The Future of Big-Brand Community Management

Large brands and Community Management have never been a perfect fit; but now, more than ever, it’s time for a change.

Community Managers (CMs) are good brand stewards, but there’s only so much good-will CMs can garner when they are forced to push marketing to social networks at large. There’s still a large role for CMs to play for these large companies and brands. As digital natives and social media functionality experts, CMs should be a go-to resource for brands to understand and segment their target demographics.

From Community Managers to Audience Experts

With declining reach and increased “noise” out there for internet users, brands have to be smarter about the ways they talk and where they are. Most brands are reaching far outside their traditional, “owned” communities to try and intercept new audiences they think they should meet. The future of Community Management is having the expertise on how a brand’s target audience interacts online. Imagine a CM that has detailed knowledge of an audience’s habits and interests across the web alongside a sharp understanding of all digital touch points, platforms, and other communication methods.

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(Image from http://www.kairaymedia.com)

With this insight, CMs can move from brand community gatekeepers to digital consultants with expertise on the internet population segments of most interest to brands. Looks like Mr. Zuckerberg is picking up on this already and building out some interesting new numbers for CMs to check out while Facebook continues squeezing the value of ‘owned’ communities.

With audience expertise, CMs are not only armed to represent the brand online in the most relevant places, but they will have an important seat at the table for creative concepting and media buying decisions.

Community, Meet CRM

Another area that will begin to permeate the Community Management discipline is smarter, more integrated CRM processes. Customer service and social media continues to be on the rise and users expect attention whether they ‘follow’ your brand or not. A good interaction or helpful solution can lift brand sentiment and help companies galvanize new advocates. Savvy CMs can recognize repeat users that engage with the brand and easily understand what kind of response will resonate with them.

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(Image from http://globase.dk/)

This is powerful knowledge, but it needs to go further to provide clearly linked business value to brands. CMs should be pushing for existing customer data and keeping close track of the types of interactions they are having with engagers online. Does this data match? How can information be used from each to improve the other? True social and digital-informed CRM has yet to emerge as a central measurement for brands, but it will be integral to understanding brand perception online vs. off and in linking digital marketing efforts to actionable business intelligence.

Community Management will never be a discipline set in a routine. It is ever evolving along with brands business needs. It is our job as CMs and marketers to help them keep pace with the digital world around them and to usher them into what’s coming next.

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