The Circle of Trust
Call it the frontline. Call it gatekeeping. Call it the often unloved and overlooked necessity of having a presence on social. Here's our take on Community Management in 2020 (and the brands that are smashing it)
‘where can i find the price’
‘Hi there, all of our pricing can be found on our ‘Shop’ page, as well as further product information.’
‘what’s the price of this one??’
‘This item is £20 - if you select it, you’ll find product details, and will have the ability to purchase from that page.’
‘where do I buy it??’
It’s a vicious circle.
Call it the frontline. Call it gatekeeping. Call it the often unloved and overlooked necessity of having a presence on social. Community Management can receive a decidedly bad reputation as the rather unglamorous task of maintaining a line of communication between organisations and their audiences. If you’ve ever worked in retail or hospitality, your perception of the human psyche will have been brought sharply into question likely the moment you pinned your name badge to your fresh apron; the exchange of human empathy unceremoniously severed as soon as you resembled ‘the other’. The voice of a corporate machine.
Now try negotiating such communication through the means of a social media platform, where any sense of humanity is often painfully tethered to forename sign-offs by overworked customer service representatives battling against profile photo thumbnails of Yorkshire Terriers. Neither side will likely care too much for the other; the caustic exchange illustrating the seemingly ever-widening window of human rapport and understanding through the means of an interface.
But look beyond any sense of muted obligation, and those who invest time, effort, and genuine interest in their audience can reap the unparalleled rewards of cultivating a true community on social. One that extends far beyond pointing those in the correct direction of something they could’ve discovered had they performed a simple search - the building of something that is helpful, or meaningful, or fundamentally worthwhile. Or potentially all three. This is how a circle of trust on social can look in 2020:
The Invested Advisor
One of the prominent emerging names in skincare in the latter half of the ‘10s, Deciem positioned itself very competitively within the market by offering those with an acute interest in skincare dedicated products at unprecedentedly low prices. A strong part of its allure was its no frills, scientifically-leaning approach, bolstering its authenticity through its thorough and transparent detailing of the components of all of its products.
Deciem (naturally) encourages potential customers into buying multiple products from their ranges to develop a comprehensive skincare routine. As such, the level of knowledge it requires of its users to make informed choices is significantly higher than that of any comparable brand, which has, in turn, forced them to invest more time, consideration, and patience into their approach to community management.
Put simply, many of us have never been more aware of what we put into, or onto our bodies, and Deciem stepped up through community management to educate in a way that was not only helpful, but was also considerate. They demonstrated this further upon cementing their commitment to non-impulsive shopping and decision making by closing their website and standalone stores last year on Black Friday, arguably the most critical day in the retail calendar. Essentially putting their mouth where their money would’ve been.
This caring community spirit has perpetuated beyond the immediate reach of Deciem’s control through the passion of those who circle its altar. Created in 2017, The Ordinary and Deciem Chatroom fan page on Facebook has accumulated over 120,000 members to date, with a supporting blog, and Instagram page with over 45,000 followers. Here, a thriving neighbourhood of eager fans can openly discuss product reviews and recommendations, providing a (debatably) unbiased voice of support to one another in the spiral of descent into one of skincare’s most cult-like communities. By providing such a rich level of imparted knowledge across its social, the word according to Deciem has spread gospel far wider than that of which it has solely courted.
The Voice of a Generation
Not even living under a rock could help you escape from the all-encompassing presence of Fenty Beauty, and frankly, why would you want to? Helmed by one of the biggest celebrities of the recent age, Fenty Beauty’s mission statement was very clear: ensuring that everyone’s beauty is represented and celebrated within a community that had sorely been neglecting far too many for far too long.
Unsurprisingly, Fenty Beauty shot to the forefront of the industry, and blazed a defined path that competitors found themselves scrambling over to enter its slipstream. Fenty Beauty had spoken to so many through its actions, and began to reap the rewards almost instantly - how, then, has it been able to maintain its position since being dubbed one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2017? While a constantly updated roster of well-received products certainly does much for brand credibility and reputation, Fenty Beauty has been able to achieve a staggering level of brand loyalty through the intimate nature in which it engages with its community.
Tone of voice - the three words that anyone even remotely familiar with marketing and advertising knows all too well. Tricky to pin down, and even harder to maintain, establishing a consistent tone of voice through social is crucial in connecting with your audience. Nail it, and you’ll soon be enveloped by the circling arms of your burgeoning community. Drop the ball, and you could risk shattering months, or even years of established trust and goodwill.
Fenty Beauty achieved the holy grail of community management: it dismantled ‘the other’. Engagement between the brand and its community seemed effortless, demonstrating daily that it knows its audience, and how they engage on social. By refusing to drift from those it sought out to represent in the first place, Fenty Beauty not only achieved brand trust and credibility, but also likeability. You wanted to engage with them. You wanted to support them. You wanted to root for them.
This level of unwavering devotion came into question when, ahead of their multi-product summer launch in 2019, Fenty Beauty introduced a new product entitled ‘Geisha Chic’. Quickly, its vocal fanbase raised their disappointment at the insensitivity of the name - a surprise misstep from the brand, which received a starkly different response from the consistently positive sentiments flowing from its community. True to form, however, Fenty Beauty listened to its audience, and immediately reached out to many of their fans with direct apologies.
Whilst I’ve often found the idiom of actions speaking louder than words to be a little short-sighted, Fenty Beauty firmly delivered on both counts by recalling the product before it had graced shelves, and repackaging it for sale under a new name a few months later. The move was well-received, and Fenty Beauty’s course of actions was commended from start to finish - proof that investing time into developing a connection with your audience, and actively listening to them, can help you weather even the most insurmountable of storms.
The Necessary Network
While it feels somewhat twee to remind ourselves of the importance of remaining social on social, it’s pretty difficult to build communities through any other means. And sometimes the most effective way to get people talking is by taking a back seat.
Here at Born Social, we approached Unforgettable (now Live Better With Dementia) with the idea of developing a closed Facebook Group to ‘connect the Unforgettable audience and build a community, giving them a safe space to share their thoughts and struggles on their experiences with Dementia’. Prior to this, users had been restricted to sharing their views amongst the Unforgettable feed of content - a stifling platform lacking in space for users to discuss topics of a more sensitive nature. To compound this, such comments would be fully visible to the public, presenting not an especially welcoming or encouraging environment for those simply wishing to express their thoughts and share their experiences. Furthermore, overseeing such a page required a considerable amount of invested time and effort on the part of the organisation.
Through the creation of a closed Facebook Group, Unforgettable were able to take a more hands-off approach. By allowing like-minded individuals to connect with one another within a private, safe space, the community essentially began to self-manage - longer-standing members became more accustomed to the etiquette of the group, and were able to inform newer members in a welcoming manner. The space flourished, and as the community grew, so did the level of trust its users had - not only for one another, but for Unforgettable itself. Such a simple change provided a voice to so many, who may have previously felt too isolated, or too afraid to share their stories with others. By removing themselves from the centre of their own narrative on social, Unforgettable demonstrated that it places the importance of its community first - an unbroken circle of trust and support that truly reinforces the necessity for both the concept and reality of building communities on social.
If all this seems rather difficult to achieve, that’s because it is. As a ‘90s-born, video gaming millennial, there’s really nothing more appealing to me than a cheat code or shortcut to honour and glory, but alas, cultivating a loyal community takes time, dedication, and above all else, a good deal of common sense. But to circumvent all these vaguely unhelpful pointers and give you a handy summary (and to also extend the rather tenuous metaphor I’ve decided to adopt for this conclusion), here are a few community management social media tips as something of a walkthrough:
1) Consistency is key.
Take a 10 second pause before engagement, and think about how you would like to be embraced as a new customer or guest for the first time. Now adopt that mindset with all members of your community, regardless of when they may have entered the fold. This isn’t to say there isn’t room for growth and finessing within your approach, but think of yourself as the steadfast friend who’s always there with a shoulder to cry on, or a perfectly timed laugh in response to their feeble joke.
2) Absence really can make the heart grow fonder.
If you notice your community flourishing in ways you hadn’t anticipated, and can no longer fully control, it’s probably a sign that you’re actually on the right track. While it’s important to still keep a keen eye in case things do end up derailing, nobody really likes to spend time in the company of that friend who always has a bit too much to say.
3) Stay human.
It’s all too easy (and, let’s face it, understandable) to build barriers to shield oneself from a barrage of beratement, but don’t confuse the ranting of the anonymous profile who received a parking fine two hours prior with the careful critiques of an invested follower. Listen, learn, and do better - you may be surprised by the rewards you will reap, and the friends you will gain down the line.
And we’ve come full circle. Now take a deep breath, lower your shoulders, and re-enter the ring - paving yourself a high road will see you to success, even if you occasionally need to lay the path through gritted teeth.