My guest is Carrie Melissa Jones, the COO and founding partner at CMX. They recently released Keys to Community Readiness and Growth, a study aimed at helping brands prepare for success in their online community efforts. Plus:
- The balance between praising the community and recognizing your own accomplishments
- Celebrating churn
- How CMX hopes to collaborate with other industry resources
“Regardless of who you are as a leader of the community, it’s important to check your bias, check your privilege, at every turn. I think that’s important for everyone to do at all times, actually; it’s just a good way to live.” -@caremjo
“[People say,] ‘well, women should step up, they should do what men do, which is, go out and apply for opportunities, like promotions and new jobs.’ But the truth is that a lot of women, they are not socially encouraged to do that most of their lives. You have to actually pull them out, and it’s important to do that for any kind of quieter voice in your community.” -@caremjo
“In the communities that we’re building, we should be thinking about what do people actually want from their lives? As a community builder, it can be your job to help people realize their dreams.” -@caremjo
“I think it’s always important, as a community leader, to be thinking about what’s the next step after my community? Where do people go after this?” -@caremjo
“It’s really important to think about, at all turns, ‘how can I help my community members become better versions of themselves?’ … That’s the ultimate top of the commitment curve. They graduate from being a leader in your community to being a leader out in the world, and they’ll always be ambassadors for what you did for them. If you want to look at the value of that, they will be advocates until the very end.” -@caremjo
About Carrie Melissa Jones
Carrie Melissa Jones is the COO and founding partner of community industry resource CMX. Formerly the director of content, she’s spent the last year and a half focusing on interviewing the world’s top community builders both known and unknown as well as creating content for CMX’s workshops, ebooks, training programs and research.
In her new role, she is responsible for setting CMX on a path to a long-term operational success. Previously, Carrie consulted for dozens of companies all over the world like Coursera, Socratic, Rehabs.com, pi.co by Om Malik, The 50/50 Pledge and ran a community at Scribd, a reading app with over 80 million users. She got her starting community at Chegg where she built and engaged a community of 20,000 academic experts.
Prior to community, Carrie worked in publishing for several years. She holds a degree in english literature and communications from UCLA. She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her dog, Bruce Wayne.
- On Giving Away Credit in Your Community by Carrie
- My Job is to Shift Praise Away From Me by Patrick
- Heather Sarsons
- Gender Differences in Recognition for Group Work by Heather Sarsons
- When Teamwork Doesn’t Work for Women by Justin Wolfers
- What Do Your Community Members Dream of Becoming? by Carrie
- Coworking Weekly
- Your Online Community Members Are Like the Cast of Saturday Night Live by Patrick
- Leader Networks
- When Marketing Automation Becomes a Community Problem, the Community Signal episode with Bill Johnston
- Keys to Community Readiness and Growth: How Brands Prepare for Online Community, CMX’s new study
- The Community Roundtable’s State of Community Management 2016 survey
- CMX’s website
- CMX on Twitter
- CMX’s Facebook Group
- Carrie’s website
- Carrie on Twitter
00:04: Welcome to Community Signal, the podcast for online community professionals. Here’s your host, Patrick O’Keefe.
00:16 Patrick O’Keefe: Hello, and thank you for joining me for Community Signal. On this episode, we’re talking with Carrie Melissa Jones. Carrie is the COO and founding partner of community industry resource CMX. Formerly the director of content, she’s spent the last year and a half focusing on interviewing the world’s top community builders both known and unknown as well as creating content for CMX’s workshops, ebooks, training programs and research.
In her new role, she is responsible for setting CMX on a path to a long-term operational success. Previously, Carrie consulted for dozens of companies all over the world like Coursera, Socratic, Rehabs.com, pi.co by Om Malik, The 50/50 Pledge and ran a community at Scribd, a reading app with over 80 million users. She got her starting community at Chegg where she built and engaged a community of 20,000 academic experts. Prior to community, Carrie worked in publishing for several years. She holds a degree in english literature and communications from UCLA. She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her dog, Bruce Wayne.
Carrie, welcome to the program.
01:12 Carrie Melissa Jones: Hey, it’s great to be here.
01:15 Patrick O’Keefe: It’s great to have you and thank you for supporting what we’ve been doing so far.
01:18 Carrie Melissa Jones: Absolutely. My pleasure.
01:20 Patrick O’Keefe: I really appreciate it. And on that note, congratulations on your recent promotion to COO of CMX.
01:25 Carrie Melissa Jones: Thank you. It’s a big step up.
01:27 Patrick O’Keefe: It’s a lot of three letter acronyms, not acronyms but three letters.
01:31 Carrie Melissa Jones: Absolutely, the more the merrier.
01:33 Patrick O’Keefe: So one thing I enjoy doing is giving pep talks to community professionals often in private. I don’t want people to sell themselves short, I don’t want people to fall into that imposter syndrome trap. I find that some people in our space write articles that essentially tell community professionals to doubt themselves and I try to be the counter balance. I try to encourage them to believe in themselves as corny as that must sound. I’ve written about this quite a bit and it seems like over the years, you and I have really connected around that topic and those pieces.
02:04 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah definitely, I think a lot of content is written like that saying, “You should do this, you should do that, you need to do this.” But I agree with you there’s sort of Buddhist sort of a way that we approach everything like, “You have all the answers inside of you.” I think a lot of people that are driven to work in this profession, they know how people tick. So definitely something that I think about a lot. Actually, one interesting story about that I had written really quickly a CMX email once and somebody unsubscribed immediately after I sent this email where I was just like quickly dashing off copy for the newsletter and I had written something like, “If you don’t do this, you might fail.” And somebody wrote and they unsubscribed. Comments like, “How dare you! How dare you say this!”
02:47 Carrie Melissa Jones: So other community professionals know this like, you’re absolutely right ’cause we hear that all the time, you should be doing this, you should be doing that, no matter which your profession you’re in, I think you hear those kinds of things a lot.
02:56 Patrick O’Keefe: That is really a funny story. And yes, there’s this pressure to kind of market. That it affects all businesses, but businesses that base themselves in education, sharing knowledge growing someone professionally. There’s this pressure to market themselves in a way that sounds really awesome. I think it’s tough to kind of balance that out, to not fall into whatever that person’s issue was, with the subscribe box, but also to communicate the value of your programs.
03:21 Carrie Melissa Jones: Right and I think, especially, if you look at how a lot of startup content is written, you see a lot of these stories, “This is how we did it, you should do it too. We’ve got 40,000 Twitter followers by doing this thing.” It doesn’t work for everybody and that’s often inauthentic and unsustainable.
03:37 Patrick O’Keefe: The reason I brought up kind of the idea of not selling yourself short is because credit is going to be a big theme on this episode of Community Signal. In December, you wrote an article about giving away credit, and how it could impact the advancement of your career, about the balance between praising the community and also promoting your own work, how do we find that balance?
03:55 Carrie Melissa Jones: That’s a huge question. I actually… Yeah, when I wrote that piece, I guess that was back in December as you mentioned, I really wrote that piece as more of a question, I don’t necessarily have the answer, but I think the basis of a lot of community building and relationship building is having messy conversations, so here we are. [chuckle]
04:14 Patrick O’Keefe: Yep.
04:14 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah. I think it’s this constant give and take between the community professional and the work that we do day in and day out. It’s like a lot of times thankless work and tiring work, emotionally exhausting work, and then the work that our community members do, at what point do we stop being humble and start taking a little bit of credit for the hours and hours that we spend doing this work?
04:38 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, and it’s hard because you cited a piece I’ve wrote in there about how my job is to shift praise away from me and I do believe that. I believe that, I think that core to a lot of community building is taking the spotlight that, if you wanna put it that way, that is sometime cast on the community manager or the community professional and directing that wherever you can, but there also is a time and a place to represent the value that you bring to the business. And I think where I draw the line, where I kinda see a reasonable place to draw it is that in the community, you praise the community.
05:08 Patrick O’Keefe: But, when you’re talking about your career, you’re talking with your bosses, the people who are responsible for your raises, your job or interviewing for a job with other people. It’s important to have the facts of the things you’ve accomplished. This community you started, what did it do? Or how did it grow the business? How much more did community members spend? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, so it’s important to have that information not just to demonstrate the ROI of community, but also to demonstrate the work that you do as a professional because those numbers you can take wherever you go.
05:37 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah, I think a lot of times what happens is there’s a lot of really young professionals in this community who are maybe…
05:44 Patrick O’Keefe: We’re not that old.
05:45 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah. [chuckle]
05:46 Patrick O’Keefe: Don’t make it sound that old, you’re younger than me I think, and I’m not that old.
05:49 Carrie Melissa Jones: But I mean people who have been working maybe out of the, in the workforce for maybe one to two years even who are just now getting their start in entry level community positions and so happy to have their passion in this industry, but I think there’s just… For anyone new to any profession, it can be really hard to sell your contribution, there’s that imposter syndrome feeling. And I think, without getting too political about it, or I like to shake things up [chuckle], like why not stir the pot?
06:16 Patrick O’Keefe: Sure.
06:16 Carrie Melissa Jones: I don’t know what the actual numbers are here and I don’t know if anyone’s doing research like this, but looking at the percentage of community professionals who are women, or who identify as women, and that imposter syndrome definitely being aligned with… A lot of women feel that they should not take credit for a lot of the work that they do. There have been studies that have been done that have shown that women bill for fewer hours than men do when they work for themselves, things like that. So the combination between being young and being a woman in this profession, I think it can be really, really hard to know like, “What do I even say that I did and what am I responsible for?” Especially if your boss happens to be male like, “At what point is he going to advocate for me? How can he be my ally?” Those kinds of things. I’ve been on both sides, I’ve had male and female bosses, and it’s just it’s a constant struggle, “Where do I say I’ve been most effective and how can I say what I can actually take credit for?”
07:13 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, I think that’s a great point and it’s… I don’t know, how do we… So someone who’s new when they’re feeling that way, “What do I take credit for? What do I don’t” I don’t know… For me I would say find a strong mentor, or find people and align yourself with people who have done what you wanna do, and find out how they got there or ask them for their input on it if you’re feeling a certain way; maybe the feelings are justified, perhaps they’re not, but find that person who’s on that path. For me personally, and obviously I’m a man, but my feeling on the type of situation where your boss doesn’t value you is to leave, if you can, right? To find an opportunity where you are valued. And like I said, I talk to community professionals a lot just like you do, and I run into these people who do doubt themselves, and sometimes for good reasons. I doubt myself everyday. Honestly, I doubt myself I think in the morning the most, when I get up. Which is a weird feeling, because it’s like you get up, you’re ready to tackle the day, and that’s when I doubt myself. I usually go to bed confident, wake up feeling like I’m garbage.
08:10 Carrie Melissa Jones: I’m the exact opposite. That’s really interesting.
08:13 Patrick O’Keefe: Well, we’ll spend some time together. You can visit me in the morning, I’ll visit you at night and we can just kind of counter-balance. Because it’s a tough thing. And it’s easy to say, especially, I try to temper everything I say with the understanding that some people have kids, and they have commitments and they can’t just leave a job. I’m single, I don’t have any dependents, I can be flexible in this area where I can say, “You know what? No,” or “You know what? I’m gonna leave.” But I think that’s the ideal, is to always align yourself with people who do support you and do credit you. And I think… I wanna believe that most of the great leaders, anyone I would think to be a great leader in this world, is doing that.
08:47 Carrie Melissa Jones: I absolutely believe that having strong mentors, or even peers, but it’s better to have a good spread of people from all different backgrounds and experience levels, so having someone who’s a little bit more experienced, is key in understanding this and that’s why it’s really, really important to be part of a community for community professionals if you have the time to do so. Yeah, I started doing these office-hour calls with our CMX members, the vast majority of which are women, and I’m seeing this being echoed across-the-board. I feel like I’m not doing enough. I feel like I don’t know how to start… Where do I begin reporting? What do I even report on? And that’s a whole other issue. I could talk about business value community and community measurements and KPIs all day, but there’s definitely this sense of where do I begin, and I think just talking to someone else whose been in your shoes, often times you’ll get a little bit unstuck, and it really is just about, as with anything, you just start somewhere.
09:44 Patrick O’Keefe: And feeling like, “I’m not doing enough,” does that in a way relate back to the whole self-care discussion, on recognizing boundaries, and just making time for yourself, and not feeling that way as much I guess? [chuckle] I mean, I don’t know. It’s tough, because coming from my background, which is… I’ve always worked for myself, and so if I don’t set boundaries, no one does. And so the idea is, when you work for yourself you can fall in a trap of thinking that, “Anytime that I’m able and I’m not working, is wasted time,” and that’s a slippery slope. [chuckle]
10:15 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah. No, it’s really hard. It’s really, really hard. I often will actually catch myself thinking I’m not doing enough, and then I’ll feel bad that I thought that I wasn’t doing enough, and so I go down this cycle. You just have to say, “It’s okay that I feel like I’m not doing enough,” but you do have to step back. ‘Cause I’ve been working from home now, or quirky spaces, coffee shops in Seattle for about a year, almost a year and a half, it can be really hard to know when enough is enough, and again, it helps to have a community of people around you who tell you to stop or who can be good examples of what is okay. But even when I was working full-time I would still often feel that way. I was commuting four hours a day and still felt like I wasn’t… If I was on the train and not working on my commute that I wasn’t being an effective employee.
11:04 Carrie Melissa Jones: So yeah, I’m pretty intense when it comes to my work because I care about it so much, I guess.
11:11 Patrick O’Keefe: Heather Sarsons is a PhD student in economics and a doctoral fellow in the Harvard Kennedy School’s Multidisciplinary Program on Inequality and Social Policy. In December, she released a working paper analyzing the academic publishing records over the last 40 years for young economists who were then recruited by major universities. Sarsons was looking to see what, if any impact this had on those economists being offered tenure at the university. She found that when a paper was authored only by one person, the likelihood of being offered tenure was similar between men and women; a 9% boost for women, an 8% boost for men, but when the research was co-authored there was a disparity; male co-authors were 8% more likely to be offered tenure, where women only saw a 2% gain. When collaborating with other women, a female co-author received a 9% boost, whereas collaborating with a man recruited in… no impact.
12:01 Patrick O’Keefe: Conversely a man collaborating with other men saw a 7% boost, and a 6% boost when co-authoring a paper with a woman. Sarsons also studied the data tied to sociology papers and did not find this sort of disparity, this could be due to the fact with sociology papers authors tend to be listed in order of the size of their contribution, rather than in alphabetic order, as is the case with economics papers or because there are more women in sociology as economics professor Justin Wolfers wrote on The New York Times’ The Upshot blog. This definitively seems like the type of thing that varies by space and obviously leader but how can we make sure women are receiving credit for their contributions within our communities.
12:41 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah, when I read this it kinda confirms everything that I’ve ever experienced in my career, especially in… even in community but before that as well this idea that when women work with other women we are given equal credit in our communities but when we work with men, it’s not that the men steal credit, it’s just that there is an unconscious bias that often happens from people that see the work of women working with other men, and they just might discount it, like you said, it does vary by industry, and I’m hoping that’s maybe not so true in communities and I think actually that in communities and in community when you’re seeing movements happening, I mentioned the Black Lives Matter movement, women are working with other women to really buoy each other up and really lift each other up and give each other credit.
13:29 Carrie Melissa Jones: I think that’s so, so important in a female dominated industry like community that women, when you get up to the top as you are raising through the ranks, bring other people up with you who maybe don’t have the same privilege that you might have experienced or that others above you might have experienced. I think there’s a lot to be said for being a mentor yourself throughout your career, no matter which stage of your career that you are in. I think that communities give us the space to really identify those up and comers too, that were harder to identify, these silent organizations or in just times when it wasn’t as easy to discover people as it is now with the internet being the way that it is.
14:06 Patrick O’Keefe: If someone is managing a community, and let’s say they are a man, so they see this and they say, “Yes, this is bad, I don’t want that.” What are some things that they should look for or be wary of, not just regarding themselves but also within the community itself, and managing the community and how they interact with people, how they spotlight people. What are some things that they can do to kind of address this disparity?
14:30 Carrie Melissa Jones: That’s a really good question. And actually you are not the first man in community to ask me this question. And I think that’s an amazing sign because we need male and female allies.
14:39 Patrick O’Keefe: Look, I’m not asking for me. I’m great, I’ve got this. You don’t have to worry about me. I’m just kidding, go ahead, sorry.
14:45 Carrie Melissa Jones: I think what’s actually dangerous is why it’s so important to ask questions and to invite conversation around this, and to not be afraid of talking about it, is because unconscious bias is a real thing, and that’s what this paper is really addressing, is that there is unconscious bias around us at every turn, we can’t help it. It’s just the way that culture has risen us up in different ways and the way that we are socialized. So yeah, I would say male or female, regardless of how you identify gender-wise, I live in Seattle so we are very gender conscious here, so I’m very careful about the terms I use. Regardless of who you are as a leader of the community, it’s important to just check your bias, check your privilege at every turn, I think that’s important for everyone to do at all times actually, it’s just a good way to live.
15:30 Carrie Melissa Jones: And obviously there’s a lot to be said for gut reactions and things like that but sometimes your gut is going to lead you down the wrong path of that unconscious bias in saying, “oh, men are more likely to… ” If you look at studies of kids in school, men are more likely to raise their hands and answer questions and there could be women who are contributing in very valuable ways that maybe you are not seeing, this also happens on teams of developers, they found that a lot of female developers end up doing the, “coding housework,” they call it, which I’m not crazy about. It’s being called that because it’s not housework it’s incredibly valuable contribution that they are doing about like cleaning code and making sure things are in order.
16:12 Patrick O’Keefe: Yes.
16:13 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah. It’s just very important to say this contribution, maybe it’s not loud, but it’s super vital to the help of this community. And that’s why somebody who is just quietly moderating and helping other people, giving away that credit, it’s important that you still find a way to thank them and to recognize them and maybe they don’t wanna recognized publicly, there’s a lot of people that don’t necessarily want the glory but they just wanna be seen, I think that’s a very important thing that you can do for people as a community leader, it’s just… see people, and I mean that in a very deep and honest way. [chuckle]
16:49 Patrick O’Keefe: Meaningful way.
16:50 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah.
16:51 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, and so it sounds like one thing to do is to be sure to always look past the loudest people. The people who are making the most noise, you can extrapolate that however you want, the people with the most posts. The people with the most whatever. [chuckle] And it’s worth it to spend time to think about the diversity of contributors within your community in all areas, whether that be contributing content, whether that be welcoming people, whether that be… Whatever. I’m doing a very community centric example, but the point is communities have all these components; small and large, doing all these things that make the larger thing work. And it goes beyond the manager or the person responsible, because it’s all these people for the most part usually that are just contributors, just people who are in the community, who are lifting each other up. It’s important to go and really look for the people who are maybe not as loud, maybe not as recognized by their people. Maybe they didn’t win the award this year, in the community awards, maybe they didn’t get the most thank you points, right. The most like button hits or whatever, but to make sure you are making that effort, I think that seems like a small thing, I don’t know if it’s small though, but it seems like something that could be done to recognize people who maybe aren’t as likely to raise their hand as you put it.
17:57 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah, and there’s also like you should be pushing those people to contribute maybe more in those loud ways. That’s actually what something that, I forget which company this was. It was a tech company, it was Pinterest or another company like that. When someone’s manager like you have to nominate yourself for promotion in this company. Which is like. [chuckle]
18:16 Patrick O’Keefe: Interesting.
18:17 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah, I don’t know how I feel about that. The women weren’t nominating themselves for promotions. It’s an internal community this company, but when a female manager wrote personal e-mails to the female employees saying “I think you should nominate yourself.” Then the women stepped up at the same rate than the men did to nominate themselves. “You know what I am doing that work, I should take credit for it.” You need to be sort of like the shepherd in that situation saying like “Hey I think you actually have some really valuable insight here, you should contribute to this conversation.” And do that to people who’s voices are a little quieter in the community. It’s really important that they don’t get drowned out and feel unseen and unheard.
18:57 Patrick O’Keefe: You know, that’s a really good point and, applies to so many things. It reminds me of the fact just in communities, I never want the people who tell me they want to join the team.
19:06 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah.
19:06 Patrick O’Keefe: The people who volunteer without anybody asking, I always think “well I don’t know.” But most of the people that we invite on to join us are people who would not put themselves forward, would not bother. And I think, if you really wanna build a great anything, a great team, a great speaking line up, whatever. It kinda behooves you not to just limit yourself to here’s a form, enter your name, press submit. If you truly wanna build great teams and build great collections of people. You really have to go out and identify people and seek them out yourself and reach out to them yourself. Because if you’re really only going on the people who come to you, your limiting yourself far too much to the point where you are not fielding the greatest team possible.
19:48 Carrie Melissa Jones: That’s completely true. You have to actually do the work, I’m sorry.
19:52 Patrick O’Keefe: Yup.
19:53 Carrie Melissa Jones: It sucks. [chuckle] But, yeah. You get uncover some amazing stories in the process. You have to be… And this is true of… In getting our CMX Summit line-ups in place too, we have speaker applications but it is really about doing that leg work and finding those voices that otherwise wouldn’t be heard. It’s really important to us that we take the 50/50 Pledge every year to ensure that our speakers are at least 50% women. But it’s hard because a lot of women, you’ll approach them to speak and they say, “I don’t have anything to share, I’m not an expert in this,” but really they are. [chuckle]
20:25 Patrick O’Keefe: Right.
20:25 Carrie Melissa Jones: And so, I think a lot of tactics that people have taken, saying like “well, women should step up, they should do what men do, which is, go out and apply for all these speaking opportunities or apply for opportunities, like promotions and new jobs.” But the truth is that a lot of women, they are not socially encouraged to do that most of their lives. So you have to actually pull them out, and it’s important to do that for any kind of quieter voice in your community.
20:50 Patrick O’Keefe: It’s really interesting to me how online communities factor into these discussions, because most of them a large portion of them, are anonymous or pseudonymous communities where people really choose what they want to disclose. They can even make it up even if we encourage honesty. We don’t know what their gender is unless they self identify, even if we might know or guess based on their username, that can obviously be wrong. They are just a username on a screen unless they choose to share more. This covers not only gender but race, age, geographic location, sexual orientation, their politics, their religion, what have you. A lot of the ways that we define and divide people in society, we just can’t do that because we don’t have that information. What has often happened in my communities is that people are judged based on their posts alone. The ways that people are recognized whether that be a simple appreciation from a fellow member or a more formalized community program or being invited to join a volunteer staff. It’s really all based on their contributions and I know I’ve certainly invited people to join our staff without knowing their name let alone their gender. So the world of community is kind of, I don’t know it’s just kinda interesting to me to think about that.
22:00 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah, definitely, because you can be whoever you wanna be behind a screen.
22:05 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, good and bad.
22:06 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah, absolutely, I think about that a lot. If you look at Tumblr as well, you don’t know who people are. That’s a huge community, of people there who just connect over different topics and you don’t know what gender they are or what race they are. It’s really the content that matters so all that kinda fades to the background in those situations.
22:27 Patrick O’Keefe: When we talk about commitment curves, climbing the ladder and building deeper connections between the community and it’s members. It’s so important in my mind to recognize that people leave for good or at least perfectly normal reasons. It’s almost like understanding that friends can grow apart or that death is a part of life. If fighting it is, is a losing battle at times and taking it as a failing isn’t healthy. You wrote an article, What Do Your Community Members Dream of Becoming?, where you talked about celebrating churn.
22:54 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah, I think that really in the communities that we’re building we should be thinking about what do people actually want from their lives? As a community builder it can be your job to help people realize their dreams, and I know that sounds really cheesy. [chuckle] That’s how I am able to sleep so well at night because, I know that the work that I do is actually getting people to step up and move forward towards something that they really believe in and dream about. So, yeah. I think it’s really important that we not try to hold on to all of our community members. The example that I talked about in that article was actually Alex Hillman, he has a podcast himself called Coworking Weekly. Which is I think is ironically not a weekly podcast. [chuckle] But he was talking about how members graduate from his co-working space and how they actually have parties and they celebrate turnover basically. And it was the same thing too at Chegg, I worked with a lot of academic experts. A lot of them were kind of doing the work freelance while they figured out, I have a degree in, one of the guys had a degree in, a PhD in physics or something, and he actually had lunch with him one day and he talked to me about how Back To The Future wasn’t that unrealistic scientifically.
24:09 Patrick O’Keefe: I like the optimism.
24:10 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah, I know. It’s 2016, we’re one year past the 2015 mark in that movie.
24:16 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, and we got hover boards.
24:18 Carrie Melissa Jones: We did.
24:18 Patrick O’Keefe: Thank goodness. They’re more harmful to us than anyone else.
24:23 Carrie Melissa Jones: Right, right. [chuckle] Yeah, so we would celebrate though when they would get full-time jobs. We would obviously lose them in the community, they were too busy to come back and help students anymore, but the truth is they were a lot happier. They would be able to be surrounded in person by people who cared about what they cared about, and they were able to take the next step in their careers, really. So I think it’s always important as a community leader to be thinking about, “What’s the next step after my community? Where do people go after this?” So it kind of varies based on what you’re building your community around. It could be an education community, and people are physically graduating out of the education system going into the working world or contributing to the world in other ways.
25:03 Carrie Melissa Jones: Or if you’re building, I think I also used the example in that post of somebody using an app like Depop, which I actually don’t know is around anymore, I could be wrong, but using an app like selling their clothes on an app or something like that. What is that person actually dreaming of becoming? Maybe they want to become Instagram models. I won’t judge, you do you. Or maybe they want to become the founder of ModCloth and open their own online store, something like that. So it’s really important to think about at all turns, like, “How can I help my community members become better versions of themselves?” I think that’s a great way to just look at your job in general. That’s the ultimate top of the commitment curve there. They graduate from being a leader in your community to being just a leader out in the world, and they’ll always be ambassadors for what you did for them. If you want to look at the value of that, they will be advocates til the very end.
25:55 Patrick O’Keefe: That’s a fun way to look at it, that the top of the commitment curve is leaving. I love that, I think this is really a smart way to look at it because one thing I would always get frustrated by when I read articles about growing your membership and getting people to do more, is it’s almost like there’s no exit that’s good. It’s like, “You need to grab and hold on to people as long as we possibly can.” My goal was never to have a community that monopolized anybody’s personal time.
26:20 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah.
26:21 Patrick O’Keefe: I want people to have healthy lives, and so I think that sounds, like you said, corny or whatever and maybe doesn’t sound like the most serious, serious business type thing to say, but I think it’s really important to understand it, that your community exists on a path within life that people choose to get to something else.
26:39 Carrie Melissa Jones: Mm-hmm.
26:40 Patrick O’Keefe: And so yeah, my favorite comparison is SNL and how the cast of SNL is almost like a community, and they’re there for a little while and some of them become major celebrities, and they become huge movie stars. Some don’t, some go back to comedy clubs, some go back and do something else outside of the business. But it’s like a family where the ones that are really successful, they recognize what that community did for them and they come back. You see these recurring SNL cast members, people that haven’t been on in 20 years or 15 years, they come back because they got so much value out of the institution, they think so much of it and everyone involved that they recognize what it meant to them and what it did for their career, and they want to be a part of it still. I think that’s a beautiful thing. If you can capture that within your community where you do help people on to that next stage, like you said, they’ll always be ambassadors and they’ll always be a phone call away. They’ll always be able to come back.
27:30 Carrie Melissa Jones: Mm-hmm.
27:30 Patrick O’Keefe: The opportunity is there for them to mentor people in the community, for you to tell their story like, “This is where you can get to through this community. These are some of our members.” And I think that’s just a really, really powerful thing.
27:41 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah, that’s a perfect example. If SNL was not doing a good job, then everybody would go back. They’d quit comedy, or they would go back to whatever town they might have come from and go back to doing small shows, but they don’t. They go on to be the Will Farrells or the Adam Sandlers, so that’s how you know you’re building something really valuable, is, your alumni network, basically is gonna be extremely strong.
28:06 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, it’s not that I want people to leave.
28:08 Carrie Melissa Jones: Right.
28:10 Patrick O’Keefe: I should be clear about that, it’s not like I’m pushing them out the door like, “Go be President so I can claim you,” no.
28:15 Carrie Melissa Jones: You’re pretty good, though.
28:16 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, I mean, that would be cool. I would love to say, “Barack Obama, used to post on KarateForums.com back in the day.” There are funny stories, but it’s never taking credit. It’s just, “Hey, they were here.” There’s a rapper named Jay Electronica who’s fairly well-known and he actually posted on a community I ran for phpBB, phpBBHacks.com years ago, when he was trying to run his own site and had this forum on it and needed help. Because celebrities or future celebrities are just people like the rest of us. We sometimes forget that, I think, but they’re just people doing something and we happen to be the forum for that, so he needed help with that.
28:48 Carrie Melissa Jones: Mm-hmm.
28:49 Patrick O’Keefe: And I think those types of stories are fun.
28:51 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah, they also make other people realize, “That could be me one day, too.”
28:54 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah. You could be a respected rapper.
28:56 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah.
28:58 Patrick O’Keefe: For posting a programming forum.
29:00 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yep, exactly.
29:02 Patrick O’Keefe: CMX with Leader Networks just released a research report, Keys To Community Readiness and Growth: How Brands Prepare For Online Community. You were hoping that it builds bridges between you and other companies doing community research, but going back to that topic of credit once again, everyone wants it. Everyone wants to be seen as the authority, which enables them to sell sponsorships, conferences, training programs, memberships. We can talk about the greater good and we just did, and doing right by the community, but when your business is to sell to community professionals and the companies they work with, I think that’s a barrier you have to overcome. I was curious what does this collaboration, this bridge-building look like to you?
29:41 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think also… Was it Bill Johnston talked about this a little bit in his interview with you, too.
29:46 Patrick O’Keefe: Yep, he did. He talked a little bit about the siloed resources, I think, were his vernacular.
29:50 Carrie Melissa Jones: Yeah, and I think that it actually does our industry a disservice to have those siloed resources. I don’t think that any of us exist in a silo, and if we’re not speaking the same language, especially I think language is so important, maybe that’s just the English major in me, [chuckle] coming out. But I think language determines reality and if we’re not all using the same terms and kind of asking the same questions and giving community professionals who are really the ones on the ground selling community internally in their organizations, if we’re not giving them resources that kind of point in the same direction, then we’re doing them a disservice, we’re doing the entire industry a disservice.
30:24 Carrie Melissa Jones: So we’ve been working, we’re a promotional partner of the Community Roundtable’s survey which I think wraps up around the 18th of March, but that’s a really important piece of research that goes out every year. I think they’re in their seventh or eighth year now, in addition to ours and we’re able to confirm each others findings through a lot of the research that we do and sort of get into more details that… There’s only so much one research report can do, can’t answer every question in every report.
30:49 Carrie Melissa Jones: And so it’s really important that we define the gaps that maybe other companies that are doing this community research including Gartner, and your Forresters, and stuff like that. And then finding the questions that still exist and especially reading those conclusions in research reports to see which questions still exist for community professionals and then instituting new research to answer those questions. That’s what really is going to professionalize this discipline. For the last 20, 30 years that this discipline has been around we’ve been working towards… Well I haven’t lived for 30 years so I can’t say that we, I guess.
31:21 Patrick O’Keefe: Yep.
31:22 Carrie Melissa Jones: But people in the community have been working towards really professionalizing this and creating strong standards, in order to get into this industry, to begin with you have to understand. Not everybody can just come in and call themselves a community professional just like not everybody can come and call themselves a lawyer, there’s things that you have to know, terms you have to follow, language you have to learn. It’s really, really gonna be important for professionalizing this and making sure that the future generation of community builders is able to get the resources they need to continue to build a world where community and business are not mutually exclusive.
32:00 Patrick O’Keefe: Carrie, thank you for joining me.
32:00 Carrie Melissa Jones: Thank you, this was really fun.
32:01 Patrick O’Keefe: We’ve been talking with Carrie Melissa Jones, the COO and founding partner of CMX at cmxhub.com and @CMX on Twitter. They have a Facebook group at facebook.com/groups/cmxhub. And you can download their new Keys to Community Readiness and Growth report at cmxhub.com/communityreadiness. You can connect with Carrie at carriemelissa.com and on Twitter @caremjo.
32:26 Patrick O’Keefe: This has been Community Signal. Visit our website at communitysignal.com for subscription options and more, Community Signal is produced by Karn Broad and I’m Patrick O’Keefe.
Thank you for listening to Community Signal.