The process of getting there is the focus of this episode, including how Jenn worked for interdepartmental support and buy-in, conducted surveys with beta users (what happens if they don’t actually want a community?) and where she’s at right now. Plus:
- The conversation that led to her becoming a community pro
- The word to say if you find yourself in a room of salespeople
- How she has brought offline conversions, at conferences and events, online to the community
Our Podcast is Made Possible By…
If you enjoy our show, please know that it’s only possible with the generous support of our sponsor: Open Social.
“People forget that the community experience is actually part of the customer experience.” -@jenntothechen
“[When trying to get support for community from other departments,] think about their metrics, think about the goals that they’re trying to hit and how community can help. For example, with sales, when I worked with support communities, I’d focus on how a lot of their customers would actually call them back after they signed, or started using our product, with support questions. Let’s say this one rep, in the course of a month, had three different customers call him for a total of 20 calls. I’d say, ‘[Instead of] these 20 calls, you could have called X number of accounts to book those accounts. This is how community is going to solve it, because if you point them to community, they’re not going to call you for support questions.'” -@jenntothechen
“I remember making the community pitch … when I was starting out, I’d be like, ‘Oh yes, community’s awesome, and it’s great, and our customers are going to love it.’ But once I mentioned ‘quota’; you mention that word in a room full of salespeople, and their eyes will light up, and they’ll pay attention to whatever you say.” -@jenntothechen
About Jenn Chen
Jenn Chen is the community manager at Procore Technologies. She has held previous roles at Lithium Technologies, Google and Intuit. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, baking, cheering on the Golden State Warriors and being a youth teacher.
- Sponsor: Open Social, community building for nonprofits
- Jenn on Twitter
- Procore Technologies, a construction software company, where Jenn is community manager
- Lithium Technologies, Jenn’s last job, where she was community manager
- Demandforce, formerly owned by Intuit, where Jenn took her first community job
- Jenn on LinkedIn
- The Steve Jobs and Henry Ford (probably not) quote that Patrick mixed together
[00:00:04] Announcer: You’re listening to Community Signal, the podcast for online community professionals. Sponsored by Open Social: community building for nonprofits. Tweet with @communitysignal as you listen. Here’s your host: Patrick O’Keefe.
[00:00:24] Patrick O’Keefe: Hello and welcome to episode number 89 of Community Signal with Jenn Chen, community manager at construction software company Procore who is in the middle of launching a new online community and is nearing the finish line. If you enjoy the show and would like to ask guests questions and receive bonus clips, please join us on Patreon at communitysignal.com/innercircle, just like Carol Benovic-Bradley, Luke Zimmer and Serena Snoad already have.
Jenn Chen is the community manager at Procore Technologies. She has held previous roles at Lithium Technologies, Google and Intuit. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, baking, cheering on the Golden State Warriors and being a youth teacher. Jenn, welcome to the program.
[00:01:02] Jenn Chen: Hi, it’s good to be here today.
[00:01:04] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s so good to have you. I have followed you on Twitter for awhile, I love your Twitter name, jenntothechen, so good to finally talk to you.
[00:01:10] Jenn Chen: Yes, it’s good to be on. Thank you so much for having me.
[00:01:19] Jenn Chen: Yes. We launched a support community back then and a lot of the questions were how to, so as one of the support reps at the time, I was asked if I’d be interested in helping moderate and answer the questions. That was how I got started.
[00:01:33] Patrick O’Keefe: You were working tech support and before that you had a similar role at Google and you were asked to moderate the community? Was that as simple as it sounds? Was there any hesitation on your part? Tell me about that conversation.
[00:01:46] Jenn Chen: It was actually fairly simple. The community manager at the time just came over, talked to me, she had talked to my manager and they had taken a look at how I handled cases. I guess the similarity there is like how I responded to people on the community was very similar to how you would respond to someone in a support email. They liked my voice, they liked how I handled different issues that came up in support and it was simple as that. I think at first I was just like, “That sounds interesting, it sounds fun. Why not?” Little did I know that this would be something I’d been doing for years to come.
[00:02:22] Patrick O’Keefe: Does that mean that the role was they wanted someone to answer questions or was it also that you would then have a little bit training or some learning curve as far as moderating content?
[00:02:33] Jenn Chen: I think initially it started off as answering questions and just making sure that people who were replying were getting the right answers but that started evolving. I started moderating content, I started noticing trends in what certain users were doing or even trends on what people were interested in. I think that role started to evolve even though it just started off as a few simple rules, or a few simple responsibilities.
[00:02:56] Patrick O’Keefe: If that community manager hadn’t asked you to be a moderator, do you think we’d be talking right now now?
[00:03:01] Jenn Chen: No. [laughs] I think I would still be in support or something. I don’t think this is something that I would ever ever thought I would do.
[00:03:10] Patrick O’Keefe: How do you think having first been a moderator rather than say being a community manager out of college, how do you think first being a moderator has impacted your success in the role?
[00:03:21] Jenn Chen: I think it helps me think a lot about the ins and outs of the role of what’s needed, of I guess just everything. I know that sounds vague but in my role as moderator because I had to learn everything from the ground up. I had to dive in deep, I forced myself to be curious, forced myself to ask questions and that’s something that I still bring in my role today, so that even later on into it when I did become the community manager and managed moderators I still had that moderator mindset. It was interesting to have to switch out of that. But because I had that mindset, it was actually easier to manage the people that I worked with.
Patrick O’Keefe: Moderation is something that people don’t talk about as much as they should, but to me it’s the whole game like without moderation, we don’t have a focus. We don’t have an audience, we’re not catering to anyone. Without moderation the community just exists without any form or direction. The standards, whether you define them or the community defines them, they don’t exist.
You have to have some form of moderation to be able to say, “Okay, we’re going to be an inclusive community or we’re not. Or we’re going to have conversations about this but not this. The tone; how people treat one another, the level of respect in the community, the whole thing in some way or another. The effectiveness of the community, the ability for it to attract new people to get them to stay, it’s really all impacted from moderation and yet it’s something that I think a lot of people don’t think about or neglect or don’t build into their budgets or their processes which is really a shame.
[00:04:56] Jenn Chen: Yes, for sure. Thinking about moderation, I think the general feel for it is that we just want to make sure there is no inappropriate content or that people’s posts go answered. But there’s a lot behind it actually. On the community and for the benefit of the brand, you want to be able to create a safe space. Like you said to be able to guide the conversation and to read those conversations but not feel like you’re constantly in there with a ban hammer or have your community members feel like hey, big brother is watching you, I can’t do anything by my own initiative.
At the same time, for community users, you want them to feel like they’re in a safe space or if something happens, that post isn’t going to go floating around for a week before someone notices. You want them to be able to feel like this is a safe space where I can communicate and that this is a community where people care about what’s going on.
[00:05:48] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, there’s a lot of nuance there and support communities themselves are interesting. Obviously, you got your start there and that was part of what you did at Lithium as well. Support communities, they’re almost how people view the product especially those who touch the community, meaning that if they go to support community and they’re told that their question is stupid or they should search or they should have searched for that question first or anything like that. If the tone of support community is unkind, unhelpful, sends people elsewhere, it’s almost like the product is viewed that way.
People judge their product based upon the support community in the level of support offered. If it’s not a good place then they’ll move to another product possibly because they feel like they were treated so poorly. I’ve seen that happen with open source projects before, it happens less at the enterprise side obviously because there’s more money around and support people being paid. But regardless, there are big companies that offer poor support too and the support community really influences how people feel about the product.
[00:06:48] Jenn Chen: Yes. For sure I think that the one thing that people do forget is that that community experience is actually part of the user experience or especially for B2B communities that that’s part of the customer experience. They forget that and may focus on more traditional customer interaction like phone calls, support cases, things like that. But I think one thing that all communities need to keep in mind is that every time you’re posting on a community as an employee of that company, you’re representing what that company means to that customer or to that user.
[00:07:19] Patrick O’Keefe: Of course, you made the move over to Procore in February, according to your LinkedIn. They are a construction project management software company. Is your role still a support type like supporting the software or is it more on the advocacy and fan side? How would you describe it versus your previous roles?
[00:07:38] Jenn Chen: This one is a little bit more on the advocacy/fan side. I think the exciting thing here is that it’s not just limited to support but it’s sharing best practices, industry knowledge, things like that. Another exciting thing is, there’s no other space like that right now. We’re the first to create a forum where anybody can communicate about construction best practices, what’s happening in the industry, what the latest trends are, share what they’re doing, things like that. This is still in process, we are almost at the finish line here. But I think the exciting thing is being able to think about – think more strategically and think more broadly about what’s going on in this industry and how to best build this community around that.
[00:08:19] Patrick O’Keefe: Let’s pause for a moment to recognize our great sponsor, Open Social.
Open Social is the community platform for nonprofits looking to coordinate volunteers and bring together stakeholders at a grassroots level. Hosting over 1,000 active communities, with Greenpeace Greenwire and several United Nations projects leading the way, Open Social has been proven to increase engagement within your community by up to 600%! Open Social is a Drupal-based open source solution, offering two fully maintained and hosted subscriptions starting at just $110 a month as well as a free do-it-yourself version. Request a free trial today at getopensocial.com.
Coming from that tech, general tech software aside, Google, Intuit, Lithium is a software company, a lot of techie people use it or not to say people aren’t techie in the construction field but obviously it’s a different type of software. It’s a different user base and you mentioned this in your last answer, but the idea of them being different like have you – I don’t know maybe you’re a veteran at construction space and you know that space really well but just in getting acclimated over the last eight months or so, are there any differences that have really stood out to you as far as how construction, that industry, is different from say the community industry or where you’ve been previously?
[00:09:32] Jenn Chen: I think one key thing is because people traditionally think of construction as not techie and I think that’s the beauty of Procore. It takes everything that you would associate with construction management, construction project management and takes that and puts it in the cloud. It makes things easier and that’s part of why we are building this community too. I think because of the perceptions of construction, the technology evolving in this space has been slower. A lot of it has been just understanding that people are interested in using technology. I have run some betas, I have done a lot of talking to customers and things like that and we’re in a really good spot. I think people are using technology, I think it just takes more working with them in explaining what community is, explaining how that fits in with the construction industry and why it’s important versus places like Google, Intuit and Lithium. Obviously, most people had used a forum before, they were familiar with it. It’s just a slight change in perspective.
[00:10:32] Patrick O’Keefe: It almost sounds like it’s less common to share best practices in a way. Is that true? I mean there’s industry conversation obviously for construction like any other industry in this trade is trade organizations, trade magazines but at least online I guess, they’re probably not as used to getting together and sharing best practices in a way that competitors in other fields that are more tech first I guessed or have been there longer or more comfortable doing.
[00:10:57] Jenn Chen: Yes, and I think – for me one easy way of explaining community was that, hey, they do share best practices from time to time but those only happen at events like at conferences or at different events where they meet each other. How I would explain it is you have a conversation at a conference and it’s a great conversation. You share what’s going on, you tackle or discuss a challenge together.
But after that conversation is over that maybe you exchange business cards or emails or something like that but that’s it. You can’t go back in time and retrieve that conversation. But the beauty of community is that it’s not a one time only conversation. It’s ongoing, you can go back and search, you can learn from other people. It’s bringing those all conversations online. It’s not just one time, it’s 24 7.
[00:11:45] Patrick O’Keefe: Before the show, you mentioned that you had been meeting with one person from each department who could really champion the community and then creating communications and resources for each department. I’d love to hear about those communications and resources for each department. What are you creating and how are they using it?
[00:12:03] Jenn Chen: Yes. I think we just thought of what are the different documents, the different resources that everyone would need so that, at the end of the day, after I send all of this out nobody can say they don’t understand community or they haven’t talked about it. For our customer facing roles like our customers success teams, support, even some of our folks who hold webinars and things like that, we are creating slides so that they can just insert a slide into their presentations and talk about community and what it is.
For our customer-facing roles, we also provide talk tracks. With community, what are the top value props that we can use to essentially promote community or talk about community? We have a one stop doc that links – it is like the monster of all docs, I think that thing is seven pages long and running, that every frequently asked question, launch plan overview, basically thinking through what have I done for the past eight months? How can I communicate this in a clear way? What are all the details that people want to know? Those are some of the things.
We also have an ongoing Q&A doc that I have going on internally so that if people have additional questions, that aren’t on the frequently asked questions, then I can add that. It’s just thinking through all of that and then one thing that helped me along the way was I made that list and then when I met with people I asked them like, “Are there any additional resources that you guys need?” And so one idea from another group was that some of our folks had presented slide desks and they would record themselves as if they’re giving a presentation.
That was helpful for people to be able to consume, to be able to understand what was going on. I did that. It is pretty easy. Took half an hour but just I think the key thing for me was thinking about what are the different ways that people consume information? What are the things that they need and how can I provide that for them?
[00:13:54] Patrick O’Keefe: When you were introducing community to an established company like this, is there any danger of, it’s one more thing. Community is one more thing to tell people about, it’s one more thing to draw their attention to, in addition to all of the other documentation, resources, programs. Is it sometimes difficult to explain why should you talk about this? Why should you take your time out of your presentation to talk about that for a slide? What’s in it for you, so to speak, which is a tough question because you’re all in the – pulling in the same direction at the end of the day but you all have independent metrics probably that govern success usually in different departments. I don’t know if that conversation came up here but how do you tackle that thought?
[00:14:33] Jenn Chen: I think, with this company, because there’s generally been a lot of support around it, it hasn’t been a problem. I talked to some of my previous experience, especially with B2B companies, one thing is think about their metrics, think about the goals that they’re trying to hit and how community can help. For example, with sales, this is when I worked with support communities, I’d focus on how a lot of their customers would actually call them back after they signed or started using our product or whatever with support questions. I would look at that and say, this one rep, in the course of a month, he had three different customers call him with a total of, say, 20 calls. And I’d say, “Okay, with these 20 calls, you could have called X number of accounts to book those accounts. This is how community is going to solve it, because if you point them to community, they’re not going to call you for the support questions.”
Anyway, you’re going to save yourself time and give yourself more time to hit your monthly quota or quarterly quota or whatever it is. Being able to frame community in light of their goals or what they’re trying to do I think that helps a lot.
[00:15:38] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s the people won’t bother you pitch.
[00:15:40] Jenn Chen: Yes. Exactly.
[00:15:42] Patrick O’Keefe: They’ll bother us.
[00:15:43] Jenn Chen: To be honest, I remember making the community pitch and this is like especially when I was starting out. There is a lot of learning experiences and when I was starting out, I’d be like, “Oh yes, community’s awesome and it’s great and our customers are going to love it,” But once I mention quota, you mention that word in a room full of sales people and their eyes will light up and they’ll pay attention to whatever you say.
[00:16:06] Patrick O’Keefe I’ll keep that in mind. Quota. I find myself in a room full of sales people quota, quota, quota. Good tip. You’re in the process now of developing a community, it sounds like you’re close. Where are you at in that process?
[00:16:19] Jenn Chen: I think we are close to finishing beta and hopefully launching within the next couple of months. I’m not sure how much I can say but we’re getting close.
[00:16:29] Patrick O’Keefe: Are you bringing people into the community – customers to test and communicate – like an early user group or is it just internal right now?
[00:16:35] Jenn Chen: Both internal and external. That’s been exciting too. Initially we knew in general that we wanted the community but I think for the community one fear that we had at the back of our minds going into beta was like, oh shit. What if we get the feedback back and nobody wants community?
[00:16:54] Patrick O’Keefe: [laughs] What if no one says anything? What if they are all quiet?
[00:16:56] Jenn Chen: Yes. Exactly. We had a feedback form and one of the questions was, “Would you use this? Do you find this valuable?” And I was like, I remember when I typed that question I was like, “Please say yes.”
[00:17:09] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, it is scary because you’re introducing community to a company that hasn’t had an online community and in an industry where it seems like it’s not the norm. There’s an old Steve Jobs quote about how people would have been happy with the buggy because they wouldn’t have thought of a car or something. In other words, people don’t know what they want until you show it to him sort of thing.
It’s like and I probably butchered that quote. I butchered it I’m sure, but and also it’s like a Kool-Aid line too because it’s like we drink the Kool-Aid and we’re a little too happy we’re like, “They don’t know how great it could be. They don’t even know how they could use this yet,” That’s a scary moment when you ask people if they think they might like something that they maybe haven’t ever tried.
[Editor’s note: I did butcher this quote. I mixed a Steve Jobs quote about customers not knowing what they want, with a Henry Ford quote about people wanting better horses, which it turns out, he may not have even said].
[00:17:47] Jenn Chen: Yes, for sure.
[00:17:48] Patrick O’Keefe: But obviously the answers came back positive.
[00:17:50] Jenn Chen: Yes, we had 95-96% say that they would use it. It was like, “Yes,” it’s just really good feedback and huge relief on my end.
[00:17:58] Patrick O’Keefe: I wonder what happens if it comes back bad or if nobody talks. Is it just like, “This was a good experiment, see you later Jenn!” I don’t know. What’s next or maybe you get repurposed.
[00:18:08] Jenn Chen: That would have been bad. I’m glad that didn’t happen.
[00:18:10] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, me too. In this moment of getting through the beta, what’s your day to day look like right now?
[00:18:16] Jenn Chen: Day to day I think it’s monitoring the incoming feedback and sorting that, so different questions like obviously that I mentioned before like would you use this? Do you find it valuable? I also had what dp you like about the community, what do you not like and with both of those, why. With the many responses that we got, it was just marketing that in a way that makes sense for the team to review. They’re being able to save X amount of percent like this feature and this is a free background that or hey, this is a feature that we need to look at, or these are things that we need to tweak or implement.
What are the actions to items around this. I think just marketing everything that took a while and a lot of it is just popping up on the day to day tasks leading up to launch. We have an amazing team each focusing on different tasks, each of the smaller tasks. It’s making sure those are in sync making sure people have the information that they need and keeping our ducks in a row.
[00:19:11] Patrick O’Keefe: In our pre-show chat, you mentioned that you love being able to bring offline conversations/events online through community and I would say that in reverse is what most people talk about. Most talk about bringing online off. How have you brought offline conversations and events online through a community?
[00:19:30] Jenn Chen: I think you can do this in multiple ways. In the past with the communities that I worked with with any event you have whether it’s at a conference, at a trade show or different things like that. I think being able to connect online, a lot of times you can create groups or even just create a post for that event and start that conversation there. A lot of times what I’ll do to draw people to that post is say that I’ll attach some useful resource to that, whether it’s the meeting notes from the user group or pictures from some event because everybody looks for pictures of themselves. Things like that. Being able to draw that in there or put a recording of someone’s talk on there I think that was a really efficient way of moving those offline conversations online. A lot of time what I use to do in support communities, especially as we evolved more into a best practices community, is I would be talking to one customer about something.
They’d say, “I’m having trouble using this particular feature, can you help me?” Then I would say, “Hey let’s talk about that in the community. Why don’t you post,” and I would kind of stalk them on the community a little bit to see if they posted. If not, I would nudge them by sending them a message or an email. Something like that. Have them post, then loop in other people. Either PM someone and say, “Hey, I saw this conversation, I think you’d be really good at it,” and for people that I had a closer relationship with, I would just @mention them in that conversation directly and that brought them in.
A lot of times I felt like they felt empowered and elevated as an expert in that particular thread
[00:21:01] Patrick O’Keefe: Jenn, thank you so much for taking some time with us today. I really enjoyed the conversation.
[00:21:06] Jenn Chen: Thank you so much for having me. Again, it was really fun to talk and just to talk community.
[00:21:09] Patrick O’Keefe: I feel like I’ve had a few people recently who were all either in the process of launching or right after launch and, like in a year or 18 months, assuming our podcast is still going, I need to get everybody for an after-the-launch panel. [laughs] What happened, what happened after year?
[00:20:28] Jenn Chen: That would be fun. Yes, I think especially pre-launch and post-launch based on my experience, you feel like you’re in the weeds, and your just slaying dragons every day or just trying to keep your head above water, depending on what’s going on, so it would be nice to just revisit this later on and see like how the things go. What are things that I was thinking about back then? Are they still true now? Things like that.
[00:21:49] Patrick O’Keefe: We’ve been talking with Jenn Chen, community manager at Procore Technologies. That’s procore.com. You can follow Jenn on twitter @jenntothechen. For the transcript from this episode, plus highlights and links that we mentioned, please visit communitysignal.com. Community Signal is produced by Karn Broad. We’ll be back next week.
If you have any thoughts on this episode that you’d like to share, please leave me a comment, send me an email or a tweet. If you enjoy the show, we would be so grateful if you spread the word and supported Community Signal on Patreon.
Thank you for listening to Community Signal.