Archives for category: Community Management

Message boards? Those are so 1990’s errr…was it early 2000’s? If I was giving advice to a client I would definitely steer them toward something more modern. Set up a Facebook page, hop on Twitter, Pin something for goodness sake. But I have a confession to make. I’ve been spending more time on Message Boards than I have any other social network lately.

Why the throwback, you may ask? I’m pregnant. Yes, it is true, and I am trolling the mommy boards on the What to Expect When You’re Expecting site like no other. At first I was just a lurker, but now I’m a poster. I’m asking questions about which stroller to buy, whether or not I need to strap my baby on to me and if so, what do I do with the other one? (Did I mention it is twins?)

I have to admit these Boards are extremely useful, and here’s why.

1. Anonymity. I don’t want to be friends with these ladies on Facebook. Maybe it’s their hormones or maybe they always skew toward the unhappy, but there are some “feisty” women on these boards. The Forum / Message Board function allows me to get what I need out of it without getting personal.

2. Common bonds. These ladies are just as obsessed/terrified/excited as me. We are all going through this new experience together. All due in July. And despite differences in personalities, political views, geography, all feeling the same aches and pains. Forums are great for bringing people together with a strong common interest.

3. Separation from my “social” social world. I’m not a big fan of posting every day about my pregnancy. I have a few photos of me pregnant but that’s only because I went on vacation and happened to be pregnant. It gets to be overload when your friends share every moment of their pregnancy, soon to be followed by every moment of their labor and new child. I’ve been on the receiving end of the newsfeed and I swore I wouldn’t do it. The forums allows me to have a place strictly for baby comments and for people who actually care about baby stuff.

4. You get to learn a new language. You know you’re a part of an intense community when you have to learn the lingo to even be a part of it. DD (Darling Daughter), MIL (Mother In Law), FTM (First Time Mom), TTC (Trying to Conceive). I could go on and on. It took me awhile but I am in. It’s kind of a barrier to entry, and inevitably some newbie will get on and actually ask what everything means. Please, you think these ladies are going to take the time to explain? You need to figure that one out. It’s a rite of passage.

5. You get to listen in. Marketers should be here. I can’t help it. Even when talking about my pepperoncini cravings I’m thinking with my marketing hat on. If I was a company in the baby products industry or even a doctor I would be listening on this board like no other. The women are constantly talking about their needs, recommending products, complaining about OB GYNs. It’s like Yelp, Urbanspoon and TripAdvisor rolled up into one for the baby industry. Trust me, you want in on this conversation.

I’m not saying abandon Facebook or Twitter by any means. What I am saying is find the online communities where your hard core consumers are having an in-depth conversation and you’ll find rich insights and feedback to be had. Maybe you can host one yourself (more tricky when they know the brand is listening) or maybe you can just be a fly on the wall, but don’t disregard this space, unless you can’t stomach all the husband bashing, odes to Taco Bell and Mother In Law rants. In which case, I completely understand.

Many stats show that small businesses are embracing social media and plan to devote even more focus in 2011, but what these studies don’t dive into is how businesses are going to staff these efforts. Right now I’ve seen two basic methods – do it yourself in-house, or use agency support.

Here are four things to think about as you contemplate expanding your presence.

1. Do you have the skills to manage a community on your staff? The technical stuff can be learned, but the communication and creative stuff will most likely need to come naturally. Some folks are good at math, others are good at talking. At the end of the day social media is about interacting with people online. If writing, responding and listening aren’t your strong points you may want to think about outside help.

2. Do you have the time? When you print an ad you can walk away and be done with it, same with direct mail. Social media is different, it requires you to respond, to monitor and to listen. Sure it is more work, but when you are building loyalty and working with your customers to make your business the best it can be, the payoff can be pretty sweet.

3. Do you have the desire? Social media is not for everyone. If you are one of those people who have said, “Why would I ever join Twitter? I don’t care what someone ate for breakfast.” You may want to hand social over to someone else. It’s one thing to not “get it,” it’s another thing to “not want to get it.” Somewhat similar to how I feel about football or baseball…er and hockey.

4. Do you have the funds? Sure setting a page up is free, but then what? To make social work hard for you, you need to keep the content fresh and the conversation engaging (that means spending time listening as well as talking). If you don’t have the time, skills or desire to handle in-house, then ask yourself if you have the funds to use an agency. Also think about supporting social with ad buys on Facebook or special promotions.

If you believe social media is a powerful marketing tool and want to increase your presence, go for it. Just make sure you have the right resources in place before you take the plunge, and don’t kid yourself that it won’t take time and energy. As any business owner knows, anything worth doing  takes a little effort.