According to Edelman’s 2014 Trust Barometer, consumer trust of business and governmental organizations dropped 10 points from the previous year, putting the US in the bottom three for biggest drops year over year. Only 68 percent of the world’s population trusts brands headquartered in the States.
A more recent report from Netskope and Ponemon found that 72 percent of businesses don’t trust cloud vendors to obey data protection laws and regulations. At an industry level, cloud vendors aren’t doing enough to earn the trust of their customers. Marketing and sales departments are getting leads through the front door and converting them into customers, but customer-facing teams aren’t building trust or community among these people to retain their business long term.
That leaves both B2Cs and B2Bs to question why they haven’t invested in community management. B2Bs use an average of 13 content types across an average of six platforms to fuel content their content strategies. B2Cs use approximately 12 content formats across an average of six social channels to drive content marketing. With so many channels and the rising volume of content being created within an organization, businesses fail to manage the reactions and engagement generated by their digital campaigns.
Sixty-four percent of B2Bs and B2Cs cite engagement as an important metric to track when determining the success of a content strategy. But without established community-management teams that are armed with processes for responding to and engaging with customers, there isn’t an accurate way to gauge the business value of content. You can’t measure engagement if there is no formalized way to respond to customers on the Web.
An annual study from The Community Roundtable has found greater community-management structure in 2014 when compared to previous years, but there’s still much work to be done.
“For many years, community management has been more of an art than a science,” the report states. “That is changing as organizations apply more processes. Those that do apply more process are seeing results—and newer communities are in many cases more mature than those started 3–4 years ago because they are able to make use of emerging knowledge of community practices.”
Of the businesses with mature community-management processes, 85 percent can measure the business value of their communities, compared to the 48 percent with no formal system in place. In order to systemize community management and engagement, brands are realizing they must bring on new team members with the skills necessary to interact with prospects and customers in real time across several platforms at once.
The truth is, a community manager matters—for engagement and for content creation. Best-in-class organizations have an average of 5.4 community managers. And organizations’ abilities to measure results rise from 31 percent to 52 percent with the hiring of a single community-oriented professional.
Marketers and executives continue to think of community managers as professionals whose sole responsibilities are to sit on social media all day and speak only when spoken to. But forward-thinking enterprises are seeing the value a community manager brings to the table as a content creator. These professionals sit on organizations’ front lines, speaking with customers online each day, listening to social chatter around business topics, and growing communities through outreach and interaction.
“The most value the community manager adds to the content strategy is providing insight into the actual profiles of the people who are consuming the content and purchasing the product,” Ally Greer, director of content and community at Scoop.it, said. “Sometimes, as marketers, we focus heavily on who we think our audience is and what we think they want in terms of content. It’s hard to step outside of this mindset because we’re so trained to think this way. The community manager can provide a perspective that helps marketers understand whether or not their strategies and calculations are working or if they need to take a different direction in what they do.”
Content marketing managers should begin to collaborate with community managers as a way to co-create content that truly resonates with an established online audience. Here’s how the insight gathered by community members can help guide an editorial strategy:
There is an enormous wealth of information flowing freely through digital communities. Marketing departments must empower community managers to collect and organize insights into threads that inspire editorial direction. By developing a system—even if managed in Excel—that houses the core themes community members have discussed in the past 7, 10, and 14 days, marketers can use the information to decide where to focus their content-writing efforts moving forward.
Content creators cannot look at the information collected by community managers as static insight—they must be encouraged to co-create with audience members. If a customer or social follower asked a profound question, brought up an interesting trend he or she was noticing, or said something favorable about the brand, a writer or videographer should look to connect with that person to extend the conversation. Co-creating content further supports community development, earns trust, and guarantees amplification.
Once a piece that’s inspired by a community conversation and features members from the community is published, the content creator and marketer must work with the community manager to ensure its distributed properly. Since trust is crucial to authentic communication between a business and buyers, having stakeholders who specialize in community engagement allows for smoother distribution of branded content across platforms. If the content was written well and includes information requested by or proven to be of interest to an audience, it will foster an open and sharing line between consumers and businesspeople.
“A large portion of many community managers’ jobs is to be reactive and engage with people who have reached out to the brand for any reason,” Greer added. “Marketers spend all of their time figuring out how to get people’s attention, and then there’s the community manager who is trying to stay on top of those people and make an actual effort to engage with them regularly. By involving the community manager in content strategy, brands can leverage the people whose attention they already have and better cater content to their needs.”
Brands are neglecting the community side of content marketing, but with trust becoming an important metric to measure in evaluating business value, community managers may just emerge as the most important content marketers yet.