands to keep a close eye on their online reputation. It involves monitoring what consumers are saying about the brand on different platforms and understanding how they discuss it. It also means finding out where people talk about the brand on different platforms and understanding how they discuss it. It also means finding out where people talk about the brand and its performance compared to its competitors. 

2. Sentiment analysis

Community management can serve the function of the “feelings barometer,” employing sentiment analysis to “temperature check” consumer sentiments. Marketers can use unprompted consumer opinions from social to understand the nuances around audience perceptions across various languages and regions and to inform strategic decision-making.

3. Social customer support

Community management helps brands be more proactive and smart about prioritizing and handling consumers’ inquiries on social. Efficient social customer support ensures a positive experience, boosting customer satisfaction and loyalty. Community managers act as a link between consumer communities and brands, making the connection stronger between the two.

4. Market research

Using the community's collective knowledge can surface valuable insights to aid in strategic decision-making and product development. Whether you are looking to spot new industry trends, changes in consumer preferences, or identify market gaps, tapping into community interactions can help deepen your understanding. 

Brands can also utilize communities to test how their audience will react to different content formats and campaigns when planning their content and product releases.

5. Influencer identification and brand ambassadorship

Community managers can help discover, recruit, and leverage brand promoters. Partnering with consumers who’ve had a good experience with your brand and are vocal about it (such as when they’re tagging the brand’s social handles in their posts) can be highly beneficial for the business. 

But the hidden “marketing gold” is in the unprompted social proof: brand promoters who authentically share positive feedback about your brand. Harnessing and leveraging the influence of untagged positive brand mentions can help brands maximize their visibility and increase brand awareness. 

6. Brand reputation and crisis management

We’ve already talked about using community management to track shifts in consumer sentiment to better understand changing consumer behavior. Smart brands take sentiment analysis further to unearth potential issues that could erupt into crises. 

Your community manager could be the first to spot “anomalies” in conversations, potentially leading to negative trends that could impact the business. 

7. A link between companies and their stakeholders

Community management links companies and their stakeholders, facilitating two-way communication and engagement. Community managers can bridge the communication gap by actively interacting with online audiences and sharing consumer feedback with the organization. They can also help funnel incoming mentions for particular teams within the company, such as customer service, product, PR, and marketing. 

How to level up your community management

Community management is all about creating and sustaining a community centered around a business while understanding and meeting the needs of the community members. Below, you’ll find strategies and actionable points to help you elevate your community management efforts. 

1. Define the purpose or benefit of joining for the consumer

One way to grow a strong community is by defining its specialty or role. For example, our Brandwatch Facebook community, Grow With Social, is a dedicated space to discuss all things social made by passionate marketers for like-minded marketers. 

2. Assign a dedicated community management team

It’s best to have a dedicated community management team or team member who’ll oversee and actively engage and build authentic relationships with your community members.

Oftentimes, community managers are content creators and brand ambassadors themselves.

Slide right to see another example
Slide right to see another example
Slide right to see the first example

3. Manage the conversation beyond your owned social channels

Many organizations often focus their attention on monitoring traditional social channels but miss out on valuable insights about their audience shared beyond the popular social media networks. 

Brands looking to improve their community management strategy need to proactively monitor other online sources, like forums and small niche blogs, where consumers actively discuss your brand and related topics. 

4. Define key community management metrics

Metrics play an important role in gauging the effectiveness of your community management efforts. 

How can your brand gain a deeper understanding of your community dynamics, brand perceptions, and the customer satisfaction level of your online community members?

Here’s the list of the different key performance indicators (KPIs) your brand should consider when measuring your community management initiatives and outcomes.

1. Engagement metrics

To foster a thriving online community, you need to understand how your community members are participating in conversations and interacting with each other and your posts. 

Here’s an overview of common community metrics:

  • Total members: What is the total number of your community members?
  • Active members: How many active members do you have? You can view the number by segments, such as daily, weekly, or monthly active users.
  • Custom metrics: Your brand may run different engagement initiatives on social and set appropriate metrics to assess members' involvement and activity (for example, referral programs, and giveaway participation).
  • Engagement rates: Depending on the platform, measuring engagement may include likes, comments, and shares.

2. Growth metrics

Growth metrics focus on tracking the expansion of your community in size.

  • Audience growth: New members, such as sign-ups or followers
  • The growth rate over time: How has the size of your community grown over time?
  • Retention rates: On average, how long have your community members been with you?

3. Content metrics

Metrics like views, clicks, shares, and comments on posts or articles can help brands understand whether their content initiatives resonate with the members of their community.

4. Response times

It’s no secret that consumers are a lot less patient these days, and timely responses to consumer queries on social can improve member satisfaction and retention. Community managers can track metrics like:

  • Response time: Average time to respond to member queries or issues
  • Resolution time: Average resolution time for consumer issues raised on social

5. Conversion metrics

Brands often launch campaigns and initiatives aiming to reengage and reconnect with their communities. And while direct sales and product purchases are the most important KPIs, impacting gross profit margins, there are other metrics worth considering:

  • Event registrations: Tracking attendance for brand events and activations
  • Participation metrics: Participation in surveys, campaigns, or social media challenges
  • Community actions: Other actions taken by community members

6. Feedback metrics

Before making any changes to your community management strategy, it’s worth asking your community members what they think. Feedback metrics help brands understand if members are happy, what they enjoy most about being part of the community, and where brands can do better. Consider the following metrics:

  • Survey feedback: Insights gathered through surveys, polls, or direct inquiries
  • Satisfaction scores: Measures the overall satisfaction of your community members
  • Member preferences: Understanding member preferences within the community
  • Areas for improvement: Identifying areas for enhancing the community experience

5. Share social insights company-wide

Make sure consumer insights you’ve gained from listening and interacting with your community aren't isolated to occasional reports or one department. Companies that actively learn from and promote consumer insights to all teams within the organization tend to make better-informed decisions.

By employing methods like social listening and making use of social media management tools, companies can surface, view, and share insights within the business in real time.

6. Have the right tools 

Equip your community management team with the tools to streamline and scale your community management efforts. With the right social media management solution, your community managers can efficiently track all interactions, prioritize consumer inquiries, and handle them appropriately and faster.

Gaining a comprehensive view of your community’s dynamics can help your brand make smart, data-driven decisions and improve your overall strategy.

What tools do you need to excel at community management?

Brands, particularly those with larger social media following, often draw a high volume of conversation, attracting thousands of comments per day. As the number of social media channels continues to grow, discovering opportunities to engage in those spaces and influence the conversation has become more complex. To keep up, brands need to set their teams with the right tools for the job.

Community managers utilize various tools, from analytics to content creation and design to social media management. 

Here, we’ll cover useful categories of tools community managers can benefit from. 

Digital marketing analytics tools

To excel at community management, brands can employ analytics tools like Google Analytics and Ahrefs.

If you have a community on your website or microsites instead of social media, Google Analytics can provide useful information like demographics, location, devices, and organic searches. It also tracks and analyzes conversations and website goals.

Ahrefs is a powerful SEO tool that helps brands surface detailed analytics on competitors, top web pages, traffic sources, social media presence, and keyword strategies. Community managers can leverage Ahrefs to identify and shrink existing content gaps in their strategy and to empower data-informed decisions around community growth. 

Social media monitoring and management tools

Community managers have to work hard to cultivate and nurture a company’s online community of followers – and they wear many hats in the process.

Fortunately, with the right tools, many repetitive tasks related to community management can be automated. This frees up time for community managers to focus on creativity and work on their strategy.

Dedicated social media management tools make it a lot easier to monitor all the conversations on a single platform, especially for those teams who are monitoring multiple communities.

With Brandwatch Social Media Management, brands can easily organize and manage their communities in a single, customizable inbox. They can also get relevant social insights and benchmark against their competitors.

Brandwatch clients often praise features like:

The Iris Writing Assistant: Powered by AI, this feature helps community managers address customer inquiries faster. The Iris Writing Assistant enables community managers to create professional response templates that align with brand messaging. By personalizing responses to consumer complaints, community managers can swiftly address consumer issues and maintain high levels of customer satisfaction.

All-in-one inbox: Community managers’ tasks involve moderating conversations, facilitating discussions, and improving the community surrounding the brand. A unified view of all conversations in one inbox makes these tasks much easier for community managers. 

“It’s really nice to have everything located in one space. It’s so nice to be able to see all of the different channels lined up on the platform to create a good flow of working, interacting, and collaborating with one another.” – Ariela Rose, gTEAM Editor, Glossier, a Brandwatch client

Ease of collaboration: Having informational silos within an organization is a common bottleneck for many companies. Silos create barriers to effective collaboration and make it harder for valuable insights to reach the right teams at the right time.

Social Media Management’s collaborative dashboards create much needed transparency across the organization, bringing the different pieces together in one place, and offering different levels of permissions to view and act upon the insights. Through better-synced processes, community managers and brands will regain back the time previously lost to internal inefficiencies.

Content creation and design tools

Designing and editing content is another important and time-consuming task community managers handle regularly. While there are many tools that your team can turn to, having a design tool as part of your social media management solution can significantly reduce the workload of your team.

In Publish, a module of Social Media Management, your social media team can improve and rewrite copy, generate synonym and emoji suggestions, and create image, video, and GIF posts – all in one place.

While there are no set rules when it comes to social media management tools, brands need to look for a solution that offers a vast range of features to assist with all the tasks related to social media and community management. For more important features to consider when looking for the right tool, read our comprehensive guide to social media management.

Tips from the community manager at Brandwatch

Community management is a demanding role with a wide number of functions to stay on top of. We asked Brandwatch’s very own Community Manager, Ian, to share his tips on how to grow and manage a healthy community.

From Ian:

  1. Be patient and avoid growth hacks. Growing a community takes time.
  2. Use pre-written responses. It’s a great way to ensure your comments stay error-free and provide useful and clear information. 
  3. From the moderation point of view, consider setting up a calendar to make sure you moderate your community at appropriate intervals and don’t miss anything.
  4. Focus on delivering value. Provide relevant content to your community that can boost its organic growth.

We’ll wrap up this blog by stressing that staying connected with consumers is vital for business growth. Community management takes occasional updates to a back-and-forth dialog, and brands can thrive on social by actively engaging, listening, and responding to their audience. Companies looking to succeed should focus on building and maintaining meaningful relationships with their audiences through effective community management.

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