Thinking about social media in terms of apps and virality goes against what’s best about this technology. The beauty of platforms like Facebook is that brands and people can have a social exchange, not just a business exchange.

But this only happens when you have humans assigned to monitor the web and respond on behalf of your brand. It doesn’t happen through Facebook apps, Twitter contests or YouTube videos. Those things might supplement a campaign, but they are not a social media strategy and they are not a substitute for quality community management.

What Is Community Management?

Community managers maintain a brand’s presence online, sharing content and responding to feedback. This usually includes making posts to the company Facebook page and replying to tweets, but should not leave out monitoring and commenting on blogs, YouTube and other places where your brand is mentioned.

Community managers simultaneously serve the people and the brand, understanding the two aren’t at odds and finding ways to provide value to both.

Why Is Community Management Important?

Community managers allow companies and individuals to relate in a very human way, a connection that is not possible through mass marketing. Think about the love and loyalty people feel toward certain restaurants, salons or cruise lines. People feel stronger about these services than they do about products because of the human difference.

Apple brilliantly created Apple Stores with ‘Geniuses’ to help you find new products and fix your old ones. Forget the “I’m a Mac. I’m a PC” ads; this gives you the clearest idea what type of person Apple is and creates a deeper connection to the brand than someone would get buying a laptop from a general electronics store. A person might have a great experience buying a Dell at Best Buy and return when they need a new computer, but their loyalty is then likely stronger to the store than to Dell.

The point is human interaction does the most to affect how we feel about companies. Social media platforms give all brands the opportunity to have meaningful interactions with people and turn any product into a service. For instance, Kotex uses its Facebook page to answer questions about women’s health.

For now, good community management is something that will set a company apart. Think of the attention Southwest has gotten for their diligence on Twitter. Most people are still surprised and delighted when a company responds to them via social media, but soon it will be an expectation.

All the apps and contests and Facebook ads can’t replace the benefits of human interaction. Companies need to invest in community management.

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