Community Engagement: 6 Steps to an Effective Social Media Program

Social Media is causing a paradigm shift in the way customers interact with companies, given the evolution of direct communicative relationships between them. Customers today stay motivated to participate in ‘social’ forums, making it mutually beneficial.

Does this mean that a company that has 25,000 likes on its Facebook page and 10,000 followers on its Twitter account is successful? Not necessarily. The above figures just indicate customers’ interest to be a part of the community. This interest however, is a huge opportunity!

True success is when you adopt a strategic approach to tap digital marketing opportunities, create avenues to engage with customers, make them like your product/service and indulge in word-of-mouth promotion. However, it is not as simple as just setting up a Facebook page or a LinkedIn group. There needs to be considerable effort invested into building your community for it to display self-sustenance and start bringing in revenue.

Here are six steps you can take to create a vibrant and engaging social community:

  1. Assess and identify the social media channels that suit your needs. The key point to understand is that it is perfectly fine not to be on all the channels. Pick the channels which will allow you to express your company/brand’s proposition to the customers most effectively.
  2. Define a strategy for each social media channel. Each social media channel targets different sets of audiences making it very critical to align your communication strategy to match the target. There is no one single strategy which fits all. Define the audience you’re trying to reach, realizing that they aren’t all the same. LinkedIn and Twitter are better suited to B2B communications whereas Facebook works great for B2C and C2B communications. These channels however, should not be treated as a place to dump or broadcast only outbound messages to a massive audience.
  3. Assign community manager(s) to manage conversations and social content. Aim to manage the communications both ways and make customer engagement fun and easy. Otherwise, customers may move away to competitors.  Have digital-savvy community managers organize and monitor communications, PR, events and content creation.
  4. Engage and listen to customers. It is imperative to spend time and effort and keep close watch on the comments shared about your company in order to track the pulse of your customers’ experiences. Merely creating great content may not drive customers to your pages. Continuous customer engagement must be aimed for, while being mindful of their very low attention span.  The content must be optimized to meet their needs.
  5. Identify key influencers in your community to drive future customer engagement. As the community grows it will be tough for community managers to manage everything on their own. There should be continuous analysis to find out the key influencers in your community. They are not the ones who make the most noise but those who contribute original content on your community. These are the people who spend quality time on your pages. Create a tiered membership model to allow such influencers to rise in hierarchy and manage parts of your community on your behalf. This will ensure more page stickiness and will help your community assume self-sustenance.
  6. Finally, analyze and adapt your product/service offerings to meet the customer expectations. Ensure continuous monitoring and regular assessment of your business objectives and goals based on the feedback from your community. Separate the customer rants and spam in order to assess the real needs and improve your offerings.

Social media technology gives companies the ability to interact with a large number of potential customers, and, this type of technology continues to grow. Because of this, it is wise to invest considerable time and effort to create a sustainable strategy in order to reap huge returns on your ‘social’ investments.

Ram Sandeep Ayyagari

Manager - Business Consulting, Virtusa. Ram is a manager in the business consulting group with 8 years of experience in the Software Technology Services sector. He is currently focused on building Virtusa’s services, solutions and capabilities around the Community and Social Media for customers. Ram has also worked on solutions around other service lines such as Web Content Management (WCM), Portals, Collaboration, Document Management, Document Composition/Delivery and Marketing Resource Management (MRM). He has worked with customers across multiple verticals including Media & Entertainment, Equity Research, Insurance, Legal & Compliance, Energy & Utilities, Banking and Telecom. Ram holds a post graduate diploma in Business Management from Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta (IIM-C) with specialization in Systems and Marketing.

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