Paula Rosenberg joined VHX, a service that allows you to create your own Netflix-style streaming subscription service, in 2015. A year later, they were acquired by Vimeo and, a year after that, Paula joins the show to talk about what Vimeo did right, in transitioning the VHX community team. Plus:
- The impact of community tools on subscription retention
- How Paula got her start by launching a community for students, as a student advisor
- Conducting seller research and how VHX spreads those insights throughout the company
“One of the things that Vimeo did very right by us, and continues to do, that I think could have potentially gone terribly wrong, if we had some acquisition with a horrible company, is we not only all came over together, we all were able to still operate together as a team. We’ve actually become our own business unit. … We didn’t feel like we were being separated from one another. We didn’t feel like we were losing all the things we loved about our office culture when we were a small team. We got to take the best of that over with us.” -@NYC_Paula
“[With] one of the [VHX] networks that has the most thriving forums on our platform … we’ve noticed that their top 15 percent of forum participants have been there since day one and still have not churned. That’s a really nice thing to say for engagement and how [the forums are] another way to keep your audience captivated.” -@NYC_Paula
About Paula Rosenberg
Paula Rosenberg oversees community for VHX, an OTT, or over-the-top, video platform that was acquired by Vimeo last year. She served as chair of the awards committee for cmad.co’s Community Manager Appreciation Day celebration in 2017 and will do so again for 2018. She is a freelance writer, a contributor to We Support and volunteers with Rabbit Rescue & Rehab.
- Paula’s website
- VHX, a platform that allows you to create your own Netflix-style streaming subscription service, where Paula is community manager
- Vimeo, a video sharing website that owns VHX
- cmad.co’s 2017 Community Manager of the Year award, chosen by a committee chaired by Paula
- We Support, a resource for community and support programs, which Paula helps run
- Rabbit Rescue & Rehab, a nonprofit organization where Paula volunteers
- Community Signal episodes with Carol Benovic-Bradley and Alexandra Dao, two other co-organizers of We Support
- Roxanne Schwartz, the fourth We Support co-organizer and only one who has not yet been a guest on Community Signal
- Blackboard, which provides collaboration tools for classrooms
- “What is a Cohort Program?” by Colorado Christian University
- Tina Michele, who works with Paula at Vimeo, providing community support
- Stephen Niebauer, head of community support for VHX at Vimeo
- Looker, a company that believes “everyone should have access, explore and understand the data that drives their business”
- “Case Study: How to Use Forums to Build Your Community” by Paula, the blog post mentioned on the show that she had not published yet, about a VHX network with a community where the top 15 percent of active members had yet to churn
- “Vimeo Acquires VHX, Bolstering Subscription VOD Tools” by Todd Spangler for Variety
- The IAC Building, located in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, which Paula works out of
- IAC, Vimeo’s parent company
- Darnell Witt, senior director of support and community at Vimeo
- Amazon Buys Zappos; The Price is $928m., Not $847m.” by Sarah Lacy for TechCrunch
- Zappos, an online clothing, shoe and accessories retailer
- Zappos Insights, which shares Zappos company culture on a wider scale
- BLACK&SEXY and Yoga with Adriene, two VHX-powered networks
- Paula on Twitter
- Paula on Instagram
00:03: You’re listening to Community Signal, the podcast for online community professionals. Tweet as you listen using #CommunitySignal. Here’s your host, Patrick O’Keefe.
00:20 Patrick O’Keefe: Hello and thank you for listening to Community Signal. This week, my guest is Paula Rosenberg. We are discussing building community on your own Netflix-style video subscription service and the right way to merge a community team following an acquisition. Paula oversees community for VHX, an OTT, or over-the-top, video platform, that was acquired by Vimeo last year. She served as chair of the awards committee for CMAD.com’s Community Manager Appreciation Day celebration in 2017 and will do so again in 2018. Paula is a freelance writer, a contributor to We Support, and volunteers with Rabbit Rescue & Rehab. Paula, welcome.
00:56 Paula Rosenberg: Hi. Thanks so much for having me, Patrick.
00:58 Patrick O’Keefe: It’s a pleasure. You are the third of the four current contributors to We Support that I’ve had on the show, following Carol Benovic-Bradley and Alexandra Dao. I’m a big fan or We Support, it’s a great resource for a community pro, so thank you for that.
01:11 Paula Rosenberg: Thank you so much. We really enjoy doing it. I love how it’s grown. One day you’ll have to have Roxanne on too, so that you’ve got all four of us.
01:22 Patrick O’Keefe: Collect the whole set. I often tell people who want to make their way into this industry, that one of the best things they can do is start a community, facilitate something. That’s what you did while you were a senior advisor at The New School. Who were you serving in that community?
01:39 Paula Rosenberg: Yeah, so I had been at The New School entering my fourth year at that time. I was doing advising to students in the fashion design department. At the beginning of that year I had been approached because they were doing a new degree program in fashion marketing that was going to have an online only cohort. They had asked me if I’d be willing to be the advisor for that group. I sort of fell into building a community by happenstance because as I was going through these individual meetings with online students and going through the regular academic and internship planning, questions that I would have with any student, the common core that kept coming up through these conversations were that the majority of these students were taking online classes because they either weren’t physically in New York, or because of life circumstances like being a parent or having a full time job and just not having that flexibility to come on campus.
02:44 Paula Rosenberg: What they were really looking for more than anything was finding a sense of community with their cohort and with the university. That’s sort of how I fell into it, becoming more of a community building type role.
03:00 Patrick O’Keefe: For those who don’t know, what’s a cohort, an online only cohort?
03:03 Paula Rosenberg: Sure, so this particular cohort, they took all of their classes together, they had online sessions where they’re getting assignments through this program called Blackboard. The teacher will post assignments, their participation is graded by them commenting on each other’s assignments and commenting on discussions that the instructor is posting. A lot of times it’s not in real time because we had students as far away as Taiwan and Australia. Everybody was on very different time zones. They’re considered a cohort because they’re all starting at the same time, going through this degree together. If they were taking it full time, they would all graduate during the same period.
03:47 Patrick O’Keefe: So I just looked up the word cohort and Colorado Christian University was the first result that came up and their quote was, the dictionary definition of cohort is, “A group of people banded together or treated as a group.” That is a perfect way to define the cohort program and its educational context according to them. So really, in your case, it was a group banded together by entering whatever they’re interested in at a similar place.
04:08 Paula Rosenberg: Correct.
04:09 Patrick O’Keefe: So, because they were so spread out and time-shifters in a way, they’re learning at different times of day, night in some areas, day in others. You were creating a space where they could essentially feel a more traditional classroom environment where they were connecting with people, if not face-to-face, at least online and not always with a teacher or professor dictating the lesson plan to them.
04:31 Paula Rosenberg: Correct. One of the biggest learning things for me in that was just the principle of being accommodating and trying to accommodate your community based on their needs. One of my favorite things that I did was, I set up office hours that were for my online only students. I had drop-in hours for my on campus students. I had a couple periods throughout each week where it was drop-in hours for online students. I purposely scheduled them at varying times so that students who were on different time zones, it was convenient for them. I think I did one of them at 7 a.m. from my home versus on campus, just to accommodate the students that had a drastically different timezone. The nice thing about that is, we do the drop-ins via Skype, so if more than one student came in at the same time, we could have a conversation together. That was always a really fun part of it.
05:34 Patrick O’Keefe: We had lunch not long ago and I was really fascinated by VHX and learning more about VHX because it essentially allows you to create your own Netflix-style service with your content with a pricing structure that is really approachable for anyone as far as anyone looking to use VHX to serve up video content, whatever that be, fiction work, educational work, whatever. I was immediately thinking of ways that I could use it. I just love that potential of it. But it’s not just video, you’re also giving those creators and video producers tools to engage with their audience and possibly build community on their site. Talk about those tools.
06:10 Paula Rosenberg: Sure, so last year we launched a forums tool, so anybody who’s using VHX has a free forums that is built in and they can use those to engage with their community members. We also have different tools built in so that sellers can easily acquire new subscribers to their site. We offer a coupon tool, so sellers can set what kind of discount they’d like to offer for how many months. New subscribers could sign up using that. We also offer a free trials feature, so if sellers want to enable free trials, let someone try out their service and decide if they’d like to become a paying subscriber. That’s a great way of getting people into the window. We’ve actually found that about two-thirds of subscribers who sign up for a free trial are going to convert into a paying subscriber for a service.
07:05 Patrick O’Keefe: That’s a good, healthy number. Sticking with the community end of it, the forums tools, I’ve played around some of the forums myself, do you find that a lot of the types of creators that you are attracting to VHX, which I would assume are a lot of niche publishers, people who focus on a specific vertical, in one way or another, whether it be a big, huge vertical or something very, very specific. Do you find that they are adapting well to using that sort of tool? Are they enabling it by default? More often than are people just opting to be sort of a pay only video-on-demand type service or are they finding a lot of value in using the community tools?
07:45 Paula Rosenberg: Sure, so there’s a number of different ways that sellers had been using the forums tool. We allow sellers to have the option of keeping the forums open and public, or having the forums be private so that only people who are subscribers can have access to it. I’ve seen sellers use the tool in both ways. Sometimes having an open forum is great. One of our subscribers around the holidays was posting a different quick, under three minute video in their forums. It was a fitness platform that was doing one for each day during the holidays. That was a way for them to engage and give people a sample of the types of courses they’d be learning if they signed up for a subscription for that service. I’ve seen other sites do a combination of having a public and a private forum.
08:37 Paula Rosenberg: They’ll have a public forum with maybe several different threads going in it, but then people who are coming will see, “Oh, here’s this private board that only subscribers have access to.” Then, if they sign up for a free trial, they will see that typically there’s a lot more activity going on in those private boards because subscribers feel like that’s an added bonus for them. They also not only have access to somebody’s content, but they have access to a unique place as a member where they can engage directly with the filmmaker, with the content producer, and with other people who are fans of the content. Then we have some sellers who exclusively do private forums and that has worked very well for them as an added bonus for anybody that’s using their service.
09:26 Patrick O’Keefe: Sometimes when people are given tools like that, they’ll just turn them on and say, “You know, why not? Why not have this forum?” They don’t know that they have to do something, right? They just kind of leave it open and then it becomes a problem area because X, Y, and Z people complain because they don’t feel heard. People do awful things. People post things that are damaging to the brand as a whole. Do you have that concern? Is that something that you see with people who are signing up for a video-on-demand service, but then they have these community tools that yes, they can turn on, but maybe they don’t understand what it means to bring together a healthy community?
09:58 Paula Rosenberg: It’s not something that I’ve been overly concerned about, just because I think we have some really good things in place to guide a seller through what it’s like to use forums. What we always do is the seller always gets email notifications when somebody has posted in their forums. They see right away that somebody has posted. The other thing we do is when we notice that activity has happened for the first time in somebody’s forums, we proactively reach out to that seller to say, “Hey, we notice that you turned on forums.” I have some pro tips that I’ve written up in our best practices. I always send them a link to that and start a conversation around, “Do you have any questions about forums, any concerns?” because I’m happy to walk them through that. We also do periodic check ins.
10:46 Paula Rosenberg: I have an email campaign set up so that once somebody starts using forums, they get periodic tips to kind of keep the momentum going within their forums, as you know, because you’ve had so much experience with forums. If the moderator is participating then all of a sudden drops out, you tend to see participation dwindle if you haven’t gotten to that point where it’s self-sustaining. That’s part of what that drip campaign is for, to kind of keep momentum going on the moderator’s part. Then I also have something set up so that if a forum had been active for a while, but then all of a sudden it’s been a week or so and there’s no activity going on, we just send a reminder to that moderator saying, “Hey, conversation has hit a lull in your forum. You should maybe start some new threads or maybe go in there to see what’s going on with your subscribers right now.” We tend to be very hands on with helping the seller’s become their own community managers which is something I really enjoy about the role.
11:50 Patrick O’Keefe: When people first sign up, do they often expect that you’re going to do that for them? Like, pretty much you, Paula, because you’re community at VHX, but I don’t know if you have other people working community there or not. Do they expect at first that, “Okay, I’ll turn it on and you’re going to take care of this for me, right?”
12:04 Paula Rosenberg: No, because I think we’re pretty clear about that. We have a post written up for forums, explaining that it’s not a place necessarily for support questions, it’s more about engagement. You will occasionally see support questions posted in forums because people don’t always read that pop up. We do have somebody on our support team, Tina, who is absolutely incredible. Since joining, she’s kind of taken over that piece for me. She gets a report of all the comments through all of our forums everyday and takes a look just to make sure there’s no support questions there. If we are, she’ll reach out to that person and guide them to where they can contact their support team and get their issue resolved. But other than that, we’re pretty hands off in the forums, and the sellers know that up front.
12:54 Patrick O’Keefe: So the community tools they have to take care of, but it sounds like for technical support from subscribers, that’s an area where VHX steps in and handles that for these publishers?
13:05 Paula Rosenberg: That’s correct. There’s one of the biggest benefits of our service is not only is it a platform where somebody can become their own Netflix and self-distribute, but we also take care of customer support queries, so that the seller doesn’t have to do that. We have an email set up and we have a fantastic support team who seriously are the most lightning fast team that I have ever witnessed. Not only that, they are really authentic in the way that they communicate to customers. We get all kinds of happy emails back from people’s customers about the experience they had talking to somebody from our support team. That’s lead by Steve Niebauer, who for the longest time when VHX started up, was the support team. I’m just always in awe of Steve and how amazing he is and his whole team now that that’s grown.
14:02 Patrick O’Keefe: It’s kind of an interesting dynamic because you have these forums which you do not want to sift through, really, unless something serious is brought to your attention, I assume. You also have them checking for support. Is there anyway you’re making that easier than it sounds? I mean, if you send an email out and it’s all the threads on a forum that day on all your forums, which I assume is more than ten…
14:21 Paula Rosenberg: Yes.
14:22 Patrick O’Keefe: Or more than fifty or more than a hundred. It’s a number that takes some time to read through. Is there anything you’re doing to identify those threads and get them to the support people as fast as possible or is it just at this point a matter of sifting through the volume and trying to identify what sounds like a support question from the title?
14:38 Paula Rosenberg: You can tell fairly easily. We use a program called Looker which is absolutely fantastic. It actually sends out an email of all of the forum activity in 24 hours directly to the support team. The nice thing about that is, right now that we’re definitely getting many more than ten threads, but it’s definitely manageable to read through at this point. I had done that previously. It was really easy for me to skim through those fairly quickly and figure out if something was a support question or not. We don’t get a ton of support questions, to be honest. Most customers understand that it’s an engagement forum. It’s just us being proactive and checking because we really do care about our sellers being able to build a thriving business and community. That’s just something extra that we like to do, is make sure that those are caught right away so that their customers are happy.
15:35 Patrick O’Keefe: And you said Looker. Is that Looker.com?
15:37 Paula Rosenberg: Yes.
15:38 Patrick O’Keefe: Very cool. We talk about these forums and putting effort into them and etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, but you know at the end of the day the people using your service they want to have people sign up or they want to have them remain. They want to lower the churn rate, is the term that we throw around maybe too much in this industry. So, with those built in forums, that your service offers to content creators, have you taken any look at how likely forum participants are to remain as a subscriber, as opposed to people who don’t engage in the community at all?
16:06 Paula Rosenberg: Yes, actually we have and I have a blog post that’s going to be coming out shortly. I don’t want to mention the network, just because the blog post hasn’t been published yet, but it’s one of the networks that has the most thriving forums on our platform. They typically get hundreds of comments a day on their forums. What we’ve noticed is that their top 15 or 20 percent of forum participants have been there since day one of their network and they still have not churned. That’s just a really nice thing to say for engagement and how that’s another way to keep your audience captivated.
16:50 Patrick O’Keefe: How long has that service been around?
16:52 Paula Rosenberg: That service has been around on our platform for probably seven or eight months. They transferred from another platform and those were actually subscribers that came over when they transferred and were active in their forums previous to that as well.
17:10 Patrick O’Keefe: So the top 15 percent-ish so far that are active in the forums have been subscribers since day one and have not yet cancelled their subscription?
17:18 Paula Rosenberg: Correct.
17:19 Patrick O’Keefe: Have you looked at any numbers that would compare non-community members to a sample of community members? Have you had that opportunity yet?
17:27 Paula Rosenberg: No I haven’t, because this network that I’m looking at in particular as I’d mentioned before, only does private boards, so these I know are all subscribers versus somebody who’s just participating in the forums but not actually subscribed to the network.
17:42 Patrick O’Keefe: Vimeo bought VHX about a year ago. I wanted to hear about the transition and what that felt like from a community perspective.
17:50 Paula Rosenberg: Sure, so it’s been a very exciting year. Actually, we were just talking about this earlier at work. I believe today is actually officially the one year anniversary of the acquisition, which is really exciting to think about that. It has flown by so fast. You know, it’s always interesting because prior to the acquisition, we were a little team out in Dumbo, a little team of about 20, 25 people. Then you move over to Vimeo where there’s over 200 people. It’s a big change in size difference.
18:31 Patrick O’Keefe: You get to work out of the IAC Building.
18:33 Paula Rosenberg: Yes, and we get to work out of the IAC Building.
18:34 Patrick O’Keefe: Which I have been fortunate enough to see the cafeteria twice now thanks to you and Alex Dae. I appreciate that.
18:39 Paula Rosenberg: Yeah, we have this group called Fooda come in. Every day it’s different food on the top floor. The top floor of the IAC, if anybody ever gets the chance, the views are absolutely stunning.
18:53 Patrick O’Keefe: It’s a really beautiful building. It’s actually, I just like the building, the way it’s rounded. Anyway, I don’t want to sidetrack you, so community perspective onto transition. You’re coming into this bigger organization, going from 20ish to 200ish. At the time everyone was brought over. I don’t know if that’s still the case, if everyone’s still there. Moved to this new bigger building, so what does that look like from the community perspective?
19:14 Paula Rosenberg: Sure, so you have two things going on whenever you have an acquisition like that. You have the transition of your internal community, your team to joining a new place. Then you also are still working with the community members using your service who want to know what the changes are going to be. At the time you might not have all the answers to that. It was a really great moment of everybody being patient and seeing how this is going to roll out. The lovely part about it is, everybody at Vimeo and IAC have been so welcoming to our team. We’ve had so many opportunities to collaborate and meet with other teams there and learn from each other which has been really helpful in shaping VHX and how we grow, but also we’ve been able to contribute some things to Vimeo.
20:07 Paula Rosenberg: The nice thing that our community of sellers and our sellers’ customers have benefited from this is we just have so many more resources now. We released a number of new features this past year. We’re looking to release quite a bit more this year, so I’m excited to see where the future takes us. For me, a big part of it being a really smooth transition was how welcoming Vimeo’s community team was to us and our team. Darnell Witt, who oversees community for Vimeo, is absolutely fantastic, has built an amazing team. Whenever they do outings, they always invite myself and some other people from the VHX team to join them, since we all work together in the community.
21:03 Paula Rosenberg: One of the nice things that we just started this past quarter and that we’re hoping to continue is some knowledge sharing between teams. We did a brown bag lunch where we had Vimeo’s community team and support, our community and support team, and Vimeo business intelligence get together for a brown bag lunch to do a little bit of knowledge sharing on different ways that we measure engagement, so that we can learn from each other, engagement and satisfaction. We’re hoping to do that quarterly between our teams and talk about different topics.
21:40 Patrick O’Keefe: So this sounds like a good transition, but taking that experience and let’s live in a bizarro world, right? The bizarro world is you got bought by someone else and they did a few things that were horribly wrong. It didn’t go well. Maybe you’ve already left that job in bizarro world. It’s like Mario and Wario, you know, I don’t know if you’re familiar.
21:58 Paula Rosenberg: Yeah.
21:58 Patrick O’Keefe: So, let’s say it’s Wimeo, right? No, I’m just kidding. I’m going too far with that example, but here’s the thing. Like someone else bought you and they did things that were wrong. What are the biggest things that could have gone wrong that a new parent company could do to someone or to an organization that they just acquired that is small, but growing, has a successful product and now they’re into this larger fold. What are a couple things they would do that would essentially kill that startup, or even that community in this context?
22:26 Paula Rosenberg: So I think one of the things that Vimeo did very right by us and continues to do that I think could have potentially gone terribly wrong if we had some acquisition with a horrible company, is we not only all came over together, we all were able to still operate together as a team. We’ve actually become our own business unit. You’d mentioned before at the intro of this show that we’re the OTT solution for Vimeo. That’s really how we operate, even though it was an acquisition, it doesn’t really feel like that. It just feels like, “Oh, hey we’re a new business unit that joined your team,” and we now have all these other wonderful people and resources to work with now, but we still operate with that core group that we came over with together. We didn’t feel like we were being separated from one another. We didn’t feel like we were losing all the things we loved about our office culture when we were a small team. We got to take the best of that over with us.
23:28 Paula Rosenberg: That’s something that was done very right, where I could see, and I know from witnessing acquisitions at other places and some stories from other friends who have been in the situation where their company was acquired by a larger company, where that’s not always the case. When that happens, I think you see a lot of people leave. We haven’t really had that. I think the other thing that potentially could go wrong is if you’re not open to hearing what the new people you brought in have to say around the way that they do things and the way that they interact with their community. We weren’t asked to change anything drastically about the way we do our day to day and that’s been really wonderful because we have something that really works for us very well. I know from other people’s stories of kind of being expected day one to scrap everything you have learned and everything you have valued at your previous company because you are now part of X and you had to roll with the way X has always done things.
24:38 Patrick O’Keefe: The first thing you said reminds me of years ago when Amazon bought Zappos. Zappos had this different culture. It’s kind of a well-documented thing that they… approach that they had to business. I mean, it may have changed over the last, it’s been a long time, but it was essentially Amazon bought Zappos and then left Zappos alone. I’ve looked at acquiring communities before – buying an online community and I would look at this community and say, okay, yeah they have really good numbers. It’s very active. It’s a healthy community activity wise, but when I see what’s going on in that community, is that a community that I want to manage? Would it fit in with the type of thing that I would want to be a part of? If not, would I have to substantially change it to make it so? If I have to substantially change it, is it worth it to do that? Most of the time, it’s not.
25:23 Patrick O’Keefe: The thing you’re buying can be improved, but it’s successful and has value for some reason, so if you bring them in and essentially make them change their identity for you, then you are going to drive away, at least a portion of that success. Bringing in a team, for example, and making them assimilate so quickly, or laying off everyone right away would send a big message, but laying everyone off right away. So I think what you’re essentially saying is you’re allowed to operate or have been allowed to operate as a smaller core team within a larger organization and been able to keep your culture that allowed VHX to become something that they wanted to acquire in the first place.
26:04 Paula Rosenberg: Exactly.
26:05 Patrick O’Keefe: I would describe the model of what you do, from talking to you offline, in person, via email, as community as customer success. Your community is your VHX customers and their success is the success of VHX, the product, the company, etcetera. Part of the work you do is seller research. How do you conduct research with this community of customers?
26:27 Paula Rosenberg: So I do a few different things. I do two larger surveys throughout the year, just to kind of gauge where we are satisfaction-wise with our sellers but also kind of get a sense from them of what their pain points are. That’s really helpful for me to take back to our product team because if our sellers are reporting pain points that our product team wasn’t aware of, it can shift what we weren’t thinking of prioritizing as far as what happens next on the product road map and such in terms of building new features. That’s really great. Then what I do is after those larger surveys, I will do some focus groups and one-on-one interviews with sellers, just to kind of get into more in-depth about some of the things they were talking about from the surveys. I think for me, because I’m a student of communication, and one of my big takeaways from that is you always need to balance out everything you learn qualitatively with getting some quantitative research as well, and vice versa.
27:33 Paula Rosenberg: For me, it’s important to do both the surveys and the interviews, especially when you have multiple choice answers or even when you’re writing down a short answer to something. How you’re writing it or what you’re choosing might not have the meaning intention that the person selecting it is thinking. That’s the nice thing about doing these interviews, it kind of allows me to do some checks and balances for myself to make sure that what I think somebody has reported in the survey is what they’re actually talking about. This is kind of getting into one of the nice things about having more resources now is our product team is able to work closely with the business intelligence team at Vimeo and we’re able to do more in the way of user testing before something is built, which is really nice because we didn’t have as many resources for that when we were a smaller team.
28:32 Paula Rosenberg: I’ve gotten to sit in and observe on those and communicate with our sellers about setting those up and seeing who would be somebody that would be good to participate in those. That’s been really nice to see too and just another way of getting feedback, but also another way of having our community members really be the ones that are helping drive what the product is going to become.
28:57 Patrick O’Keefe: How, if at all, are you enabling sellers to learn from one another? For example, you know, you have a really successful seller. You have someone who is really successful. No one’s figured everything out. No matter what they might tell you, community space or otherwise, always figured everything out. They’re obviously very successful. They know the tools well. They maybe discovered some interesting ways to tweak it, to message certain things, to make things work a certain way. It’s led to increased sales, decreased churn rate, etcetera, etcetera. Are you doing anything to enable those lessons from the top of this success funnel, I guess, to the bottom, to the newest people who are signing up for your service and could benefit from those community minded lessons?
29:37 Paula Rosenberg: Sure, so we did that in a few different ways. We do that, and actually I’m happy to talk about how we’ve done that successfully and something that we had done in the past that we ended up sunsetting because it just wasn’t as successful as we’d hoped it would have been, which is what has worked really well for us has been doing these blog posts that have really been case studies and Q&A’s with some of our most successful sellers, where they share what the process of setting up a network was like for them, how they’ve grown their network, and what advice they would give to somebody else starting out. Those have been really helpful. I get emails all the time from new sellers saying, “Hey, I read this interview that you did with BLACK&SEXY, or this interview you did with Yoga with Adriene, who are just a couple of examples of some of the networks that are using VHX and reading something that they did really helps me in thinking of my strategy as I was setting up my site.” It’s always nice to get that feedback.
30:39 Paula Rosenberg: I use what I see in working with sellers that has been successful for them. I use that to build out our best practices section, which I think is really great because I’ve gone to other websites on different topics having nothing to do with video, and best practices aren’t really backed up with any data or any examples. That’s one of the things that I try to do, is make sure that anything we’re recommending to a seller to consider that we’re showing how that has worked for other sellers. I think it’s valuable to see how that can be successful. Something that we had tried and ended up sunsetting late last summer, early last fall was, you had talked before about these forums that we have for sellers to use as a tool to build their community.
31:32 Paula Rosenberg: We actually had forums for our sellers and the main thought behind that was it was going to be a place for sellers to be able to engage with one another, to share tips with one another, and it didn’t really work as well as I had hoped that would have. There wasn’t a ton of participation and I did some surveys and some interviews to kind of talk to some sellers about if they were using forums, what they felt they were getting out of them, and if they weren’t using forums, why they weren’t. What it kind of came down to is, the really successful sellers were just so busy that that wasn’t something they felt they had the time to participate in.
32:19 Paula Rosenberg: They were doing very well, so they didn’t feel that there was anything for them to gain out of knowledge sharing in a forum platform, whereas people who were using the forums didn’t find it terribly helpful just because those people who had been selling for much longer weren’t really active in there. They were talking with other new sellers, which is very nice comradery-wise, but they were all in the same place. They weren’t really learning anything new and they felt that the most helpful tips they were getting were coming from the best practices section and from the blog and from the help guides. They didn’t feel that the forums were anything new, so we decided to sunset that. We had a few sellers that were sad about that, but by and large it wasn’t terribly missed. It has freed us up to make that best practices section more robust because we’re not moderating that forum on top of it anymore.
33:18 Patrick O’Keefe: It makes sense. Just to kind of wrap it up in a bow, I think, you have a community that was open to everyone, all sellers, so you had a mixing of brand new with potentially experienced ones. Of course experienced people generally want to talk to people who are experienced who they can learn from, so the value isn’t simply one way. The way of extracting that value from those experienced sellers is to, I don’t want to say playing to their ego, because that’s not the whole picture, but it is to interview them and to give them a spotlight on the site and ask them what they’ve learned, to publish their story as a case study and then to draw best practices from that, include that in your best practices guide and use their stories and the research you’ve done as the backing for those best practices when you recommend them so you can say not only is this a best practice, but here’s who’s done it and here’s what happened when they did. Do I have it all, have I connected the dots?
34:06 Paula Rosenberg: Yeah, I think so. The nice thing about it too is that when we do these case studies, the sellers are free, that we’ve interviewed, they’re free to share that on their networks as well. It’s more also just showing how much we really value having that person as part of our community and what we’ve learned from them.
34:30 Patrick O’Keefe: Very cool. I don’t mean to say ego as a bad thing, necessarily, although it is generally, but they’re more compelled when they’re spotlighted, when you are saying, “Hey this is someone who we really value and appreciate on our platform. Here’s how they did it.” Ego may be the hard word for spotlighting, doing general good community work of spotlighting and showing people that you appreciate them pays dividends. It always does. So Paula, thank you for spending time with us on the program.
34:58 Paula Rosenberg: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me, Patrick.
35:02 Patrick O’Keefe: It’s been a pleasure. We have been talking with Paula Rosenberg, community manager at VHX—that’s VHX.tv—and contributor to We Support, twitter.com/wesupportnyc. Her personal website is modspinster.com and you can find her on Twitter and Instagram @NYC_Paula. For the transcript from this episode plus highlights and links that we mentioned, please visit communitysignal.com. Community Signal is produced by Karn Broad, and I will see you next time.
Thank you for listening to Community Signal.