Community Managers as Customer Advocates

by Jeannie Walters

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How To Build CommunityCommunity management is all the rage – haven’t you heard?

It’s difficult to find a working definition of the role, since it’s slightly different in each organization. I like this one from The Community Roundtable “Community management is the discipline of managing your constituent community – wherever they happen to be hanging out.”  Bottom line is they seem to be looking for ways to engage their customers and share information with their community. The title actually means various things, but recently I heard one message loud and clear.

You cannot engage with your community unless you are listening – constantly.

This came up as a topic at the outstanding panel for Social Media Chicago‘s Future of Community Management event, held at the pretty awesome Google offices.

Moderated by Tim McDonald, the mind behind My Community Manager, the panel representing Walgreen’s (Sam Ogborne), Google Chicago (Amy Ravit Korin), Eventbrite (Sara Altier), clients of Edelman Digital (Katey McGarr) and Social Media Club Global (Jessica Murray) agreed: the rules are being written every day.

Some highlights of the “rules” we’re learning:

Community managers are born, not made.

The best players in this role have some natural tendencies – they like people, they want to organize others, they enjoy talking to people (a lot). They also stay organized and prepared, because they never know what will happen from one day to the next. This is a lesson for ANY role dealing directly with customers and your community. If you don’t like people, it’s not going to work.

Sometimes the best way to get feedback is to put it out there.

Not everything is going to work. So you may have to put the new product, idea or promotion out there and see what happens. If your community reacts by complaining about it, it’s important to respond to that feedback promptly. Nothing can kill a halfway decent idea faster than pushing it down the throats of the very people who are telling you about the half they don’t like. Instead, how about fixing the bad parts and bringing it back to the community?

"It's All About Building Community"Community is not just current customers or those with high Klout scores.

Ignore the rules of treating the VIP’s differently when it comes to responding to those community members trying to engage with your company or brand. If they are reaching out, they deserve a response. Twitter follower number be damned.

Personalize rewards for your most engaged community members.

Pay attention so you know what’s important to them. A nice dinner? A way to participate early with your product? Not every person is the same, so look for ways to personalize the experience.

Set boundaries for yourself.

We live in a 24/7 world, and nowhere is that more apparent than community management. The panelists admitted to dreaming about replying to their members, responding on their smart phones when requests come across Twitter at midnight, and more. It is important to remember you are at your best when you achieve SOME balance.

What struck me about these rules is that this emerging role is really the first line of advocacy for customers. These people are engaging and interacting with customers, former customers and future customers daily. If the C-level isn’t asking for constant feedback from them, they are missing out.

How do you manage your community? What works? What doesn’t? We are writing the rules today.


 Photo credits: niallkennedy & Dru Bloomfield – At Home in Scottsdale




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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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