While working on a recent project, I was asked to manage a branded Facebook community that already had a very active following. Problem was, the brand presence up to that point was minimal and the community resembled something from William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Lacking an official brand voice, a group of extremely engaged advocates rose to power.

Though their participation and assistance was appreciated, there was a clear need for an official presence in the community. However, we knew that this would not be a simple undertaking. We acknowledged the threat of backlash and carefully crafted our entry strategy to minimize turmoil. As we put our plan into action, five highly effective practices shone through:

1. Start the day on a positive—and influential—note

Without an official morning greeting each day, the tone and attitude of the community can be completely unpredictable. In the case of our project, it was almost assured that the tone would be negative without subtle intervention. Opening each day with a lighthearted greeting and a fun call to action enabled us to announce our presence, engage advocates, align conversation, and put community members in a positive mindset—all in one fell swoop.

2. Set rules and manage expectations

Clear and consistent communication of community guidelines is an absolute must. If a post is removed because it is in violation of guidelines, follow up and explain why the action was taken. Also, if the community does not have 24-hour management, it is important to communicate the parameters for working hours and response times. This prevents community members from feeling ignored if they post after hours. Eventually the community members will learn how to operate within a structured environment.

3. Establish credibility

A sudden brand presence within a community that has long been dominated by members can be jarring. Don’t be alarmed if a user’s first instinct is to disregard your opinion and look to others for affirmation. Building trust and credibility takes time, but with consistent participation and genuine interactions, it will surely happen.

4. Distinguish community opinion from official/brand response

Highly engaged community members often beat even the best community managers to respond. While this level of engagement is great, it often breeds incorrect information. Consistent brand messaging and presence teaches community members the community manager is the official word, even if it is contrary to responses from other members.

5. Nurture advocates

Lastly, pay tribute to the highly engaged community members who established themselves as experts prior to your arrival. Though there’s a new boss in town, their legacy is not forgotten! By acknowledging their efforts, the advocates know that their assistance is appreciated. If they agree to play nicely and provide respectful assistance to community members, there is no reason for them to stop doing what they’ve always done.

When the time comes to establish an official presence in your community, don’t take it lightly. This undertaking necessitates professional guidance and a wrong move can quickly turn the community against you. These five tips will help pave the way, but take time to make them your own based upon your community observations. Make special note of who your customers are, how they use social technologies, and what they expect from the brand and your overall community participation. Your level of consideration directly affects your success. Now get out there and claim your conch!

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