The last time we shared some tidbits about Community Management, we talked about how to build a killer community management plan. As Lisa mentioned, it requires “research, insight and straight up hard work” (word). But there may come a time where you feel like your engagement levels have plateaued, or in the case of many resource-strapped startups, your community manager’s role post product launch quickly expands to that of customer and user support and PR & Marketing assistant (or in fact, absorb all press and marketing initiatives as well).

Lack of bandwidth raises two critical issues for both community managers and the community itself: 1) Editorially speaking, how do these new time constraints affect the CM’s ability to  curate and create valuable, versatile content that consistently interest readers . 2) Logistically speaking, with forward-thinking brands increasingly turning their sights to engaging with consumers on deeply local levels, despite the incredible reach the internet affords, how is the CM going to be able to dig up and highlight unique, local and relevant stories  that represent community members across numerous geographical locations or regions? That’s a lot for one person to take on.

So, how does one person, under budget and/or suffering time constraints, manage to grow a consistently thriving community around a brand or product? Enter the power users.

Identifying community power users: Courting the right members

Before we offer any insights into who or what a power user is, please take note of the following: Not all power users are created equal. You have to be judicious in who you invite to be part of your sacred inner sanctum of collaborators. Your job is to ultimately ensure that these people are actually influencers in their communities, that they’re truly passionate (not just about your brand but your industry in general), and that they will play well with other power users (another important side note: power users are not entitled to power trips).  Now here’s where we give you some pseudo-dating advice about scoping out and courting potential power users:

  • Do some research: So someone has popped up on your Twitter feed and they’re chatty, active and enthusiastic. Take a minute to find out more about the person: How well do they seem to know your brand? What have they said about it already? Do they blog about topics relevant to your industry? Could you see one of their posts up on your blog some day? Do they have any other multi-media skills, such as the ability to create videos, that would be an asset to your content calendar? How tapped into their local scene are they? Do they appear to be connected with other people in the industry or seem to have any sort of respect, authority or klout with local industry players? And finally, how big is their reach? Keep in mind, sometimes numbers are deceiving. A user may be a budding blogger slowly building their following, but if their content and instincts are truly aligned with your brand ideals, these people, and their content, could be really valuable to your brand. Which brings me to another important lesson …
  •  Don’t just piggy back on someone’s influence or reach. It can be equally powerful to discover and create an influencer.
  • Have more than one conversation with the person. If you can’t get the answers to your questions, engage in conversation with the person to find out more about them and their experience, but try not to make it sound like it’s a job interview.
  • Know when to take the conversation offline: There’s a fine balance to conversing with only one person, or a small group of people, via a public feed. You don’t want to alienate the rest of your followers or fans.  After a few back and forth conversations, offer to take the conversation to email so you can continue chatting further.
Courting a potential power user, much like dating, can be a process, but it takes a little time to get to know someone and develop a relationship based on mutual trust. Don’t let the word ‘process’ deter you into thinking this is another intensive strategy you need to execute, because lucky for you, it’s a really fun process and one that allows you to basically just get to know people. As a Community Manager you’ll know as well as we do that that’s the ideal part of the job. But wait, hold on a second, what do you do with these power users once you’ve determined that you’d like to bring them into your brand’s fold? Stay tuned for our next post where we’ll break down how to create a community within the community especially for power users.