The importance of online communities in a co-operative

Today is Community Manager Appreciation Day, a day for social media community managers across the world to share our experiences with our community of practice. Today seems like a good day to introduce ourselves and explain what community managers do at the Co-op. Here we are: Catherine Storey, Ian Ferguson, Jordan Mcdowell, Scott Bennett and Sophie Newton.

Head shots of our five community managers: Catherine Storey, Ian Ferguson, Jordan Mcdowell, Scott Bennett and Sophie Newton

Managing Co-op communities

Let’s start with the ‘community’ part. Community is at the heart of Co-op and we talk about it often. Co-op members choose a cause in their local community and we give that chosen cause 1% of whatever a member spends on our own-brand products. We often think of communities as groups of people doing a similar thing or sharing an interest around where we live, but many of us are part of online communities too. If you use Twitter, Instagram, write blog posts or join a Facebook group, you’re engaged in some way in an online community, formed around common interests.

The ‘manager’ part of the role title comes from how we work with online communities. Our communities are generally made up of 3 types of people: colleagues from across the business, members and customers. We’re responsible for finding, nurturing and listening to the online communities that are speaking about Co-op products, services and the ways we work. By asking the right questions, listening to and collating community feedback we inform business decisions.

Talk to us. We’re listening

Listening to online communities is an important thing for all businesses, but, as a co-operative it’s essential that we give our members a voice and they have a say in how we’re run.

Our hashtag #shapeourcoop has been a really useful way of talking and listening to members and customers before feeding back to decision makers. During the AGM in May we took questions from our Twitter community and Richard Pennycook our Chief Executive; Allan Leighton, Chair of the Group Board and Nick Crofts, President of the Members Council answered them in real time.

It’s noisy out there!

In 2016 over 280,500 tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram posts and other social media posts were sent direct to our social channels. There were over 2 million mentions of our Food business on social media overall. So, there’s a lot of chatter to listen to and engage with.

We’ve created new conversations across social platforms. Our #TwitterTeaParty inspired online communities with ideas for mother’s day celebrations. We trended internationally for 12 hours, had 2010 mentions directed at our channels and made 56 million impressions. We also had a lot of tea and cake.

More recently at Christmas time we were involved in #ReverseAdvent, an existing trend on social media. We provided ‘packs’ (goody bags) to hundreds of people, helping them give back to their local communities. The hashtag was seen on social media over 77 million times during advent.

What we’re working on now

At the moment we’re working out ways we can have meaningful conversations with members and non-members about things that really matter to them. Once we find out, we can figure out if there’s a way that Co-op can help champion them. In the past this has included conversations about Co-op’s Ethical Framework, tackling loneliness and social isolation with British Red Cross and we have lots more coming up.

Don’t just watch this space – get involved!

You can join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and follow The Co-op blogs.

Sophie Newton
Social Media Community Manager

Social Media Forums for Angel Square colleagues

Hi, I’m Rebecca, the Co-op’s Social Media Campaign Manager. My job is to reach people on social media channels using owned and paid media.

Sharing knowledge and best practice is one of the main focuses of our Social Media team. For the last three years we’ve been holding forums for colleagues who want to keep up with all things social, and it’s great to see that there’s still real interest in these events.

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All content for the forums is produced in-house and we use them to share what’s going on in the world of social at the Co-op as well as updating on new channels, new advertising options and user trends. At previous events we’ve also had guest speakers from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and have hosted a blogger discussion panel with two mummy bloggers.

Latest learnings

Last week we held a forum in our Manchester Support Centre, 1 Angel Square.

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Gail, our Social Media Lead, was up first. She talked about the reintroduction of Google+, Twitter testing new multi-answer polls and Snapchat launching Story Explorer.

Next it was my area, campaigns. Sometimes we focus on individual campaigns, but this time we played a short film, created by Campaign Executive Ben, to showcase the range of activity since the last forum. Check it out below:

We like to revisit previous forum topics to show progress or share results. This time we looked at community management to show what the new team, headed up by Jordan our Senior Community Manager, has been up to since they joined. It was great to be able to share real results and promote the reasons why it’s good to use social media as an engagement tool, not just for broadcast.

Last but not least we had Fiona, our Content and Planning Manager, up to talk about using social media for thought leadership. We like to share valuable skills with the forum attendees so that they can apply these in their own social world. You’ll be pleased to hear that blogging was a key part of this section.

We always try to leave time at the end for a lively questions and answers session. We get asked some interesting questions which shows that people have really listened. This time we had a question around the use of ad blockers and how we think this might affect social media advertising results. We know that Facebook and Twitter users already have the option to hide individual adverts or hide all adverts from brands and that this negative response can be tracked (on Facebook only). We believe that the introduction of ad blocking technology will drive more of a focus on native advertising (in the newsfeed/ timeline) and as advertisers we have to make sure even more than before that our adverts are targeted well and contain relevant content.

So, that concludes a sneaky peak into the work we do on social at the Co-op. The forum is currently only held in our Manchester Support Centre – our goal for 2016 will be to get more of our colleagues involved. So watch this space!