Elon Musk’s Quest to Make Twitter Worse

Ralph SpencerOmar Wasow Sarah Roberts

Elon Musk’s presence has loomed over Twitter since he announced plans to purchase the platform. And for these few weeks that he’s been in charge, many concerns have proven to be justified. Musk laid off 3,700 employees, and then 4,400 contractors. He is firing those who are critical of him. The verification process, perhaps one of Twitter’s most trusted features, has been unraveled. He’s offered severance to those who don’t want to be part of “extremely hardcore” Twitter. Following the results of a Twitter poll, he reinstated the account of Donald Trump, who was suspended from the platform for his role in inciting the January 6th attacks.

So, what happens now? What of the many social movements that manifested on Twitter? While some movements and followings may see new manifestations on other platforms, not everything will be completely recreated. For example, as writer Jason Parham explains, “whatever the destination, Black Twitter will be increasingly difficult to recreate.”

In this episode of Community Signal, Patrick speaks to three experts: Sarah T. Roberts, associate professor in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA, trust and safety consultant Ralph Spencer, and Omar Wasow, assistant professor in UC Berkeley’s Department of Political Science and co-founder of BlackPlanet, about the current state and future of Twitter. They dissect the realities facing the platform today including content moderation, loss of institutional knowledge, and uncertainty about Twitter’s infrastructure, but also emphasize the importance of Twitter as a social utility for news and more.

This episode also touches on:

  • The reality of moderating a platform like Twitter
  • What platforms actually mean when they say they’re for “free speech”
  • How Musk tanked the value of verification on Twitter
Continue reading “Elon Musk’s Quest to Make Twitter Worse”

When Community is on 3 Teams in 5 Years

As Zendesk’s customer base and product offerings have grown, so has its community. The Zendesk community started in 2008, under the support organization, as a space for people to ask and answer questions about using the product. Since then, it has shifted departments multiple times, leading to changes in KPIs and core purpose.

Nicole Saunders, the company’s director of community, joins the show to explain how she has navigated these challenges. Tune in for her approach on thoughtfully managing change and expectations within your community and inside of your organization.

Patrick and Nicole also discuss:

  • Why the comments are open on Zendesk’s knowledge base articles
  • You can’t tell people to contact support in Zendesk’s community
  • Handing some conversations in the community off to other teams
Continue reading “When Community is on 3 Teams in 5 Years”

Why Community on the Product Team Works, From a Product Leader’s Perspective

Recently, community pro Danielle Maveal joined Community Signal to discuss her experiences reporting into the product organization at Burb. In this episode, we’re getting the opposite perspective from product leader Gitesh Gohel.

Gitesh and Patrick worked together at CNN, where community reported into product. And while the product and community that they were building were short lived, they both speak highly of their time working together. Gitesh describes creating a team atmosphere where each individual’s expertise was respected and given room to ladder into organizational goals, giving each person the opportunity to see the impact of their work. Patrick shares how this fostered trust in processes and created great experiences for the community and the brand.

If you’re debating a community role that reports into product, this conversation will give you insight into how that can be productive when the team has a strong foundation.

Patrick and Gitesh also discuss:

  • Gitesh’s first experience managing community pros as a product leader
  • Why community pros should be excited about reporting into product
  • The successes and promise of CNN+’s Interview Club
Continue reading “Why Community on the Product Team Works, From a Product Leader’s Perspective”

Lessons in Building Safe, Inclusive, and Functional Spaces for LGBTQ+ Folks

If you’re wondering how you can more actively foster safety and belonging for LGBTQ+ folks in your online community, there’s precedent to learn and borrow from. In this episode of Community Signal, we’re joined by Samantha “Venia” Logan, the CEO and founder of Socially Constructed. Venia shares lessons from her decade of experience building community for LGBTQ+ individuals, which started when she began sharing her transition journey on YouTube. 

Patrick and Venia discuss tools, policies, and practices that can help build queer friendly spaces over time. For example, how easy is it for someone to edit their profile information within your online community? What specific policies do you have in place to protect LGTBQ+ people? And a big one – how are others in your organization (outside of the community team) contributing to diversity and inclusion?

At this point you might be asking, “how do I measure or communicate progress?” To this we ask, what are community-based outcomes that indicate someone feels safe contributing and like they belong? As Venia explains (15:23): “As a person feels more and more comfortable self-disclosing, they’re going to use more organic language, they’re going to talk a lot more, their rate of inclusion is going to increase, but so will the length of their posts.” Work with your community to figure out which behaviors relate to their sense of inclusion and measure those over time.

Patrick and Venia also discuss:

  • Making pronouns part of everyday conversations
  • Twitter’s policies and handling of a recent high-profile deadnaming case
  • Being intentional about your metrics and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
Continue reading “Lessons in Building Safe, Inclusive, and Functional Spaces for LGBTQ+ Folks”

The Pros and Cons of Community Reporting to Product

Which team or leader does your community organization report into? And which would you like it to? Community teams can be successful as independent pillars or as part of other verticals, like product, ops, or marketing. In this episode of Community Signal, Danielle Maveal, the CCO (chief community officer) at Burb, shares how community professionals can be successful within a team’s product organization.

All reporting structures have their pros and cons, but product and community share the job of “deeply understand[ing] what the user wants and what their motivations are, and how to get them from point A to point B (2:17).” With a shared mandate, community and product teams that effectively partner can expand each other’s influence and success.

No matter what team you report into, creating a foundation in which all teams have respect for each other’s knowledge, experience, and processes is critical to every team, the business, and the community itself. Tune in to hear how Patrick and Danielle have fostered product relationships at Burb, CNN, Lyft, and more.

Danielle and Patrick also discuss:

  • The value that community pros can bring to product teams
  • Learning and leveraging product’s processes
  • How the OKR (objectives and key results) goal structure can be adapted by community pros
Continue reading “The Pros and Cons of Community Reporting to Product”

Bridging Continents and Countries in a Professional Association Community

Do you manage an international community? How do you thoughtfully foster community across different continents, languages, and norms? Mercedes Oppon-Kusi, the community manager for Europe for the International Legal Technology Association, is working to do just that for their community of technology pros working at law firms.

With ILTA originating in the U.S., Mercedes shares the differences in behaviors between U.S. and Europe-based community members, and how she has approached expanding the European chapter to include more countries. Her strategy comes back to advice that’s helpful no matter what stage your community is at: Overcome your biases as a community professional. Take time to learn the interests and challenges that impact your community members and scale thoughtfully.

As Mercedes puts it, “[It’s] about building that practical knowledge of the market, and then figuring out where to go first.”

Plus:

  • How to help community members break through the “I don’t have enough time” barrier
  • Why U.S. members are more engaged than their European counterparts
  • In-person events that help members feel bought-in to the ILTA community
Continue reading “Bridging Continents and Countries in a Professional Association Community”

When Companies Sponsor Their Employees to Contribute to Open Source Software

WordPress, the popular open source CMS, powers a reported 43%+ of the web, including this site. It is backed by a global community of contributors who volunteer their time in all sorts of ways, from code to documentation to training. But did you know that many of the project’s biggest contributors are sponsored by their employer to provide that time?

As we discussed with Brad Williams of WebDevStudios, the success of WordPress has created an economy around the software, growing and launching many businesses that serve the needs of its users, from personal blogs to major corporations. And one of the way those companies give back is through these sponsorships.

No company is more tied to WordPress than Automattic, the owners of WordPress.com, which was founded by the co-founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg. Hugh Lashbrooke is the head of community education at Automattic, which sponsors him for 40 hours a week, primarily to contribute to WordPress’ training team.

Hugh joins us on this episode to give us an inside look at these sponsorship arrangements and how they influence WordPress team dynamics. Plus:

  • What happens when a company stops sponsoring an employee to contribute to WordPress?
  • The flexibility you need to work with volunteers on such a massive project
  • “Public by default” as a standard of work
Continue reading “When Companies Sponsor Their Employees to Contribute to Open Source Software”

The Disappearing News Media Comment Sections

As the former director of community for HuffPost, where he led the management of an active, massive comment section, Tim McDonald has had a unique vantage point to the mass closure of news media comment sections. Patrick and Tim go in depth on that topic on this episode.

Toward the end, Tim shares what he believes will be his greatest community ROI story: He has stage IV colon cancer and is in need of a liver donor and could get a lot closer with your help.  Please visit TimsLiver.com for more info.

Plus:

  • Why Tim believes he doesn’t make a good soccer referee – or content moderator
  • Keeping track of your community wins – both qualitative and quantitative
  • Leveraging relationships with influential community members to get your message across, rather than being the face of the community yourself
Continue reading “The Disappearing News Media Comment Sections”

The Community Management Jobs You Turn Down

What are the reasons why you would voluntarily end the interview process for a community role? If you give it some thought, you’ll probably come up with some!

Ryan Arsenault and Patrick share real stories from their careers, giving the reasons why they decided against continuing to interview with certain companies, including some you’ve heard of.

This leads to a conversation on the community opportunists, and how Web3 and NFT projects often fit into this category. What does it mean for your career if a rug pull happens on your NFT project? What responsibility do community industry players have in hyping these projects? After they remove the .eth from their handle, who is left holding the bag?

Patrick and Ryan also discuss:

  • The simple question Patrick asks recruiters to understand if what they are building is a community
  • Using “community” as a manipulation tactic
  • Why Web3 hype feels different from Web2 hype
Continue reading “The Community Management Jobs You Turn Down”

Building Up Your Community Members, One Phone Call at a Time

Is speaking one-on-one with your community members part of your community strategy? For Tosin Abari, when building paid professional communities, it’s an integral part. His phone calls with community members provide an opportunity to reset the tone and remind each member of what they can learn, share, and achieve with their fellow community members.

Through this work, Tosin often finds that these one-on-one conversations with community members translate into their first forum post, or later down the line, becoming a community ambassador. What personal touches help you form deeper connections with your community members?

Where’d this strategy come from? Tosin has also worked as a director of player development Vanderbilt University’s football team. He explains how his work building relationships with students and their parents, helping them start off on this new chapter of their lives, prepared him for work in community management. 

Patrick and Tosin also discuss:

  • Tosin’s background in football
  • Why Tosin started taking phone calls with members without mentioning it to Patrick, his manager at the time
  • Where we focus our efforts in a world without vanity metrics
Continue reading “Building Up Your Community Members, One Phone Call at a Time”