Community management & social media in a startup. Panel discussion @ Startupday.

I took part in a panel at Startupday this afternoon. The panel discussion was led by Paulina Söderlund, community manager at Toca Boca with  Evelina Ander (Yubico), Lisa Enckelli (Wrapp) and myself. The subject was ”Community Management in a startup”.

I really enjoyed the good energy and the group of driven and passionate entrepreneurs taking part in this event. Especially since I am in the process of starting up my own business myself, and in need of some good advice.

I was invited to panel because of  my experience from community management  and social media strategy at Mynewsdesk. When I started, we were 10 persons in a small office space in Stockholm. An industry challenger. An entrepreneurial DIY atmosphere. An unknown brand. No marketing budget. Today a market leader in Sweden and 110 employees on 7 markets.

A crazy but fun journey i hope many of the participants here today will have the pleasure to experience.

Here are some thoughts from the panel discussion.

The role of the community manager.

This would be a post in itself. The role of the community manager differ between companies and depends on the technical, and social needs of the community, the product features and the people in the organisation. The responsibilities of the community manager also depend on how you have defined your community.

The definition of a community (or my definition, others might disagree): A group of people sharing a common cause. Who have a sense of membership and belonging. Who are engaged in a topic or share mutual interests.

Before you plan your community activities, you need to specify who you consider a member of your community. Working with Mynewsdesk, this is how I have defined the Mynewsdesk community members:

People who are passionate about our product, people and key issues, who:

  • are willing to engage in dialogue about these topics, with us, each other or others.
  • feel a communion with us and others in the community based on shared passion / interest
  • are willing to share both positives and negative aspects

One ground rule to reach a successful community engagement, I would say, is not to isolate community activities to one person or department. It has to be integrated in the organization. The person ”managing” or coordinating the community engagement needs to have close connections to the marketing department, but also to the:

1) product crew. For being able to channel the feedback from clients for future product development. For getting pre information of updates and launches, to be prepared for client responses. Preferably the community manager also have a profound understanding/knowledge of the product itself.
2) sales people. For insight in the sales department’s unique challenges and ongoing activities. For forwarding contacts and leads, connecting prospects with the right persons. For following up on leads and deals made. For picking up on demands and up-sales possibilities.
3) web team/marketing team. For evaluating what activities creates leads/signups/store visits and measure traffic with the right web analysis and CRM systems. For synching with marketing campaigns.
4) client service & support. For helping and supporting the clients in using the products in the best way. For helping them out where and when they need it the most.
5) management team. For input on corporate values, business goals and long/short term strategy.

Community management and social media management is not really the same thing. The roles usually combine or overlap as community managers usually focus on social media as their working/conversation tools. I think what the participants today are more interested in, is getting started with social media in a way that strengthens their communities.

Getting started with social media. When do you start and how?

I mentioned four short tips on how to get started with social media for a better community engagement.

1. Start right away!

There are no costly boundaries to get started with social media, the price you pay is time. Don’t fool yourself – you will never get more time!

Today, in starting a new business, you have a golden opportunity to integrate social media right from the start. Take that opportunity! You dont have to struggle with implementing the social in old systems and structures. You will not need to teach an old dog how to sit (you are the dog, if you sit the rest will follow). Get started before you have all the sales and support structures in place. This way you will also get valuable feedback from your community and insight on how to manage your business and marketing (Yes, you will).

Community engagement is the best market PR you can get.

 2. Focus on getting to know the clients & what actually drives your business.

Don’t start your social media activities looking at the platforms and services – start looking at your clients and stakeholders – and then how the services can help you drive business. Don’t get hung up on Facebook & wall activity. If you are a B2B company, Linkedin or an existing online community might be far more important for sales opportunities.

Support your audience. Find out where you can add value. To clients, but also to your audience in a wider sense.  Is it in the user experience? Is it unique expertise in a certain area? Is it to connect different clients/parties with each other? What do they need? Then engage where the clients and influencers. Listen. Take an active part. Be friendly.

Mapp your influencers. Who is affecting your client’s purchase decision? Use the web to find out, or ask your clients.When you do find an influencer, look them up! Don’t just put them on a future distribution list. Use Google. Where are they active? Discussion groups? Communities? Add the people to your online networks.

3. Get tools for listening

You need to listen to what is going on in your sphere. It’s the first step in an efficient PR management. There are a bunch of free options like blog search, google alerts and key word monitoring. Get organized with a RSS-reader, Google Alerts, a Twitter client and perhaps a newsroom when the time is ready.

4. Make sure to hire truly engaged people.

When you expand your business, the most important thing for being able to create maintain a strong community is to make sure to hire people who really love what they do at work and who sympathise with your company´s core values.

It is easier to teach employees how to use social media than to teach them how to be passionate about their work. Right?

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About Pernilla

Digital PR Strategist with a passion for communications, carnival samba, travelling and outdoor adventures. Aiming to make every day colorful!

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