Tag Archives: community management

Solo community managers need special skills to survive.

Are you the only Community Manager or social media practitioner in your company? Allow me to shake your virtual hand. It can be a tough gig. Here are a few tips for “lone wolf” community managers to help make things, well, more manageable.

Set up your command center.

Think of yourself as the social media air traffic controller and have the information you need to run your community either right in front of you or just a click away. Monitoring tools that combine social streams into one “master feed” are your friend. I’m a fan of Sprout Social for small to mid-size businesses. For the channels you can’t consolidate into a single dashboard, consider a password manager to keep track of all of your login credentials and generate unique passwords for you. There are several solid, inexpensive options… I use LastPass. Finally, no matter what your setup may be, make it accessible from all of your devices. Because the reality of being a lone wolf is that you’re keeping an eye on your communities outside of the 9-5 workday.

Advocate for yourself.

As a lone wolf, you’re the only one who knows exactly what it is that you do. If you need additional tools or support to do your job, it’s unlikely anyone will deliver them to you spontaneously. You’ll need to ask for what you need. Back it up with data to make a business case for your request.

Also, as a “team of one” you may not necessarily be included in particular collaboration groups, distribution lists or meetings. If there’s someplace you feel you need to be heard, claim your seat at the table.

Toot your own horn.

You won’t have someone looking over your shoulder and patting you on the back when you’re on your own. Much of what a community manager does happens behind the scenes. So when you do something awesome, shout it from the rooftops. And if you’ve been tracking your metrics (and you should be), back up your brag with data.

Assemble a team.

There’s no need to live on an island. The community manager shouldn’t be isolated in their work, and often it’s up to you to create a formal training program to pull in your colleagues and force introduce them to social tools.

Still scared to hand your colleagues the keys? Be the go-between. When I first introduced our customer service team to Twitter, I didn’t give them their own account. I had them email me their ideas for tweets. That gave me customer stories to share as twitter content without the risk of new Twitter users posting something inappropriate.

Have “sub plans” ready for any planned absence.

My background is in education, and as you probably know, if a teacher is going to be absent from school, you leave plans for the substitute teacher so they know what to do. Some “lone wolves” feel like they can never really go on vacation, because who would manage the community? Who would post to the blog? But there are ways to get away. Use a scheduling or automation tool to auto-post while you’re gone. (I like using Buffer to set up a Twitter “drip campaign”.) Have a colleague you trust take over other aspects of your job that can’t be automated.

Sure, community engagement may not be as healthy while you’re away. But on the flip-side, consider how that dip in engagement can help justify your worth when you return.

Photo credit: ahlea on Flickr

Community Managers should be willing and able to provide customer service through social channels.

Last week I posted a photo on our company Facebook page. It was a teaser photo of a large pile of boxes in our warehouse. A shipment of strollers had just come in, and we were excited to share the news with our customers. As our Facebook Page administrator, I often post photos to Facebook and Twitter to spark conversation and create buzz about the great products available in our retail stores.

Inevitably, the questions started coming in via our social channels. “Do you have a red one available in your Boston store?” “How much does it cost?” “Will it fit in the trunk of my Mini Cooper?”

That’s when I put on my Customer Service hat. Because as you can imagine, Community Managers wear many hats. (Nine, according to Lauren Vargas.) That day, I called a Retail Merchant to check the stock on red stroller models. I looked up the price of the product and asked a Center Associate to clarify any discounts or promotions available to the customer. And I emailed a colleague who owns a Mini Cooper to ask if we can experiment with fitting an umbrella stroller in her trunk.

I posted the answers within a few hours. The next day, a customer posted a comment on our page reporting that she made a purchase and thanked the staff for their help. All in a day’s work as a Community Manager/Customer Service Agent.

Some would argue that Facebook and Twitter should not serve as a customer service channel for a company. But guess what? Customers are going to ask questions via your social media channels, no matter what you say they are for. It’s best to have a Community Manager (or two or three) who is ready to put on the Customer Service Hat whenever necessary.

These are my tips for successful Community/Customer Service Management:

Respond quickly. I like to post responses within a few hours during the workday, and within 24 hours if it’s off hours or the weekend. Our clients post questions to our page because they know we will answer. And when you provide customers with the answer they need, when they need it, they are more likely to shop with you.

Don’t delegate. You may be tempted to ask the customer to call or email customer service to get their answer. Don’t! Try your best to provide the answer yourself via the platform they asked the question. If it’s too complicated for you to solve, still answer via the social channel, get their contact information, and then have your customer service agents contact them.

Know who to contact to find the answer. I’ve been working for Isis a long time so I know exactly who to call for what. I have good relationships with my colleagues—I know who owns the Mini Cooper and it’s not at all awkward to ask her for a favor. Community Managers should have the opportunity meet with and communicate with different departments in the company on a regular basis. Those relationships are especially valuable to a CM, who tends to touch every part of the company at one time or another.

If you can’t find the answer right away, simply say so.  If you can’t post an answer right away, don’t ignore the question. Tell them. “I’m going to ask [department/staffperson] about that and I’ll get back to you as soon as I know the answer.” Most customers are very understanding and will be pleased that you responded, even if you can’t answer them yet.

Be prepared for complaints, too. Advice for handling complaints is another blog post entirely. But in a nutshell: 1) Don’t erase it; 2) Acknowledge it (perhaps with an apology, perhaps with an offer to look into the problem); and 3) Follow up outside the social channel.

Community Managers, is customer service one of the hats you wear?

As the Community Manager for a small business, I am fortunate to be a member of The Community Roundtable (aka The CR), founded by Rachel Happe and Jim Storer. The CR is a peer network for people working in social media and community management. It’s the place to learn from experts and get intelligent, experienced answers to your social business questions.

Every year The CR releases a report called The State of Community Management. And every year I can’t wait to get my hands on it. For a profession with such a short lifespan, there is a dearth of high-quality information, research and case studies about best practices in Community Management. The CR report shares this information, and thanks to their sponsors, this comprehensive report is free.

If you are a Community Manager, looking to hire one, or just curious about how a Community Manager can benefit your company, get your copy of the CR report.

To learn more about the 2011 report, (or if reading a 95-page document seems a bit daunting), you can sign up for a free webinar sponsored by Social Media Today and The Social Customer. The webinar will be presented on April 28th at 3:30 PM EST by Rachel Happe from The CR and features Community Managers Daniel Brostek from Aetna and… me. Yes, I will be supporting Rachel’s research with some real-life examples from the small business, b2c sector. Please join us!

That’s how I introduced myself to a group of people at Blogher ’10. Crazy thing is, I think they understood. I did feel somewhat strange about it– like I was straddling two different worlds, not completely fitting into either one of them. I was there as a company employee (a brand), but I didn’t stand in the Exhibit Hall extolling the virtues of our products or handing out freebies. I was there as a legitimate blogger as well, but I don’t have the independence other bloggers have when it comes to content, frequency, or design.

But despite the fact that I was wearing two hats (neither of which was fitting well) the bloggers welcomed me. And I got a taste of their world. The lengths to which companies are bending over backwards for these female bloggers is nothing short of astounding. I have bags of swag as proof– and I didn’t even go to half the parties that some others did.

Call me naieve, but I like to think that forming relationships beats swag when it comes to creating curiousity–interest–then passion for a brand. I may not have handed out any freebies (and I actually brought things to give away but felt uncomfortable doing so), but I like to think the real world connections I made will pay off in spades. Or at least moreso than a free alarm clock.