Going From Shapeways to Northwestern Mutual

Community pro Andrew Thomas was recruited by Northwestern Mutual while working at Shapeways. On this episode, he talks about what it’s like to go from a 200-person startup to an organization with over 7,500 employees that has been around for over 160 years.

With more teammates and internal knowledge comes the added responsibility of continuously learning, introducing yourself to new people, and advocating for your work across the organization.

Andrew and Patrick also discuss:

  • The standardization of knowledge management practices
  • How Andrew thinks about self-care and burnout for himself and for his team
  • Getting buy-in and advocating for your work in a 7,500+ person company
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Applying Agile Product Management Principles to Community Management

Shannon Emery manages both the external customer-facing and internal employee communities at Higher Logic. With so many tasks to manage and two distinct communities to nurture, how is a community professional to focus?

Patrick and Shannon’s conversation is about just that –– the strategies and resources that she relies on to stay focused and successfully manage both communities. These strategies include:

  • Leaning on dotted-line team members for support and subject-matter expertise (4:19)
  • Adapting the principles of agile product management to her workflow (20:13)
  • Asking about the bigger picture before accepting new tasks or projects (20:29)
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From Engineer to Community Manager to Engineer to Community Manager

As we’ve shared on many episodes of Community Signal, community professionals come from numerous career paths, educational backgrounds, and areas of interest. In this conversation, Patrick talks with Matt Nevill, customer community manager at Agilent Technologies, about his transition from engineer to community manager. As a one-person community team, Matt discusses how he partners with other teams within his organization to ensure the success of Agilent’s community and gets advice from Patrick on when and how to scale the team.

If you’re thinking about how to justify adding another team member or quantifying your community’s value, the advice is all here. As Matt and Patrick explain it, it’s all about clearly communicating that a more engaged community means happier customers that turn into repeat customers. 

They also discuss:

  • A support staff that was getting crushed by calls until they launched a community
  • The right way and time to scale your community team
  • Evaluating community platform options
Continue reading “From Engineer to Community Manager to Engineer to Community Manager”

Threats to Section 230 Threaten the Very Existence of Our Communities

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is a frequent topic of conversation on Community Signal. As Patrick puts it, if you’re a community professional in the United States, “this is the law that places the liability for speech on the author of that speech, not on you as the [community’s] host. It allows you to moderate and remove certain content while not assuming liability for what remains. I like to think of it as the legal basis for our profession in the US, and it is an important legal protection against the wealthy and powerful who would happily take down an entire online community for one post they don’t like.”

Plainly, this is a law that protects our jobs, our communities, the people in those communities, and their right to have civil and safe discussions online.

For this episode of Community Signal, we invited past guests to share how Section 230 has enabled them to foster community and what changing Section 230 could do to the fabric of online communities.

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Crisis Communications for Online Communities

Data breaches, distasteful ads or marketing campaigns, offensive content left unmoderated for far too long… as community professionals, we’ve studied these situations when they arise and many of us have had to manage such issues in our own communities.

In this episode, Patrick and crisis communications expert Kate Hartley discuss examples of micro and macro communications crises and how to best manage them. Kate breaks down the difference between a full blown communications crisis and negative or critical response to a change. “It’s only a crisis if it’s going to stop the community [from] being able to function,” she says. “If it’s not going to stop the community being able to function, then it’s not really a crisis. It’s an issue that just needs to be well-managed.”

Kate and Patrick also discuss:

  • How social media and news feeds fuel outrage
  • Remembering your employees during a communications crisis
  • Setting a strategic intent for handling a communications crisis and knowing how to measure your outcomes
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Moving a Community for Women Over 40 From Facebook Groups to a Paid Subscription App

If you’ve ever Googled a medical condition or a new symptom that you’ve experienced you know that the search results leave much to be desired. When Nina Lorez Collins posted about symptoms of perimenopause on Facebook, she saw that many women in her network were looking for a space to talk about the same symptoms that she was experiencing. The conversation flourished into a Facebook group of over 30,000 women looking for answers and support through all stages of menopause and aging.

As the What Would Virginia Woolf Do? community (now The Woolfer) continued to grow, it tested the limits of Facebook’s product and support and Nina found herself looking for alternatives. She faced the realization that she could not sustain the group as a free community. It needed dedicated resources and income to continue operating at the same level.  If you’re looking to launch or move your community to a paid model or debating changing community platforms, Nina offers lots of suggestions on what to consider as you’re negotiating with new platforms and keeping your community in the loop.

Nina and Patrick discuss:

  • Recognizing the product limitations of community platforms, along with your community’s product must-haves
  • The emotional, financial, and product hurdles that come with moving from one platform to another
  • How Woolfers stepped up to help those that wanted to join the paid community but couldn’t afford it
Continue reading “Moving a Community for Women Over 40 From Facebook Groups to a Paid Subscription App”

Don’t Let “Scale” Get in the Way of Good Community Strategy

Communities are good for business, but are businesses good for communities? This question has come up on the show before, specifically when we spoke to community hosts losing their Yahoo Groups and when IMDb’s message boards were closed and erased. What happens when corporation-led communities are determined to have outlived their usefulness to the corporation, but not to the members? Does this lead to more grassroots-led communities? How will the tools and examples we’ve created serve those grassroots communities?

Bailey Richardson, a community professional that helped build Instagram and recently co-authored Get Together, and Patrick address these questions on this episode, as well as: 

  • The current community software landscape and why there’s still room for growth
  • What happens when you need to demote or ban a community leader
  • Why graffiti is allowed on Instagram
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Attention Verizon Media: Yahoo Groups Deserves Better

Earlier this month, Verizon Media, the parent to Yahoo, announced that users of Yahoo Groups had until October 28th to continue posting in their groups and until December of this year to archive all of their conversations. After December, 18+ years of conversations will be erased from Verizon Media’s servers and the internet entirely.

Obviously, the community is fighting back. Administrators of these groups, most of whom are unpaid volunteers, are working tirelessly to download their data, collect the email addresses of their community members and, in some cases, move people over to a new platform. As community professionals, we know that a migration like this can take months of planning, research, and communication to our communities. In this case, administrators had two weeks to figure things out.

In this episode, Patrick talks to two avid organizers of Yahoo Groups about the next steps for their communities and what they hope will come out of this situation. In both cases, they want the connections and resources fostered in their Yahoo Groups to be preserved.

Patrick and our guests, Susan Kang and Deane Rimerman, also discuss:

  • The new tools that Deane and Susan will use to host their communities and why Nextdoor isn’t one of them
  • What it’s really like to download your data from Yahoo Groups
  • The importance of communities as archives and spaces for political action
Continue reading “Attention Verizon Media: Yahoo Groups Deserves Better”

How Community is Funding the Fourth Estate in South Africa

For communities that come with a membership fee, direct revenue might seem like the top benefit for your company. But the Daily Maverick’s membership program gives them direct access to their most engaged readers, which has created benefits beyond revenue. The Daily Maverick has hired employees through its community, grown new company verticals thanks to the support of its community, and has given readers and writers a way to interact directly with one another about the stories they’re most interested in.

Styli Charalambous, the co-founder and publisher of Daily Maverick, also shares the unique perspective of a founder building a membership program from the ground up, who then hires a member of the community to run the show. This episode will leave you with great starting points for discussing the ROI of community programs and a lot of inspiration around how to keep community members engaged.

Styli and Patrick also discuss:

  • Why Daily Maverick doesn’t have a paywall on its website
  • How Daily Maverick approaches comments and allowing access to its community
  • Daily Maverick‘s robust events and publishing strategy
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The State of Community Management in Germany

On this episode of Community Signal, community management consultant Tanja Laub gives a full report on what it’s like to work as a community manager in Germany. And perhaps not too surprising, the experience is not dissimilar to what guests from the United States and other countries have described. Tanja shares a breakdown of community manager responsibilities, typical salaries, and the limitations and opportunities that she’s seen in the field so far.

Tanja is also a chairperson for BVCM, an association for Germany community managers, where she has helped develop a certification procedure for community and social media managers. Rather than requiring professionals to take a class to become certified, community managers instead verify their professional history and some other details about themselves to get the certification. Between that and her work to help organizations refine their hiring needs and community manager role descriptions, Tanja is helping to set the standard for what it means to work in community management.

Tanja and Patrick also discuss:

  • The value of certifications
  • How moderation norms compare to other countries, like Australia and the United States
  • What Tanja sees as areas of opportunity for communities in Germany
Continue reading “The State of Community Management in Germany”