March 19, 2013 Henriette Weber wrote:

Community management: stop the endless chatting, and be human(e)

We’d been listening on conversations around community management, and boy! – there’s a lot to listen to! But the odd thing about these conversations is that the discussions focus almost entirely on managing online communities. If ever discussions on offline communities are brought into the mix, it’s mostly treated as an afterthought….

Of course, there is no doubt that the inherent connectivity provided by the internet and social media in particular have opened up an extremely convenient opportunity to meet, and reach out to others who share some common interests, or reach out to those who suffer from any form of pain.

However, while using online strategies can do awesome things for the brand if done the right way, the limiting factor of these online efforts towards building a healthy, vibrant community is its tendency to be transient – with community members dropping in and out ONLY when they need support.

But the primary aim of any community management is keeping the members loyal to your brand and in the end, sell more. And the first rule of business is to make them appreciate your presence in their daily lives, as part of their news or twitter feed or what have you. It’s the sort of  loyalty you need to earn, and not something that’s a given from the people who think you’re doing some interesting stuff.

You can do this in many different ways. As an example, you can do a proactive approach in your community. Listening, typing and engaging all day long will not make you remarkably special to your community members. But to really hit it home, you need to get above the disconnect of just interacting with your computer screen.

Deep down, people still crave face-to-face interaction. The physical contact of a firm handshake brings the warmth of humanity into reality.

But what if your company takes this simple human contact to another level by personally sending out a cake to one of the members of your community on her birthday? And because you’re feeling good about the positive impact it generated, you’ve decided to make it your business policy to send cakes on the birthdays of every community member.  Can you imagine the windfall you’ll get out of this generous gesture? It will surely be magnified a thousand fold because it’s…priceless.

And in case you’re wondering whether we’re shifting your attention away from your online activities to focus mostly on the real world – no, we’re not. That would be the same as shooting ourselves in the foot. We’re just giving emphasis that your online efforts should run parallel to and in support of your offline connections, never as a substitute.

At the end of the day, we firmly believe that the real masters of community management in the future will be those who can connect the online and offline worlds in a flawless way.

But there’s still a big black line dividing the two for the majority of businesses today: That we, in business, are not using our efforts to deal with people on a one-on-one basis. We still want to address crowds because it’s so much cheaper! – and so, less powerful. If you really want to be ahead with your go-to-market strategy of tomorrow make it a one-on-one approach (oh and reach out to us, we have a ton of experience in this field and it’s one of our favorite things to do).

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