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How community management at GDS differs from the private sector

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Coming from a background of working with tech startups and a few entertainment brands, I knew that doing community management (CM) work would be different at GDS.

Community management at GDS

Social communities in the private sector

In a traditional company, a CM will always have their community Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in mind. Community managers need to translate their community growth into things like more sales, users, or email sign-ups.

Aggressive marketing tactics are often used to grow an audience. Once they're reaching a larger audience, the CM will work at listening, engaging and getting to know the followers or users of the company.

Throughout the entire process, a monetary goal is the primary factor.

Social communities in government

Our strategies at GDS and GOV.UK are never about chasing likes, but we do have a unique strategy based on user needs.

As soon as I joined GDS, I was able to let go of the "marketing" element of community management (although we are still  interested in creating content that has the widest reach possible), and focus on the best part - helping people.

Making social work

Wrapping my head around who our “community” are was the first step. When I was in a startup, I’d focus my community growth efforts on a section of the population based on their interests, age, location or needs. At GDS it's different; our potential audience is every citizen of the UK.

Instead of focusing on audience analysis in relation to ROI , we try to ensure we’re informing as many of the population about digital services, in the clearest way possible, as we can.

We also continue to look at the best ways to engage with the people who care about the day-to-day stories from GDS. We use this analysis to help guide our content strategies.

Compared to the startups I'd worked with before, I  pay much more attention to a professional and consistent tone of voice, alongside remaining personable.

On the front line, my daily efforts are all about being helpful, informative and ensuring people are being heard.  We point them in the right direction, report service bugs and answer any queries as quickly as possible.

“Simpler, clearer, faster” is a mantra at GDS, and I'm happy to be a part of that mission.

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  1. Comment by simonfj posted on

    Hi Amanda,

    Congrats! And thanks for pointing out the difference between community-building and flogging products. It's so nice to see it made explicit. Can we have a conversation about "marketing"? It's the crux of so much confusion in this media world where everyone can be a publisher. The key (it seems), when marketing to communities, always comes back to ideas about "inclusion".

    You are fortunate enough in the UK to be able to build on initiatives which has been running for many years now. e.g. Communities of people, like yourself, in the local gov/volunteer area are just going through another reorganisation. I'll point you at a post one one forum which will help you get orientated.

    So far as marketing is concerned, the basic theory of community-building revolves around one aim - to create online spaces where peer can meet peer and collaborate - regardless of whether they are a group/team from the gds or gcn service and their peers in other National govs, or a peer group of foster-carers for blind children and their support team in Local gov. If we can agree on just this one point, we might contribute to making "the UK the world's most digitally skilled nation".

    The hardest thing is always looking from a user's perspective; and they don't care what level, or department of gov, provides a service; primarily because most of the time they are self-serving themselves and their community (because the digital services are so easy to use).

    Anyway, I thought you (and Carrie and Giles) might be interested in this article on marketing. I've found it has helped many of my correspondents to work through how marketing is done these days. As you say, it's easy when you have a product or set service. One just works through the demographics and begins to out-reach. When you're herding (democratic) cats it's a lot harder. One must live in/share their spaces, not expect them to live in yours.

    So thank you for pointing out that your target audience is "every citizen in the UK" (& don't forget the ones like me who are always OS). It's so refreshing to see "citizen" rather than "user". Hopefully, over time, this will lead the GDS to understand that each service is designed for the same customer = the importance of personalizing services and how it's done. But slowly, slowly. So long as it's simpler and clearer (and THAT it certainly is).


    • Replies to simonfj>

      Comment by Amanda Foley posted on

      Hi Stephen,

      Thanks for the feedback.

      I definitely picture our community as citizens as well as users, so I am glad that you noted it 🙂

      I’ll be sure to check those links out, thank you.

      - Amanda