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Community Management

Evaluate Your Surrounding Community to Spark Fresh Ideas

Michelle Stinson-Ross
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During the course of human events - well, at least when engaging your community - it becomes necessary from time to time to step back and take a look at the network of communities that surround your brand. A quick surface evaluation of the ecosystem you operate in can provide insights into your community and how you can serve them better.

This kind of evaluation is not a deep dive into competitive intelligence, however. This is something a community manager can easily accomplish in a few hours. It is designed to spark fresh ideas and gain perspective on what might be happening in the brand echo chamber.

First, consider what things your community might be passionate about outside your own brand.

Generally, our brand taps into the passion for saving money when shopping online. Naturally, our community shops online…A LOT. Sure, some of them are probably connected to direct competitors that offer similar services to ours, but most likely they are also part of the communities surrounding Amazon, eBay, and tons of other brands that offer online shopping.

What if you own a French restaurant that specializes in regional cuisine and authentic provincial atmosphere? Most likely your community is into all sorts of things related not only to food but travel. When you start to choose what brands beyond your competitors to take a peek at, you should consider looking at travel sites large and small.

By considering what other passions your community shares, you can then choose other social brands to evaluate and gain fresh insight.

Next, choose a mix of competitors, big brands, and niche brands to evaluate.

To really get a feel of what is going on in the network you’re connected to through your community, you should pull together a varied mix of other Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest accounts to survey. Then, you need to decide what you’re evaluating them for. Since you have no idea what KPIs they use to determine success, you have to judge them on how their friends, fans, and followers interact with them.

Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • Do your competitors have the same mix of content you do?
  • Are there untapped content types like chats or hangouts?
  • How do those communities engage with photos, links, videos, and humor?
  • What seems to get the most attention and does it really serve the brand purpose?
  • Do the big brands you chose get any better engagement than you or your competitors?
  • What kinds of content get shared by any of the communities you’re evaluating?
  • What do the very niche brands do differently to engage their communities?
  • How do these brands express identity with visuals?

Questions like these help you to evaluate public perceptions in the social space.

Finally, take a look at your own brand with fresh eyes.

Once you’ve gone through this exercise with several other brands, go back and do the same for your own brand channels. Try to see the overall story your brand tells through the eyes of your community.

Where are you missing the mark? Are there opportunities to grow popular content and give your community more of what they love?

Testing the waters around your brand can be informative without being a major chore. A quick survey like this does not replace a serious competitive evaluation, however. Keep taking that deep dive on a regular basis, but use this quick look to keep your own day-to-day social efforts fresh and relevant.


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