In today’s digitally networked world, the key to growing any successful business is cultivating a passionately engaged community of users and fans online.
The fact that you’re reading this post tells me you don’t need any convincing on that point. But would your boss be so quick to agree? How about his or her boss? The CEO?
If the answer to those questions is no, then keep reading. Your success as a community manager—and your livelihood—may be on the line.
Wising Up to Community Management
About five years ago, the business world finally began to realize the differences between a social media manager and a community manager. Today, many businesses have come a long way towards intentionally dedicating resources to community management. Yet not everyone has gotten fully on board.
As a matter of fact, only about 1 in 4 companies. Of those surveyed in the Community Roundtable’s SOCM 2016, only 21% had a dedicated budget, 21% had an approved strategy, 26% had a full-time community manager, and 29% had regular executive participation.
What those findings suggest, to me at least, is that there’s a slew of companies out there who’ve yet to go full-in on a community strategy.
Are you working for one of them?
If so, then you need to make your case to the corporate higher-ups as to why your community deserves what any other marketing initiative would normally get—a dedicated budget, a codified strategy, and a full-time manager.
So how do you do it? There are three steps to making your case for community management:
- Figure out who you should be talking to
- Show your accomplishments and what the competition is doing
- Lay out a strategic plan for success
In what follows, I’m going to help you build your argument.
Note: This post can only give you the broad outlines. For a helpful supplement, go here.
Step 1 : Learn Your Audience
The first thing to do is identify the relevant stakeholders in your organization. Who has the authority to sign off on a new strategy, allocate budget resources and designate personnel?
Make a list. Those are the people you want to target.
Next, ask yourself a few questions about your targeted stakeholders. What business needs do they face? What problems does the organization have that a community can solve? Think like the marketer that you are and present your plan as a solution to those specific problems.
While you’re doing that, find a personal advocate within the organization to function as a change agent—someone who believes in you and has enough clout to advocate on your behalf.
Step 2 : Paint a Picture
If you haven’t already, you need to start measuring your community’s analytics and correlating your activity with real results within the company. Something like, “We’ve been doing X, and it's been contributing to Y” is a powerful formula for convincing your higher-ups to give you the resources you need.
What if your community is relatively new, or worse, not yet in existence? If that’s the case, use industry studies to benefit from the experience of others. A short romp on Google will help you develop a cache of community success stories ready to be applied to your community pitch.
But you can’t just point to others. The question the big boss will want to know is, how will you make their success your success?
Step 3 : Charting a Clear Path
Alright, so you’ve identified key stakeholders and dreamed up a compelling vision of how you can solve all their marketing woes with a community. That’s hunky dory, but you won't convince anyone to do anything if your vision isn’t coupled with a clear strategic plan.
Your plan should, at a minimum, answer the following questions:
- What specific actions must you take to build a community?
- What resources do you need to take those actions?
- What results—concrete and abstract—do you hope to achieve?
- How will you measure your results against your actions?
- How will you quantify the value of this process?
- Are your expectations realistic? Prove it.
- What are your performance deadlines?
Bonus Step 4 : Never Stop Making Your Case
If the stakeholders bite and decide to get behind your push for a bona fide community initiative, don’t take that as the last word. Make it a point to track your progress and provide regular updates to your superiors.
What you’ll find is that, as long as you measure and celebrate your wins in full sight of your corporate bosses, you'll never have to justify your value. They'll see it every day.