It's about them

By Eric S. Arcidiacono 5 tips for social media community managers

With social media use on the rise for ever-expanding demographics, social media community managers are finding themselves managing some communities that they have a deep knowledge about and some that they do not.  Here are five ways community managers can improve their ability to tap into and connect with the communities they are managing.

community

1.  Participate in the community

To be in a group you have to join the group, right?  Just like anything else, you learn by doing, and this goes for community management, too.  Before you officially start to manage the community, join the community.  Sign up, get a user name, take a tour through the whole process- even post things to the community's board or wall.  There's nothing like taking a walk in someone else's shoes to get to know them better and this holds for community management.

2.  Read what they read

Did you ever sit next to someone who was reading a book that you had read already?  What happened once you saw that book cover?  It's likely you started talking to that person about the book, and from there you started talking about other things that you like.  It's the same thing in social media, except it's virtual.  One of the best ways to get more connected to the community you're managing is to read the articles THEY post, read their Facebook status' and follow the links they post.  You are what you read, so read what they read and you'll find it much easier to connect with them.

3.  Read what they write (especially influencers)

Want to know what they care about?  Read what they write.  In each community there will always be some members that are more active than the others.  These members are typically referred to as "influencers" because they influence the rest of the group by virtue of the fact that they not only post more often, but also post more in depth articles or blog posts.  So, a great practice is to first identify the influencers in your group and then read what they are posting.  Follow their blog and find them on Twitter.  This will give you a sense of what many of the others might be thinking about as well.  Like in any social group, a large part of the group knows all about what is happening with the popular members, so read what they are writing and you will be on the same page, so to speak, with a good portion of the community.

4.  Ask them with polls or simple questions

Want to know what they like?  Ask them.  Yes, just plain old ask the community any number of questions that you think will get to the bottom of what they are there for.  Each member may be there for a different reason, but you will find trends in what they are looking to get out of the community.  Obviously the questions for each community will be different, but the method is much the same.  Set up a Facebook poll, tweet questions asking for their feedback or post one liner questions in your Fan page's status update and look at the response.  You'd be surprised how many people are happy to plainly tell you what they would like.

5.  Be a friend, not a community manager (or a robot)

Have you ever had a great conversation with a robot?  Nope.  Robots are great for doing tasks that we would rather not do, but humans are complex and there are many nuances to the way we communicate.  So, instead of choosing official, stiff sounding language in your posts and tweets, think to yourself, "How would I say this if I were posting this on my own account?"  Obviously you want to be sure and use the right tone and language that is appropriate for your brand and the demographic you're trying to reach, but have some fun, and most importantly, talk like a friend.

How do you connect with the communities you manage? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

For more tips on how to be a great community manager, download our free Beginner's Guide to Community Management here.