Sometimes, the Scribewise office gets quiet. Like, uncomfortably quiet. This can be good, because people have their heads down creating great things for our clients, but sometimes my thoughts are the loudest thing I can hear.
Recently, I had a lot of thoughts that went something like:
“This isn’t my job. I’m spending so much time on this. Shouldn’t I be working on that other thing that’s due soon? Ugh. This isn’t even my job. It’s already 11 am. Shouldn’t someone else be taking care of this?”
Before you ask: No, I don’t hate my job.
I was just stuck on a task that was tedious, time-consuming and unclear. The task? Community management.
Don’t get me wrong, I love some parts of community management. I love being able to curate interesting content to post, chat with customers about their experiences and make fans feel like there’s a human behind some of the corporate BS.
But a big part of community management also involves quelling ridiculous customer complaints, managing unwieldy negative feedback and directing particular troubleshooting issues to a real customer service representative for help. That all takes a lot of time (and, in most cases, energy).
My experience in managing a page for a brand trying to overcome a difficult past included comments like “BUYER BEWARE: THIS COMPANY IS A SCAM” and messages like “so you can answer my facebook message but you can’t answer a phone.”
And THAT’S why I would constantly question if I was really doing my job, or if I was just wasting time on nuances and nitpickers.
What is community management, anyway?
If your company runs a social media page (or a few), you should know what community management is. It’s what happens after digital marketing strategy is set and posts are published.
It’s also a big part of your brand’s reputation. Do you respond to customer complaints on Twitter or join in on a conversation in your Facebook comments? Then you’re participating in community management.
This is how HubSpot defines it:
Community management is the process of building an authentic community among a business’s customers, employees and partners through various types of interaction. It’s how a brand uses opportunities (in person and online) to interact with their audience to create a network in which they can connect, share and grow.
Technically, community management is not limited to social media. It can take the form of a website FAQ or community forum, customer surveys, brand ambassadors and referral programs, user-generated content and even internal engagement among employees.
So community management is a lot of things. And arguably shouldn’t fall all on one person, depending on the size of the company. To generalize, it’s usually thought of as a task carried out primarily on social media.
Because I handle social media, I manage the community. But…does that mean it’s still my job to handle the (often rude) customer complaints?
What about customer service?
Early on in my career, when I started managing social media pages, I assumed that social media and customer service fell under two different departments.
In practice, it’s hard to say, “That person needs customer service help, but I’m in marketing, so I’m not going to reply to their tweet.” Especially if there is no one else managing the page.
If I don’t respond, who will? (Probably other disgruntled customers tbh.)
Here’s a crazy stat for you: complaints on social media have increased eight-fold since 2014.
There are eight times as many people tweeting @apple in ALL CAPS BECAUSE THEIR COMPUTER ISN’T TURNING ON AND WHAT ARE THEY SUPPOSED TO DO ABOUT IT.
Before social media, those complaints might have been directed to a 1-800 number, an email address or even a company mailing address. A company representative would respond to them with troubleshooting help, compensation or a simple message. But now, companies that have a social media presence are expected to respond to these messages directly on social media.
If you’re the one managing a community of loud and proud followers, your responses play into a company’s image. You are more than just a brand. You are a real live human being who can answer these people in real time.
And if you don’t? People get angry.
So yeah, I guess community management is kind of like customer service.
But I work in marketing!
What gives? Now I have to code switch to, “Thank you for calling Scribewise! This is Cassie, how may I help you?” when I really shouldn’t be answering the metaphorical phone at all.
A wise leader (my boss) [Ed. Note: Not so wise] once taught me that the best marketers are advocates for their company’s clients. Not the company; the clients.
If I’m advocating for my clients, then of course I’m answering their Facebook messages, no matter how petty. If I can answer them, I will. If I can’t, I diligently escalate it to the “real” customer service team.
Community management provides a value to customers beyond the service or product that you sell. You’re developing meaningful relationships with your audience. You’re learning about your customers’ wants, needs and expectations and in turn they trust you more.
There is no better marketing tool than communicating with simple authenticity.
And yes, that is definitely my job.