Social media and community managers learn by making mistakes; you will not progress if you spend your career attempting to avoid potential missteps. That said, some mistakes aren't worth making even once.
Avoid Embarrassing Clients by Making Newbie Mistakes
The most common mistakes made by fledgling social media and community managers include:
- Going about your work without goals, a plan, or a strategy: Without goals, you are likely to fall into a reactionary cycle and become caught up in pointless tasks; if your client or employer refuses to work with you to establish clear social media or community objectives, develop them independently based on the client's general strategic goals
- Failing to support or coordinate with other employees: Social media and community management is a team effort (even if you are the only person strictly on the community team); it is important to support any moderators that might exist and encourage involvement from other employees (e.g. blog posts from the CEO, a designer chiming in to provide insights on her design choices to interested community members, etc.)
- Lack of consistency: You will not gain the trust of an online community if your communication, language, suggestions, treatment, or enforcement of rules is inconsistent
- Posting the same content across all channels simultaneously: This suggests to followers that you do not care enough about the community on a given platform to publish unique content through that channel
- Using automated posting services: Using a service that, for example, automatically tweets a link to a blog post as soon as it is published, also indicates that you do not care enough about followers on a platform to craft a post yourself
Publishing purely promotional content that has no inherent value: A social media and community manager's job is not to mindlessly drop promotional links to a client's website; it is to cultivate genuine relationships with those who do and might use its products or services
- Failing to engage with community members: If your site has forums, use them; if people are chatting about your client's brand over Twitter, respond to their thoughts and comments; you should be in constant dialogue with your community- both over public and private channels
- Getting angry or frustrated with customers: You will inevitably come across rude customers and followers; it is your job to maintain a professional demeanor and try to win them over with your patience, problem solving, and understanding
- Badmouthing customers: Even when done in a private place, speaking ill of customers or clients will only make you look bad and put you in the wrong mindset
- Focusing only on growth: Though some clients will obsess over growth (e.g. more followers, more sales, more signups), this does not mean you should put blinders on and only focus on numbers; a large community or tons of sales will do little for a company over the long run if nobody interacts or if people only buy one small-margin product and walk away (again, it's all about cultivating genuine, long-term relationships)
- Assuming you rule the roost: Just because you are charged with managing a community doesn't mean that you run it; failing to acknowledge organic or pre-existing power dynamics can lead to no small amount of trouble
- Unannounced changes: Online communities do not tend to react well to changes- even very positive ones; be sure to give customers, users, fans, and/or clients some notice and the option to provide feedback before dropping a change bomb
- Failing to respond to the community's needs: If a big issue is bubbling up in the forums (e.g. concern about an upcoming feature or the availability of a product during the holiday shopping season), it needs to be addressed- you will not be seen as a valuable liaison between the company and the community if you do not speak to community members when they ask for a response
Don't Ruin Your Personal Reputation
In addition to embarrassing your clients as a social media and community manager, you had best not embarrass yourself. Common means by which social media professionals slip up after hours include:
- Posting embarrassing content to their personal social media profiles without setting the proper privacy settings (there is an argument to be made for not sharing embarrassing content on personal profiles even when it is marked as private- compromising content has a knack for worming its way out into the public)
- Posting content to their personal profiles that reflects poorly on their professional reputations (such as complaints about customers or clients)
- Alienating family and friends by posting too much social media/community manager-related content to your personal profiles (they are not likely to be as enthusiastic about the field or certain clients)
Handle Crises with Great Care
Crises need to be handled:
- With sincerity and authenticity
Bland apologies saying "all the right things" posted 24 hours after a social media blowup are to little too late. Escalating self defense that evolves into outright online shouting matches can also effectively decimate a social media and community management career.
Create crisis management plans ahead of time. Take swift, humble, patient action when problems arise. Own up to mistakes (whether as an individual or as a company) and do so genuinely- audiences can detect even the tiniest hint of insincerity.
Treat Online Communities with Great Respect
It can be easy to become drunk with power as a social media and community manager- especially after you have gained significant influence and have a good understanding of how to manipulate events and reactions via social media. Do not let your social media prowess go to your head. Should your followers and clients' customers come to believe that you do not respect them, you will have a very hard time helping clients meet their goals- or getting clients to hire you at all.
Also be clear about your goals and motives. Do not pretend to genuinely promote products and services that you have been paid to promote. Do not masquerade as a 'civilian' community member to promote a product or service on behalf of a client. Even if you do endorse things entirely independently, do not fail to disclose your employment status even if there is the chance that others might find out on their own and misconstrue your behavior to be manipulative and polluted with ulterior motives.
Should you fail to do so, you might encounter the backlash experienced by Saydrah, an influential user on reddit who turned out to be a social media marketer. Though Saydrah made many genuine and value contributions to the reddit community, it got out that she worked for Associated Content and may have bragged at one point on her resume that she could get anything to reddit's front page. Those details, revealed by another community member with a grudge against her, ignited quite the backlash.
Keep Your Priorities Straight
Just as 20% of customers often drive 80% of profits or referrals, it is often the case that 20% of customers deliver 80% of the complaints. Though certain community members may be very vocal in their opinions about new products or features, do not assume that their opinions reflect those of the community on the whole.
Instead of succumbing to the tyranny of a small but vocal group of users when monitoring community feedback, make a point of investigating overall user behavior. Are people buying a new product? Are they using a new feature in higher numbers? Are traffic stats improving? If some users complain passionately, but usage or purchase stats look promising, it is probably not important to make a change.
This is not to say that you should entirely ignore user complaints that do not reflect the majority opinion- they deserve some attention and should be addressed with courtesy. The important thing is to acknowledge users' feelings while emphasizing a commitment to doing what is best for the community on the whole- and to back up final decisions with facts and figures. For example, you might explain to a community member who hates a new section of your client's website that you appreciate her concerns about its content, but that the company intends to keep it as is because it is related to the company's mission and most community members like it. You could further strengthen your argument by sharing some traffic data about the section that clear demonstrates its widespread acceptance.
Don't Neglect Campaign Analysis
Running a social media campaign requires intense levels of focus and energy- it is perfectly understandable why many social media and community managers fail to follow through with analysis of their work. It also does not help that most bosses are eager for social media and community managers to immediately move on to the next thing rather than look back at a previous campaign and analyze its efficacy. Taking a break for reflection seems far less useful than immediately transitioning to social media support for a new product release, the development of a new customer satisfaction campaign to be unveiled at the next board meeting, or the development of a fresh content strategy for the company blog.
Nevertheless, social media and community managers should not neglect analysis. By using key performance indicators to determine how effective a particular social media or community effort has been and comparing actual results with goals and projections, you can:
- Determine which tactics are the most effective
- Establish more realistic goals in the future
- Hone in on approaches that are apparently a waste of time
Failure to look back on a campaign could cause the same mistakes to be made over and over again.
Monitoring social media and community program performance does not have to be a chore. Should you build monitoring and analysis activities into the campaign itself (that is, prioritize those tasks alongside the actual execution of a campaign and keep records and notes as you go along), you will have everything you need to easily analyze your performance when that campaign or a financial quarter comes to a close (plus be better equipped to tweak and optimize your tactics as you go along).
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