[Check out Anya's write up on Freddie Laker talking about What's Next in Social Media]
Session: Community Management – What Makes a Thriving Community
Panelists: Bill Balderaz, Chief Innovation Officer and Founder of Webbed Marketing; John Kembel, CEO and Co-Founder of HiveLive; Eric Schurr, VP of Marketing and Sales of Awareness Networks; Kate Swanson, Sr Sales Executive of Leverage Software.
Chris: Why are people suddenly interested in communities? Why make your own community? What’s the difference?
Eric: It’s a silly brand that doesn’t participate in the discussion. There’s a sense of corporate ownership and responsibility on the part of a brand.
John: Both approaches work, your own community and someone else’s. It’s about talking and listening. It’s not turn-taking it’s collaborating. Most of the discussion needs to happen on the consumer’s turf, part of the process is getting them back onto your turf and into a place to talk.
Kate: You want to have a nice balance of how people can be in the same sandbox and play nicely. People still expect the brand to have a presence. Keeping that social layer in perspective is very important, and you have to be careful not to turn that social layer into just another silo on your website.
Chris: Remember when you could just have a nice looking website? Now what?
Bill: It’s about interaction now.
Chris: The human element of managing a social community is difficult. How do you advocate the human elements?
Eric: Folks generally dismiss technology. The assumption is that the technology can provide for a vibrant community in terms of human aspects. If you launch a community with a clear intention of who you want to communicate with, it will be much easier.
Kate: Honesty and transparency is important, and objectivity is key. Have product managers make the community seem honest and objective. You’re not going to have 100% happy people, that’s ok. Position yourselves as “we want to hear it.” It’ll open up the conversation for some really good feedback.
Chris: What trends have you seen in the space.
John: Once you get in, you have no idea how much things can change and how perspectives shift. Trust your gut and expect change. The second one is just getting it set up. People tend to underestimate the design, buildout and launch phase and think it’s done much sooner than it is. Folks tend to lean first on what they have in place internally, as opposed to hitting external sites such as Facebook
Kate: Many companies don’t have significant buy in from senior executives. That’s crucial. Sit back before you think about the technology, and think about what your main goal is.
Chris: Community seems like a luxury, rather than a necessity, why is it not?
Eric: It’s a necessity now. If you’re not involved in the discussion about your brand, you’ll fail.
John: What do you turn to when the economy goes down, when bad stuff happens? You turn to your relationships. It’s the same for brands. It takes a little more patience to build, but it will benefit you substantially in the long-run.
Kate: Word-of-Mouth is free and powerful. It’s a great thing to fall on, especially in a recession. A lot of these don’t cost anything. If you can do something that rewards them, they’ll talk about you. It’s basically free PR.
Bill: Take the money that you’d spend on two ad placements and put it toward building a vibrant community and it’ll benefit you immensely down the road.