We chatted with Haley Lindenberg, the Community Manager at ClassPass, to uncover why it’s important to engage with your community online and some best practices for measuring and growing your following!

What is an online community, and why is it important to engage with your community online?

An online community is essentially a group of people who are interested in your product and what your brand has to say and engage with you on social media. They may be existing or former members of your service, or they may be people who have never tried your product before — they may just be fans of the content you produce. Often, your community online will  share some common interests and it’s important to identify what those are for your brand. For ClassPass, it’s fitness, health and wellness. The key thing to note when engaging with your community online is that your audience expects you to be the experts. They give you the trust and endorsement (by following your brand!) and expect value in return.

The key thing to note when engaging with your community online is that your audience expects you to be the experts.

Additionally, by engaging with your customers online, you can build your community organically. Through page likes and social media follows, these become powerful tools for building brand, and in today’s world, having a large following also legitimizes your brand.

How often should you be engaging with your customers online?

At a minimum, you should be sharing at least one post per day per channel. You should differentiate the types of posts per channel, in order to maximize impact. For example, something you post on Twitter might not be visually appealing enough to post on Instagram and elicit a response you want.

In terms of responding to customers, you should (at a minimum) respond to any comments or inquiries within 24 hours. In today’s world, customers expect fast responses. If they’re coming to social media for questions, there’s a good chance they’ve already tried to call or email. Your responses are also very shareable on social, so response time and the quality and personalization of the response is important.

How do you address comments with varying degrees of sentiment?

Every business is going to see interactions from customers that range from positive to negative (and of course neutral, in between!). As a brand that offers thousands of customers a diverse variety of fitness experiences around the world, we’ve seen our fair share of mixed feedback and interactions from customers. When you see a comment from an upset customer, it’s important to remember that it’s never personal. Take a step back and put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Try and develop a response that lets them know you hear them, you recognize them as an individual, and let them know what you’ll do to work with them to address their inquiry.

While positive feedback might be easier to work with and celebrate, other forms of feedback are extremely valuable to your organization. At ClassPass, we make sure to respond to each and every comment (for better or for worse!) and take each interaction as an opportunity to figure out where we can do better. Since we’re typically dealing with personal member account information, we like to take these conversations offline to protect the privacy of our customers, and also open dialogue flow. Share the comments with your team to ensure everyone is both receptive to and appreciative of customer feedback and brainstorm together on action items when needed to make a change.

Now for the fun stuff – positive interactions! These should be celebrated! Respond with a funny meme, create custom content to share your appreciation, like or react to their post, or just say a simple thank you. Let them know how much you appreciate hearing positive feedback – it will only encourage them to share more! Share them within your organization too – the benefit of managing your online community is that you get to see the hard work your team does every day come to life – let them know it’s paying off.

How do you measure or track growth and engagement?

Fortunately, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have come a long way since they started out and now offer pretty sophisticated analytics tools. For quantitative measurements, it’s worth recording your engagement (likes and comments) and followers each week. This way, you have a benchmark to measure against each week to see how you’re doing. You’ll have the data to analyze what’s working and what’s not, and then, when you do find something that works, you’ll be able to duplicate it!

For qualitative measurements, we like to track sentiments (i.e. positive, negative, neutral) for all of our inbound messages, including direct messages (private), and public messages. That way we can pull data weekly to see if a certain piece of content or post swung one way or the other, which will help us determine whether or not we should do something similar in the future.

What are some tools you use to maximize your productivity?

Some of the tools I use to maximize productivity include: Conversocial, Google Drive, and Hootsuite. I use Conversocial which is a paid service to schedule social media content and respond to all inbound social media messages. I also use this platform to track sentiment and any particular feedback or patterns we might be seeing after a product release, and it’s typically where we get first signals if there might be a problem with our technology (such as a temporary glitch or bug). Conversocial also has easy-to-use data export features so we can share community learnings with the team. Hootsuite and TweetDeck are great alternatives for free social media scheduling tools. Finally, if you aren’t already using Google Drive, I recommend you start. Our team created a content calendar on there, and Drive makes it easy to have multiple contributors without creating duplicate versions. You can write notes back and forth within the document and tag other contributors to get their attention.

What are some of the top brands you recommend looking to for inspiration on how to engage with your community online?

Spotify does a great job managing their community online – they’ve won different awards for managing their online community in a proactive, personal, quick and creative way. For example, they create custom playlists for their users after resolving an issue! I recommend checking out their @SpotifyHelp Twitter handle for inspiration.

Another one of my favorite brands is Starbucks. In addition to personalizing all of their community interactions online, they’re often proactively seeking ways to gather feedback and engagement from their community. For example, they encourage users to post their ideas, and then even show the progress of the implementation of that idea. As a business owner, you’re often receiving loads of feedback from customers, and you can use your social community online to share how you’re actioning on those ideas in real-time.

Haley Lindenberg is the Community Manager at ClassPass. Prior to joining ClassPass, she worked for Physique 57 as a Marketing Associate where she managed social media, email and marketing operations. She also founded a social media consulting business where she’s helped small business owners implement a social media strategy for their brands. You can find her trying new workout classes, traveling, reading and finding every gluten-free friendly restaurant on the map. Follow Haley on Instagram.