Building Community During a Pandemic at Pandora and SiriusXM

We’re several months into the COVID-19 pandemic and the daily loss of lives is still devastating and the longterm effects on our communities and society as a whole have yet to be seen. For many of us, the pandemic has affected our routines, our families, our work, and our livelihood. While some online communities have seen more engagement from community members (I love this story that mentions how Ethel’s Club pivoted from a brick and mortar social club to an online one), we’re also seeing tremendous layoffs across all industries.

Amidst all of this and despite being just a few months old, Pandora’s community is aspiring to be a space where members can connect over music and everything impacting their lives right now. In this episode, community manager Erick Linares shares the strategy behind the launch of the Pandora community and how he’s working with his team to foster great conversations.

Patrick and Erick also discuss:

  • Why Erick thinks a superuser program will be integral to the Pandora community
  • The challenge of making the case for a new community during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • How the mentorship Erick received at Fitbit propelled his career growth and how he’s paying it forward

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Big Quotes

Turning question-askers into conversation starters (14:45): “When we respond as moderators, we have a signature that says, ‘Come share your playlist with me in the playlist swap.’ [With small things like that] we’re trying to drive engagement [so that members don’t simply] ask a question and then bounce out because that’s not actually engagement, that’s just coming in and asking a question and then waiting for your answer and never coming back.” –@thegateceo

Creating authentic conversations with your community (16:35): “[We don’t just create content that says] ‘Hey, go listen to our podcast’ or ‘Go listen to our playlist that we’ve created as Pandora.’ We’re being very personable. Some of the posts that we’ve created on the community are like, ‘How are you dealing with COVID-19 anxiety?’ Then [I share how I am] actually coping with it and how my employees are coping with it. … These are the types of conversations that are going to help our users want to engage with us and be very personable and not to only think of this as a support space or a space for Pandora, but a space where they can actually share their own experiences.” –@thegateceo

What makes a great boss? (36:22): “The difference between a good boss and a great boss is having someone who looks out for your career beyond what you can do for them in this moment.” –@patrickokeefe

About Erick Linares

In December of 2014, Erick Linares took on a role at Fitbit as a customer support specialist and wore many hats during his tenure. Erick grew from a support specialist to community and social support specialist to transitioning to the community team manager of the Fitbit community, under the leadership of Allison Leahy.

In March of 2019, Erick took the leap to Pandora as community manager to begin the efforts of building the totally new Pandora Community, which launched in September of 2019. In addition to his community role, Erick also oversees the social care programs for both Pandora and SiriusXM.

Erick lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is passionate about all things music as he’s earned a Bachelor’s degree in sound arts. Prior to working at Fitbit, Erick ran live sound for the San Francisco 49ers during their inaugural season at Levi’s Stadium.

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