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Sunday, 22 April 2012

12 Top Community Managers Share Their Tips for Better Engagement


Engagement is one of the most talked about metrics for ROI. Some argue that the raw number of “Likes”, comments and retweets don’t mean anything. Instead, they point to a fans’ level of investment, loyalty and engagement to determine whether social media is “paying off.” A community manager — or social media manager or brand manager, etc. — is responsible for growing this community, providing interesting content and increasing engagement, which should ultimately lead to increased revenue.
Mashable gathered tips from top community managers to help you boost activity on your social platforms — they’re grouped into various engagement-inducing “actions” below. The individuals we spoke with have built up engaged audiences for brands, such as GapJetBlueInstagram and Jetsetter, so they know a thing or two about community building.

Calling for Offline Activity


“Connect to something physical: As a business with brick-and-mortar locations, our engagement in social media is only as powerful as its ability to also create engagement in our stores. In January, we ran a New Year’s campaign, inviting customers to share their New Year’s resolutions on Post-Its in our storefronts as well as on Twitter with the #sweet2012 hashtag. Customers covered the windows of our locations with thousands of Post-Its sharing their goals for the new year, like “run a marathon” and “get a job I’m passionate about” or (my favorite) “ask her to marry me.” By the end of the campaign, we’d collected over 2,000 post-its, and saw hundreds of tweets come through our #sweet2012 microsite online. Digital-to-physical tip for brick-and-mortar locations: Hashtags are increasingly part of the savvy consumer’s vernacular. You can use them in physical signage to share sentiments or themes for campaigns the same way you would on Twitter, all while providing a ‘secret invitation’ to tweet and get social.”
– McKee Floyd, director of brand development at Sweetgreen
“Don’t make delighting your community members a one-time incident. Create a lasting relationship with your users: After you establish a personal connection for the first time, reach out to them again for feedback, invite them to a Meetup/Hangout, or send them a holiday card. Demonstrating that you remember and value them as individuals makes a huge difference.”
– Teresa Wu, community manager at Google Docs
“Encourage members of your community to meet up with one another and form teams based around shared interests or a common location. Help these groups get the tools they need (educational material, access to meeting space, etc.) to become successful grassroots organizations. Promoting these peer networks is an excellent way to jumpstart engagement and help people feel supported by and invested in your mission.”
– Morgan Evans, community strategist at Etsy
“Do you have a conference, training session or event coming up where individuals will be meeting in person and spending several days together? Set up a community several weeks prior to the event and have them join. Place all logistical materials here and open it up with a simple questions like, “Where are you from?” and “What is your role at _____?” for them. This way, they not only get used to using the community, they are beyond small talk by the time they meet in person. Bonus: House all your materials in the community; no more binders!”
– Mike Fraietta, enterprise community manager at News Corp

Letting Them Know You Care


“Give the community a voice: Our blog is our main channel for news and community highlights. It’s the place we go to feature great photos and users, showcase how different types of people are using Instagram, and give new users tips on how to get more involved in the community. We post daily and are always on the lookout for interesting stories to tell. When we do feature a user, we make sure they know it — we want folks to be proud of their involvement in the community and know that we appreciate them.”
– Josh Riedel, community manager at Instagram
“Crowdsource content across platforms: Cross-pollinate content across your social media channels, playing to each channel’s individual strength. Websites like statigr.am or HootSuite are great tools to coordinate this type of tactic. At Sweetgreen, we’re always on the lookout for our favorite Instagram photos tagged #sweetgreen. We share those on our Facebook Page with a shout-out to the Instagram photog. Our Facebook fans see the image and make the connection to head to our Instagram page, and our Instagram photographers get love from the shout-out. By pairing the creativity of Instagram with the viral quality of Facebook, you double the power of your campaign and engage multiple user bases. Cross-pollination tip for consumer brands: Photos or content featuring your product or branding are priceless. Use a tool like statigr.am to share these photos easily on yourPinterest page or Facebook Page. Always give a shout out to the creator — they’ll appreciate the kudos and keep spreading your brand love.”
– McKee Floyd, director of brand development at Sweetgreen
“Get to know your customer service team: Jetsetter’s member service team answers over 2,000 customer service questions per week via phone and email, but also via Facebook and Twitter. Members love that they can get instant answers to their questions. Communication managers need to be very close to their member support teams. Answering questions via social platforms is a different beast and even the most seasoned customer service specialist will need training on social media interaction. So get to know the folks who interact with your members. Not only does it improve your response time, but together, you can learn a lot about your customers.”
– Jonathan Goldmann, social media manager at Jetsetter
“Identify leaders within your community and support these people as much as possible. They are some of your most valuable assets. Reach out to them, chat on the phone, buy them coffee, take a walk together. Use these opportunities to listen to how they feel about your brand/business and find out what resources you could provide.”
– Morgan Evans, community strategist at Etsy
Fast Company is fortunate enough to have a very supportive and thriving online community of whip-smart professionals who are independent enough to have these really awesome in-depth conversations about our content on their own. Sometimes they want to know you are listening, which means it’s your responsibility to read and respond. Other times they want to have a spirited debate and as a brand it’s difficult to know when to get out of the way. My advice to you is: step back early! It’s much harder to show restraint, but your community will thank you for allowing them to run.”
– Sheena Medina, community manager at Fast Company
“I work out of our corporate office mostly, but when I am in the restaurants I like to pay close attention to our @-mentions and keyword searches. Once, a guest tweeted that she was served a warm beer to her hundred-something followers. I was able to figure out who she was by her picture and have a manager send over a new, ice-cold beer, even though she never asked her waitress for one. It was definitely a social media surprise-and-delight moment for me, and she left a happy customer.”
– Morgan Brady, social media & events coordinator at Southern Hospitality and Strawberry’s Sports Grill

Responding to Feedback


“Ask your customers what they think. This might not sound very exciting, but it’s key to our social media and community engagement strategy. We do weekly posts on Facebook, for example, called “Feedback Friday” where we share one of our favorite products and ask our fans, “Have you tried this? What did you think?” This allows us to get customer feedback and also allows us to build community because responders inevitably enter into conversation with one another. We also respond to questions and comments ourselves directly in the Facebook thread. We’ve found our ‘Feedback Friday’ comments are overwhelmingly positive and these touts garner more responses than our typical posts, on average. We recently invited our Facebook fans to vote between two bestselling products to determine which one we’d run a promotion on. We received over 600 votes in the form of Facebook comments. Our fans’ comments expressed that they were thrilled to have the opportunity to show support for a product that they’d either loved in their box, or hadn’t received but wanted to try. We even do this on Pinterest. Two of our most popular boards are the “Your Birchboxes” and “Un-Boxing Videos” boards where we promote images and videos our customers have shared on Twitter and YouTube of their monthly boxes. By encouraging and applauding our community when they tell us what they think, we build both community and loyalty.”
– Rachel Silver, community manager at Birchbox
“Listen: The community is what makes Instagram so special. From day one, we’ve made every effort to pay close attention to what our users are saying — through Twitter, Facebook, email, our App Store reviews and the app itself — and that hasn’t changed. Forming relationships with all different types of users has — and always will — help shape our thinking as we work to grow and nurture the community.”
– Josh Riedel, community manager at Instagram
“Meet effort with effort. Every user who takes the time to engage with your brand should be acknowledged and cared about like they were friends of yours on your personal social networks. That means answer everything, but more importantly care about everything (and everyone) who cares about your brand. Highlighting the people who champion your brand spreads the most goodwill and usually results in the most ‘Likes’, comments, retweets, etc.”
– Jonathan Goldmann, social media manager at Jetsetter

Nailing Your Tone


“You can’t force it. It has to be authentic. When it comes to engaging our members, our philosophy is to keep it real. You can’t force or trick people into sharing — they’ll see right through it. We engage our members by presenting them with fun, unexpected, colorful, smile-worthy design inspirations every day. When you discover a design that makes you smile — whether it’s a vintage University of Michigan t-shirt (Go Blue!) or a giant inflatable elephant — you want to tell your friends.”
– Melissa Klein, VP of communications at Fab
“Understand that not every brand or company is going to be able to use social media in the same way. Take some time to gain clarity about what your brand is, and let those insights inform your process in the social space.”
– Sheena Medina, community manager at Fast Company

Thinking Outside the Box


“Participate in interest communities that will allow you to produce and curate content around passion points your brand shares with consumers, e.g. food, music, fashion.”
– Rachel Tipograph, director of global digital and social media at Gap
“Look for inspiration in all different places: You might be surprised what will inspire you to think creatively about engaging your community. While it’s helpful to look to other online communities for inspiration, you may also find inspiration outside of the tech world. In the past few days, I’ve found essays about imagination and community, as well as city planning, just as thought-provoking as pieces like the one you’re reading now.”
Josh Riedel, community manager at Instagram
“It’s a mistake to think that social networks are designed solely to drive revenue and traffic, so it’s best to make your content social by design. Rather than solely marketing your product and promotions, we like to use our content to start conversations around travel and inspire users take cooler vacations.”
– Jonathan Goldmann, social media manager at Jetsetter

Using Visuals


“Photos can be worth 1,000 words (or posts): Our community comes to Jetsetter for our vacation recommendations and reviews, but it’s the photos that people are most passionate about. Our photo-driven content gets the most user engagement in Facebook and Pinterest. We have stunning photography and engaged fans who love to share the pictures we provide and talk about their own experiences with that destination. Also, our Jetsetter team is constantly traveling the globe and when they do, they share their own photo albums, which are popular among our members.”
– Jonathan Goldmann, social media manager at Jetsetter

Making Connections


“If you’re looking to increase engagement, the question you should answer is: How can we continue to strive for meaning? At its core, social media is about making a real connection with something you care about. And it’s about building communities — which really means building relationships. You don’t have to be an “expert” to build a relationship, you just have to be invested and fully present. Your audience will immediately recognize the value you create if every decision you make is centered around bringing meaning to your community. It may sound simple, and that’s because it is. All it takes is a few conversations with people that really care, and you’re well on your way to an engaged and flourishing community.”
– Sheena Medina, community manager at Fast Company
“At Zaarly, we do everything we can to build a stronger emotional connection with the buyers and sellers on our site. Sellers are especially important to us, because they’re the ones that add value to the marketplace, and who will come back and use Zaarly regularly. There are three forms of engagement that we focus on: Engagement with the product, engagement with the brand and engagement with other users. Product engagement is very feature driven — simply, what can we build into our product that will keep users coming back? Brand engagement is more human — it’s being very responsive when people contact support or talk about us online. It’s reaching out to people that are using our platform, and talking to them on the phone for a half an hour. It’s following them on Twitter and responding to their tweets, even if they’re not talking about Zaarly. Every time you can genuinely engage a user on a personal level, you have the opportunity to strengthen their connection with your brand. Engaging with users is also very human, but in a different way. Now that you have people who are highly engaged with your brand, the goal is to connect them with each other. People like to feel like they belong to a community. When they feel a stronger connection to other people in the context of your brand, they’ll naturally feel a stronger connection with your brand overall. Creating private groups on Facebook, or forums are a good way to accomplish this. And you don’t have to make the conversation about you or your brand. As long as these people are connecting around a common interest, you’ll be building a true community and it will result in a lot of amazingly engaged users.”
– David Spinks, director of community at Zaarly
“I’ve recently started using SproutSocial, and it’s absolutely stellar for a brick-and-mortar business. The CRM and reporting tools are fantastic, as well as the ability to track Foursquare check-ins, which I take complete advantage of. It tells me who has their Foursquare linked to their Twitter, so I am able to see who they are, reach out and thank them for the visit, find out what they ordered, how the service was etc. I do this proactively at least three times a week. This allows me to gauge popular menu items, customer service (both when praise is deserved for staff and when issues need to be brought to management), the types of crowds particular promotions/events are bringing in, etc.”
– Morgan Brady, social media & events coordinator at Southern Hospitality and Strawberry’s Sports Grill
What’s your favorite tip? Tell us in the comments below, and let us know if you have any tips of your own.



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