6 Ways to Help Your Community Help Themselves

by | Jul 19, 2010

Most of the projects I work on when I am doing consulting involve rather small teams. And by small “team” I usually mean 1 person. In these mini-teams each player really wears multiple hats. The hats can be anything from community manager, writer, strategist, analyst, etc etc. This can leave the entire “team” stretched rather thin. Even if you have a fully staffed crew there are ways to increase the efficiency. This is where the old adage about ‘Working smarter rather than harder’ comes in to play. Cliche? Yes. True? Also, yes! One of the best ways to begin working smarter is to more effectively leverage the assets you already have. A social media professionals’ strongest most important asset is the community they have helped to develop around their brand. A healthy community is vibrant. Full of energy. They help one another. They support one another. Promoting a healthy community around your brand is a great example of how to work smarter, rather than harder. Consider the multiplier effect. You, as a social media professional, engage with two individuals in your community which in turn enables feelings of stewardship within them. Those two people are able to each do the same to two others and so on, and so on. Getting your community to work for you is a scalable solution but one that takes patience and quite a bit of deliberate thought. Here are six of my favorite tactics to employ in transforming a group of disparate individuals into a more cohesive and strong community:

Listen With Your Ears And Your Fingers:

With your ears (or, eyes rather) and your keyboard. You need to not only “listen” in the fluffy social media sense but gosh darn it – start TRACKING what you are hearing. Going to your management with a “lots of people are saying…” doesn’t really do anyone a bit of good. Be a bit more judicious and when you notice trends in what you are hearing start tracking it somehow so you are able to present some kind of quantifiable element with your point. Your management will better be able to help you affect change if these proposals can be backed by data, thereby strengthening the faith your community has in your ability to make an impact.

Start Connecting With Them

Many of us are making connections all day in a professional networking function. There is no reason why you shouldn’t or couldn’t do that within your branded community as well. Introduce users to one another who you think have a lot in common, or would enjoy one another’s sense of humor. Just as you are a connector in your own personal professional circles, so you can be in your professional function. People enjoy meeting other people and they especially enjoy when it someone has taken the time to consider their personality and put thought into an introduction. It shows you are paying attention and that you care.

Be Human. Really.

Real people laugh. Real people playfully poke fun at one another occasionally. Real people even share cute kitty pictures. Sprinkling your presence with human elements has a wide number of effects. You come off as more genuine. You present yourself as more easily accessible. Really care about these people. Invest real emotion into your relationships with them. Pay attention even when it doesn’t relate directly to your products or brand. Investing in your relationships with them will encourage reciprocation with you and the others around them.

Empathy

This is indeed part of being human – but it is so important I wanted to call it out separately. The ability to empathize with your community is critical. Critical. If you cannot relate or truly empathize with them then I believe as a marketer you have bigger problems. But this is something that can slip away from us during difficult moments. We get asked the same questions over and over. People seem to complain over the littlest things. They want everything for free. Okay, okay, I get it. We all get it. It goes with the territory. Let’s remember though – that this is only work for you. This is [usually] pleasure/play/shopping for them. This is a relationship they are not getting paid to maintain – rather they are generally paying. Continually reinforce the feelings of empathy for your community to keep their point of view in the forefront of your mind and efforts. Remember – this may be the 487,498,745th time you have heard that question, but it is the 1st time they have asked it!

Acknowledge the Helpers

Within a community of nearly any size there are bound to emerge the helpers and leaders. Those individuals who step forward to help and give direction when others need it. Build on these individuals. Foster their roles and encourage others to do the same. If done correctly you can really create an environment where people begin to WANT to reach out to others and help. This is great for obvious reasons. Your community becomes organic in it’s behavior and growth this way and it also lessens the burden you may have had in more customer service related interactions.

Be Grateful

I do not ever want my brand’s customers to stop coming to me. For anything. But especially to complain. If they don’t come to me/us to complain that either means we’re a) perfect, b) keeping it to themselves, or c) going somewhere else to complain. While I hope for “a” all the time I know better. The more realistic option is “c”. Because of this I always, and recommend clients, to thank their customers/community members for providing feedback. Even when it is feedback you’d rather not hear or deal with. Be grateful that you have created a presence big enough that they know where to come and that you now have the opportunity to improve upon the situation. Say thank you! While some of these tactics might seem obvious, I challenge you to think about them next time you are interacting with the community you’ve built. Are you doing too much? Are they too dependent on you? If so, then break out a couple of these in a very deliberate manner and see if you can’t loosen the apron strings just a little. You’ll be helping to foster a stronger and healthier community while also freeing up some of your energy to focus on other efforts.]]>

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