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Community Management Is NOT Digital Cold Calling

Photo cred: Matt Reinbold

Community managers often wear multiple hats. Based on some questionable tactics I’ve seen on the Twitters recently, it’s the “communication with potential customers” hat that I feel could be improved.

Under the guise of “community manager” or “evangelist” by job title in their Twitter bios, people follow hashtags related to their product or their competitors. Then, they see people Tweeting on that hashtag or Tweeting about that topic, and @reply them from something like a @john_company Twitter account, offering a sales pitch: “You should use my company instead!”

Well, no duh you would say that…You’re wearing the proverbial digital t-shirt!

Without building a relationship with a potential customer on Twitter first by having some other interaction other than a one-off sales pitch, this outbound approach doesn’t feel genuine to me. Also, I don’t think it is the most effective use of a community manager’s talents for the benefits of an organization.

Companies who approach community management and social media this way are actually off to a great start. They’re on social media, and they’re monitoring terms about their industry. They’re clearly listening, which is huge. I just think the way they are choosing to do outbound outreach to approach their potential community members is awkward. I’d rather see people draw the community to them with valuable content, thought leadership and helpful advice.

DJ Waldow, Blue Sky Factory’s awesome Director of Community offers helpful tips about email marketing along with the rest of the BSF team on the Blue Sky Factory blog. On Twitter, DJ will actually personally answer people’s individual questions about email marketing. It’s not about the product, it’s about thought leadership and being helpful.

The same goes for SEOmoz, who thrives on inbound marketing and the community they’ve built around their educational content. (They actually don’t have sales people!) Have you ever tuned into White Board Fridays on the SEOmoz blog? Their content is so helpful, and they’ve positioned themselves as an expert in the space of SEO, which attracts potential customers and community members to them. On Twitter, their @replies are mostly thank-you’s and engaging the community they’ve built around that content (Read: it’s not about going after competitors’ communities with outbound @spams…).

Can we all crank out a weekly white paper and webinar plus multiple blog articles per day? That’s a lot of content, kids. It might not be right for every team depending on the stage and size of your company. I think so long as you’re still mixing in some original offerings (you won’t want to miss out on the SEO and thought-leadership value in that), curation is a way to provide value to your current and potential audience, start a conversation and again, draw people to you.

Want some tactical examples of content curation?

1. Tweet out relevant industry articles like @SocialFresh

2. Do news-roundup blog posts like HubSpot

3.Offer your community a roundup of news articles in an email newsletter like Sarah Evans does with #Commentz

The information community managers glean from social media listening is better used to inspire interesting and helpful content for their communities, in addition to replying to mentions of their brands and customer questions.

This approach engages and retains your current community members, plus draws in new potential people (read: leads!) The finesse to effectively approaching people about your product on Twitter continues to be perfected.

Content however, is a proven way to draw people to you, and I feel it should be the focus.

 

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About the author

Janet Aronica

Janet Aronica is the Director of Marketing and Community for oneforty, the social business hub and creators of SocialBase. You can read her social media blog at janetaronica.com or say hi on Twitter @JanetAronica. She lives in Boston.

3 comments
djwaldow
djwaldow

Thanks @JanetAronica for your kind words, link juice!, and this statement:

"Without building a relationship with a potential customer on Twitter first by having some other interaction other than a one-off sales pitch, this outbound approach doesn’t feel genuine to me. Also, I don’t think it is the most effective use of a community manager’s talents for the benefits of an organization."

The line is fine for sure. At Blue Sky Factory, we call it "being there before the sale" <--Greg Cangialosi.

Thanks again. Great article.

DavidSpinks
DavidSpinks moderator

Really great thoughts Janet. I've seen this a lot on twitter as well. Hell I've been temped to do it too.It's this urge for instant results. It's hard for us to justify spending time on twitter just talking to people. Once you've done community management on social media for a while though, you realize that you have to.

I have a few searches constantly running for keywords relevant to my business. When I see an opportunity to help someone, I'll either just answer their question if I have an answer, or simply ask "how can I help?"

I usually do this directly from the brand's account.

When it comes down to it, it's very simple. If you know someone, you can make a direct ask. If you don't know someone, then give give give first and ask later.

JanetAronica
JanetAronica

@DavidSpinks You nailed it - if you *know* somebody first you can ask. I don't even think that they need to know you all that personally, but maybe if they are *familiar* with you because of how you've established yourself via content.

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