5 Brilliant Ways to Staff for Community Management

By Carrie Kerpen

We hear it all the time-- brands need to respond. According to a recent Socialbakers study, companies currently respond to 50% of questions asked across social media, with 75% of questions anticipated to be answered in 2013. But how can brands' staff appropriately be able to manage the increasing level of conversation across the web without investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in overhead? I asked several colleagues and clients this very question and thought their responses were brilliant. Here are some quick ideas to help you manage the daunting task of engaging with your community:

1. Think customer service. Who handles your customer service today? Social Media tends to start in the marketing department. Usually there's a social media manager who handles community management all day and night. It leads to quick burnout, and a whole lot of stress. Typically, customer service departments have hours that are more conducive to social media. Plus, your Customer Service team is probably the best equipped to answer that random question that no one else in the company knows.


2. Find "the natural." Chances are, there's someone in your company right at this moment who is updating their Tumblr while pinning to Pinterest and instagramming their lunch. There's an immense opportunity to tap into an employee's passion, and help your brand in the process. People who understand tone in social media don't just live in the Marketing Department. Consider doing a survey across the company about social media, and search for your next social media superstar. If they truly love social media, they'll be happy to help, and they may find a new career path in the process.


3. Engage a true partner. Partners come in all shapes and sizes. Agencies, Contractors, Consultants....you can't take three steps without running into someone offering to help with your "social media". While the world is filled with social media "gurus", "ninjas" and self proclaimed "superstars", there are some incredible partners that really understand the space. When engaging a partner in something as intimate as Community Management,  you want someone who truly is willing to invest the time to become an extension of your brand. Note: even if you can't engage a partner full time for your community management needs-- consider utilizing them for nights and weekends. Otherwise, you'll have some pretty high turnover for your internal social media team.


4. Use tools efficiently. Don't be afraid to use tools to help you. My favorite tool for straight community management is Conversocial. Built for customer service, it has a self-learning prioritization tool that helps you see the messages that you need to see most. Other tools like Hootsuite and Radian6 are great for listening beyond direct mentions of your brand. Try a bunch and see what feels best for you.


5. Keep it Fresh. When overwhelmed by the concept of community management, the default reaction is to write a list of FAQs and go through the infamous "copy/paste" dance. Try manually responding. While you think its' more labor intensive, it's actually MUCH more natural, and therefore, often ends up taking less time than trying to make the copy/paste canned response not seem canned.


How does YOUR organization scale social media community management? Any tips I missed here?