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Techniques for Building a Social Media Community

April 20, 2009

If your strategy for building a social media community around your organization is based on creating a new community and expecting people to join, you may be in for a surprise.

I thought that the first step to building a social media community would be creating a online location for said community. But, like many other strategic projects, creation isn’t the first step to community building.

Active Listening

Kelli Matthews explained this week that active listening is the first step to building a social media community. Through our lecture, we learned that expecting people to join a new social medium that you created for your organization is a lofty goal. Listening to your target audience, and finding out what they’re already saying, can help you communicate with your community on preexisting social media sites.

How to “actively listen”

I have trouble finding the information I’m looking for on the internet because there is so much information out there. I’ve been told many times to “Google” myself so I know how my personal brand is being portrayed on the internet. But googling “Erin Williams” brings up many results and I have never found a result that is actually related to me. But, there are different search platforms that can make finding what’s being said about your organization easier.

Twitter Search I often use Twitter Search to find what people are saying about the company I intern for. By using quotation marks around the company name, I have more success following the people who are tweeting about the organization.

Google Alerts is also a tool I use on a regular basis to stay up to date with what people are saying about organizations. Again, using quotation marks can be helpful.

Radian6 is a social media search platform that allows users to search across different media and also provides statistics and analytics to track branding. It takes some of the busy work out of monitoring, but you do have to pay for the service. We spoke with Marcel Lebrun this week in class, CEO of Radian6, and he explained that actively listening is key to actively responding.

Active Responding

Lebrun explained that responding is important because then users know you’re actively listening. And in my opinion, a community is defined by people listening and responding. In class we discussed a long list of what you should be listening for and what you should be responding to. But to keep it simple, I like to think that whether it’s positive or negative, if people are taking the time to talk about it, it’s probably a good idea to be listening. Part of my experience is updating my company’s Youtube Channel and also monitoring the comments left by users. I find that if I respond to users’ negative comments, they often respond, “The video wasn’t really that bad,” or, “I may have been a bit harsh.” When they know a real person is listening, they aren’t as negative or harsh. Although, there are a few people who really dislike the video and aren’t afraid of showing it. Either way, it’s a valuable way to gather information to improve a company’s product or service.

While responding seems a bit obvious as a technique for building a social media community, active listening is easier to overlook. In the recent social media news, it seems as though some companies are not listening, #amazonfail, Dominos, Motrinmoms etc., and it’s an important technique for building a community.

Blog by Erin Williams: Follow me on Twitter. Contact me on LinkedIn.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 20, 2009 8:42 pm

    Building a social media community would seem to be the way to go for advocacy groups that promote arts and culture in a community. Not long ago, it was enough to develop a community calendar and a web site. Now, these sites are expected to provide a variety of social media tools for meaningful interaction. – Miriam

    • ssmstudent permalink
      April 21, 2009 11:25 am

      I definitely agree. I would think that advocacy groups and community education groups would benefit even more because there is such an opportunity for personal connection through social media and because of the nature of these particular groups. Not to mention that social media can be an inexpensive and effective way to target smaller specific groups like a community.

      Erin Williams

  2. Peg permalink
    April 21, 2009 10:27 am

    Have you considered the strategies you use for actively responding can influence whether or not your company is perceived as actively listening. In one community I belong to user of the software product actively complain about the updates, bugs, the way the software is designed and anything else that causes issues. The company reads the comments but only responds when there is enough volume of comments it is perceived as a problem. Is this really active listening?

    They also have just started to use crowd sourcing to gather feedback on the user community perception of what are the most important bugs to fix in the next release. This to me is a much more effective way of actively listening as the community creates the list not the company.

    I hope you discuss crowd sourcing in your course.

    • ssmstudent permalink
      April 21, 2009 11:22 am

      Hi Peg,
      We have talked about crowd sourcing in our class. The example we talked about was similar to how the software company you’re talking about and how it handled a large amount of comments.

      I agree that it’s a positive tool to incorporate user input into real company initiatives. I do wonder though if only responding to some comments is successfully capitalizing on the personal connections that social media enables.

      But, another student discussed in class that if a company follows every person who tweets about them, it could almost be considered social media spamming, and also not capitalizing on the personal connections made possible by social media.

      Thanks for including crowd sourcing in this conversation!

      Erin Williams

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