When people ask me what led me to a career in social media, I have to admit it was by accident—I quite literally stumbled into it. And while that may not seem overly inspiring, it was through this sideways approach that I developed the core values that have shaped and given purpose to everything I do in social media.
See, I didn’t grow up with social media being the omnipresent norm that it is today. I didn’t grow up with it at all, in fact. (I’m can-sing-along-to-the-AOL-dial-up-sounds-years-old, in case you were wondering.) Facebook, Instagram, Twitter—I remember when they all started. And I remember being fascinated by these platforms because they allowed me to share snapshots of my life with current friends, catch-up with far-away friends, and make new friends I’d never meet in real life. In a word: connect.
Social media is all about connections
That love of connecting is what made me fall in love with social media. So when I started to clue in to the fact that there were social media jobs out there, about seven years ago, I didn’t go into it thinking about sales or paid ads or marketing. I just wanted to connect with people—or “build community,” as the industry calls it now.
But despite social media platforms supposedly being about and for connecting, it’s not that easy to find companies that want their social media channels to focus on that. Everything’s about monetization and click-throughs and ROIs. In the words of Alexis Rose: ew.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for all that on social media (hint: it’s called paid advertising) but the organic feeds can be so much more powerful with a community-focused strategy.
Which is precisely what attracted me to this Community Manager role at Smile. The job description was saying all the right things (most notably not just saying “community” for the sake of saying it). I could tell that they cared about their customers—and entrepreneurs/small business owners in general—just as much as they cared about themselves. They saw the potential in using their social channels to create and nurture a genuine community.
I was on board—am on board. I accepted the job (that part was probably obvious, though, wasn’t it). For the past three months I’ve been working hard within the Merchant Experience team to develop our community strategy and start to produce content. I can honestly say I haven’t been this excited about my job since the time I got to take pictures of Robert Pattinson at a film premiere.
So what is Smile’s community all about?
Here are 4 things we’re doing a bit different in our approach to community and content:
1. It’s Not About Us
An essential part of our community strategy was our mission. What were we doing on social media? We knew we didn’t want to use it as a sales channel or a space to talk about ourselves. And our community mission would also ladder back up to our overall mission:
“for empowering every entrepreneur to grow their brand and build lasting relationships with their customers.”
Notice the distinct lack of “Smile” there? That’s purposeful. Because for us “empowering every entrepreneur” means we are empowering merchants whether they are Smile customers, not yet Smile customers, no longer are Smile customers, or never will be Smile customers.
We want our social channels to be bigger than us because the entrepreneur and small business community is bigger than us. And while we won’t make any claims to own that community, we are hoping that as we use our social channels to empower, champion, and educate. We can carve out a cool, unique little space for entrepreneurs and ecommernce enthusiasts alike.
“The Smile community is the place to be because it feels good – no matter the stage of your business or whether you use a loyalty program.”
2. Letting The Community Guide Our Decisions
Since we’re building up our social channels for our community, it only makes sense that we check in with them to make sure what we’re doing is what they actually want and need. In my first month at Smile I set up some meet and greets with merchants to find out more about their social media habits. We learned a lot and this is definitely something we’ll continue doing on a regular basis, especially as we get more new content on our channels.
We’re starting off on the basic channels (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook), but we also firmly believe in the concept of going to the community, rather than making them come to us. Entrepreneurs are busy enough, so why should they have to put in extra effort to be a part of our community. So who knows what channels we’ll end up on next. Will I be learning how to Discord? Is it even a verb?! Stay tuned!
And speaking of busy entrepreneurs, this is the main reason why we’ll always prioritize content that can be enjoyed asynchronously. Because as great as a live streamed event is, not everybody can be available at that one time. We want to be as accessible as possible for as many of our community members as possible, no matter where they are in the world.
3. Less Tangible KPIs
Listen, I get it. Numbers are great. Who doesn’t love data, right? And how else can you “prove” that something is “working” on social media if not by some sort of metric. Let’s say we post something educational and 10,000 people see it. Was it successful? For us, not just by reach or impressions alone. Because if 10,000 people saw it but nobody learned anything or found it useful, then it couldn’t have been that educational.
So as we continue to roll out our strategy, we’ll be looking closely at sentiment and engagement. I’d rather have 10 people learn something, feel something, react in some way to something I have posted than have 20,000 eyeballs simply view it. That’s how we’ll know we’re hitting the mark and providing something of value to our community.
4. Growth Is Not The Goal
Speaking of KPIs, or key performance indicators, you may have noticed that I didn’t mention growth. Yes, of course we want more followers—because how else can we grow our community? However, we want to do so in as genuine a way as possible, so we’re playing the long-game. Basically that means growth isn’t our goal.
But it will be an outcome.
Our goal is to produce content that is useful for our community. If we do that successfully, then we’ll see growth. When growth is the actual goal, it’s too easy for it to become just about the numbers. You’ll end up with a community filled with the wrong people. Focus on what really matters, the community and their needs, and it’ll be a real Field Of Dreams kind of situation, just with less cornfields.
Come and follow us on our community-building journey
Suffice it to say, it’s been an exciting few months. We’ve launched a handful of new content series on Instagram and our Blog, are working on relaunching our newsletter and have our sights set for more video content (ahem, TikTok, ahem). Have a peek for yourselves (and definitely, absolutely, let us know what you think).
Siân is Smile.io’s new(ish) Community Manager. She has a background in writing, photography, customer service, and film festival operations (which she fondly refers to as “cat herding”). Prior to Smile, she worked on social teams with TIFF, the ROM and Shopify. When she’s not deep into Berries and Cream and/or Twilight TikTok, she enjoys reading, eating ice cream, taking photos of her cat, and talking about herself in the third person.