Jenn Pedde spent almost two years as lead community manager for Oprah’s online communities. This included tranisitioning from the previous community management team, that had been in place for 16 years, as well as moderation, staffing, community engagement, customer service and more. Plus:
- Why (some) for-profit companies should launch alumni networks for ex-employees
- The creation of #cmgrchat and the viability of Twitter chats in 2016
- Imposter syndrome and how Jenn felt it when taking over the Oprah account
“[Oprah’s previous community manager said,] ‘I wake up with Oprah, I have coffee with Oprah, I vacation with Oprah, I go to sleep with Oprah.’ And I was terrified. I must have looked like a deer in headlights because I was like, ‘I value work-life balance. I don’t understand how that works. What do you mean, you go on vacation with Oprah? Does she come with you? Are we going to her farm in Hawaii? Because I’m down for that, but if I’m going by myself, I don’t expect to be tied to my phone every second.'” -@JPedde
“[When quickly transitioning from one community management company to another,] the client has to be willing to be in it with you – either that or driving it – one of the two. They can’t be absent. They can’t be quiet. They can’t just assume you know what you’re doing.” -@JPedde
“The trick to finding a good tool and a good partner is how likely they are to change something in a timeframe that works for you, on their roadmap. One of our problems with a certain vendor was, we wanted to change something and they’re like, ‘Oh, we can’t get to that until next year.’ It was something we needed, and it kind of ruined the experience on the frontend for the user and our moderation processes. … You want a vendor that’s a partner more so than a vendor, and they will help you when you really need something built.” -@JPedde
“[When I began with Oprah’s communities,] I was like, ‘Man, I think I made the wrong decision. This is crazy, I don’t know how I’m going to do this.’ I really, really freaked myself out. I do this with every job. It’s very much the imposter syndrome, and, ‘What did I get myself into? This is nuts, I can’t do this.’ I think it’s very important to let yourself go though those feelings, if you have them, … but then pull yourself out of it.” -@JPedde
“There were times when [#cmgrchat] would trend – we would trend a lot and we would trend worldwide. We would trend every so often and then all the spam bots would come in and I’m like, ‘Oh no, I don’t want to trend because it’s going to ruin the experience.'” -@JPedde
“Hope is a good campaign slogan, but not necessarily a good community strategy.” -@patrickokeefe
About Jenn Pedde
Jenn Pedde has 12 years of work experience in the music industry, international education, startups and social media/community management. Currently, she is the global manager for alumni & community at Oliver Wyman, a management consulting firm based in New York City, as well as an adjunct professor at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications.
- Oliver Wyman, the management consulting firm where Jenn works
- WME, the talent agency where Jenn worked previously, when it was the William Morris Agency
- Emoderation, where Jenn was senior account manager, serving as the lead community manager on Oprah’s communities
- OWN, Oprah Winfrey’s television network
- You Can Eat Bread, Oprah’s announcement that loved bread, which triggered a big increase in community-related activity in her communities
- With Oprah Onboard, Twitter Grows
- Zendesk, customer support software that was used for Oprah’s digital efforts
- Gigya, used for comment moderation on Oprah’s communities
- Keepcon, also used for comment moderation on Oprah’s communities
- #cmgrchat, which Jenn started with Kelly Lux
- Kelly Lux
- Syracuse University, where Jenn is an adjunct professor
- Brett Petersel, who co-owns The Community Manager, which served as a home for #cmgrchat
- The Community Manager
- #cmgrchat Now Seeking Two New Moderators!, Jenn’s call for new caretakers for #cmgrchat
- Magnet Theater, where Jenn took storytelling classes
- Community Signal episode with Allison Leahy
- Jenn’s website
- Communications@Syracuse, where you can find out more information about Jenn’s class
00:04: 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.
00:19 Patrick O’Keefe: Hello, and thank you for joining me for Community Signal. Our guest this week is Jenn Pedde. Jenn Pedde has 12 years of work experience in the music industry, international education start-ups, and social media/community management. Currently, she is the global manager for alumni community at Oliver Wyman, a management consulting firm based in New York City. As well as an adjunct professor at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Jenn, welcome to the program.
00:43 Jenn Pedde: Thanks for having me.
00:44 Patrick O’Keefe: Jenn, I’ve come to regard you as one of the most patient people that I know, because this is our second rodeo here on Community Signal. I recorded it with you a couple of days ago and we had a great conversation, and I’m sure this will be a great conversation too, but we had a great conversation and I joked that the audio might not work and I hung up with you and, sure enough, there was an explosion and the audio was lost. There’s nothing worse, as a podcaster, than when you record an episode and you take up someone else’s time and it’s a good conversation, and you lose it because you can’t feel anymore helpless than that. So once again, I’ve apologized, I’m apologizing here. Thank you for being so patient.
01:24 Jenn Pedde: No worries. I mean, honestly what else can you do, right? When life throws you little lemons like that, you just have to suck it up and you have to do it. Things happen like this to everybody and there’s no sense getting all bent out of shape about it and maybe this conversation will be better than the last one, so that was a rehearsal. [chuckle]
01:40 Patrick O’Keefe: It will be. And you know, when life gives you exploding lemons, you make exploding lemonade and you give it to people you don’t like. So we’re going to try this again. Now, you joined Oliver Wyman in June, so you haven’t been there too long, so we’re not going to talk too much about your current job. First, congrats again on the new post.
01:55 Jenn Pedde: Thanks.
01:58 Patrick O’Keefe: But at Oliver Wyman, there’s one thing I want to talk about, you are building a corporate alumni social network for former employees of the company. Alumni networks are really common with universities. [chuckle] My brother jokes about getting the mailings from the University of North Carolina and they’re always asking him for money and they’re common with non-profits and associations. But for whatever reason, and this might just be a blind spot for me personally, I can’t say that I’ve really heard of a lot of for-profit companies investing resources in maintaining an online connection, an online community, a social network with ex-employees. Why is Oliver Wyman doing it?
02:31 Jenn Pedde: That’s a really great question. I was turned on to it about a year ago. I have a friend from my alumni network, I went to Syracuse, who was doing something similar for Nielsen. So he’s the director of alumni relations over there. And I’d heard about it. It’s a job that has been around for a while, but it’s kind of a niche part of community building. And it’s really popular amongst really large firms, places that have a very huge employee population that go off maybe to do other things because maybe they have rotational programs or maybe the people just kind of after two or three years, go off to do something else, business school like whatever else. So there’s a lot of companies out there, mostly I’d say financial firms that’s just kind of a guess, that will focus on their alumni for a few reasons.
03:15 Jenn Pedde: So one is, it’s really a good professional development tool. So people, while they’re there, are able to connect with alumni people who’ve left the company and are doing other things, mentoring, things like that. Another part is potential business development for the company itself. So those people go off to other places and maybe they need consultants or maybe they need something else from that business they just came from, market research or something like that. And the last thing is brand. It’s another piece of a brand awareness. So what cool thing is the company doing? What do they teach people to do? What are those people out there doing? So it’s just a story that the company gets to kinda capitalize on from a PR perspective or as a brand perspective. So those three things are pretty common amongst alumni programs across the board and yeah, Oliver Wyman’s just one of many that are doing it currently. So it’s not talked about too much, but I think it’s on the upswing, it’s a trend.
04:08 Patrick O’Keefe: So there’s an opportunity for people who move on to continue to use the firm services and drive everyone back to the firm. And of course, I’m sure there’s also an opportunity, probably smaller opportunity, but still there to bring those people back at some point.
04:20 Jenn Pedde: Yeah, absolutely.
04:22 Patrick O’Keefe: I see on LinkedIn all the time when I look at people’s profiles, they’ve left somewhere and then they are going back there years later for a bigger, more senior job.
04:30 Jenn Pedde: Yeah. That’s funny. Like my first company out of school was at a place called the William Morris Agency, which was a huge talent agency, probably one of the biggest, maybe first or second in all of the world of talent agencies and I would love to go back there, to be quite honest. Like if they wanted to start an alumni program, I would be the first one to be like, “Yes, let me run it.” [chuckle] And bring everybody back ’cause it’s such a cool company. I think everybody has a first love when it comes to their places of employment.
04:54 Patrick O’Keefe: It seems like you really have to be a business where the ex-employees, you know, this seems obvious but they want to stay connected to the company and they see a personal and professional benefit for doing so, like if all companies did this. If every ex-employer wanted us to join their alumni network, that might be a little overwhelming, right? And it might not be beneficial for us.
05:13 Jenn Pedde: Absolutely. I mean, not every company needs to do it for. First off, there is a size thing, right? So a company that’s 50 thousand people will have enough of a volume to keep a small portion of those people connected as much as they want to be. If you have a company that’s 1000 people and it’s only five years old, you probably don’t need an alumni network because your base isn’t big enough to keep those people really active. Now that’s not saying you couldn’t. It depends kind of like on the business and what the culture was like and things like that. It’s possible for small businesses to do it. It just tends to be more successful I think when you’ve got a larger group to work with.
05:45 Patrick O’Keefe: Before joining Oliver Wyman, you were at Emoderation, a company I like very much, as a former sponsor of the program. I know a lot of people over there, including you until you moved on but they helped us get going at the start so I really appreciate them. When you left, you were spending 90% of your time overseeing a team of moderators and community managers, who worked around the clock, managing a variety of UGC-powered efforts for Oprah’s brands, Oprah.com and the Oprah Winfrey Network. I want to talk about that, but I want to first get a sense of the scope of her communities. What was the volume that you were dealing with?
06:18 Jenn Pedde: As you can imagine, pretty large. She has a global presence as she is one of the, I think most recognizable celebrities in the world. Her communities, it depends. She’s got a few different things, but I’d say they were in the millions. She’s got newsletters that people subscribe and really actively open and pay attention to, and she’s got internal communities for education courses that she runs, and she’s got her social media presence, so everything on her Facebook pages, so definitely in the millions as far as the amount of people that are connected to her in some way.
06:48 Jenn Pedde: We were managing mostly customer service for her education courses, and also engagement on her social pages, social listening, things like that. And as far as comments go, we were getting probably on average a few thousand every week, minimally, and that’s if nothing was going on. If there was an announcement or something like when she announced bread, that she loves bread at the beginning of this year ’cause she bought a 10% stake in Weight Watchers, the internet blew up. On her birthday, 30,000 comments in a day, that kind of thing. So the scale would ebb and flow, but it was always very, very, very popular. [chuckle]
07:23 Patrick O’Keefe: When you mention the international brand that Oprah is, it reminded me of something that happened in Twitter’s much, much earlier days. Because every place first has its early adopters. It has the people who are using it. Often it was a lot of techy people. A lot of technology-centric people of the industries they worked in, the pursuits they had. Celebrities weren’t there yet, and Oprah joined in January of 2009. That’s when the @Oprah account was created.
07:46 Patrick O’Keefe: And I remember she got a ton of followers right away. And it wasn’t a small number of people, it wasn’t a massive number, but it was more than a few people saying, “Oprah’s here, and why has she got all those followers? She doesn’t deserve that. She hasn’t even tweeted here yet. What’s going on?” And all I told those people was, “You’re thinking about this wrong. Oprah brings her own community wherever she goes. It’s not like everyone at Twitter decided they were going to follow Oprah that day. It’s that people are joining Twitter and people are already on Twitter who know Oprah, and wherever Oprah goes, whatever platform she goes to, people follow because she has this built-in community.” That’s really the strongest type of community. As a brand, you want people who will follow you…
08:26 Jenn Pedde: Absolutely.
08:28 Patrick O’Keefe: Who won’t stick in one place. And she’s a great example of that. But it was funny ’cause those early-ish days of Twitter when she joined, it was like she had all these followers, and now she’s one of the most followed. And all the early adopters fell down to the wayside, and there was this grumbling.
08:42 Jenn Pedde: Yeah. That’s the thing too. I always hesitated saying that a community could be in the millions because I believe that tends to be mostly audience. You’re talking to people. But not in the case of Oprah, man. That is a community. It is a two way conversation on any platform she is on because she is heavily involved in these things. So even today, when she hops on Snapchat, or I think she was on Periscope maybe for a minute, and now she’s doing Facebook Live mostly. When she does those things, she looks at that as an opportunity to talk with her people and not to them. And it’s definitely people understanding that’s what the goal is. So it’s definitely not an audience situation. They try to grow the audience and get more people involved in the community, but yeah, they follow her everywhere. And I always joke, especially now with the election, that if she ran for president, I think she would win. [chuckle]
09:29 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, I’ve heard that before. [chuckle] That’s funny. Yeah, I would not doubt it, not at all, not with the state of the election right now. And I won’t say anything more than that.
09:38 Jenn Pedde: Nope.
09:39 Jenn Pedde: Stay away from that one.
09:40 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah. You and Emoderation, when you took over Oprah’s community efforts, you took it from a person and a company that had been contracted there for 16 years. So a long term relationship of managing those communities. With such a high profile celebrity or business person like Oprah, what does the transition plan look like to go from this team to your team?
10:02 Jenn Pedde: Man, that transition. Going back and thinking about that, it’s one of my most terrifying job start stories because I had worked in an education company before that, so most of my community experience at that time was education, academic, smaller groups kind of thing. And I’d worked entertainment before, but I’d never worked on an entertainment brand in this way, with this size. So it was one of the reasons I had joined ’cause I was like, “Oh man, how exciting to work on something at this scale.”
10:30 Jenn Pedde: And when I got into the room, it was my first day at the company. I had to fly from New York where I was living to North Carolina, where the client transition team happened to be. And I remember walking in, and I’m like I see someone I knew, and I was like, “What are you doing here?” And she’s like, “I’ve been managing Oprah’s communities for 16 years,” and I was like, “It’s so great to see a friendly face.” But she had worked on them for so long, she was like, “I wake up with Oprah, I have coffee with Oprah, I vacation with Oprah, I go to sleep with Oprah.” And I was terrified. I must have looked like a deer in headlights because I was like, “I value work-life balance. I don’t understand how that works. What do you mean you go on vacation with Oprah? Does she come with me you? Because that’s the only way I would accept that. Are we going to her farm in Hawaii ’cause I’m down for that, but if I’m going by myself, I don’t expect to be tied to my phone every second.”
11:20 Jenn Pedde: So it was very terrifying, and to see the scale. And she had a text document. She didn’t have any fancy software or any very well documented process. It was a 20 page text document from the past 16 years that we had to dig through to find what she does and how she did it and how the site functioned. And every tool that we had was custom built for the most part, and I was like, “Oh my God, this is huge.” The joke was, we went to dinner that night with my team at Emod, and the next morning, I showed up at breakfast, and they were like, “We didn’t think you were going to come back.”
11:54 Jenn Pedde: And I was like, “No, it sounds like a fun challenge. I’m in it for the long haul.” So the transition was tough at first because there’s a lot of information. There is a lot of tools and software I was not familiar with, and we were launching within two weeks. So we had a lot to learn. And, I was learning also about the company and not just the project I was on. So it was quite a heavy lift, there’s maybe, six or seven people involved at the very beginning to get it all done, and then we had to bring in a team. And so we had probably, I think, 25 people between the moderators and CMs overall throughout the whole process. And it took maybe six months to kinda get into a good rhythm understanding the subject matter, figuring out what needed to be done, how to staff it and all those things. How to set up processes from scratch. There was a lot. It was good though.
12:42 Patrick O’Keefe: So you had two weeks where I’m assuming that the previous person was still there, right? Still managing it and you were there to learn before taking it over full-time, right?
12:52 Jenn Pedde: Not really. So we had two days in North Carolina with that person. And then, that person was still doing the work for those two weeks while we were setting ourselves up. And then there was literally a one-day handover and she retired. So she was completely out of the picture.
13:07 Patrick O’Keefe: Is that common?
13:08 Jenn Pedde: No.
13:09 Patrick O’Keefe: I didn’t think so. When I handover communities that have far less volume, like we have a more elongated transition. That seems really fast for a community as big as this one.
13:23 Jenn Pedde: That was unbelievably fast. And usually when there’s a transition, usually you have maybe, another week with that person because maybe it’s kind of like they’re leaving and they’ve given notice kind of thing. But the nice thing was, there was the team that we were still working with at Oprah that was phenomenal. And so they were still in the picture and they were really helpful. I don’t think it would have worked if they hadn’t been as communicative and as in the weeds with it as we were. We were trying to figure out like what the communication flow looked like and how we work with them. And they’re like, “Whatever you need, we’ll do.” That was the only way that that was going to get through. So on these things, the client has to be willing to be in it with you or either that or driving it, like one of the two, like they can’t be absent. They can’t be quiet. They can’t just assume you know what you’re doing, that kind of thing.
14:11 Patrick O’Keefe: Do they have a lot of custom software and custom tools as opposed to community products and tools that are out there that we’re all familiar with?
14:20 Jenn Pedde: Yeah. In the beginning, it was mostly all stuff that they had built. The funny thing about it was… For most of Emoderation’s projects, it’s usually a pretty small amount of tools, stuff to manage Facebook and Twitter, maybe something on the site. Maybe something like Zendesk enough to do some support tickets. Really, that’s about it. Some of those social things. You’re talking maybe less than 10, maybe apps that are on any given client for any variety of reasons. And when we started, they think we had something like… I don’t know, 20 or 30 apps for the team to log into. And when I left, there’s probably about 60 that were in there because some of those were triplicates of log ins, but they were still things to keep track of for team syncs and stuff, but it was a lot. And most of it was custom-built. A lot of admin stuff like she has online education courses. So in the beginning, it was a lot of us managing things like refunds and since we kinda went on, they brought on different vendors and we finessed the processes a bit and I end up building the customer service model for them using Zendesk from scratch, which was an immense help, like having a ticketing system for something like an email customer service is integral you have to have. We were using Gmail before and it [chuckle] was so hard to manage.
15:29 Patrick O’Keefe: Wow! I bet. [chuckle]
15:31 Jenn Pedde: Yeah. It was very custom-built and as time went on, they just got better with it. Some things still are. For the comments, we were using Gigya and Keepcon for two different parts of the site.
15:43 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah. I think that’s the first time anyone has mentioned Gigya here on the show. So I don’t know. I don’t know what that means. I just found it interesting. There’s so many tools out there that I’m sure there are many, many that have never been mentioned in our first… I think this is 35 episodes. So it’s good that there are a lot of tools. It feels overwhelming sometimes, but it’s good that we have the options. But when you take over a project like that and you see the tools are custom, does that immediately give you a [chuckle] panic attack or is it good? Are they investing? They have resources, right? If the tools are up kept up to date, maybe they’re more custom, more tailored. I guess it probably depends, but what do you feel when you look at that?
16:19 Jenn Pedde: The first feeling is dread. Like, “Oh man, why did they build it? How do we use it? What can it do?” And then it slowly morphs into, “Okay, this is cool. We control it if we need to fix something. We can do that usually. Maybe, they built it because they wanted to do something specific that another tool couldn’t do.” There’s a lot of reasons why someone will build a tool internally. It’s an expense It’s a big thing to build any tool for yourself, but a lot of companies do it. So I have come across it a few times when it’s custom-built stuff. And then the flip side of it is, maybe they don’t have anything custom-built and they want to buy everything out of the box and that can to be pretty hard because like as we mentioned there is a million tools. So you have to go down the very long road of figuring out who does what, who does it better.
17:02 Jenn Pedde: And the trick to finding a good tool and a good partner is how likely are they to change something in a timeframe that works for you on their roadmap that works, right? One of our problems with a certain vendor was, we wanted to change something and they’re like, “Oh, we can’t get to that until next year.” That was something that was really something we needed to do. And it kind of ruined the experience on the frontend for the user and it kind of ruined our moderation processes. So there was something we needed and it just never got done. So that will limit you. So you want a good vendor that’s kind of a partner more so than a vendor, and they will help you when you really need something built.
17:41 Patrick O’Keefe: You mentioned scaling up to 25 people, at Emoderation to work on the communities. When you’re tackling a project like this, is there a formula to understanding how many people you want to deploy at the start? The benefit of working at a company like Emoderation is that it’s almost like cloud hosting and that you can spin up in instance a new moderator or a new community manager, just like you could spin up a server in the cloud. But is it a feeling? Is there a formula based on what people are… Like, this person can handle X number of messages per day, how do you approach that?
18:13 Jenn Pedde: Yeah, that’s a great question. So your comparison to a cloud, it makes total sense, right? So Emoderation, I think and this is obviously biased, ’cause I was there, but just from knowing the industry as well, I do think, has the highest quality of people out there. It’s a lot of human moderation, which some people argue automation’s better, but you need a combination of both. Good tools and good people, so you can get to things faster. So yes, there is kind of a formula for putting this together. You know we do so many of these projects or, they do, since I’m no longer there. But yeah, there’s a lot of scoping a project first, and doing statements of work, and contracting, and it’s based on volume and expectations, and the type of project… Is it a contest? Is it a daily thing? Is it… You know, there’s a lot of stuff that goes into what you need done and how often you need it done and how big the community is and what the volume on the pages looks like and even if you look at something today, like what do you plan to do? What does your marketing look like? Are you going to try to scale this up in the next year? Should we put in safeguards with, okay you’re here now but you’re going to be here in six months?
19:15 Jenn Pedde: So we try to do as much planning ahead and figuring out of the time and scale as much as possible. I was going to say, for our community team we had six people that were on the community part of it and we were doing about five or six hours a day kind of thing and it was all just engaging with people and doing a lot of reporting and that kind of stuff. And that worked out well for us, with the amount of activities that we had to do from day to day.
19:39 Patrick O’Keefe: Six community people and, is that, does that include moderators or is that in addition to moderators?
19:42 Jenn Pedde: No. In addition to moderators, so the moderators would go through the content at first, because remember we’re talking about thousands and thousands of pieces of content, so the moderators would get the first crack at it and then they’d kind of send it to the community team, and then the community team would, you know they’d be a bit more trained, and they’d have a little more experience across other projects, and they would just be the front lines of people to kind of limit some risk, with the brand, you know there’s things to think about too if you’re doing something on social, you don’t want to have too many people with too much access, because you’re increasing your risk of posting something you shouldn’t be. That kind of thing.
20:13 Patrick O’Keefe: When you are grading, or deciding how efficient, or how good a moderator is at their job in this sort of high-volume case, are there particular metrics you’re looking at? Is it cases closed, are you wanting them to handle a certain amount of content each day? Is there a way to measure successful handling of content? Is there anything you’re looking at analytically?
20:32 Jenn Pedde: No, I don’t think so. I didn’t have moderators report right to me, so my thing for anyone, moderator or community, is it’s quality not quantity. So let’s pretend that you’ve got 30,000 pieces of content that came out of nowhere today, I don’t want you to get through all 30,000 pieces of content today just to clear the queues, I want you to read them, and I want you to go through them, and if it takes us a week to get through it, it takes us a week to get through it. You know we would try to add more people or add more time if something like that would happen, but sometimes we couldn’t, so you just go through it methodically. And you make sure that the quality is always there because you want to make sure people have their questions answered if they’re out there. Just getting to it and making sure you’re going through it in a methodical and smart way, is really what was the importance there. So I just want somebody with a good head on their shoulders.
21:19 Patrick O’Keefe: Fair enough. When you think about your time working on the Oprah account at Emoderation, what are some of the key lessons that you took away?
21:26 Jenn Pedde: Oh I love this question. It was a wonderful working experience. I truly loved Emoderation and everyone there and I think that the key takeaway was the team. There were times we’re all in it together, it didn’t matter what our titles were, didn’t matter any of that stuff. Everyone was all hands on deck when we needed it to be, and everybody had the right head space of, “Let’s make it easier for everybody else, what do I have to do, and how can I help?” The teamwork was really really, really incredible, and the collaboration was wonderful and the shared knowledge. I mean, I really learned so much from my team, both the ones I managed and the ones that were above me, that alone will go a really long way with staying at a job forever. [chuckle] That was one, and then something like overseeing the scale, just knowing that community can exist in that kind of scale and volume was something that was nice to know. I didn’t know, it was something I was… Read about or heard about but experiencing it was wonderful to kind of understand a global brand and its reaches and just how into things people get across the board.
22:32 Patrick O’Keefe: I want to circle back to something you touched on and that we touched on a little bit more on take one [laughter] of this podcast. You had mentioned the thought that coming into the Oprah project, this massive community, your past experience had been in smaller, more academic, more private communities and this was a totally different project, this was a totally different beast. Just the size of scale, and just the sense that it was something that you weren’t sure that you were ready for.
23:01 Jenn Pedde: Yeah, [chuckle] I really wasn’t. I remember talking to a friend of mine, she was basically asked me how it went the first couple days and I was like, “Man I think I made the wrong decision, this is crazy, I don’t know how I’m going to do this,” I really, really freaked myself out. And I do this with every job, right? It’s very much the imposter syndrome, and, “What did I get myself into? This is nuts, I can’t do this.” And I think it’s very important to let yourself go though those feelings, if you have them, it’s a very real thing for both men and women in a variety of sense, so sink into it, let yourself have it, go through the motions, but then pull yourself out of it. And the way I did it in this situation was my friend. She was like, “Look, every situation is going to have its trials and tribulations and if you’re not freaking out, if you’re not stressing out about it, then you’re in the wrong situation. You need that challenge, you need to constantly be growing, getting better and pushing the limits and pushing yourself.”
23:58 Jenn Pedde: And I will forever be thankful to my friend Laura for that because I was sitting in the room staring out a window and I was like, “I can’t do this.” And she’s like, “Will you stop? If anyone can do it, it’s going to be you. You have the skills. Just do it.” And I was like, “You’re right, stop complaining.”
24:14 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, and I love that because it’s something that everyone has a deal with. Some of us are just maybe I don’t know, some of us are just dumb enough or arrogant enough where we don’t realize it. I don’t know but for most of us, there is this thought that… And it’s the first time we do anything. It’s the first we’re moderators. It’s the first time we’re a community manager. It’s the first time we’re a director of community, the first time we’re X. There’s this feeling that I haven’t done this before. I don’t know if I can do this. And I think it’s so important to understand that skills can scale and you have the skills and you just hadn’t applied them to that volume yet. But that’s not the same as not being able to do the job. And it’s sometimes tough for people to take that next big leap, to take that promotion because of doubt, because of the impostor syndrome. But it’s something that everyone has to do. The respected veteran that you think highly of who is this senior whatever in any industry, we’ll talk community, senior community person in our space. Pick whoever you want, whoever you look up to, whoever you respect. They had that moment when they were like, “Well I don’t know. Can I do this?” And then they did it.
25:23 Patrick O’Keefe: So it’s interesting ’cause I try to encourage community professionals. I’ve done this, in private a fair amount, just to reach hire. If you’ve been at the same job for two, three, four, five years, maybe it’s time to get a promotion. Maybe it’s time to find a new opportunity. Maybe it’s time to step up to that next level and there’s value in being comfortable alright, but you don’t get any bigger, better, stronger if you’re always comfortable. So I think it’s just a great lesson, a great story to understand that we all have that feeling, that moment. I’ve been looking at different career opportunities myself and part of what I want to do is I want to be uncomfortable. I want to go somewhere where I don’t feel like I know, not just everything but a lot of stuff. I want to go somewhere where I feel like I know a little bit and then grow a lot. So I think that it’s tough but it’s so necessary if you want to progress as a professional. And when you do that, you push us forward as a space, as an industry, your fellow professional, you lift us up as a whole when you push higher.
26:25 Jenn Pedde: Absolutely. It’s one of the reasons I love teaching because community isn’t new. It’s been around for what? 20, 25 years so it’s kind of the advent of basic internet stuff. But there wasn’t really anyone around teaching me how to do stuff. I had a few books. I had Kelly and we had the chat and things like that, but it was largely self taught and so that’s why I love teaching because I get to teach what I know and kind of help the industry grow that much more and that much faster and there’s a lot more resources out there now than then were when I started. So it’s great to see the industry grow and it’s great to see people get some really cool opportunities and jobs and even the role itself with the increase in social networks and private forums and different theories and strategies. There’s a lot of opportunity out there and so it’s nice to see that kind of growth.
27:10 Patrick O’Keefe: You mentioned Kelly and the chat and the chat is cmgrchat or #cmgrchat which was a Twitter chat that you started with Kelly Lux in September of 2010. You ran it for four plus years and it connected with a lot of people in the space. You were connecting with 50 to 100 professionals every week who are tweeting 600 to 1,000 times. It was a solid resource and I enjoyed being a guest on it all the way back in 2012. I got in midway halfway, but it’s fun. And so first of all thank you for creating it and thank you for having me.
27:39 Jenn Pedde: Of course.
27:40 Patrick O’Keefe: Now, I want to talk about starting that. Take me through the conversation you had. What was the motivation? What were you looking to get out of it?
27:47 Jenn Pedde: Yeah. It’s one of those things where it started by doing something I wouldn’t recommend people doing. So what happened was, I was living abroad for a few years and then I came back and I met Kelly through my job searching and she suggested I get on Twitter and I was like, “I don’t want to. It looks terrible.” And so she convinced me that it should be something I should be on and she was right. I met a variety of people. It maybe about a year in to it I started actually working as my first official community manager role. And she and I got talking about the things we don’t know and she was just starting a community manager role as the Syracuse University person for social and community and we were like, “We have no idea what we’re doing.” And so we started a local book club and then we’re like, “You know, we should start a Twitter chat.” And I was like, “Oh, this is great. Yeah, let’s do one of those.” ‘Cause those were really popular at the time and the thing I would not recommend people do is just starting something. Do your research first and see if something exist and then maybe see if you could join that and help build that and then do a spin off. But we were like, “Well let’s start it and see if anybody else has already started it and then if they have, we’ll back off.”
28:48 Jenn Pedde: But that wasn’t the case so we actually started it and it was something that people really, really, really, apparently needed because our first one had like 85 people off the bat. So we started in September and we just planned it. Planning a Twitter chat, it takes a lot of resources and effort and thought and it’s an event. You have to produce an event every week and even though it’s online or on Twitter, it didn’t make it any less heavy lifting. So we started it and it just kinda took off from there. Within the first two or three weeks, we were connected with Brett Petersel who owned thecommunitymanager.com so he was like, “Let’s do a joint venture.” So we got the chat a home base on the website and we just opened up the website to anyone who wanted to write about community and we used it as a showcase.
29:33 Jenn Pedde: So between those two things, we had a Facebook, a private Facebook group for a while called the Community Builders which I don’t know if you’re a part of or not, but it’s no longer active. But it just had some of the industry leads I guess in there, very small, very hard to get into like there is five admins and we couldn’t even recommend somebody. They had to be voted in like it was a crazy system. But between those three areas, the chat just kind took over and became a thing. It was five years maybe before we ended it. And we only ended it because Kelly and I both went off in different directions in our career and just couldn’t manage it anymore. And Twitter kinda died down a little bit. I don’t think Twitter chats are as exciting or as useful as they used to be but they still can be pretty good.
30:14 Patrick O’Keefe: With a Twitter chat, when we’re talking about moderators with Twitter chat, but really it’s just a hashtag, so if someone wants to come in and say… If I’m a jerk, for example, I’m an awful person.
30:24 Patrick O’Keefe: I just say #cmgrchat, that’s mine now. That’s Patrick’s #cmgrchat, I’m going to host a chat every Thursday at 7:00 PM. And it’s not to say that the community of people who use that will not criticize them, but it’s just a hashtag, anyone can use it, anyone can throw what they want on there. If they don’t try to claim it, they can spam it, they can do whatever they want. It’s sort of an uncomfortable situation for a community person because generally in the spaces that we manage, we don’t control things, we guide things, but we have the ability and the authority to remove problems, most of the time, from a community. So with a Twitter chat, though, you don’t have that authority. You can report things, you can hide accounts, you can have a shared block list. If we’re getting really creative these days, you can certainly have a shared block list that people in a specific chat could share. But yeah, is there an oddness to it? Did you ever worry that someone would just come in a start blasting it with unrelated things? What about that?
31:20 Jenn Pedde: All the time. You don’t own it. You don’t own anything on social, right? So that’s the big worry for anybody. Whatever you’re doing there, you don’t know if it’s going to be there tomorrow kind of thing. But with the chat it was especially like, “Oh man is someone going to come around and create something that was similar? Are they going to try and compete? Are they going to take it over?” And always a worry. Nothing you can really do about it I don’t think. It’s not like you can go to Twitter and be like, “Hey, they stole it.” You just kinda have to hope that your community kind of backs you up. And that happened. No one tried to steal it or anything, but there were times when we would trend, which it’s so funny, we would trend a lot and we would trend worldwide. We would trend every so often and then all the spam bots would come it and I’m like, “Oh no, I don’t want to trend because it’s going to ruin the experience.” And there’s just nothing you could do about it because Twitter just doesn’t care about their spam sometimes.
32:09 Jenn Pedde: But I mean, there’s just things you can’t control and you just kinda have to go with the flow and just hope which is not a strategy I would suggest to anybody, but sometimes in those situations with those platforms you just kinda have to hope and pray that it works out the way you want it to. [chuckle]
32:24 Patrick O’Keefe: Hope is a good campaign slogan, but not necessarily a good community strategy.
32:27 Jenn Pedde: Exactly.
32:29 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, I still have a column in my TweetDeck. I’ll be honest, it’s not the column that I focus on. It’s over to the right a little bit, I have to scroll to see it, but it’s still there for #cmgrchat and I look at it once in a while and people still use it and people still ask you if there’s a chat coming up. I think the volume has hopefully gone down a little bit, but those questions still pop up.
32:48 Jenn Pedde: Absolutely. I keep it in mind too, it’s still useful. And I think that’s part of the appeal of it was, it was a chat that happened every week on Wednesday, but then throughout the week, people would share stories and they would use it for jobs and connections and it was just very active throughout the week and it still is. It’s nice to see that it kind of lives on. It’s one of those things where we did. Last year we sent out a note that was like, “Looking for new moderators.” Kelly and I were giving it up and seeing what we could do with thecommunitymanager.com and just options. And we had a lot of people actually that were interested and submitted applications and wanted to be the new mods and new guard. I think, and this is largely my fault, so I apologize for anyone who did send in something, but I just wasn’t that ready to let go of it yet. So now I’m thinking maybe we’ll just do a coming out of retirement or a special edition #cmgrchat at some point because I just miss it. But it’s nice to see that it still is functional and people use it. And the site, people still come to thecommunitymanager.com in droves seeing the old content that is still very relevant today.
33:50 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, that’d a lot of fun. I’d certainly be open to participating if you ever did a reunion #cmgrchat. That’d be fun.
33:58 Patrick O’Keefe: You talk about not owning it and it reminds me of, I think I emailed you and Kelly once and asked for permission to post something because that’s just sort of my nature. Even if I’m a guest of a Twitter chat, I always like to ask, “Is it okay if I do this?” and it was something like that and you were like, “We don’t own anything, go ahead. You can do that.”
34:16 Jenn Pedde: Yeah. I mean, it was so nice of you to ask and people did. People did ask all the time, which is, I think, the polite thing to do sometimes is if you’re not sure, just ask. And anything, I think things like that help the connections to those people, right? You’re using the thing that somebody created, why not get to know those people? And I think through asks and questions like that, that’s how we got to know each other. So, yeah, I thought it was really nice of you to ask, but at the same time, going back to that, if you wanted to slander the whole thing, I couldn’t stop you from doing that, you know?
34:43 Patrick O’Keefe: Right. I guess it depends on how kind and ethical I am. If I just ignore your answer, like if you said, “No, that really wouldn’t work.” And I go ahead and do it anyway because, “Forget you, it’s a hashtag.”
34:54 Jenn Pedde: Exactly. And we were really lucky that the type of people that were participating, the community of people were community managers. We all kind of knew each other’s pain points and nobody ever rocked the boat. Nobody was ever really mean or slanderous or did anything that would hurt the integrity of the chat because I think everybody kind of felt that they owned it. And it was also part of what they did and what they loved. So people just really, really loved it. It was such a great experience. One of the better things I’ve ever done.
35:20 Patrick O’Keefe: That’s really cool. Twitter chats, as we’ve sort of shown here, are an interesting opportunity, as well as an interesting dilemma. Because the opportunity is that people use and love Twitter. You said that Twitter chats were more popular back then and I’ve kinda seen that myself. Twitter chats, I don’t see as many Twitter chats in my feed, in my main stream, but they still happen. But the dilemma is how easy they are to derail. And I want to say, like I said, I’ve seen less Twitter chats, and when they derail, they’re often like mainstream media stories. Like when a celebrity holds a Twitter chat and something happens, it pops up everywhere online. It dominates the conversation of the chat. Even if the chat had a number of really good conversations, really good questions and answers, if there was this really snarky comment, or they had a skeleton in their closet, and someone brought it up, and it got retweeted a lot, that’s the story of the Twitter chat. So it’s tough, it’s almost like a proverbial double edged sword. And in 2016, are Twitter chats still something that we should be doing?
36:21 Jenn Pedde: I think so. I think the takeaway though, it’s something that has to be planned and thought out, and there has to be a goal. And I think if this is as true today as it was five years ago, but if you’re going to do one, you can’t just say, “Okay, we’re doing a Twitter chat tomorrow, start tweeting about it.” You have to set it up as an event like, “Okay we’re going to do this a month from now, we’re going to send out… Save the dates and invites, or messages and there’s a whole campaign around it, and we’re going to publicize it on other platforms and really kind of get the word out as to why you’re doing this. If it’s a one off, then if it’s a series you really have to think through your commitment to it, and what you’re trying to get out of it, and things like that. So I think it is still as relevant, it just has to be produced in a great way now to get noticed, because you’re fighting against a lot of competition or noise. So it’s something to think through and it’s something worth doing even still. Twitter’s still very popular, maybe not as popular these days as I remember it being, but it’s still very useful and it’s… Most of it live things too, so if you’re going to capitalize on anything, it might be coinciding with an event happening in real time. So a lot of options, a lot of useful things with it still today.
37:31 Patrick O’Keefe: You took some storytelling classes at the Magnet Theatre last year and you told me about those before the show and how you’d been thinking about what it takes to tell a good story, and specifically how telling the story of a community isn’t really any different. I find that pretty interesting. And so I wanted to talk about what type of story should we be telling about a community?
37:53 Jenn Pedde: Well, with any good story, and this is something I took away from the classes that I had known but never really thought about, which was every story has to have a beginning, a middle and an end. And we don’t like to think of communities having ends, but it could be a variety of things that mean end. But it’s thinking through the story you’re trying to tell, like what’s the value of your community not only as a branding thing, like, “Oh this community is amazing and why,” but also just for the people inside of it, they have to have an experience, they have to feel connected to it, they have to feel that they belong. So what story can they tell? Like what service are you providing? Or what useful skill, or something are they learning from it? So the story is, just the things that are happening to people and amongst people. And one of my favorite stories is a couple years ago, I was working in an education technology startup and I was managing, it was a Master’s program online and there was a variety of schools, and the one I was working at was at USC and it was their Master’s of Social Work program.
38:51 Jenn Pedde: And two of the students in the program lived at very opposite ends of California, had never met in person. They were in part of this degree program together completely online, and they were put into a group project, and they got to know each other through group project. And after a few months, they started talking and just kinda got to know each other, and next thing you know they start dating, and then they basically get engaged. So through this program, completely online, in this community, they found love. And I just thought that was one of the greatest stories that I got to share with the world, and I called it Love at First Click, and it’s actually still on the blog, and you can read their story and I’m pretty sure they’re still married, or got married. But it was just such a cool thing to highlight that story, and share that that’s the kind of thing that could happen in something like this. So I just like to find those stories and those anecdotes and in addition to the numbers, and the growth, and all the stuff that a business wants to see, there’s still some human elements to it.
39:49 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah. And storytelling comes in, in a lot of different ways. It comes in in how we talk to the community, it comes in in how we can illustrate the value of the community, because a lot of the times value is not a recurring thing, like a lot of metrics we track and ROI efforts are recurring. There’s a regular measurement of them, there’s a churn rate, there’s X, but sometimes there’s once off things that are really impactful, they’re really great but they’re not going to show up in a spreadsheet necessarily. They don’t have a field that we enter every month, and being able to tell those stories is really impactful. I want to say it was Allison Leahy at Fitbit that I had on the show who told me about how they basically have a stack of community once off things that really happened that were amazing. And so that any time that whenever they need to talk about community, they have all these amazing stories to go along with the metrics they already track and that’s a really great thing to do.
40:41 Jenn Pedde: Yeah, we do it too. I mean, we have a newsletter and it’s pretty much all stories because that’s all people want to hear about is what is everyone else doing. And so it’s funny when I talk about beginning, middle, end because my current job, the end is the beginning. So when someone leaves the company, the beginning of their alumni journey starts and so you get to kind of… It can go in cycles and circles, and break off. And once you get too large you can do subsets, and there’s all sorts of things but an end does not necessarily mean that it’s completed or finished, it just means the end of that section, or that part of the journey. So yeah, stories are huge, and that’s what people want, the feel good reasons for being part of a community.
41:18 Patrick O’Keefe: The end is the beginning, I think that’s a great place for us to sign off here. Jenn, thank you so much for coming on the programme.
41:24 Jenn Pedde: Thank you for having me.
41:27 Patrick O’Keefe: We have been talking with Jenn Pedde, global manager for alumni and community at Oliver Wyman, that’s oliverwyman.com, and adjunct professor at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Learn more about their programs at communications.syr.edu. Finally, you can connect with Jenn through her website at jennpedde.com. If you have any questions that you’d like me to answer on the air, please submit them at communitysignal.com/qa. For the transcript from this episode, plus highlights and links that we mentioned, please visit communitysignal.com. Community Signal is produced by Karn Broad. Until next week.
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