Be nice: what a free calendar can teach you about community management

Photo 04-01-2016, 20 41 41

One of the biggest social networks in the world sent me something nice in the post and I’m instantly falling over myself to praise them to the hills. Is my loyalty really that easily bought? No, actually, there’s a lot more to it. In fact, Instagram offers a fascinating insight into good community management.

Now we’re all into the swing of things again, I can get away with asking this question…how was your first day back at work after Christmas? Good? Hard? Some other four letter word? I hear you.

After toiling through that most Monday of Mondays, I came home to a wonderful surprise; a parcel sealed by tape covered with the Instagram logo! Inside was a 2016 desk calendar, made of up of cute photos of animals published by the Instagram community last year, along with a sweet little note from ‘your friends at Instagram’ – how awesome is that??

Straight away I convinced my four guinea pigs to pose with the calendar for a photo and publically posted my thanks to Instagram and added my contribution to their #communityfirst and #InstagramCalendar hashtag (which is also the image I’ve used to illustrate this post). And now, when I’m treated to a different cute animal photo on my desk each day, I have a constant reminder of how brilliant Instagram is.

Now, before you start, I can already hear you cynics out there snorting with derision at how I’ve been had, how that’s exactly what they want me to do and how Instagram have got some cheek making a product out of other people’s content…I know (I do work in marketing after all). But there’s definitely some lessons about community management to be learnt here too.

For those of you who don’t know, last January I was very fortunate to be chosen by Instagram as one its ‘selected users’ for a week or so. During that time, my profile was suggested to everyone creating a new profile on Instagram as someone they might like to follow. My followers went from just over 1,000 to just under 60,000 in a matter of days. It was bonkers.

Being put on this list was a reward for me being an active part of the Instagram community and I was thrilled. Making that list alone would probably still have been enough for me to still be extolling the virtues of Instagram almost a year on. But it clearly wasn’t enough for Instagram, who really know who to make their influential users (which I guess I am one of) feel loved and special, and, in turn, love the platform even more.

This calendar isn’t the first little present Instagram has sent me; last year I received a fascinating book about the history of Instagram, along with a load of badges and stickers too (and who doesn’t love badges and stickers?). With all this love, which feels real and human despite what the marketing person in me is saying, I’m obviously going to keep using Instagram and keep encouraging others to use it to. I may dabble with Snapchat, Tumblr and Periscope every now and then, and I might post on Facebook or Twitter fairly often, but only on Instagram do I post every single day.

By extension, when Instagram tweaks its app, tries something different or even drops an absolute game changer like the introduction of non-square crops, my instant reaction is to trust them. No, more than that, I back them. I will advocate for them. They’ve earned that default attitude from me.

In short, with a bit of kindness, Instagram have kept me where they want me to be – and it’s the same for most of my fellow ‘suggested users’ alumni. We’re all happy.

So, what are these community management lessons you’ve been promised for the duration of this article? Am I suggesting we should spend lots of money on fancy, if slightly trivial, presents for our community’s influential users? Don’t I realise that no one here has the budget to do that?

Of course not. On the whole I realise spending actual money on actual presents isn’t viable, although it does work sometimes – I remember Aston University sending out Easter eggs to their offer holders last year, which I thought was a cracking idea (#sorrynotsorry).

While I’m not advocating a big spend, there is a basic principle here that we can all try – the idea that doing something nice for members of our community is a good thing to do and will result in an audience that trusts you more and is more engaged.

And this doesn’t just apply to power users – how about we just be nice to as many people as possible?

That excited sixth former who has just tweeted their joy at being given an offer to your University? Tweet them back with some words of congratulations – like we do at Warwick – and make that first social media interaction with their potential new home a wholly positive one.

That local resident who just posted a cracking photo of a local landmark? Reshare it (giving credit of course) on the local authority social media accounts along with a few words praising their photographic genius and you’ll make their day.

Those guys who consistently posts interesting photos of your town/campus/whatever on Instagram? Invite them in for an instameet with some behind-the-scenes access and let them do their thing.

All of these things will make people feel good, make you feel good in the process, and will earn you tonnes of credit with your audience…credit you might well need to call on in more trying situations.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

(N.B. this post originally appeared on the brilliant website Comms2Point0 – make sure you head over there and explore the incredible learning they have to offer)

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