Online Community for a Funeral Insurance Company
That is just one of many communities that Kirsten Wagenaar has helped build, in her 8+ year career in online community. As the founder of CMNL, the organization for Dutch community pros, she has been among the leaders in growing the community industry in the Netherlands. We also discuss:
- The reasonable approach to community ROI
- How client expectations for community tools are sometimes disconnected from reality
- Kirsten’s advice for starting your own community association
Our Podcast is Made Possible By…
If you enjoy our show, please know that it’s only possible with the generous support of our sponsor: Open Social.
“[With clients,] we’re very keen on having people in the organization become community managers. [We’re sharing] the skill of community management and the understanding that we’re just consultants, and we are there for a short period and then they have to take it over from us. They have to understand that they need to implement the whole idea of community.” -@kirstenwagenaar
“What caught my eye was the nine months to a year before you say that it is viable to measure the bottom line return on your efforts. I like that because it’s grounded in reality. It represents a patient approach which is what community needs.” -@patrickokeefe
“[If you’re worried about starting a community in a crowded niche,] go to your regular supermarket and see how many soft drinks there are. You can look at the same for communities, how many communities for kittens are there? I’m sure you can make a new community for kittens that is very relevant to the people that you invite. It’s all about finding your niche. Finding something that’s relevant to people. Finding those couple of people around you that find it relevant so you’re not on your own. There’s always a place to start something new. You just have to do it really well.” -@kirstenwagenaar
About Kirsten Wagenaar
Even though Kirsten Wagenaar studied psychology, she has been working in the field of community management since 2009. Starting as a community manager for the Chamber of Commerce, Kirsten became a consultant for a social media agency, KREM. During which time, she founded the association for community management in the Netherlands, CMNL. When KREM merged with a larger digital company, eFocus, Kirsten became a social lead. But, as she wasn’t interested in pursuing a career in social media, Kirsten started freelancing as a community consultant in 2013 (under the name Waves & Wires).
Then, in January of 2017, she started a company with Peter Staal, called Bind. Meanwhile, Kirsten has given hundreds of training presentations and courses on community building and management, consulted with over a hundred different organizations, wrote blogs and spoke at conferences. Bind has grown to four employees, community specialists that advise and do community management for their clients.
- Sponsor: Open Social, community building for nonprofits
- Send me a picture of your Halloween costume on Twitter
- Kirsten on LinkedIn
- CMNL, the Dutch association for community professionals, founded by Kirsten
- Bind, a community management agency, co-founded by Kirsten and Peter Staal
- DELA Forum, the online community for DELA, a funeral insurance company
- Bind on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
- Bas van Leeuwen, founder of Community Analytics, on Community Signal
[00:00:04] Announcer: You’re listening to Community Signal, the podcast for online community professionals. Sponsored by Open Social: community building for nonprofits. Tweet with @communitysignal as you listen. Here’s your host: Patrick O’Keefe.
[00:00:25] Patrick O’Keefe: Hello and happy Halloween if you celebrated. This past weekend, I dressed up as Dustin from Stranger Things as a Ghostbuster and my girlfriend Kara was dead Barb from Stranger Things. I’m recording this before the weekend optimistically because this episode is coming out after the weekend. I’m putting pressure on myself to follow through, and past Patrick, I hope you did. If I did, I’m sure there will be a photo posted on Twitter. If you dressed up, please send me a picture @communitysignal, I would love to see it.
Our guest this week is Kirsten Wagenaar, and we’re talking about the realistic approach to bottom line ROI for communities, how to start a community manager association for your region, industry, or niche and building community for a funeral insurance company. Special thanks to our supporters on Patreon which is Luke Zimmer, Serena Snoad and Rachael Medanic for the incredible support that helps keep this show going. If you’d like to join them, visit communitysignal.com/innerrcircle.
Even though Kirsten Wagenaar studied psychology, she has been working in the field of community management since 2009. Starting as a community manager for the Chamber of Commerce, Kirsten became a consultant for social media agency KREM, during which time she found the Association for Community Management in the Netherlands, CMNL. When KREM merged with a larger digital company, eFocus, Kirsten became the social lead. As she wasn’t interested in pursuing her career in social media, Kirsten started freelancing as a community consultant in 2013 under the name Waves and Wires.
Then, in January of 2017, she started a company with Peter Staal called Bind. Meanwhile, Kirsten has given hundreds of training presentations and courses on community building and management consulted with over a hundred different organizations, wrote blogs, and spoke at conferences. Bind has grown to four employees, community specialists that advise and do community management for their clients. Kirsten, welcome to the program.
[00:02:03] Kirsten Wagenaar: Hi Patrick, nice to be here.
[00:02:06] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s a pleasure to have you. I feel I’ve said this more weeks than not but often times this show is me talking to someone that I’ve known for a while, but have never spoken to, over the phone or vocally. I had someone last week who I said that to and they said, “Well, Patrick actually we spoke on the phone four years ago.”
I was like, “Oh darn, you are shaming me here”. In this case, I feel safe that you and I have not spoken over the phone or Skype.
[00:02:30] Kirsten Wagenaar: No, no, no. We’ve chatted I think and we had some interaction on social media, but that’s it.
[00:02:35] Patrick O’Keefe: Okay, good. I’m not embarrassed this week.
[00:02:39] Kirsten Wagenaar: That’s great, that’s a great opportunity.
[00:02:42] Patrick O’Keefe: Perfect, anytime I cannot be embarrassed is good. You build a community for a funeral insurance company. Tell me about it.
[00:02:50] Kirsten Wagenaar: Well, that’s very interesting. First of all, because most people said what do you want people to talk about on that community, right?
[00:02:59] Patrick O’Keefe: That’s a fair question.
[00:03:01] Kirsten Wagenaar: You want them to talk about insurance or do you want them to talk about the funeral? I mean that’s not going to be a very lively, fun forum to go to.
[00:03:10] Patrick O’Keefe: No.
[00:03:11] Kirsten Wagenaar: Actually it’s a very successful forum because there’s so many topics you can talk about when it’s about life and death. It goes on and on and on, and also what we noticed in this community is that people have so much to share. Almost everybody can relate to either life or death. [laughs] It’s terrible to say it like that but it’s true. We decided from the beginning with the client that we didn’t want it to be just a service community, where people could ask questions about their insurances.We really wanted it to be a community for people to talk about those issues that everybody, once or twice in their life, has to deal with. It has been really wonderful to develop it and to just see it really thriving.
[00:03:57] Patrick O’Keefe: I assume it’s a mix of people who are dealing with that situation, dealing with death. You have to plan of a funeral or something like that. Also, people who are planning for it themselves, like they are in an advanced stage, which is an interesting dynamic. Are those discussions occurring there?
[00:04:11] Kirsten Wagenaar: No, no at all. I mean for this firm, DELA, it was really also about rebranding the company. They also wanted to attract a slightly different target group then they used to attract, the people like the standard target group are a little bit older in age, but they also wanted to attract people in their 30’s 40’s. We really aimed also at mothers who just lost their mother, and who had to deal with the fact that they had to tell their small children that their grandmother had just died. There are a lot of discussions about how can I tell my children, what should I tell, is this not enough, is this too much, what about the open coffin, should I take them there or should I not, what is your experience, what about the funeral. It’s not really the target group that you would first think of us. But actually, the target group really needed to talk about these things.
[00:05:12] Patrick O’Keefe: Right, people with parents that are getting older may sounds that’s really interesting. Yes, when I read your questionnaire and it said funeral insurance company I said, “Oh, that’s an interesting community.” Now, in that community actually it seems it is the type of community where people are there to get answers. Then they may not have a lot of retention in that community, a lot of the people answering the questions should be people who work at the company. Is that fair? [laughs] Or is there a lot of retention in a funeral insurance company community?
[00:05:38] Kirsten Wagenaar: Yes, but it’s funny because it is about the insurance. For example, what’s happening here in the Netherlands is that there are new types of burials. I don’t know if you have it in the United States as well. Now, here it’s very trendy to be buried in a wood. It’s a natural burying place. This is something so new it’s not listed yet in all the-
[00:06:03] Patrick O’Keefe: The laws?
[00:06:04] Kirsten Wagenaar: -No.
[00:06:05] Patrick O’Keefe: Is it legal bury them in the woods? [laughs]
[00:06:06] Kirsten Wagenaar: It is legal, no, no, no. What this funeral has is to they buy pieces of land and it’s a burial place. It is a graveyard, but it’s a graveyard in a modern way. You don’t have all your graves next to each other with very big stones. What do you call them?
[00:06:25] Patrick O’Keefe: Tombstones.
[00:06:26] Kirsten Wagenaar: Yes, it’s tombstones. But instead you can buy a little place under a tree and there might be a little plaque on the ground and that’s it. It’s a very natural way to be buried.
[00:06:38] Patrick O’Keefe: Wow, they’re buying up nice land. [laughs]
[00:06:40] Kirsten Wagenaar: Yes.
[00:06:41] Patrick O’Keefe: I don’t know if this is a great thought or not, but when you were describing it, it almost sounded like graveyards, but for Instagram.
Like totally for the photo of the grave.
[00:06:51] Kirsten Wagenaar: It is. Actually what they do there in these forests, in these places where they bury people, is they have certain tours and they do evenings in the summer when they put little lights all over the forest and it becomes a very magical place and people can remember their dear ones. It’s a modern thing, but it also goes a little bit back to the medieval ways of burying people. It’s very interesting and people talk about these things: is it legal, what does it look like.
Not everything has been taken up in the papers, in the insurance yet. That’s why people talk with the company about how much does it cost, how can I be sure I get good help and all kinds of things. This is more like the service part of the community. Then there’s a large part of the community where people actually just talk about how can I tell my child that grandmother has just died, or what kind of music will you be playing at the funeral of your mother or of your grandmother? It’s very diverse.
[00:07:55] Patrick O’Keefe: The community receives an average of 11 comments per post, right?
[00:07:58] Kirsten Wagenaar: Yes, that’s pretty amazing because people are really getting into depth and really sharing all their information about the funerals they have been going to or the ideas they have about their bucket list for example. Things you should do before you die because you never know when. They’re very intense and very personal conversations. I always find this very special for people that have never met each other, they don’t know each other, but still they’re sharing all of this information. It’s wonderful.
[00:08:30] Patrick O’Keefe: Let’s pause a moment here to talk about our excellent sponsor Open Social.
Open Social is the community platform for nonprofits looking to coordinate volunteers and bring together stakeholders at a grassroots level. Hosting over 1,000 active communities, with Greenpeace Greenwire and several United Nations projects leading the way, Open Social has been proven to increase engagement within your community by up to 600%! Open Social is a Drupal-based open source solution, offering two fully maintained and hosted subscriptions starting at just $110 a month as well as a free do-it-yourself version. Request a free trial today at getopensocial.com.
In the pre-show questionnaire, you said something about metrics that really caught my eye.
You said, “We always make sure targets in KPIs are set up and met. We like to distinguish between community value metrics and company value metrics. First, we measure mostly growth, ambassadors, amount of reactions per post, returning visitors, insights gathered, teams that collaborate and such. After nine months to a year we measure on NPS, loyalty, amount of knowledge gathered, new ideas for products or services picked up by product development etcetera.”
What caught my eye was the nine months to a year before it is viable to measure the bottom line return. I like that because it’s grounded in reality. It represents a patient approach which is what community needs. When people say they want the return in three months, six months I always say, “you should do something else. Buy some ads, send some tweets, something else not community.” The way you explained it really sounds like you tell clients this upfront. What’s that conversation when you say that it’s going to be nine to 12 months before you can really count on any bottom line ROI?
[00:10:05] Kirsten Wagenaar: I’m glad that you agree with this nine months to 12 months because it is not easy to have this conversation. We’re always in the position that when organizations they come to us with the question, can you advise us or consult us or build this community. Most of the time they had already looked at our profiles. They had looked at the website and they really trust us.
When we tell them it’s going to take nine to 12 months until we can really measure the return of investment for you. But, within those 12 months, we’d definitely going to measure some other things and we can show you that the community is growing steadily, healthily. It’s just that we cannot from day one, in three months, see what is the impact is on your company results. I guess here in the Netherlands, most of the times it’s not a problem. It’s usually a problem when we come into the projects much further in the process.
When things are already going out of hand and the community is not going well and not getting out of phase one, then we’re being called. Of course, then there is this pressure and things have to go fast and everything, then it’s harder to say, “Okay, we need nine months because we have to start from scratch.” We have to go back to the drawing table and set up a good concept and then it would take nine months because we have to start from scratch. Usually, they tend to listen to us and understand what we are saying is valid.
[00:11:36] Patrick O’Keefe: That’s good because I think some clients might look at that and say “Oh, I see what you want to do. You want to lock us into a long-term deal.”
That’s why it takes 12 months because we have to sign a one to two-year agreement with you and keep you on retainer. The reality is that is how community works. I often say to people, “Well, do you have 12 to 18 months? Do you have a year? Because you’re going to have a tough goal of this community thing if you think that after three months or six months even, you’re going to sit back and say “Look at this awesome thing I have and it’s generating this direct ROI to my bottom line.” Yes, that might happen in some cases where people are very fortunate and the wind blows just right and the sun comes out and everything hits it perfectly. For most people, that’s just not going to be the case.
[00:12:24] Kirsten Wagenaar: That’s exactly that. I must say that we never really get a response if they’re afraid that they’re locked-in with our services because usually, we sign deals of three to six months and we’re very keen on having people in the organization becoming community managers. Getting the skill of community management and understanding that we’re just consultants and we are there for a short period and then they have to take it over from us. They have to understand that they need to implement the whole idea of community and everything that the community can have of value, they have to implement that in their day-to-day processes. This is also something that we say upfront and it’s also part of the program that we offer. There’s a lot of training and coaching and team building and hiring new people for this community management roles.
[00:13:18] Patrick O’Keefe: Have you had clients that turned away because they said basically, “Well, we need it in three months.” You’re like, “That’s too fast. We just [laughs] can’t do it.”
[00:13:26] Kirsten Wagenaar: Yes. We do that. We have the luxury position to actually do that because we say, “We cannot excel as an agency. We cannot perform well as professionals in the time frame that you give us. It would be very non-beneficial for us.”
[00:13:42] Patrick O’Keefe: Right, because if the community project doesn’t go well, even though there’s a number of factors that go into that, at the end of the day it’s not going to reflect well on you.
[00:13:50] Kirsten Wagenaar: That’s exactly what we’re saying. It’s great that they want to work with us. It’s great to have that deal, money wise. Other than that, it’s not going to be fun at all. You know it’s not going to be fun. You’re going to be rushing. You know that you have to skip important steps and in the end, you won’t make it. You can fake it but community is long-term. In the end, it will always get back at you.
[00:14:14] Patrick O’Keefe: You’re only hurting yourself. [laughs]
[00:14:16] Kirsten Wagenaar: Exactly, and the company. You would be a very bad consultant if you would agree with that. That’s what I think. [laughs]
[00:14:21] Patrick O’Keefe: Tying into something you just said a moment ago about you’re a consultant and you want to at the end of the day the community is going to be handed over to someone internally who needs to own it and they have to commit to it as an organization. You can hold their hand for a while but eventually, they grow up, right? [laughs] I think it’s just the euphemism there.
You told me that the biggest challenge you faced is making a company aware of their role in the development of the community. The fact that they need to organize differently to really benefit from the insights that the community can offer. With communities where that is a challenge, what are they expecting when you come in that they don’t understand their process in the development?
[00:14:59] Kirsten Wagenaar: What do they expect from me?
Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, what do they expect? Are they expecting you to just do everything or what do you have to communicate to them to get them understanding what their role is in the development of the community?
Kirsten Wagenaar: First of all, I think it’s always important that I tell them that I know nothing of the subjects. They’re the experts, they know the fields, they have their relationships. I don’t. I’m a community-building expert, I can facilitate them, I can advise them, but I know nothing about the field. If they want me to write certain things, it will be a huge risk. That’s the first thing I always tell them.
Then I tell them, of course, you can teach me all about your field but it’s going to take a long time before I really get to know the field, get to know the people. It’s going to take you a lot of money. It’s much smarter if you all the things that you’re already doing by the phone and by mail if you’re doing it on the platform it’s just as simple as that. Most people understand that they think, “Yes, it’s logical. I get it.”
Then you get the problem of time because everybody says,”Yes, but I don’t have time. My plate is already full and I have so many things to do in a week. I don’t have time.” Then it becomes a problem because then you really have to go to management level or even higher and you have to make sure these people get some time. What I always try to do is work in community management roles. I say, “Well, this is the community management that we need for this community and these are all the roles that I see in this community management.”
We have an expert on that, an expert on that and we have a service person on that and we have a theme specialist here and then I put just hours. I need one hour a week from him, and two hours a week and maybe one hour a month from her. This is a list that I take to management and then I have the same kind of conversation. I say that it’s very important” because if they want us out of there within six months, these people need their time and we’ve got six months to make sure that they know what to do in the community. It is pretty easy to sell because most organizations they need to do this transformation, they understand that people need to work with communities. Actually, they’re very happy that we’re firm in this and that we’re very clear in what we need to make this happen.
Patrick O’Keefe: You essentially laying the groundwork for them to build their own Community department, in a sense. They need these people, they need to do these things for this amount of time and you just start building that in now. Then by the time you hand it off, I assume that most of the time there’s someone or maybe a small team that is already either part-time or full-time Community and then maybe they take the baton internally and really own it and build out something bigger.
Kirsten Wagenaar: Exactly, that’s what we always aim to do. Then we think we’re successful when we can leave a small team that there are not community managers per se but they pick up the community management of the community. It’s in safe hands and it’s a steady team of more than just two people, two persons. Then we’re very happy if this succeeds.
Patrick O’Keefe: Looking at your clients at Bind, in the Netherlands where is the biggest interest in community from I guess an investment standpoint of putting in money. Is it internal employee communities? Is it public customer communities? Somewhere else? Where do you find the biggest interest right now?
Kirsten Wagenaar: It’s really hard to tell because all of the 20 customers that we serve right now that we consult, it’s a little bit all over the place. We see a lot of social collaboration internal communities, but we also see a lot of communities for municipalities for governmental who really want to also collaborate on projects or co-creates. We see a lot of communities who are doing very well already offline but they really want to transfer it to online and they’re not sure how to do this. How can it have value next to the offline network that they’re already facilitating?
It’s hard to tell. The corporate usually have the most money because they are commercial companies and they know, “You know, if I put this money in probably this will come back.” They’re more ready to put in more money. But actually, our customers are very diverse. I was actually talking with Peter about this, like should we focus on certain market segments, but we’re not doing that because it comes from all kinds of sites in Holland right now. It’s very…trendy is not the right word, but I’m very happy to see that in so many organizations where there’s foundations or associations whether it’s about sports or about health care, all these organizations are in one way or another busy with community building.
Patrick O’Keefe: Looking at the government example since you brought that up, do you have government organizations who are, you mention co-creation working together on things, but are there actually any government organizations that have a– I don’t know a community similar to about what we think of as a community where people join and they discuss things together one to one not just with the government say, but with their fellow citizens. Are there any communities like that over there?
[00:20:10] Kirsten Wagenaar: Yes. I did this one community for the municipality of Breda, which is in the south of Holland. They create this community around the whole policies, around culture and arts in their city. They basically said, “We’re not going to decide anymore where we’re going to allocate all the money that we have for culture and arts in the city. We want you as artists, as directors of libraries or all kinds of cultural places, we want you to decide together where to allocate these kinds of funding.”
This is actually a community that stands on its own but is continuously also communicating through this community with the municipality and giving them insights and the wishes and needs and ambitions of that city itself, of the target groups in the city themselves.
[00:21:05]Patrick O’Keefe: They actually let the people talk to one another in this community.
[00:21:08] Kirsten Wagenaar: Yes. They actually say, “We flock away.” We as the board of the municipality, are the ones at the political parties who usually decide what is best for the city. The ones who deal with culture and arts, they said “We are not going to sign anymore. For the next four years, you have to decide what we’re going to do with all this money.”
It has been a very long process where people really had to get used to the fact that they had to take their own responsibility. There was a lot of resistance, there was also a lot of angriness. Why should I do these things? You have people working for the municipality and they have that job. They study to do this kind of things, why should I do it. After a while, you saw especially the younger generation understood, that for real I can really have an impact here in my city and the decisions we’re going to make about culture and art. That is actually pretty awesome. It took a while but now you see that they’re picking it up slowly. That’s really a great example, I think.
[00:22:11] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes. That community is really fascinating to me. I don’t know how familiar you are with the interworkings of it. It makes me wonder, I think about it over here and how much a community like that would take to keep smoothly running if it’s even possible over in the US. You mentioned anger, for example, that people might have. Is there moderation or do they verify the people are from that municipality? I’m just curious.
[00:22:35] Kirsten Wagenaar: Yes. They do in a way and of course, it is a small city. These are not usually cities like maybe you have in the US. The marketplace or at least the people are busy with culture and art in that city. They know each other and of course, there are some usual suspects and there are some unusual suspects but in the end, after coming together in several meetings, around several themes, they know each other.
I think this is important and they also understood because they have tried in several ways to change the whole process. The city itself because they totally didn’t know really what to do with it. Those who didn’t maybe trust the municipality, they said, “You said you want to co-create. You said that you want to give us all the responsibility, but who says that, in the end, will you come up with a solution or we come up with a great plan that you won’t tell us no, it’s not feasible, no, we will not go ahead with this plan.”
We need this trust that once we come up with a plan, which is already hard with this group, that you will say, “Okay, we accept it and go ahead implement it.” There is moderation, there are different community managers, they are not called community managers, they have names that are more appealing to the people in the fields but they moderate. Yes, they moderate. They put people together and they have a very keen eye on putting certain groups together in one room and then other meetings with other people in one room.
People can talk to their peers on certain levels, you can imagine that a director of a theater might want to talk to other directors of the theater and maybe not with a maker or with an artist himself. Sometimes they do, it depends really on the goal of the co-creation. They really take all these things into account like a puzzle and have all these different kind of meetings to actually come to various goals, come to this big plan together because they do it step by step.
[00:24:34] Patrick O’Keefe: I’m going to ask you to send me a link to this community after we’re done. [laughs] I want to take a look at their website at least, whatever I can see of it. There would be such a disaster over here. Our discourse over here is such garbage right now. We’re so far down as far as quality discourse goes, especially political discourse or anything to do with spending public funds. I would love to see that. I need to see that community.
[00:24:57] Kirsten Wagenaar: Is that even true on a really local level? Don’t you think that there should maybe small cities or communities in the US, maybe that you don’t know of where people actually do, are capable of doing things by themselves?
[00:25:11] Patrick O’Keefe: I really appreciate your optimism. I think there’s a kindness there that speaks very well of you. I’m an optimistic person. I don’t want to put ourselves down. We have good things but I’m an optimistic person and I believe that they’re some citizens who get together.
[00:25:28] Kirsten Wagenaar: Yes, it’s a huge country. In some places where socialism is still power to the people. You need people like that to actually believe in localizing things again and I’m sure there are some.
[00:25:42] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, there are. I love my country and all that. [laughs] I don’t want anybody listening and say, “Patrick hates America or anything.” I love my country. This is where I’m from but we can improve. I want to see that community, that’s all, so I can see how we can improve. Let’s talk tools, because you mentioned this has a challenge when we spoke before this show. You said, “With developments and tooling going so fast and big data as a trend, organizations are looking for integrations of systems. They want to have all the data in one place to be able to service community members but also to get the best insight into their members. This is, of course, [laughs] I laugh, a great ambition but most of the time integrating systems takes much more time and money than is expected”.
[00:26:26] Kirsten Wagenaar: It’s true.
[00:26:26] Patrick O’Keefe: Talk about that.
[00:26:28] Kirsten Wagenaar: What is interesting, I was talking with one of my clients the other day and he said, “We all took it too lightly.” When we started, he said, we chose a platform and we chose an agency behind the platform that we believed in. We thought it was going to be easy. Once you’re developing your community, things start to change. You get more ambitions and then you might be interested in different target groups and then you have other ideas. Then this platform just has to grow with you and that’s always a problem because you buy a platform, you buy a tool and it has all the basic functionalities that you need to build community. Then as you progress and you get different ideas, then you have to work on that platform. Not every agency can adapt that quickly or can build whatever the client calls for and they shouldn’t also because then you get this very strange monster of a platform that can do a thousand things but nobody is using them.
It’s always a struggle, I find. It’s hardly in any projects that I find after one year that an organization is 100% happy. There’s always something going on. It’s either about integration or about making community management easy, moderation. It’s about statistics. Where can we get our statistics from? How can we get the real insights? Or it’s about automation. How can we reach out to those community members that haven’t been active for three months or six months?
There’s always something. I guess Peter and I, by now we have this dream platform in our minds but it doesn’t exist. It’s a tough one to tell clients that it doesn’t exist. It’s just the way it is, I guess.
[00:28:19] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, I guess it doesn’t exist if you want the best tool for you, for your individual moment, for that client, for this use case, right? Because there are tools that might do a lot of things but it doesn’t mean that they’re the best at doing those things. They might just be that they’re tacked on, an extra just to say that we have it. They’re not necessarily the best at it.
Analytics often fall into that mix where a good example I guess would be that I had Bas van Leeuwen on the show a couple of episodes ago and that’s how– even though we’ve known each other for a while and I suspect he would have ended up on the show regardless. That’s how we reconnected and then I had you on. The reason I had a Bas on was because he has an analytics service, Community Analytics, and I use it for Facebook groups at my day job.
First of all, Facebook analytics aren’t that great. Second of all, I don’t want to trust Facebook 100%, which I guess is a separate issue as far as the whole idea of having one tool and how much you want to trust them. It’s nothing against Facebook so much as it is, just that I don’t want to place all my eggs in Facebook’s basket because of previous things that have happened, whether that being cutting the reach to Pages or and it’s something else.
I don’t like to have all of that in one basket, we’re using Community Analytics to build in some redundancy and protect ourselves a little bit and also, to not rely on whatever Facebook has and says. It’s like in that case, the best Facebook analytics in our case don’t come from Facebook.
[00:29:48] Kirsten Wagenaar: No.
[00:29:49] Patrick O’Keefe: [laughs] If Facebook can’t do it and they have, I like to say, their community tools are so poor yet they’re the world’s eighth most valuable company. If they’re not trying to do this stuff right then, then I don’t know what hope a lot of these other organizations have.
[00:30:03] Kirsten Wagenaar: That’s an incredible thing what you’re saying. It’s also because most organizations they start thinking about statistics maybe six months after they started with the whole project. If they’re not being pointed out at it, they don’t really think about it. There are so involved with the technique, with the people, with the contents, that by the time it’s up and running you’re six months already into the process and then they think about statistics.
They’re like, “Oh, yes, but we don’t have any statistics. [laughs] What are we going to do about it?”
[00:30:33] Patrick O’Keefe: Is that something you try to get them on board with early on? Is that we should have some measuring going right away?
[00:30:38] Kirsten Wagenaar: We already have it when we help clients selecting a tool. We say, “Okay, one of the most important requirements is there is some kind of analytics behind it.” That’s really a pro, if you have that in your tool. For me, it is.
[00:30:52] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, I think if you’re a community professional who has any pull, someone who has experience. Someone like you or me. If you were going to a job if you decide to have not being added and seen anymore and you were taking a job somewhere. You would probably do a similar thing to what I did when I took this one which is that, I told my boss, I said, “We’re going to have community analytics day one.” When I clock in that first day, my first act is we’re going to install analytics.
It’s not that I love analytics or that I’m in love with data. They’re valuable tools for me to do my job. But the fact is that the clock now starts because I’m a senior community hire that’s being paid fairly well. The clock starts right now as far as judging me. We need to know where we were when I got there so that we can see in six months where we are now and then we can be justified in hiring and continuing to pay me. [laugh]
[00:31:41] Kirsten Wagenaar: Exactly. It’s good on both sides right? Totally agree with that. Super important.
[00:31:48] Patrick O’Keefe: One other thing I wanted to ask you about. You started CMNL which is the association for Dutch community pros. If someone wanted to start an association for community pros in their country or region or industry or some other qualifier. What advice would you offer them?
[00:32:04] Kirsten Wagenaar: Well, I would offer them the advice that I give to all my clients. That you have to start your own community and it all starts out with finding those four people that are just as crazy as you are. Just as passionate about the subject and who are so keen on sharing knowledge about this profession which can drive you nuts at times but it’s also can get you to incredible heights. It all starts there.
Find those four, five, maybe six professionals. Find them on LinkedIn, connect with them on Twitter, Instagram, whatever and meet with them in person. Get to know them and share with them your ambitions and then you open up a platform whatever it’s like. I’m not a great fan of Facebook, everybody knows it around me.
[00:32:51] Patrick O’Keefe: Me neither. We use it here and I said during my job interview. Literally, I said, “I don’t like Facebook but we will make the most out of it.”
[00:33:00] Kirsten Wagenaar: I used to say, I remember over five or six years ago, the people in my association they said, “We got to give you this t-shirt. We’ve got to get you this t-shirt like “I hate Facebook,” specially made for Kirsten. People would think, how is it possible you’re a community manager, you should be in love with Facebook? No, because I do never work with Facebook.
If you want to start your association because, before I opened, I started the association 2011, I had a Linkedin group. I started with the Linkedin group in 2009. Before actually making that decision, do I have enough interested members, can I pull a board together, it took me two years to bring enough professionals together that actually said, “Yes, this is a good idea. Let’s do that.” Then I just organized, organized, organized, organized, a lot of meetings. I think I organized over 25 meetings for community managers and I all organized in interesting organizations. They all told us a story about their communities and what their struggles are.
I did a lot of networking and a lot of facilitating and I made sure that people could meet each other. That would be my greatest piece of advice. To just start small, find those few peers around you, so you don’t have to do it all by yourself. Then grow, grow. Make sure that you’re always relevant and make sure you do it offline and online. Then you have to pull together a board which is the hardest thing. Because just participating in a community as a volunteer is one thing but to actually be a secretary or a chairman, you need people who actually have that ego and they want to step up and they have this mission that they want to change the world. It might take a while before you find those people. Patience is key but we as community managers, we have tons of patience, right? [laughs]
[00:34:54] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes.
We do. If we last long and without doing anything drastic. It’s good advice. I always encourage people, if they want to start something, to start something. Because I feel sometimes people are like, “Well, there’s so many community organizations out there.” Or “There are so many Facebook groups, online communities or whatever, conferences.”
The reality is that, “Yes, there are a bunch.” I know a lot of them. I like some of them. I don’t like others. Just that simple fact is the reason why there’s always room for someone to come in and create something that offers value. It could just be a general thing. More often it’s a specific thing. In your case, it was Dutch community pros. It could be, it doesn’t have to be a country or region. It can also be industry related where you could get together, the community professionals who work in the healthcare industry, video games, fitness, or whatever. Start your own association, your own group. You never know where it’ll go.
[00:35:49] Kirsten Wagenaar: Exactly. I always say, “Go to your regular supermarket and see how many soft drinks there are.” [laughs] You can look at the same communities, how many communities for kittens are there? I’m sure you can make a new community for kittens that is very relevant to the people that you invite. It’s all about finding your niche. Finding something that’s relevant to people. Finding those couple of people around you that find it relevant as well so you’re not on your own.
I totally agree with you. There’s always a place to start something new. You just have to do it really well. You have to really have a passion for it. Don’t do it halfway. Just really go for it.
[00:36:29] Patrick O’Keefe: Kirsten, thank you so much for being on the show. I’ve really enjoyed talking with you.
[00:36:32] Kirsten Wagenaar: Yes, me too. Thank you so much for having me. It was lovely talking to you too.
[00:36:36] Patrick O’Keefe: We have been talking to Kirsten Wagenaar, community strategist and a consultant at community agency Bind. For more information visit bind.nl. Find them on Facebook at Facebook.com/bindcommunitybuilding. Twitter at @bind_community. Instagram at @bindnl. For the transcript for this episode, plus highlights and links that we mentioned, please visit CommunitySignal.com. Community Signal is produced by Karn Broad. It’s a tough divided world out there. Take care of yourself. We’ll see you next week.
[00:37:16] [END OF AUDIO]
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Hi Kirsten – Listening to your podcast now, THANK YOU for the inspiration. Was looking for ideas to do something similar, was not able to find anything “outside the box”. Your strategic vision is great motivation. Do you operate only in the Netherlands?
Hi Michael, thank you for listening and your kind words!
Our office is located in the Netherlands but we serve some international clients so I’d be happy to get in touch to explore if we could maybe collaborate. How does that sound?
Apologize Patrick, thanks for finding Kirsten and having her on as a guest. This is so very motivational and informative.
Hey Michael, no worries at all! I’m so glad that you got value out of the show. I’ll forward your note on to Kirsten. Thanks!