Content Strategy

Why Community Building Requires Social Media: An Introduction to Holistic Engagement

January 25, 2023

Marketing Consultant

The past few months have been challenging for many community builders. From tech org restructuring to companies that saw community as a growth hack tool during the start of the global pandemic, companies are rethinking how community builders offer a return on investments. Remember when 56% of organizations said that investing in community was essential to their business growth? I do too. 

Community builders looking to stay competitive in today’s market, while providing optimal engagement and value for their members must rethink their approach to building community in 2023. But how? Enter social media.

Read on to learn about why modern community building requires social media, the strategies for building your brand, and how practicing holistic engagement can benefit your members, company, and your own professional growth. 

Community Management ≠ Social Media Management

To be clear, while related, community management is about building value for your organization and most importantly, members, while social media management requires the ability to enhance your company voice across multi-media social platforms. In the same way that marketing and community programs will have overlap, community managers and social media managers will have some overlay, but these are distinctly separate business functions. 

This blog is about how as a community builder, you can harness techniques in social media management to engage, build trust, and provide value for your members and organization.

But I’m a Community Manager, Not a Social Media Manager” 

“Sure, I am happy to take over the social media duties since I guess I am already there,” I replied. But I was a community manager! Everyone on Twitter was declaring the rise of the community manager and that community was going to eat marketing up in 2020. How did I get here?

The scene? A weekly marketing team meeting for our tired and hard-working start-up team and one of our marketing leaders had departed. I was managing multiple forums, responding to DMs, promoting an upcoming meetup on social media, and writing a community-led blog, while listening to what duties everyone would pick up.

As community builders, people-pleasing isn’t just an innate trait, but a literal requirement of our job. From finding the intersections of delighting our members to ROI for the company, sometimes the lines get blurred, especially in small, stretched teams. However, this was a moment that ultimately changed the way that I now see building community programs for the better.

How Social Media Made Me a Better Community Manager

Raise your hand if you are an introverted community builder moonlighting as an extrovert?

I am going to let you in on a little secret - so am I. But let’s be honest, as much as your company said that they wanted to invest in the community, they also hired you as a resource for brand amplification (i.e. impressions, engagements, followers, reshares, etc), and an enablement vehicle to get their customers tweeting from the mountain tops about how much they love your products.

But let’s come back to you, dear reader. Bleary-eyed at 2am and responding to forum posts, you wonder how many of your event RSVPs are coming to that product fireside chat, if your measurable impacts on the business will be appreciated by your boss, and if you will still have a job by the end of the week in this global moment of economic uncertainty.

I am not advocating that you offer your services to take over social media, but I am here to help you build your confidence in social media, while understanding how social media can benefit your own community program OKRs and KPIs.

But Senior Leadership Wants More Community Engagement

Depending on the purpose of your community forum (i.e. increased understanding of product fit in market, engagement vehicle for ambassador program, reduction in customer support tickets, etc.), you will still get the same line from senior leadership - they want more engagement.

While discussions about healthy forum engagement metrics vary across professions and communities, your leaders are equally invested in outputs on social media, including your founder and CEO that spends more time on LinkedIn than your forum. But guess what? Your community members are probably posting on social media more than they are answering technical queries in your forum.

You can create the best community onboarding experience and optimize automation tools to remind your members about the value they will gain from being engaged members. But as a seasoned community builder, you also know that for better or worse, community is a decentralized experience for your members. Community exists in a Reddit thread, a YouTube channel comment, or a social media post.

TL;DR - your forum is just one way that your community members are experiencing the benefits of your products and future customers learning about your business brand.

How do you build relationships, trust, and provide value across multi-media platforms, while working to continue to provide engagement and value in your forum? Have you tried holistic social media community engagement?

What is Holistic Social Media Community Engagement?

Holistic social media community engagement can be defined as a personalized approach for meeting and engaging your community members where they are at for continuous positive value gain on their preferred social media platforms.

What does this look like from an authentic, community-led practice? With community-building analytics and CRM platforms like Talkbase, now you can easily identify your community members on social media. By connecting and engaging on social media, you authentically learn about their interests, their professional and personal milestones, and be there to cheer them on. 

Whether I am training a team hire or mentoring a new community coordinator, holistic social media engagement is always the first part of our approach for continuing to scale community program engagement.

Let’s be honest. Depending on your hosted community forum, an automated newsletter with key highlights won’t be enough to get them to log into the forum, but authentically engaging with their posts on social media will keep the benefits of community top of mind in their feed. Furthermore, it allows for a more holistic understanding into their lives (i.e. a grandparent dying, a recent layoff, a promotion), and builds for more empathic, richer relationships with your willing members. 

And the best part of holistic social media community engagement is that it can not only effectively build closer relationships with your most engaged members, but also can be retroactively performed too. Take a moment to see who is following your corporate social media accounts, cross-reference with your favorite community CRM to see if they are using one of your products, and if so, connect with them!

To be clear, despite advances in community automation solutions, this process does require manual interventions, a genuine curiosity and love of celebrating the lives of others, as well as an understanding that this approach will help you increase engagement across your own community programs and ultimately, improve your community outreach efforts.

Now you may be thinking, “Okay, I am willing to try this community-led approach, but I have no social media brand or presence to provide value for my members on social media.” Don’t worry we are going to get you there.

Strategies for Building Your Social Media Brand (And Homework) 

From countless conversations with other community builders to customer champions to developers that I coach, building a social media brand is essential to providing engagement and value for your members. 

But before we run to your future social media community maven self, let’s start walking with a few steps that will be continued in the next installment of our blog series. In the interim, I invite you to do the following steps to get you set-up for holistic engagement community success. 

Make a personal commitment this year to be more active on social media, while understanding that this will not only benefit your community goals, but also help you build future professional opportunities as well. Next, pick an existing social media account of yours where your users are also most active and be sure to update any areas that need populating (i.e. employment, bio, banners, etc.). Start to think about what 3 words or concepts define your own brand and how they might overlap and benefit with the mission of your organization. Now, this is a lot of homework already so sit tight with these steps and get ready for our next installment where we help you start to employ the techniques of a social media manager to benefit your own community manager goals, build trust across your members, and help authentically share the benefits of your products and services.

Tristan Lombard
Marketing Consultant

January 25, 2023

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