From strategic planning at high levels to running specific social media campaigns, the internet has become an amazing resource to help you find information on anything and everything social media related. With all this main stream information readily available at our fingertips you don’t have to actually do it to preach it, right?
What I find interesting, is how much information on social media is read, spread, shared, presented and critisized by those who have never been in the trenches of day to day community management.
Knowing and regurgitating the concepts of being authentic, engaging your audience, listening and being responsive or that the new measurement is ROInfluence is one thing; effectively implementing this day-in-and-day-out with a community over long periods of time is another. I have been given more ‘advice’ over the years from (albeit well-meaning) consultants, marketers and experts on what should or could be happening on the community’s social media channels I manage, based on an article they have read or the latest and greatest social media tool they have heard about. “You need to create some viral videos” Why yes, that is something to put on the list.
Understand that community managers translate theory into practice. Community managers (or social media coordinators etc.) are the ones that get to know a community better than anyone else; they have a unique window into the very thoughts and feelings of an audience on a daily basis. Community managers get into a rhythm where they ‘just know’ the right question to ask or comment to make that will get conversation buzzing, or when the time is not right to push brand information. They understand which social media channels will work for their own audience and those that might not make sense. They have a sense of the challenges an audience faces, what makes them happy, what information they like to share and what the ‘hot’ topic of the moment is. The uniquely intuitive, front line relationship a community manager has with their audience needs to be respected. It is much easier to preach concepts such as ‘community engagement’ than it is to activley translate into day to day results.
I feel fortunate to understand and put into practice both perspectives; I have developed and am responsible for the strategic long term social media plan for Mount Royal University while also managing all the university social media channels. What this duel perspective has shown me, is that there can be gaps between overarching concepts of social media often preached about, and what it actually takes to make those concepts work.
Close the gap
If all or most of the information you present/teach/preach/consult on social media comes from a background in marketing, PR or IT, attending seminars or reading Mashable religiously, but not from ever managing an online community – you need to do more. Talk directly with those in an organization that ‘do’ the social media daily. Seek their insights and suggestions and adapt what you preach. Just ‘telling’ businesses or community managers to engage the audience more or citing successful case studies of cool new tools and big brands does not hold the same credibility when you have never put it into action yourself.
Take the time and take steps to understand how general concepts translate to real online communities. I am not suggesting that all bosses, presenters or consultants need to manage an online community as an ongoing full time job, just that they acknowledge the importance of first-hand information. Community managers know their audience better than anyone and will have an intuitive sense of what ‘Measure success’ or ‘Be Authentic’ really means within the context of their own online community for their specific brand or business.
Organizational decisions around social media and communication are often decided at a level that is higher than a community manager, and sometimes by those not familiar with the nuances of a particular organization’s online community. Before offering generalized statements or recommendations, speak with community managers on the front lines to understand the specifics of their community and what could or could not work. These discussions will help utilize each perspective’s expertise effectively, which in turn, will help truly ‘engage the community’ more.
Suggestion: how about taking over the responsibility of managing your business’ or an organization’s social media channel(s) (with support!) for a day? You will never truly understand how big picture social media concepts translate into real community management until you yourself do it. Not to mention, it will give you immense respect and insight into what a community manager deals with every day. This can only help what you preach have credibility.
We all bring unique and necessary social media knowledge to the table from strategic planning to community management, but why not walk the talk? Learn something about on-the-ground community management and what it takes to actually ‘do it’ before preaching it.