Those who are staying on top of the latest and greatest marketing trends have undoubtedly come upon the term of “community management”. If you haven’t yet heard of this strategy, just take a second and Google it (with the addition of the word “online” in there for good measure) — you’ll find tons of results! We wouldn’t dream of making you sift through all those results in order to boost your business, though, mostly because a lot of them are a load of crap! Sure, they’ll preach the importance of having a good community management strategy or hiring a fantastic community manager, but they never actually tell you what any of that means or why you should give a damn!
Fortunately for you, our three-part series on the subject is second-to-done. We’re here to tell you everything you need to know about community management in simple, easy-to-understand, and easy-to-apply terms so that you can actually do something with the information. In part one, we will discuss what a community is. After all, you can’t manage something you don’t understand. By the time you finish this post, you’ll know how to identify your communities so that you can develop strong relationships within each. Then, next time, we’ll wrap things up by looking at tips for managing those communities, nurturing those relationships, and growing your business.
Ready to get started? Good! Let’s go!
Online Communities Defined
“Community” is a word that we all know and use on a regular basis, but when it comes down to it, can you readily define what an online community even is? Probably not. And that’s okay — we didn’t expect you to, and that’s why we’re here!
In the simplest of terms, a community is a self-organized and contained mix of people who all share a common concern or interest. The key word here is that the community is “self-organized.” Yes, it’s certainly possible to develop and grow a community, but those that are self-organized organically are the communities that tend to maintain the strongest sense of vibrancy and loyalty. The strongest online communities are those that are comprised of folks who have self-identified as community members rather than being forced into it.
This is what you want from your consumer audience. You want to build a brand with ideals, products, and services that inspire customers to become a member of your community, or subsets of communities that are tied into your brand. Communities spring up online via social media platforms, blogs, and forums based on special interest. Some communities may form as a means of sharing cool ideas for using your products, whereas others may exist in order to discuss causes that your brand supports. Still others might exist as a help service to those experiencing some sort of problem. As these self-identifying members return to their community areas, they build social relationships and friendships that are tied in with your business. They are the people who will create the “voice” or “personality” of the community and will attract new consumers to your door. The more these individuals post and share about your brand, the more information you’ll see going out that’s tied to your name and image.
That means it had better be good.
This is where community management comes into play. Knowing who your communities are will enable you to keep an eye on them and facilitate positive conversations that will inspire members to keep coming back for more, and will create positive impressions for first-time visitors. Knowing how to do that can make or break your online community presence.
Taking Stock of What You Have
After taking the time to carefully construct buyer personas, you may feel tempted to rush off and create brand new content for them. While you’ll certainly need to come up with fresh, customized content going forward, you should first take inventory of all of your previous content marketing efforts. The process of content auditing is the best method for determining just how much coverage you’ve been giving to the topics that are most important to your audience and whether or not you’ve been mixing things up enough. You’ll have the ability to pinpoint gaps that need to be filled by new content pieces while also identifying your most outstanding and popular pieces that can be fleshed out further and repurposed into other formats for more reach.
The question then becomes, “How do I conduct a content audit?” Fortunately, it’s relatively simple. You’ll need to gather and review all of the content you’ve generated in the past year or so. Be sure to include all forms of content, including blog posts, videos, podcasts, etc. Each piece should be logged into a spreadsheet and then labeled according to the content’s format, topic, covered buyer persona, and the number of leads created from it.
Ultimately, the goal of a content audit is to see where your existing strengths and weaknesses lay. Taking a look at the big picture will open your eyes to the types of content that you need to create more of, the subjects that have been the most appealing, and any buyer personas that may need more attention. It will enable you to set worthy goals that will push your business forward through amazing content.
Fitting Content Into the Buyer Cycle
Upon completing your content audit, you are well aware of the holes that need to be filled as you move forward with development. In addition to ensuring that you are supplying the right type of content to the right buyer personas, you also need to ensure that you’re creating messages that apply to the various stages of the buyer cycle that individual readers may be going through.
Typically, the buyer cycle consists of four stages. Awareness is the first stage, where the prospect comes to realize a need for your product or service. Next, they enter into the research phase in which they begin to look for potential solutions. Third, the consumer will pass through the comparison stage, at which time he or she will take a closer look at their options and narrow down their list of vendors. Finally, in the purchasing stage, the prospect will make a buying decision.
Your job as a marketer is to be aware of the types of content and mediums that are best suited for each stage. Perhaps you’ll find that those in the awareness stage are most interested in videos, whereas those in the research and comparison stages prefer ebooks and webinars. Whatever the case may be, you need to pay attention to what’s working best at each stage in order to keep your readers moving through the cycle.
Even the best writer and/or marketer in the world, though, will fall short of their sales goals if they don’t have a good schedule mapped out for posting their content. Timing plays a significant role in content marketing, and as such, you need to understand when and where to post for maximum reach. This will require you to set up an editorial calendar, or a “roadmap” for content creation and sharing.
In part three of our series, we’ll dive into this crucial phase. The following seven steps will walk you through how to take advantage of this part of the process:
Step 1: Create a Google Calendar or Spreadsheet
It’s wise to use a format that you are comfortable working with, and that will enable you to create editorial plans that extend at least three months into the future, if not more.
Step 2: Work Backwards From Your Marketing Goals
Keep your goals regarding traffic, leads, and converted customers at the forefront of your mind. From here, analyze previous marketing efforts to figure out how many individual pieces of content were historically required to reach those goals.
Step 3: Fill Calendar Dates with Specific Publishing Tasks
Based on your goal-related publishing needs, fill in your calendar dates that indicate when blogs or social media accounts must be updated, videos should be uploaded, webinars should be hosted, or podcasts should be recorded and shared. For each date, you should also list the topic and title of the piece, as well as the targeted persona.
Step 4: Fill in the Details
Don’t forget to make note of the SEO keywords you plan to use, the stage of the buyer cycle you are targeting, the CTA, and any other applicable details that need to be addressed during creation and publishing.
Step 5: Add Relevant Holiday and Event Dates
Are there specific holidays, seasonal events, sales, etc. that could create good hooks for specific marketing topics? Make note of these so that you can customize content to cater to these opportunities.
Step 6: Spread the Love Where Possible
Do you have content that could be spread out or repurposed over an extended period of time? Take advantage of this time-saving technique.
Step 7: Keep Tabs On Things
Organize the types of content you publish by creating tabs. This will enable you to see how much of each type you have posted so that you meet all of your goals.
Voila! It’s really as simple as that. Upon completing these seven steps, you’ll see that the majority of your calendar is filled up with detailed outlines for content creation and posting. Never again will you come into work wondering what needs to be published in order to achieve your marketing objectives. With a full monthly view of the types of content that need to be generated and shared with your audience, you’ll always know what should be done and what to expect. Your calendar will also enable you to look back on the types of content that you’ve already covered so that you don’t post too-similar topics close together, or forget to follow up on a popular or relevant blog article.