Community as a Product
While community professionals have been improving their software and announcing those changes forever, thinking of community as a product can help you to better communicate and execute your platform strategy. Julie Hamel, senior manager of community and social media at Alteryx, joins me on this episode. Plus:
- Being effective as a remote professional, when most of your company is in an office
- Why Alteryx merged support with community
- How B2B companies should recognize the experts in their communities
“As you’re writing out your announcements [to the community] and detailing your programs, it’s not just for the community that you’re doing it. It’s not just for your company, but it’s also a record of what you’ve done in your career.” -@juliehamel
“We keep a version history [for our community], very similar to a mobile app that you would download or software that you have, so that people can stay up to speed on how we’re continuously improving the community.” -@juliehamel
“[When praising members in a B2B community,] it is very important to help sharpen their profiles, recognize them as the individual, not just the brand, for the time and effort that they are spending helping out your community.” -@juliehamel
“When we think about experts in the community, sometimes you only think about looking into your online community to find those experts. It is worth broadening your scope and asking internally as well. You may have people who are not involved in your online community directly, but are active on social. They are super active in blogging about your product or your company, taking time to lead user groups, or make reference calls for you. There are so many different types of activities that you can look at, and you may not even be aware that your customers are taking time out of their day to do all of these things for you.” -@juliehamel
About Julie Hamel
Julie Hamel is the senior manager of community and social media at Alteryx, responsible for managing strategic, tactical and technical operations of the Alteryx Community and its social channels. Prior to Alteryx, Julie was the global community manager at Lithium, where she gained nearly a decade of experience working with Fortune 500 companies to build successful digital experiences and grow vibrant online communities. Julie is blessed to work from home, nested in a maple grove outside of Montreal, Canada.
In order of reference:
- Jeremy Wright
- Joe Cothrel
- Lithium Community
- Over-Communicate by Patrick
- Alteryx Community version history
- Brian Oblinger
- Community Signal episode with Jay Baer
- Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer
- Community Signal episode with Allison Leahy
- Lithium Stars program
- Alteryx Community
- Julie on Twitter
00:05: Welcome to Community Signal, the podcast for online community professionals. Here’s your host, Patrick O’Keefe.
00:16 Patrick O’Keefe: Hello, and thank you for joining me for this edition of Community Signal. Our guest today is Julie Hamel. Julie is the senior manager of community and social media at Alteryx, responsible for managing strategic, tactical and technical operations of the Alteryx community and its social channels. Prior to Alteryx she was the global community manager at Lithium, gaining nearly a decade of experience working with Fortune 500 companies to build successful digital experiences and grow vibrant online communities. Julie is blessed to work from home nested in a maple grove outside of Montreal, Canada. Julie, welcome to the program.
00:49 Julie Hamel: Thank you, and that’s the hell of an intro. [chuckle] Thanks for having me on this show. I love it and I’m so thankful for the opportunity.
00:55 Patrick O’Keefe: I appreciate the support of the show and you wrote that bio, I read it, so. [chuckle] I just have the enthusiasm, let’s say, but it sounds like you live in an idyllic, beautiful portion of the world, a maple grove, outside of Montreal, Canada.
01:09 Julie Hamel: That’s right. It’s the countryside. I’m actually a city girl at heart.
01:12 Patrick O’Keefe: Okay.
01:13 Julie Hamel: But since having my kids, it just made sense to move to this piece of… It’s like an island out here, and it’s peaceful, it’s beautiful and I would not go back to the city, other than when I wanna go out and meet up with people, and see my friends. But otherwise, the bubble is nice.
01:29 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, I’ve never been up in Canada. I know some people up there, I have some friends up there. Like my friend Jeremy Wright in Toronto, not Montreal, but close enough to me. [chuckle] So, I haven’t been anywhere in the country, so one day I’ll have to make it up there.
01:42 Julie Hamel: You do, you have to come out in the summer. There are so many festivals happening, it’s lively city, great night scene. So yeah, when you’re in town just let me know and we’ll go out.
01:52 Patrick O’Keefe: I’ll do that. So before the show, when I asked you about your start in community, one of the things you mentioned first is that you had coordinated a senior citizens activity program. Tell me about that.
02:04 Julie Hamel: So actually my start in community happened through online gaming and running guilds and moderating gaming forums. But that was in my leisure time, in my personal life. But my first meaningful experience, that really opened my eyes to the power of community, was a program called Aînés en Action, Seniors in Action, which was a local non-profit, government-funded program that helped to break senior citizens out of their isolation, either because they no longer had any family, they had low income, they had low mobility, special needs, so on and so forth. So through affordable cultural activities, local trips that we would organize, we managed to break them out of their bubble, break them out of that isolation that they were in, increase their physical social activity levels and in turn reduce support cost. ‘Cause there is a correlation between activity and happiness levels, and the need for medication and the amount of time that they spent in clinics, for example.
03:08 Julie Hamel: So, funnily enough, when I originally got involved and started volunteering it was because I was struggling with my own issues of social anxiety. [chuckle] I was a bit of a shut-in, and I kind of saw that as, I was looking for a way to spend my time in a meaningful way and do good with my life. And get back in touch with reality and through connections I got connected with the organizers of the program, and it was an amazing learning opportunity, an amazing way to rediscover the skills that I had and new skills as well, through planning of calendar, of activities, event logistics and promotion, and driving registrations, building databases, and the human component as well, which is I think the most important, accompanying these senior citizens on trips, and getting to listen to their amazing stories, and talk to them. So really, it was one of the best experiences that I’ve had in my life.
04:09 Patrick O’Keefe: I was a homeschooled kid as well, and homeschoolers have this, I don’t know stereotype of… You used the term ‘shut-in’, [chuckle] so I’ll go and stick with that, of being shut-ins, of being socially awkward, fair or not, I think people who go to public schools, there are plenty of them who are socially awkward, but it’s a funny thing, and we can make fun of ourselves, but one of the things that we did, we did various field trips and community projects, and we would visit senior citizens’ homes and spend time with the residents there or play games with them, or do bingo, or something, right?
04:38 Patrick O’Keefe: And just being kids at that time, not even teenagers, but just going and visiting, and spending time with them, and with a lot of people who wouldn’t necessarily have anyone visit them at all, who necessarily would not have any… There’s no family in the area, or they have no family, or everyone’s passed away, or something along those lines, which is difficult, but I think it also relates well to online communities, because what I’ve heard through community, time and time again is that it connects people who are in sometimes desolate locations, or no-one around them is interested in this thing [chuckle] that they’re interested in. Like noone is a programmer, or noone is into this particular sports team, or this hobby, or this passion that they have. So they go online and they connect with people, and if it weren’t for those people online, they really wouldn’t have anyone else to talk to about that interest or that passion. So I think it’s a really interesting dynamic there.
05:25 Julie Hamel: Absolutely, and just knowing that you’re able to make an impact on someone’s life, and that you’re allowing them to connect with other people or yourself and the happiness that it brings them, that is really an enlightening moment and it makes me happy so. [chuckle]
05:42 Patrick O’Keefe: Yep, yep, and so you mentioned that your start in online community management, the way many of us start, the way I started too, as a moderator. It sounds like maybe it was a volunteer moderator gaming forum? Is that correct? Were you a volunteer?
05:53 Julie Hamel: Yeah, I was. And it wasn’t too…
05:54 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, same here.
05:54 Julie Hamel: Yeah, it wasn’t too serious at that time, but yeah, that’s how I got started.
06:00 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, so your first kind of big, let’s say, career move in online community management was when you joined Lithium as a moderator. So what was the moment that you understood, “This is not just something I’m volunteering for in the community that maybe I was a member at or I enjoy, but it’s actually something I could do for a living.”
06:15 Julie Hamel: That was an interesting journey and it actually took me a while to realize, I think, that I could make a career out of it. So originally, I was a new mom, I was a stay-at-home with my six-month-old, starting to look at different options to go back at work and I was referred by a friend who was already working at Lithium for this position on a bi-lingual community and I got a call from a Joe Cothrel, who is chief community officer at Lithium now, who back then was just starting out building out the moderation services team. So he called me up…
06:51 Patrick O’Keefe: Hi, Joe.
06:52 Julie Hamel: Hi, Joe. [chuckle] He called me up, he explained what the role and responsibilities would be and I was in awe and shock that a company out in California would pay me to do [chuckle] this thing, but it was a great opportunity, I went for it, started working at part time and I didn’t originally intend to make a career out of it, it was just a solution at that time to make a living. And I quickly discovered, ’cause I was working so closely with Joe, getting on to customer calls and learning user engagement, community management, best practices, all the things about how you should design your community, how you should structure it, the policies that go behind it, all of these things. I have a very obsessive personality, very passionate as well. Wanna put it that way. [laughter]
07:47 Patrick O’Keefe: Passionate is the kind word, obsessive is the negative one.
07:49 Julie Hamel: So very passionate person. So I started eating up all things community-related, whether it’s best practices, design, onboarding tactics, learning everything about the business that is Lithium, as well as the stakeholders. And I really started to enjoy building and growing online communities and supporting our customers and community managers, but still at that time, I was enjoying my role as a consultant, so advising customers on how they could be successful and the changes that they could make and how to manage their moderation team, so on and so forth. So it wasn’t until I went on a second mat leave five years ago and came back and by that time I was working with many customers across the globe, and I had to make a decision about my career, because I couldn’t envision myself being on customer calls all day with a baby at home. You never know when they’re gonna start crying or when they’re going to need your attention. So, while working remote is great and you can have the flexibility to manage your time, it didn’t seem feasible or a good option for anybody.
09:03 Julie Hamel: So I made the decision to take more of a back seat and work with customers more in the background supporting our moderation teams and being staff to the Lithosphere community, which is known as the Lithium Community, as an admin and through that role I really got to have 100% hands-on time with the products and with the backbones of the Lithium Community, starting to dabble into direct engagement with the community itself, our customers, through the community, not on calls or anything like that, and really started enjoying that hands-on practice and taking more of a assistant community manager role, and seeing that the changes that we were making and the creative ideas that we were coming up with and the feedback that we were taking from the community and working into the improvements into the community were making a huge change and how happy it was making our community. So, at that time, I think that is when I really starting considering community management as a career and really wanting to be on the front lines and having a heads into all of the different components that make up the online community management.
10:27 Patrick O’Keefe: So it took you [chuckle] a few years?
10:29 Julie Hamel: Yes. [chuckle]
10:30 Patrick O’Keefe: Right? ‘Cause your LinkedIn has you as moderator in ’07 and then you’re talking about community manager, Lithosphere it says, April 2013-2014. [chuckle] So it took you a while, you weren’t sure. You weren’t sure that this was a thing that you wanted to do for a long time, but it seems like you discovered that passion through working with a specific community.
10:47 Julie Hamel: Yes.
10:47 Patrick O’Keefe: Maybe more so than just a group of customers consulting. The person who referred you to Lithium, was that someone you met online or was it someone you knew locally?
10:54 Julie Hamel: It was someone that I met online through online gaming, playing Ultima online actually.
10:58 Patrick O’Keefe: There you go.
11:00 Julie Hamel: So yeah, it’s the connection…
11:01 Patrick O’Keefe: You met them and then basically in a community, gamers, and then they helped you find this career path. So that’s the great story in itself, it’s all a pretty common story. It’s one of those ways, it’s funny, it’s more and more normalized, or maybe it wasn’t in my earlier days, my generation, your generation, meeting a substantial portion of your contacts, your networking, your business networking contacts online. Or with your friends, but now it’s just so much more normalized, it’s just a normal thing.
11:26 Julie Hamel: It is.
11:26 Patrick O’Keefe: 10 years ago, 15 years ago, if you said, “Hey, I’m gonna go meet this person [chuckle] that I met online.” It still sounds crazy now, it’s just less crazy. [laughter] That’s all. So that whole time, that we just discussed, when you were at Lithium eight odd years, you worked remotely and now at Alteryx, you have worked remotely for about a year. Remote moderators are not terribly uncommon, but higher-level roles like a senior community manager role can be harder to find. You work at a B2B company, where almost everyone is in an office somewhere and not many people work remotely, work at home. That can create an odd dynamic, how do you make it work?
11:57 Julie Hamel: So, yeah, everybody I talked to, who finds out that I’ve been working from home for so long is kind of in…
12:06 Patrick O’Keefe: Awe?
12:06 Julie Hamel: In awe, they don’t get it. [chuckle] How I could do it for so long and have grown my career from where I started. But…
12:16 Patrick O’Keefe: Those people hate their families, so…
12:19 Patrick O’Keefe: Work is a vacation for them during the day, apparently.
12:23 Julie Hamel: So I mean, obviously, it’s a lot of dedication and hard work but it’s also taking copious notes and over-communicating and documenting everything. Originally Alteryx looked to have someone on-site and I think most companies do, because that just makes more sense, having your community managers there…
12:44 Patrick O’Keefe: Don’t say that.
12:46 Julie Hamel: We could, we could…
12:47 Patrick O’Keefe: As I look for roles out there, interesting roles, I really would like to find something remote. So don’t propagate that thought.
12:52 Julie Hamel: I’m not done, I’m not done.
12:53 Patrick O’Keefe: Okay.
12:55 Julie Hamel: But we can start over if you want. So Alteryx was originally looking to have someone onsite and they interviewed several different community managers who were local but they hadn’t quite found the right fit for what they were looking to do, which was relaunching the next generation of community at Alteryx, which is a big initiative, internally it was a big change across the company. I had proven, documented, track record of being able to successfully manage communities prior to being hired at Alteryx. So, through content that I had written, announcements, programs that I had built for Lithium, I was able to use those as examples of the work that I had done. And I always kept a record of successful initiatives and the metrics and the milestones linked to online, documented proof of those things. So, I would just say keep that in mind as you’re writing out your announcements and detailing your programs, it’s not just for the community that you’re doing it. It’s not just for your company, but it’s also a record of what you’ve done in your online career. And keep that in your email, and your personal emails at work, ’cause when you’re handing back that laptop it’s all gone. [laughter]
14:13 Patrick O’Keefe: Right.
14:13 Julie Hamel: So, yeah, I document everything, partly because I have a bad memory, but also because I have been able to reuse those templates, whether it’s for event planning, making sure that I have all those check boxes from communication, to the logistics of a venue, and transport… All of those things and when it’s for community, who needs to be informed, stakeholders internally. So anyway, I’ve documented everything, which served both for myself to be able to reuse later, but also for my teammates who were able then to help out if I needed to go on vacation, if I just needed to delegate something, it was clear what the project plan was and what needed to be done and what the next steps were, and if it needed to be done again it could be reused as a template.
15:10 Patrick O’Keefe: How do you think that it is impacted by Alteryx having different offices in different locations? It seems like it might be better, because if they had just one office and everyone was there, then it’d be like everyone was together and you’re the one who’s not. But since there’s different offices in different locations, people are already maybe a little spread out, so that might make it a little easier, maybe there’s already some collaborative tools in place, or maybe at least people are used to using them to communicate. Do you find that to be true?
15:34 Julie Hamel: Yes. So we have employees in different offices across the world, some people are also working remotely. It was the case at Lithium, as well, and yes, we definitely have tools in place, instant messenger, we’re making big use of project management tools, project tracking tools just to make sure that everyone is on the same page as projects progress. Those tools become like the source of truth rather than having slews of emails and details getting lost in email chains. So yes, I’m in constant communication with my team specifically through Skype, and we use Asana as our project tracking. But remaining available through all of the channels that are used across the company for other departments and other people across the company as well is really important. But also, communicating expectations as far as availability I think is important as well just for your own sanity, setting some boundaries for yourself, respecting those limits, being responsive, when you are in you’re in, and you’re available wherever the employees may try to be reaching you from, whether it’s email or instant messenger or other tools that are available.
16:53 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah. I’m a big fan of overcommunication, which you mentioned, and the idea that I want people, not just in my professional life, in my personal life, to know that this is how I feel on these matters that impact them. So if there’s something that impacts them, if it’s your personal life, it’s, “Well, I have to pick this person up at this time.” Or, “I won’t be able to make dinner at that moment” or, whatever. And professionally it’s, “This project is due on this date.” Or, “This is what you can expect from me. This is exactly what I’m responsible for with this project, X, Y and Z.” That’s it. There’s no kind of gray area of, “Well, I might do that or I might do that.” No. “This is the stuff I’m doing, this is the stuff you’re doing.” I’m a big fan of that, to the point where I have phone calls to people and you know what? You’re getting a follow-up email with summarized points from that call. It doesn’t matter if you like it or not. [chuckle] That email, that documentation that you refer to, it’s coming. There’s gonna be a record of that call of what we talked about at the crucial points. And I don’t know if everyone appreciates that, but it’s definitely how I live my life and I think overall, I think people do appreciate it and I think it’s a good thing.
17:55 Julie Hamel: It is, and I do think that people really appreciate it because I don’t think that most people actually do that. I like to go into a meeting knowing what the agenda is, knowing what the goals are, what’s the outcome of this meeting, sending out meeting minutes so that everybody is on the same page. If you couldn’t attend the meeting, you don’t have an excuse to not be up to speed as far as what was discussed. It’s all there. If we’re working on a certain project, there are due dates, there are different stakeholders, there are different people who are involved in different steps. I like all of that to be clear. And so, I am a big fan of lists and, yes, over-communication.
18:35 Patrick O’Keefe: At Alteryx, you treat community as a product. What does that mean?
18:39 Julie Hamel: So, we invested quite a bit into community. We didn’t plan it as an initiative that would get started and stop once it was launched. It was really planned as an extension of our global community of customers and partners and employees. So, there is the community of people, but then the site itself, we do manage as a product with the strategy that we put in place, the roadmap and operational plan that we created, which spans across two years at this point. The stakeholders were involved, the UI and UX component to it, we do regular development cycles and monthly releases. So, we’re continuously improving on the user experience as well as the future set. We have milestones. And in the way, as well, that we market and promote it and how we pull feedback from the community. We gather their ideas on how we can keep improving the community experience and we try to work into our development cycles a little bit from what the community has shared with us, a little bit from new features that are available from the Lithium platform, customizations that we create. And we keep a version history of all of these things, very similar to a mobile app that you would download or a software that you have, so that people can stay up to speed on how we’re continuously improving the community.
20:12 Patrick O’Keefe: So, it’s really about the technology that powers the community. Again, not the people but the technology that powers it, the software, which I think is something that I wanna say a lot of community professionals have done for a long time. And so, community as a product might be a way of thinking about it that for some makes that easier to grasp or puts it more in their language to think of community as a product so that the software itself is this thing that you need to constantly keep people updated on, and you are pushing updates, and you need to communicate those updates like you would if you were responsibly updating a product, rather than pushing something out and not telling anyone. So, good communication is always a core component of community strategy, but to think of the software itself as a product and to treat it as its own thing might help some to better execute on those principles.
20:53 Julie Hamel: Yeah, absolutely. And you’re totally right on the communication point, and that’s a big key component of this, I think, not only communicating with the public community itself once a new feature is available, but maybe giving your super users a preview of what’s coming up as well as your employees, so that they’re aware of what changes are coming. So, that’s super important. Communicating with your stakeholders internally as well, before and after, giving an update on the changes that you made, what impact has it had on your metrics. Hopefully, you have some metrics that you’re looking to impact with the changes that you’re making.
21:31 Patrick O’Keefe: You recently merged the support and community teams at Alteryx. What drove that transition?
21:36 Julie Hamel: So, like I mentioned earlier, we really invested heavily, or Alteryx invested heavily, in community to provide a better customer and user experience across the board. And with the success of the community that we’ve had so far, and we’ve only been live since September 2015, but we’ve increased customer satisfaction levels, we’ve increased participation by 2,000%, which really is amazing. So, we’ve had amazing success. And the opportunity came along to bring in support to our vision. So, I think, most companies have this organized a little differently, maybe, where they have a huge support organization that reports to IT or operations or customer success. At Alteryx, we really set community as its own department from the get-go, reporting directly to our CEO. It was his dream and initiative to have us relaunch a world-class online community. And we’ve decided to do the opposite, where the parent is community and community doesn’t fold into support. We believe community is the future and that it should be at the heart of all departments in the company, and that all departments should have a hand in its success, and that we’re all responsible for providing a delightful customer experience.
23:10 Julie Hamel: And so, that’s why the merge happened. So, support now reports to Brian Oblinger, who’s our VP of community and support, and we’re really taking this opportunity to elevate community, bring support under our umbrella. And we’re looking to start sharing resources. So, hopefully, we’ll all benefit. I know we’ll all benefit from this change and we can all learn from each other, and really hope that we can start seeing more companies who adopt this model. It has been successful for us to have community on one end. We put operations and content right in the center. Terra, who’s our content manager, is working with our operations manager to keep everything running smoothly and make sure that we have the right content on there, and on the other hand, we have the support team who is both supporting our customers through phone, live chats, and support tickets, as well as on the community and in taking all of the great questions that they get through the support channels to help us create the content our customers are looking for.
24:18 Julie Hamel: Everything that we do is data-driven. We start all of our meetings reviewing dashboards and it’s going to be amazing to break down some of the barriers and have access to some of the data that we didn’t have access to previously that comes from the support organization and get a 360 view of what our customers’ journey really looks like. In a few months, we’re hoping that we’ll start having some better insights into the true velocity of community and how much money we’re saving, and we’re hoping to create a model with the tools that we have available to us and really share that back with the industry of community pros, and hopefully we can inspire some people to follow our model.
25:04 Patrick O’Keefe: More and more, we see community and support being together and I think it makes a lot of sense at an organization where community is at least to a large extent support-driven. More people are coming in asking question that has to do with supporting a product and then receiving an answer from the community. If you really want to tap into how valuable that is, you have to understand where people are going for help and all the places they’re going that you are paying for, right? And so, if they ask a question to the community and they also hit up a support desk or they make a phone call, the savings there is none. Right?
25:38 Julie Hamel: Yup.
25:38 Patrick O’Keefe: I mean, there’s not a whole lot of savings there because they channel shopped. They used multiple channels to get the answer. But if they just go to the community and you have determined that that’s cheaper, cost per answer, over the phone cost this and then you have this cost in the community and that’s cheaper, then you can say, okay, that’s deflection. But that’s a conversation we’ve had on the show recently with both Jay Baer, who wrote a great book about modern customer service called Hug Your Haters, and Allison Leahy of Fitbit and the idea of deflection, which is a popular metric in community ROI discussions. But it’s also a tough metric, because a lot of the companies don’t have the data unified between community and support. They don’t know when Frank Wright contacted them via the forums and then made a call, or then hit them on Twitter. And to be honest, it’s a challenge. It’s a tough challenge to unify the data, so a lot of it is estimated. But it almost feels like the Holy Grail in a way, of finding that call deflection ROI metric where community is unifying the data, because if you unify the data, hopefully, you have the definitive answer.
26:36 Julie Hamel: Yeah, and that really is the vision [chuckle] for us and our end goal and hopefully, we get there soon, but we’re now starting to have access to a lot of that data and the next step is going to be to go and poll data from our CRM system as well, so we can really get a true 360 view of the journey. When you’re coming in for a trial to when you’re being onboarded as a new customer and when you start having the need for more advanced materials and exercises to help you get to the next level and when you become an expert. Yeah, it’s really exciting and we’re really looking forward to diving into all of that data and gathering some insights and being able to share that with our company and share our findings as well with the community.
27:26 Patrick O’Keefe: Speaking of experts, while at Lithium, you developed the Lithium Stars program to recognize standout members of your community. How can B2B companies specifically go about recognizing the experts within their communities who are giving of their time to the community at large? Other people, who are making money, right? Everyone pays for the software but these people are in the community answering questions, helping other people who pay for the software. How can you recognize those people in a way that actually matters to them?
27:54 Julie Hamel: That’s a great question. In many ways, I see B2B and B2C recognition programs as being somewhat similar and having very similar components, but it is true that B2B communities are made up of professionals who take time out of their work day to come and answer questions from their peers and provide solutions and share their knowledge. So, while B2B and B2C recognition programs, I think, have very similar components, one thing that I have found through building the Lithium Stars program is that once you put an official program affiliation and by giving your experts an official status, it becomes much easier for them to add those honors to their resume and to use to grow their career, because they may not always be at the company that they are at at the time. They may very well move on.
28:56 Julie Hamel: It is very important to help sharpen their profiles, help recognize them as the individual, not just the brand, for the time and effort that they are spending helping out your community. When they leave their community one day, if they do, their experience will follow them and they will remember you. One of the things that we did at Lithium and that we’re starting to do at Alteryx as well is build this official program where we recognize our members’ experts visually in the community, so it’s easy for other community members to figure out, okay, who’s an expert? Who is a role model? Who has a community that I can go and check out as a good example of how to run a successful community, so on and so forth, who will be able to help me. Giving them an individual community official status that they can use, maybe a badge, something visual that they can stamp on their resume, but also recognizing them through blog contents, interviews, where you highlight and you showcase their expertise and all of the work that they have done in your community, or maybe even outside of your community, and the successes that they’ve had.
30:12 Julie Hamel: I think another way to do that is to make sure to educate your company about your experts as well, and their roles, so that they know and understand that they are taking time out of their day to help out your company. They’re helping spread the love for your business, they’re taking time to provide feedback for your product, for your services. That relationship should totally be mutually beneficial, and recognition goes such a long way. If their name comes up, if they’re in town for a meeting, employees should know who they are and they really should treat them like rock stars. Let’s face it, they deserve it. So it’s recognition, but I think it’s also rewarding them.
30:57 Julie Hamel: And tchotchkes are nice, and schwag is nice, but really, what the B2B customers are looking for, B2B experts, and even B2C as well, is to have a direct line to your company. So connect them with stakeholders internally. They are the experts who have a lot of experience and knowledge to share on how your products work and the services that you provide, what doesn’t work, so I think it really is key to connect them with the right people, not just copying and pasting the feedback that they have. It will mean a lot to them. And keep them updated on what’s coming up as well, whether it’s company initiatives, depending on what you are allowed to share or not, changes in the products, maybe allow them to beta test or preview changes that are coming, allow them to have a voice and really impact your business in a positive manner, because chances are the feedback that they have, maybe not your entire community but probably the majority of your community will have those same suggestions and feedback.
32:05 Patrick O’Keefe: I really like the idea of making recognition tied to the individual and not the company. I think it’s something that maybe gets missed sometimes because US Steel doesn’t care if it wins an award for [chuckle] nicest integration of whatever. It doesn’t matter. It’s another award in the dumpster, right? But an individual at US Steel, Bob Martin, Susie Frankenstein, these are great names I’m coming up with. Very recent, very real names. [chuckle] But it’ll mean something to them and they can put it on their resume, like you said, and they can hang their hat on it, and they have this accomplishment that they did something that was recognized as the best use of this, or a better use of this. So if they go to a job where they need to use that tool or a similar tool, they’ll be able to say that, “I’ve done this and I was recognized for it.”
32:46 Patrick O’Keefe: So it’s personally valuable to them. And people make the decisions on how to spend the money at the company, on what tools to use. And it’s not the company that makes the decision, it’s individuals at the company, so when you honor those people or recognize those people in a good faith way, it increases their likelihood of being loyal to you. I remember I gave this talk at CNN, and it was to a room of different people from CNN, people who worked in community and social media, maybe some on-air talent, I forget, but at CNN, they’re allowed to have CNN in their Twitter handle. They’re allowed to use it in their Twitter handle if they want, or at least they were then. And so my pitch to them on why they should engage with people online and on Twitter and on various social media platforms is that yes, it’s beneficial to CNN. Yep, you know you having more people interested in what you say allows you to drive more traffic to CNN’s website. Very true. It’s beneficial to CNN.
33:33 Patrick O’Keefe: But the bigger picture is that it’s beneficial to you, because one day you won’t be at CNN anymore and you won’t have CNN in your Twitter handle, and you won’t be able to latch onto that bigger brand and say, “This is why I’m authoritative,” in whatever it is. And so you should take advantage of it now to build up as many people as you can that really love what you do, because they’ll follow you from CNN to wherever it is that you go next. No matter how big that brand is or how big that company is, if you have those people who really believe in you, then by its very nature your work and your personality, whatever it is, is more valuable because you have those supporters. So take that opportunity now and build those people up, and make it about yourself. Call it selfish if you want, but recognize that there’s an individual value to you. So I really do believe in that general idea of making it about the individual, because it just makes a whole lot of sense, for all the reasons we’ve discussed.
34:25 Julie Hamel: Yeah, and it is worth, when we think about experts in the community, sometimes you only think about looking into your online community to find those experts. It is worth broadening your scope and asking internally as well. You may have people who are not involved in your online community directly, but are active on social. They are super active in blogging about your product or your company, or whatever it is.
34:55 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah. Traffic referers are still a thing. [chuckle]
34:56 Julie Hamel: Yeah. Exactly. [chuckle]
35:00 Patrick O’Keefe: In the age of social media, traffic refers still exist. You can go see where they came from and say, “Oh, my gosh, that’s a lot of traffic from that blog.”
35:05 Julie Hamel: Yeah, and it could be people who are taking time to lead user groups, or who are taking time to make reference calls for you. So there are so many different types of activities that you can take a look at, and you may not even be aware that your customers are taking time out of their day to do all of these things for you. So it’s really worth asking internally, “So what are our customers doing for us, and how can we recognize them for the work that they’re doing?” And it was one of the reasons we built the Lithium Stars program with different levels, because we didn’t want to recognize only the online community experts, people who are active in participating in the online community, but we also wanted to recognize the influencers and then just people who are out there doing great things and helping spread the love for the company. So it’s just something to keep in mind as you’re thinking about maybe building out or growing your recognition program.
36:03 Patrick O’Keefe: Julie, thank you so much for joining me today.
36:05 Julie Hamel: Thank you so much for having me. Love the show and looking forward to the future guests as well.
36:09 Patrick O’Keefe: We have been talking with Julie Hamel, senior manager of community and social media at Alteryx. You can check out their community at community.alteryx.com. Previously, she was the global community manager at Lithium. Visit the Lithium Community at community.lithium.com. Finally, follow Julie on Twitter @juliehamel. For the transcript from this episode plus highlights and links that we mentioned, please visit communitysignal.com. You can find me on Twitter @patrickokeefe. Community Signal is produced by Karn Broad. We’ll see you next time.
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