Online Community Manager: How to Pitch not Push

So your online community is now gathered around and hanging on your every word. They’re interacting and feeling good about the brand. As community manager, what are you going to do to reward them? You see, promotions don’t only bring in new business. They’re also important for rewarding customer loyalty. Your community members like to know you appreciate them, and actions speak louder than words.

What we’re told and what’s expected are two different things. We’re told that it’s all about engagement and that conversation shouldn’t be about sales and pitching, and this is true. The bottom line, however, is that community managers do have to sell and do have to pitch to get members to react without looking like they’re selling at all. This isn’t easy.

If your members join your brand’s community, they expect to hear about said brand now and then. If you work for a certain brand, your members are okay with hearing about it — just not every day. They know what they joined, so it’s fine to talk about your product in a way that isn’t pushy or pitchy.

You’ll turn off all your fans and followers if you’re on Twitter saying “Buy this bagel!” all the time. Rather than sell, discuss. Share interesting facts about bagels or link to cream cheese recipes. Look for news relating to bagels, cream cheese, or jams.

Also, comment on your community’s discussions, even if they’re not related to bagels. Then, when you have something you need to put out there — perhaps a brand promotion — you can announce it without annoying your community. Most of the time, you’re talking about bagels and getting people to think about them without actually pushing your product on them.

Unless they’re savvy online socializers, many community members don’t have a clue that a good portion of the people with whom they’re talking online are there because they have something to sell or promote — not necessarily because they appreciate the other members’ sparkling wit.

Selling isn’t always obvious. Here are few subtle ways that you can get people to respond to an online promotion:

  • Signature lines: To keep members from spamming forums, blogs, and other online communities, a signature line may be available in members’ account settings. Members can use this signature line to provide promotional information, such as links to a sales page or website, in a place where others can visit without being annoyed with constant pitches and spiels.

    A signature line appears underneath each post so that everyone can see your links or promotion information every time you post.

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  • Links: Sharing links to a website, sales page, blog post, or other target is kind of tricky because most online communities have strict rules about spam. Most people who use communities for marketing purposes know and follow the rules; they share links only when they’re invited to do so or when it’s appropriate to the conversation.

    If a member shares links too often, other members of the community or community management call him on it. The best salespeople know how to contribute information without being pushy.

  • Participation: When a person spends a lot of time in a particular online community, the other members get to know a lot about her. If a freelance writer mentions her job in a conversation, for example, members may remember that conversation. The next time they hear that someone needs a freelance writer, they may refer the potential client to her.

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