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8 Things We’ve Learned from Engaging with 200MM People in Social

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Last week, the aggregate size of the online communities we manage on behalf of brands like Coca-Cola, Oreo, NBC and more reached 200 million people. This milestone reflects the reach of our content & community management team across several social media platforms – from Facebook and Twitter to Tumblr and Pinterest.

Since formally launching our community management team more than four years ago, we’ve used curiosity and a test-and-learn approach to help our clients build and nurture their online communities through shifts in the social landscape, including the proliferation of new platforms and the increased importance of content for brands.

We asked some of our community and content managers to share their most important findings from engaging with 200 million people in social media every day. Here are their top takeaways:

  1. Respect the inherent value exchange that’s required of all online communities. “Fans who ‘Like’ or follow brands aren’t looking for a sales pitch – they’re looking for entertainment or utility,” says Community Supervisor Jeremy Elias. “Focus on building relationships rather than blasting a message,” further suggests Senior Community Manager Tatiana Urriaga.
  2. Push the limits of your content. “A great community manager never gets comfortable with their content,” says Mikey Cramer, Associate Director of Social Content Development & Strategy. “Strong content is the result of being able to bring a brand to life in a way that aligns with what fans want and with what performs well on a given platform. As what is culturally relevant is always changing, and as platforms are always evolving, so to should your content strategy.”
  3. Take strategic risks. “Don’t be afraid to try new things in your online communities, as repercussions of not taking risks could be substantial,” says Elias. “Just because you haven’t done something before doesn’t mean it won’t resonate.” Vet new tactics or strategies by ensuring that they align with the brand’s personality, the character of its audience and best practices of the platform – and always plan for the expected. “You must proactively plan to be reactive,” says Senior Community Manager Karri Wells Wane.
  4. Get in the mindset of your audience. “People love sharing content that illustrates or articulates their current state of mind,” reflects Elias. “If your brand can illustrate that in a fun and engaging way, you’re golden.” “Think like a troll; but don’t act like one,” echoed Senior Community Manager Steven Avalos. “Knowing your community means understanding exactly what makes them tick and what will set them off. Play into these learnings to create better, more reactionary content that will get fans talking and showing off their passion for your brand.”
  5. Respect the savvy of social audiences. Regardless of the platform or type of content, be sure that you are delivering premium experiences to your fans. This could mean establishing a consistent aesthetic for social images (e.g. 360i client Hanes) or using high-res video to create branded GIFs. “If you’ve cut corners with your content, the community will let you know,” says Elias.
  6. Utilize a social tone of voice that’s unique to your brand. A social tone of voice acts as a guide and a filter for what your brand says in online communities. It should be reflective of your brand’s values and beliefs, but also reflective of your audience and their culture. “Find your own unique voice so it doesn’t sound like everybody else’s in the feed,” recommends Elias. “The best brand voice sounds and feels like a person, not like a corporation or mission statement.”
  7. Remember that individuals within a community are important, too. “Talking to one person in your community can sometimes inspire millions more to get involved in the conversation,” says Elias. Use community insights to develop your strategy, but don’t assume all fans are the same. In social, a thoughtful or particularly clever response to a single person within a community has the potential to reach a much larger audience.
  8. Don’t get too comfortable with best practices. “The social landscape is always changing, so make sure you test and re-test different strategies on an ongoing basis,” says Chloe Mathieu- Phillips, Associate Director of Digital Communities. “Platforms evolve, and so does user behavior. People might engage more or less with certain types of content over time.” Adds Wells Wane: “You must be comfortable being uncomfortable or you will never survive.”

The biggest takeaway from our team: evolve your approach with changes in the social landscape and be prepared to shift course as new opportunities arise. A nimble, curious mindset will allow you to reach consumers in new ways and take advantage of key moments as they unfold.

Cover photo via Flickr