On Community Signal, we talk to community professionals across all industries, from gaming, to healthcare, to photography, and more. And while our respective communities might convene over different topics, the tactics and tools that we employ to foster healthy communities are largely the same. In this episode, Craig Dalrymple shares how his community career started in gaming and how that knowledge has carried him into other industries.
Patrick and Craig also get on the topic of customer success, the rise of roles in this space, and how community professionals can have an impact. But no matter what team you’re on or what your title is, what’s most important is that you feel empowered in your role and that you have the tools to succeed. As Craig says (8:48): “Can I do something here? Can I move the needle? Can I take this community and make it happier and bind it better with this product that they’re getting together around?”
They also discuss:
- Balancing being yourself and a community manager in your online presence
- Finding opportunities to surprise and delight (potential) customers outside of your community
- When your employer wants metrics they won’t adequately give you access to
Adapting your discipline to your company’s org structure (7:55): “I’ve always tried to think like a chameleon. Whenever you go into a company, they’re going to put you where they think you belong. … This is just another version of that question of where does the community person belong? For me, it’s can you have a satisfactory job? Because if you don’t have a satisfactory job, in my opinion, if you’re not happy working, that’s the time to question your job. But if you can have a job that you’re satisfied with and have the impact you want, it doesn’t matter where they put you.” -Craig Dalrymple
Determining your company’s success language (21:09): “I’ve always taught people to figure out what the language of success is at [your workplace]. It doesn’t matter what it was in your last job, it’s where you’re at right now. What does this company respond to? What resonates and gets everybody to go, ‘Oh, that’s important.'” -Craig Dalrymple
About Craig Dalrymple
Craig Dalrymple got his start in online communities when he helped configure Confer as a class discussion tool for his alma mater, Western Michigan University. Since then, Craig has served in the US Army and later found his way back into gaming communities by way of Sony, Zynga, and more.
- Craig Dalrymple on LinkedIn
- Sony, Zynga, and The Project Management Institute, Craig’s former employers
- Gabe Graziani of Ubisoft on Community Signal
- Zack Cooper of Ubisoft on Community Signal
- Joe King on Community Signal
- Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer
[0:00] Announcer: You’re listening to Community Signal, the podcast for online community professionals. Tweet with @communitysignal as you listen. Here’s your host, Patrick O’Keefe.
[0:24] Patrick O’Keefe: Hello and thank you for listening to Community Signal. We’re talking with Craig Dalrymple about community people in customer success roles, the metrics trap, and earn ed community.
I’d like to take a moment to thank our incredibly supportive patrons on Patreon, including Rachel Medanic, Jules Standen, and Marjorie Anderson. The support means a lot to us here at the show and if you’d like to join them, please visit communitysignal.com/innercircle.
Craig Dalrymple got his start in community back in 1990 after his philosophy 101 professor decided that the class should use a mainframe platform called Confer as a discussion tool.
A small number of the class did, all signing up with a pseudonym intuitively and quickly veering away from talk related to the class. This led to a friend of Craig’s asking him to help administrate a Confer build for the university as a whole, and somehow they got it approved by the computer science department launching that winter. He’s spent time building communities for Sony, Zynga, and the Project Management Institute.
Craig, welcome to the show.
[1:20] Craig Dalrymple: Hi Patrick, thanks.
[1:23] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s so good to have you on. You know, I’ve talked a little bit about your background just a moment ago from your bio, but you know, you got into gaming and you join communities about gaming and you moderated and then managed and then wrote about gaming and got hired by a gaming company in a community role, which is really not an uncommon community origin story, especially in the gaming space. So, why’d you leave gaming?
[1:47] Craig Dalrymple: I wanted to see what else I could do. I was very fortunate to get into gaming and fortunate to go through both Sony Online and Zynga and help some friends with startups where it’s like a consulting thing. Frankly, I built a team at Zynga that I was really proud of, a team of peers, a team of employees, people I was mentoring and also working ideas off of and having great relationships just on what should community be and how should it run. And I wanted to see if I could do it in other places, other industries. I’m kind of a nerd so, you know, I do like science, I do like tech. Silicon Valley makes it very easy to find science/tech companies to give it a shot at.
So that was the initial impetus, just to try to do something similar related where my skills could be valued but in a different industry slice, different customers, just to see what it’s like to be in another kind of community where the gathering point isn’t entertainment.
[2:35] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s hard to ask for self-assessment but how have your skills sort of translated?
[2:39] Craig Dalrymple: I’d say they translate well, you learn one failure at a time. Honestly, coming out of gaming and going into something like Project Management Institute, where the community is project managers that are interested in advancing their career and they touch on a huge range of industries across the world but none of them are entertainment. A lot of the core community fundamentals still apply about giving people a place with clear direction as to what the place is used for, how to interact. In this case, a more professional environment and the why we’re here becomes important but then on the far side of it, one of the keys for me with community is having a tie to production in the software space with the people who do the thing that your community’s bound by and that translates really, really well.
You know, with Project Management Institute, those people were looking to get a certification, say they were qualified, which helps change their career trajectory.
[3:23] Patrick O’Keefe: And gaming is one industry, there’s many industries, but have you noticed any difference between say, the opportunities in gaming versus the opportunities outside of gaming, sort of the upward mobility, the greater opportunities for something bigger or more senior? I mean, I know a lot of people in gaming and talked to a lot of people in gaming and one thing that, you know, I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times and I’ve heard before is sort of this, I don’t know, a ceiling in a sense of sort of how far up they can go or how replaceable they are because everyone loves the game or plays the game or wants to do that thing.
So, there’s sort of an undervaluing of community professionals in the gaming space. To some extent, there are obviously many senior people, director level people, there are companies with massive community departments that have had a couple of people from Ubisoft on this show, for example, but there’s a prevalent feeling that seems to be a consistent theme with people in gaming that I talked to. Have you noticed any difference being outside of this space?
[4:16] Craig Dalrymple: I think people have the same struggles with this as a profession. It’s really about where you are and how much they get it. Obviously, in organization like Project Management Institute, they’re a nonprofit, members of the organization, there’s been huge on community and rightfully so their community is their lifeline to success as an organization.
I think we’re all worried about our career track. In the last 15 years, everything about the internet itself has changed let alone the internet it used to be just, “Hey, the internet.” That was a big thing, and what is the community manager? Now, I’d argue we’re to the point where it’s, every company has a sense of what it might be. That may or may not be what you’re used to or may not be what you saw in another industry. When you look at community is community marketing is community product developers, community customer support, reflection, or customer success, this newer thing that’s all about empowering the customer that I’ve seen multiple companies do and sometimes they have community people on it. I think because they’re still fungible. Everybody in any industry space is like, “What’s my next step? How do I get to the where I want to be for my career not just raw money, but just from the I love strategy, I like technical and get down in the trenches, but I love strategy and operations and community department which if there’s no department, if you’re a solo person, it’s easy to set strategy and get the team muscled up behind it because you’re the team, but the depth of any tactical deployment on it is low because you’re the team.”
For someone like me, I’m looking for opportunities, when I look, for space where it is going to be building something bigger, setting up a strategy that plays out long term over multiple, multiple, multiple product cycles and really orients the voice of the customer into the product in a way where the development team and the customer are partners.
I learned that first in gaming, it’s really easy to say, “We want to do rate zone or this gun that shoots too hard or doesn’t shoot well enough,” and take that to a development team and go, “What’s reality? How did we design these game elements?” That’s another entirely take software as a service and go these customers are gated in their business because they like this feature. That common thread for me is that connection to the company giving it and wanting the customer there.
You have to fight for seat at the table. That’s what I’ve seen in every company, in every industry. Not fight resistance, but just the relevance question. Especially outside of gaming. Gaming, I think you can expect every executive and CEO to go, “Yes, we get community, we want that that’s important,” no matter what they already know that. How it might be executed from company by company might be different outside of that space.
[6:32] Patrick O’Keefe: You might be the first person to go in layoffs.
[6:34] Craig Dalrymple: Hopefully not. Outside of gaming, I’ve seen a number of companies where it’s we get this we know it’s important. You’ve heard a lot of things about it, but we’re not sure what we want of it. Tell us. Tell us what we can do. Tell us how we’re going to do with, how this affects our actual business.
[6:51] Patrick O’Keefe: I’m a big believer in talent from the gaming space. We met through a reference call that you gave for someone that I was considering her role that I ended up hiring. Before I made that hire, I don’t know if it was that round or another round, but I had offered the job and gone the distance was someone who had been laid off from a gaming role, who I liked quite a bit.
I almost had him, right down to the last minute and actually talked about this on the show, his name’s Joe King. He was on a recent episode. We talked about this on the show. How could you, well I had you, why’d you do that to me, the allure of the gaming opportunity, I guess it was just so great. There’s a lot of really good talent and I do really believe that it translates. Good to hear that you’ve also found that to be true.
I want to go back to something you just said a moment ago about customer success and community people in customer success roles, something that I’ve seen happening with some inquiry, I don’t want to say it’s a massive boom, but I’ve seen it happen with a sort of increasing consistency, I guess. What is your take on that? What is your take on putting a community-minded person, sort of community-centric mind in a customer success role?
[7:55] Craig Dalrymple: I’ve always tried to think like a chameleon, whenever you go into a company they’re going to put you where they think you belong, your discipline. So that’s a question of, should I be here this– We had that argument with marketing, PR, development, this is just another version of that question of where does the community person belong? For me, it’s, can you have a satisfactory job? Because if you don’t have a satisfactory job, in my opinion, if you’re not happy working there’s a time to question your job, but if you can have a job that you’re satisfied with and having the impact you want it doesn’t matter where they put you.
It’s kind of like title fighting. I’ve had the director title and right now I’m head of online community. I once told a CEO who I was working for at a late-night event it’s like asking that kind of question. I’m like, “Frankly, I’d stand and face a pile of poo and walk back in tomorrow, I do my job regardless if I’m happy and paid well.”
A job is a job and what takes it to the next level, for me, is a combination of obviously compensation, but really “Can I do something here? Can I move the needle? Can I take this community and make it happier and bind it better with this product that they’re getting together around from the gaming sense, what certification path even where they go.” Where they go, “That was worth the journey and I want to stay and I want to be involved.” When you think about customer success, to me, that’s like this newer thing that everybody’s getting excited about and you can back it up, which is good. If that’s where the company thinks community needs to be I’m not against it until you get in there and figure out whether or not community is going to be community or something else. That’s when you start questioning it, which hopefully, if you’re interviewing with a company like that, you’re like, why did you choose to put this position here? What are your expectations? What metrics would you rate this against? How was it community person and customer success different than a customer success person? What expectations are changed, so you can really gut check that company and go through the understand what they’re doing or did they just read a blog somewhere and decide this priority.
[9:41] Patrick O’Keefe: One of the reasons that intrigues me is because for the right company, frankly, for a lot of companies I think, I love this idea of community powered customer success. Back when I was looking for a job I pitched multiple companies that I really respected and their CEO is about the idea of taking customer success and making it a community-powered effort in the sense that not just Q&A, not just a forum, but the idea that the community knowledge is distilled into your best practices, your knowledge bases, your manuals, your handbooks, whatever it is.
If you operate on a B2B, which is both these companies were B2B, that really I pitched the hardest on, both B2B companies, people that use these tools to make more money. Then the idea is that if you can bring the people together that use the tool and put them in a smart room and ask the right questions, and allow them to share knowledge, that they’re going to know the product as well or better than you are and how it works and how you can make it successful. If you can take the knowledge from the community and put that into a, I like to look at it as like sort of a college-level guide, a college-level education and being successful with your product that’s always updated, never out of date, the latest insights are always in it and always drawn from the community. Then you can reset what it means to be a beginner. The level of beginner changes, the minimum level of success, the failure, so to speak, of your product, are higher. Even the failures fail at a higher level than they would otherwise and frankly, I’ve seen maybe a couple of companies really go hard at that, but I really feel like it’s a really– I would be interested in that type of role or that type of challenge where you put that in the hands of a community-minded person and, of course, there’s other elements of customer success, whether that’s account management, or that sort of one to one hand holding with the higher-level clients. It’s just such a powerful idea and I like to see it done more.
[11:28] Craig Dalrymple: It’s a great filter to get customers to the point where they need the one on one hand service just to raise the bar for them. It’s everything you talked about. It’s just here’s the knowledge here’s the current knowledge someone comes in and says I’m just getting started, what about this?
And it’s like, “Oh no, no, no, no, no, here, here’s this books worth of knowledge you need to absorb. These are the things you should do this will make you successful, right down to pricing technique.
Working in tech, you always have somebody on the product team who’s playing with pricing and what will get a person to pull the trigger at what rate with what package. Even in video games, like I play Fortnite with my wife, and it’s if you buy this, you get this skin and this much money and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. They’re doing the same thing. It’s way smarter than the company can be because they’re in the guts the software, B2B, using it.
[12:09] Patrick O’Keefe: That’s awesome. That’s really powerful. We ask all of our guests for their social media handles if they have them. You told me before this show that, “Sony Online Entertainment had its community team go very public as Facebook launched, that you connected to customers, had fun, made mistakes and slowly got better at being an individual with a social presence,” but now you pretty much avoid them. Talk about that a little bit. What did it mean to “go very public”?
[12:36] Craig Dalrymple: At that time and I don’t know if you played any of the Sony aligned family of games, Everquest, Star Wars Galaxies– [crosstalk]
[12:41] Patrick O’Keefe: I don’t think I did. PC gaming I just skipped a whole couple of generations.
[12:48] Craig Dalrymple: It was Sony. The other thing was Sony Online and they were nested at that time under Sony Pictures. A gamer looked at it and went, “Well that’s Sony, I have Playstation expectations, I have my record player expectations [crosstalk]” all this stuff. Sony’s great and I was excited but it meant they were these big men in suits that were faceless and easy to attack. The company didn’t come off as very human despite the fact that there were just real game developers working really hard to try to make something people love.
When Facebook opened up out of the college space into the normal world, we were tasked to go in there and make a profile as ourselves acknowledging that we were from Sony instead of using pseudonyms. Instead of posting as a handle and having a red developer name on the forum, I was Craig Dalrymple, you get to see me, you get to see my family, my crazy mom stuff, the real person. The thought was humanize the company by showing that there are humans that work there. We were very, very public in that. There was no PR class to guide us on how to use social media. No one really had the ability to put together anything that made sense at the time anyway. It was just be yourselves, be genuine, show that you love these games and that when things go wrong you hate it too, which is the easiest marching orders ever lined up behind period but then you’re extremely visible on the internet for a company and everything’s your problem too.
I think we tracked this, the reaction against Sony in particular. Sony was great, I worked with just amazing bunch of people that have since proliferated to all kinds of corners of gaming. It was like, “New bells and new whistles. What does this do?” You play on the internet, you learn things, you play as a member of this company, they have fun with it. When I moved to Zynga I made a pseudonym, a fake Facebook profile for Farmville which was the product I was on and just played as a person.
That game so many people connected to get ponies and horses through the Facebook sharing that I ran up against the 5,000 person wall as friends. That was what drove them eventually, not me, but that problem to develop personalities as pages instead of individuals for actors and actresses to get all these follows. Again, you’re right there in the thick of things and then people find out invariable that you work for the company and then anything goes wrong, everyone’s calling you, which is bad but it’s also good because then you can say, “Hey man, we’re cool, right? Okay.” “Give us 20 minutes they’re working on it. It’s not the end of the world, it’s a pony.” “It’s not the end of the world it’s an EverQuest quest line that we’re fixing. No problem, we got you.” That was the push from Sony and when I went to Zynga, I just changed my name.
[15:10] Patrick O’Keefe: They tell you to go create a Facebook account basically. That’s what it sounds like. Who is connecting with you? Do you put Sony as your employer and people search for you? That’s pre-groups I would assume. What sort of a mandate of like, “Who are you talking to? Are you searching the site for public posts more or less and going and engaging with them?
[15:29] Craig Dalrymple: No. There were not single tactical thought beyond register and be yourself. We connected to each other intuitively.
[15:35] Patrick O’Keefe: How did people find you?
[15:36] Craig Dalrymple: We connected to the press. We were in relationships with gaming press and talking to them and, “Hey, we’re doing an update here’s what you need to know” The normal kind of stuff you do to work that relationship. Sony had us working with the fan sit press specifically because they were different than the more formal marketing type of Game Informer Magazine, let’s consider getting a commercial in front of a movie type of stuff.
This was more you run this site and have tens of thousands of our customers coming and looking for what is the new questline, what do you get, is it for my character. Those were considered community relationships. We connected with them and then that’s the press, I was press. Once that gets out off it goes. I was there still active in, not the community, I built up my own site when I was a blogger because I rolled that away for obvious reasons.
It’s still present in the other ones so when Facebook came out and some of the other hardcore MMO communities is like, “Hey Facebook. Let’s see what we’re doing here.” I just shared naturally with them because they were my gamer friends. From there it steamrolled.
[16:35] Patrick O’Keefe: That makes sense. The reason you avoid them now is because– The unspoken thing here is it was overwhelming? It was too much? It was a distraction or what’s the unsaid thing there?
[16:44] Craig Dalrymple: It’s all philosophy. I wasn’t getting anything out of it that I needed. Anyone would think that especially the first decade of social media it’s all these bells and whistles of look what I can do on fun pictures and the app. I went through a divorce in an era of social media, which could be an explosion. That was quite an interesting experience. But you get to the point where it’s like, “Why am I dedicating so much of my time to this instead of personal hobbies, professional development, people in my life.” I’m in California. My mother, my brother, and my sister are all in Michigan. It’s powerful. I can still connect to them and not use the telephone. I can still have a meaningful exchange, share pictures and all that but all the same, like Labor Day weekend, my wife and I have board games run all day Saturday and had 15 different friends pass through the house to play games. I’d rather do that than spend it on my phone.
[17:29] Patrick O’Keefe: Fair enough. Another thing we talk about in our questionnaire is community measurement and what do you watch? What do you care about? What’s the metrics that stands out for you? One thing you mention that intrigued me was the metric of new customers sourced from the community adopting the product faster than someone who comes in from a paid marketing or a sales channel. I want to talk about that a little bit. How have you measured that one and did it make you friends on the marketing and sales teams? [laughs]
[17:53] Craig Dalrymple: Initially the house basically with popsicle sticks, hot glue, and some duct tape, you’re trying to get a stats team to give you time. If you’ve ever worked with the stats team that’s looking at analytics and all the information flooding in from all the sources, that time is very precious, everybody wants it because you can’t argue with data. So, can I get a cohort of people that have never touched the community space and then the cohort of these people that have and then do a side by side? No. [chuckles] Why? Because the CEO has got a project, right?
I had to start investing in data management, what was going on there, what could I pull automatically on my own from. And this really began at Zynga, I’d been there for years but at the time the most powerful things I ever do was build this stats monster. That was beautiful data. I was really, it was a B2B product to other companies. I learned how to get some of the data out and start working at correlational data, correlational causality. If this then that causal. If this, hey, look this tends to happen a lot too, correlational.
I bought my lunch ticket trying to use correlational data to show things. I think with Zynga it was when we say, “Hey, this is a new thing in the product, a new crop, a new horse. There’s a lift in the purchase.” You could put a bridge from a post on Facebook into the data because Facebook has a cut line that they still manage, because that’s their data but we could show a correlational lift which then gets attention and goes, “Oh, you can make money happen.” You can make product success happen because it was nothing evil about it. Any companies make money right down to your favorite indie developer. They’re not getting paid, they are not going to do it very long.
That never felt bad but it was like, “Oh, we can cause a lift. Okay, can we put new wriggle to this?” Company to company it’s approved, everyone agrees they want to have but it’s very difficult to chase because there’s not a lot of evidence out there. You can’t pull up studies and case studies from others go lower that really push over the executive team and having to go, “Absolutely, do this. Let’s fund it. You have to show it.”
I started saying it’s all popsicle sticks, hot glue, and duct tape. It still is, I think, in general in the community knowing very many people that I talked to were like, “Oh, yes, I have direct access to the analytics team. We post stuff daily. We can actually isolate a cohort of people and prepare this and prove all that.” I think there’s a lot of headspace. Again, when you think about where does community go there is a lot of companies that want to understand it in that light so they support as we become more and more of a data-driven world.
[20:09] Patrick O’Keefe: You’re hitting on something that I think is a pinpoint for a lot of people which is that there may be things you want from a data perspective and there may even be things that other people that you need to prove it to. Say they want or they would like this or, yes, that would prove it to me but there’s no support to actually get that data. There’s no support, whether it’s a team, whether it’s a system, whether it’s a tool, whether it’s collection of that data. It’s a trap, right? It’s kind of a trap because you want that and they want that and they say they want more and they want you to prove it but it’s like a box with a stick, right, and an apple and then if you yank the stick in the box falls on you, when you go in there because you can’t do it. Your access to the data is limited or the data is not there.
I think that’s one of the more helpless scenarios that I think community professionals find themselves in is when they’re told that someone wants this data and yet there is no support to actually allow them to possess that data.
[21:09] Craig Dalrymple: I’ve always taught people to figure out what the language of success is at the place you are. It doesn’t matter what it was in your last job it’s where you’re at right now. What does this company responds to? What resonates and gets everybody to go, “Oh, that’s important.” They’re succeeding by our key KPI or whatever. Once you hit that it’s it’s like motor and steel but it’s a political job. You’re not manipulating people, but you’re proving your relevance, and then you go, “Hey, I’ve got this greater relevance than I did last week, when I asked her last month or last quarter, I want to ask for a bit more than you gave me, I’m making the same ask and you’re going to tell me, “No.” I want a softer no and softer no.” It gets to the point where is a time-based investment. I was, for example, at Zynga for four years, built a phenomenal team of people that have spread out there helping a number of companies, and I couldn’t be more proud of them, because they’re all better than me, but it got to the point where some product teams would start with the product managers designing a feature and go, “Have you talked to community? Have you consulted with these people?” Why? Because they’re successful, and they know the customer, they know what makes the things that matter. Good. Because no one wants to release a feature and have it fail, whether it’s a B2B feature, a video game thing, whatever, no one wants to be that artist that puts out a piece of artwork, and everybody goes, “Well, that sucks.” The Sonic the Hedgehog movie problem. That hurt somebody’s feelings, even today.
By proving relevance, we got to the point where we were at the table and had a whole seat, so then we could start going, “Hey, what if we had more data to prove this? You’re seeing the left, you’re involving us in the conversation, we’ve proven in your language, why this is good. Now, I want a little more from you, so we can really prove it and start passing that to other teams. It’s still not easy. I never felt like I got everything I wanted from anybody, and I probably never will, because I want to know everything in the data.
As a community person, I’ve become very, very mindful of the data. I want to know why. I want to know what the data story is that I can tell the company and operationally strong. I love a well run efficient community machine because crap comes up all the time, and if you have a team that’s well run, they can adapt to the crap. It’s like a win-win because now I have relevance of getting more of my request. At least with that, and when the crap hits the fan, we’re dealing with it so efficiently that leadership never has a moment of question. I hope that makes sense.
[23:17] Patrick O’Keefe: No, it did. It made a lot of sense. Right now, you are thinking a lot about earned community, your term. You described this as, “the community that you don’t control as they aren’t on your platform it’s impossible to pretend that the communities you build on your owned community platforms are the only voices that matter. The rise of social media has made that clear.” I love this subject. Tell me where your head’s at.
[23:41] Craig Dalrymple: This has always bothered me since the Sony days, since before I even went into the gaming industry as an employee, the notion that Electronic Arts will pick on somebody, instead of a community, they do a good job with their community space, people can interact, there’s a self-help side, a formal help side, an interactions place, a place where the developers have a voice to the customer, all this great stuff, but there are a lot of the EA customers in other places talking to EA, and not just Reddit, but heck, Reddit is a perfect example. When something goes wrong with an EA game, Reddit blows up.
EA can’t forcibly moderate Reddit, EA can’t pick up the phone and get Reddit to do anything technically. But there’s no promises, and if you only listen to the voices, who live in your walled garden, which I probably said my company has, you’re making a critical mistake, because you’re listening to the people that care enough to tell you positive or negative, what’s going on directly, which is they’re going out of their way to participate, which is great when they love you. It’s actually great when they’re really, really pissed off because they’re telling you what’s going on.
It hit me well over a decade ago, I guess I wrote a blog that was one I was most proud of, which is when Microsoft Xbox was talking about that whole skip retail thing, which now DLC big game in digital download content, that was 49.99 for the box of empty promises, which tells you how long ago that was, because that was when you paid 50 bucks for a game, but it was like, “Here’s this thing with nothing in it an echo chamber and ecosystem I built where the people that love it are there telling you they love it. But there’s this guy in a Ford Mustang website who plays the EA games or pick a company, the Sony games, loves them, and we’ll see stuff there. It’s like, “You play this Sony game? You play PlayStation?” “Yes, I play PlayStation, but this sucks.” Or, “I really really love it.” As a community person, when I’m dealing with people and trying to, “Hey, we’re listening, but really listening.” I don’t want to know you love it. I know you hear my cat, right? [laughter] [crosstalk]
[25:34] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s fine. It’s just funny. Please don’t let that interrupt you.
[25:38] Craig Dalrymple: I don’t like people who say I love it or I hate it unless they then immediately follow with, “And here’s why,” and these aren’t communities, these spaces you don’t control where people are living the rest of their lives, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, you name it. If you’re not paying attention with something real with more than just a passive listening tool, that’s keyword hacking. You can miss a hurricane to be topical, you could miss something coming that would have been easy to see and start responding to, and getting ahead up, which doesn’t mean controlling. It might be like an easy path before it turns into right front-page material, or how many brilliant ideas that people have about our product where they’re like, “I wish the software is a service that Craig’s company is doing.” It is one little thing that’s literally two hours of some programmer’s time and a designer spends an hour on how the UX is going to be changed. You left 3% to the bottom line for the company because that one voice represents so many people that you won’t see. Also, figuring it out, after all this time, but it’s something that right now I’m very empowered to actually go after, which is very, very exciting.
[26:40] Patrick O’Keefe: For some communities, I’ve seen in the past, they could even charge for some level of access because it is really valuable. One of the things that I love about this sort of thing– I will say first, Quora is a good example to me, not apples to apples, but one of the problems with Quora is that all of these people show up answering questions related to what their product does, and they include the mention of the product, and they just okay. It’s really, I don’t know what the term would be, cluttered up the site. A site that at its best has and had incredible answers. Answers written by people who know what the heck they’re talking about and are spending time answering things. At its worst, it’s just five answers from people who have related businesses and they include a link and the moderation isn’t strong enough to deal with it.
That’s always a turnoff to me. I don’t know how other consumers see that, but when I see that, I think, “I will not do business with these people if I can help it, unless I have to.” It’s one of those things where a lot of people think they can get it right and say, “Oh, yes, I’m going to go participate. It’s relevant.” Yes, sure it is. Of course, the link to your website’s relevant. One of the things that flies to mind is just this idea that the thing I love about this sort of thing so much is that although the opportunity is clearly there, it is still not done by most people, to the point where even now in 2019, there is a great opportunity for you to surprise and delight people by being present in forums.
There was a book released like three years ago by my friend Jay Baer called Hug Your Haters. For that book, he did research with Edison Research and he talked to people about where they got their answers online from companies, online review sites, customer support, directly, Twitter, Facebook, and forums. One of the places where people were most surprised to get help, they expected it on Twitter. By that time, they expect a response on Twitter. If they don’t get a response on Twitter, they’re disappointed. They expect it, but they don’t necessarily expect you to show up in a forum.
Even three years later, I think that’s still true. People still do not expect you to pop up, be good, satisfy their answer and really surprise and delight them. You have that opportunity there to make a difference and to stand out in the competition. Really not that many people are taking advantage of it now.
[28:50] Craig Dalrymple: It’s not like it’s hard. It’s like going to a barbecue and the difference between, “Oh, these are a bunch of people–” These are my kids and it’s the Cub Scouts annual summer barbecue. If you show up really just to pass talk to people, talk about what they do, talk about what you do when you’re asked. Just like, “Oh, Craig was great, glad we got to see him and meet this kid’s dad. Everything’s wonderful. Glad his kids’s involved with the program.” Versus the person who shows up and they are passing up business non-stop and trying to MLM everybody on their latest whatever.
Online is not that different from the real world. Integrity matters, especially in those spaces that aren’t yours. In your own space, you control the party, so you can do questionable things, although I would still argue never. It’s someone else’s place the minute your integrity is in question you’re gone. And everybody wants to automate it and robo answer everything and your, “Whoa you asked this question in our answer space, speaking, of course, final answers. Was it this question? Here’s some other stuff people have asked versus the space where you can’t do that, you can’t force in codes and plugins and all these things to automate it. You have to genuinely be a part of it and go, “Hey, we care about you. We totally do. You mind a conversation?”
[29:53] Patrick O’Keefe: Craig, it has been a pleasure to have you on the show. I think that’s a great place to wrap it up and I appreciate you taking the time to chat with us.
[30:01] Craig Dalrymple: Thank you for having me Patrick, it’s been wonderful.
[30:03] Patrick O’Keefe: We’ve been talking with Craig Dalrymple. For the transcript from this episode plus highlights and links that we mentioned, please visit communitysignal.com. Community Signal is produced by Karn Broad and Carol Benovic-Bradley is our editorial lead. Until next time.
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