Good community management = good stories
As soon as you dip a toe in the online world, a community starts to form around you. At first it will only be small, but eventually you might end up with a community that is hundreds of thousands strong – each with their own story to tell.
People respond to stories. Tell good stories and your audience will share them, which will bring more people into your community. And your community can provide you with more stories, which you can relay to your audience, who will share them again, growing your community even further. Those new people will have more stories, and you can tell their stories, and… well, this could go on for a while.
The point is that stories beget stories. And your online community has some great stories to tell. But how do you get those stories out of them? We can help you with that, but I’ve also got some ideas you might want to consider…
Their story is your story
As you build your community, you will learn more and more about the different types of people involved. While the size of your audience may not allow you to connect with individuals, you will certainly get to know the different tribes or allegiances that form in your community. But they will all have one thing in common – you.
You will, of course, have a story that you want to tell about your organisation. Last week John looked at some questions we should all ask ourselves to help us tell better stories. One of the questions he suggested that we ask about our stories was “Who is the star of my story?”
For the members of your community, they are the stars of their story. You are a supporting character. But that support is still an important part of the story. By encouraging your community to share their stories, they will naturally talk about the role you have played in their lives. Their story becomes your story.
Empower your audience
One of the most important aspects of community management is not to continually push the marketing message of your organisation, but to give your audience a voice. For universities and colleges, getting stories from students gives you a degree of authenticity that might not be evident in your own communications.
If you’ve spent time getting to know your audience and understand what appeals to them, you’ll know which members of the student community you can turn to for the right story at the right time.
- Is there an important university sports match coming up? Get one of your sports enthusiasts to interview the players.
- Is the fashion course preparing an end-of-year show? Recruit a keen photographer from your Instagram following to document it.
These added voices from students will bring a new dimension to your online content, and will inspire more members of your community to take part in future stories.
Trust in the community
We’ve talked in the past about student takeovers, where a student (or group of students) is given control over a social network for a period of time. It’s a great way to show the student perspective of the university story, but for some people the thought of handing control to someone else is scary – after all, who knows what mischief they could get up to?
That’s where community management comes in. If you’ve spent the time and effort to understand and engage with your audience, you should have built up a level of trust with them. Ideally, you should reach a point where you feel comfortable giving them the opportunity to tell their story directly through your channels themselves.
Giving your community control is an ideal way to demonstrate this respect. When you respect others, they will respect you back.
Show them that you’re going to give them more than just a marketing message – tell stories about challenges you’ve faced as a university, or about how you fixed problems that they raised with you. You could even tell stories about other universities… you’ll provide your community with useful, interesting content and you’ll show them that you respect them at the same time.
Finding new stories to tell about yourself can be difficult – so make use of the communities you have built to source interesting and relevant ideas. If you don’t have a community to draw on, then now’s the time to start!