In today’s digitally connected world, building community is paramount to a business’ success and longevity. Finding the middle ground between strategic promotion and authentic engagement is often the fine line that brands are most challenged with when delivering content that resonates with consumers. If a brand falls short of creating meaningful interactions with its target audience in the spaces they gather virtually, an important opportunity is lost to improve their exposure, credibility, and customer retention.
Cultivating a social presence that demonstrates a brand is knowledgeable about its audience’s needs and interests requires someone on the team who can skillfully occupy two lanes – a respected influence in the boardroom, while being the company’s trusted voice and ears across social platforms. Community Managers strike the right balance between these two worlds. While the origins of community management began as a role brands leveraged to focus on the daily maintenance of online forums, today it has evolved into a position that is much more strategic than simply churning out copy heavily directed by executives. When businesses invest in community management, they best position themselves to engage and nurture relationships with their audience, to obtain the feedback necessary to improve overall customer experience, and create interactions that build brand trust. To meet these objectives, brands must ensure that the community managers they hire are insight-driven strategists with deep expertise in digital marketing, public relations, and communications, and have a seat at the decision-making table.
For Melanie Mercedes, Social Media Manager (Community + Insights Lead) at TIDAL, keeping the values, beliefs, and interests of the streaming platform’s audience at the forefront of business decisions is how the brand continues to add a clear value for its audience. Growing up, Mercedes spent her childhood testing her music trivia knowledge to make sure she knew everything about her favorite artists. Today she leverages this skill to identify and connect with the platform’s most passionate music fans. Mercedes has been steadily growing TIDAL’s share of voice (SOV) over the past two years and has generated over 200 press hits in the last six months alone as a direct result of concentrating efforts on the brand’s most engaged followers, or “TIDAL Stans”, as she prefers to call them.
An NYU graduate with an academic background in Public Relations and Corporate Communications, Mercedes understands brand positioning. She leads both the grassroots community online interactions, as well as social analytics to monitor insights that inform overarching plans across the subscription-based service. “I’m in these Twitter streets. I keep my ear to the community we’ve built – our audience – and report back on behalf of the people,” said Mercedes. Her intentional approach to crafting this multidimensional voice for TIDAL sets the brand authentically apart from competitors in this space.
Sustaining this connection between brand and consumer is invaluable. However, it is often dependent on businesses that trust the process. To accomplish this coveted feat, brands must take a leap of faith with their community managers and place their confidence in the rapport they are able to build with consumers. “My success as a Community Manager requires a certain level of autonomy and that can be scary for brands,” admits Mercedes. “But herein lies the difference between a social community manager like myself and a marketing person running the brand’s social handles. Spoiler alert: your followers on social media can spot the difference.” Audiences know a pitch when they see one. By enabling a direct-to-consumer approach through community management and insight gathering, businesses will reap the benefits of authentically bridging the space between themselves and the audience they most want to connect with.
Here, Mercedes shares her best strategy for designing a community management approach that captures and maintains an audience’s attention online:
Move With Purpose
To cultivate an impactful presence online, brands must take a two-pronged approach: first, identify the purpose for being on a social media platform, and then master the message they will consistently deliver. “I think brands fail to realize that your purpose should slightly vary from platform to platform,” advised Mercedes. “You shouldn’t have the exact same presence across the board. How are you using each channel to educate your audience, engage them, and drive meaningful awareness for the brand?”
Mercedes also suggests that instead of cross-distributing content, brands should consider localizing everything to better target and serve the audiences of each platform. Although there will be some crossover, your audience on Twitter is not identical to your audience on TikTok. As a result, the way your message is received will vary across all platforms. Brands should consider leveraging the local capabilities of each channel to boost engagement in as authentic as possible.
“On TikTok for instance, UGC capabilities stretch far and wide with the duet feature. When Megan Thee Stallion dropped her viral hit track ‘Body,’ instead of doing the standard awareness post informing users they can now stream the song in-app, we prompted our TikTok followers to duet a clip of her music video with a video of themselves dancing along to the new track. This call-to-action which leveraged the platform’s native features resulted in a highly engaging post that garnered over 1M views and 77K likes.”
Meet Audiences Where They Are
Consumers stay loyal to brands that share their purpose and interests. The best ways to exemplify this alignment are to understand the style of vernacular these online community members use and find a way to add your authentic voice to the topics that have them talking.
For example, the seemingly age-old conversation amongst music lovers and Jay-Z fans online has been whether it is more valuable to receive half a million dollars or have a dinner conversation with the hip hop artist and business mogul. A single tweet from Tidal’s Twitter account humorously ended the debate and had the internet talking. Mercedes explained the brand rationale, “There’s the obvious brand association with Jay-Z that played a factor in the success of this tweet. But the words themselves, “Take the 500 K” with no context coming from our brand account, it definitely makes followers feel like we’re listening and that we are paying attention. Had the words come from any other account, it probably would have fallen flat.” Mercedes’ strategy is to take a community-first approach to engage the brand’s followers and communities at eye-level. She learns the jargon of stan communities to target them directly. Whether it’s the Barbz (“Um, chile, anyways, so..”) or the Hov-avengers (“Take the 500K.”), it’s easier for these communities to digest brand messaging when it is spoken in their language.
Use Culturally Relevant Moments to Your Advantage
When Kanye first began teasing DONDA release dates, fans became increasingly frustrated at streaming services for not having the album on the promised dates. Instead of remaining silent or providing generic responses to anxious tweeters, TIDAL used the moment to have some fun. “Through a series of live commentary on Twitter, I leveraged this moment to poke fun at the situation and position our brand as a fan eagerly awaiting the drop as well,” recalled Mercedes. “Much of the commentary from TIDAL went viral, and even garnered us recognition from TIME magazine for the hilarious play-by-play.” TIDAL’s brand came out on top in terms of setting themselves apart from their streaming counterparts by driving home the point that, as a brand, they are music stans, just as their users are.
Bring Data to Life
In her previous role as Social Analyst at Sony, Mercedes learned how to leverage data to create impactful social strategies. “Admittedly, this is a blind spot in marketing. You should be able to read the data, understand it, and use it to inform your strategy,” said Mercedes. “At Sony, I had to learn anywhere upwards of like seven different social listening tools to really sift through large data sets specific to social and different artists’ social handles to help advise and inform their campaigns.” She uses this same analytical approach to guide the content strategy at TIDAL. Instead of relying on intuition, data empowers brands by focusing on hard analytics to guide their decisions. “Social listening tools enable us to benchmark performance to really pinpoint the subjects that matter most to our audience, and gauge overall sentiment,” said Mercedes. “Once you build that cadence you establish trust. If you know what the shared passion and pain points are for your audience, you know what topic or subject will engage them. And you also know what should be off-limits. That’s how brands build trust with consumers.”