Jennifer Sable Lopez, the senior director of community and audience development at Moz, has found a quicker, more efficient way to identify qualified candidates they already know well: poach them from other departments and from their community. Plus:
- How Moz divides responsibilities between the community and audience development teams
- Investing money in quality forum answers
- Making sure that your team takes their vacation time
“When Moz stopped doing consulting to focus 100% on selling software and marketing tools, at that point in time, I spoke with the then COO, now our CEO, Sarah Bird. She and I sat down and I said, ‘If this tools thing doesn’t work, I really feel like we could build out a community who cares about white hat SEO.'” -@jennita
“My favorite [hiring] tactic is to steal people from other parts of the company. [chuckle] I don’t understand why more people don’t do this, to be perfectly honest. I have hired one person to the community team directly, everyone else has come from different parts of the organization.” -@jennita
“We realized, ‘Every time I’m sleeping, Gianluca is in there answering questions and managing things without having any privileges to do it.’ Nobody said, ‘Hey, Gianluca, can you do this,’ or ‘I will pay you to do this job.’ He just took it upon himself because he loved the community and Moz so much. And so the smartest thing I could do was say, ‘Oh, this is amazing. I would love to pay you as an associate to do this as your job while we are sleeping.’ A win-win situation.” -@jennita
About Jennifer Sable Lopez
Jennifer Sable Lopez is the senior director of community and audience development at Moz, a marketing software company with a vibrant community of over 600,000 online marketers. She is a renowned community and social media strategist who built the Moz community team and strategy from the ground up. Jen is a frequent speaker at marketing and community conferences such as CMX Summit, FeverBee SPRINT, New Media Expo, Seattle Interactive, MozCon, SearchLove and Search Marketing Expo.
Jen and her husband (an amazing photographer), Rudy, live in Seattle with their daughter Eva. She is a self-proclaimed geek and faux vegetarian, and she prides herself in having kicked colon cancer’s butt at the young age of 37. You can read more about Jen on her personal blog, follow her on twitter @jennita or check out her work at Moz.
In order of reference:
- Episode of Community Signal with Derek Powazek
- SitePoint Forums
- How to Measure and Report Your Community’s Value: A Moz Case Study by Carrie Melissa Jones
- Moz Associates, independent contractors who are paid to answer forum questions, in addition to other tasks
- Moz Community Chronicle, November 2015
- Building a High Performance Community Team, Jennifer’s presentation at CMX Summit West 2015
- Moz on Twitter
- Jennifer on Twitter
00:04: Welcome to Community Signal, the podcast for online community professionals. Here’s your host, Patrick O’Keefe.
00:16 Patrick O’Keefe: Hello, and thank you for listening to Community Signal. Our guest today is Jennifer Sable-Lopez. Jennifer is the senior director of community and audience development at Moz, a marketing software company with a vibrant community of over 600,000 online marketers. She is a renowned community and social media strategist who built the Moz community team and strategy from the ground up. Jen is a frequent speaker at marketing and community conferences, such as CMX Summit, FeverBee SPRINT, New Media Expo, Seattle Interactive, MozCon, Search Love and Search Marketing Expo. Jen and her husband, Rudy, an amazing photographer, live in Seattle with their daughter, Eva. She is a self-proclaimed geek and a full vegetarian, and she prides herself in having kicked colon cancer’s butt at the young age of 37. Jen, welcome to the program.
01:00 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Thank you so much, Patrick.
01:03 Patrick O’Keefe: It’s great to have you on.
01:04 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Thanks, I’m excited. I’m excited to be here.
01:07 Patrick O’Keefe: So with the podcast, the journalism run continues this week. Last week, I had Derek Powazek, who has a degree in photojournalism and talked about how alternative weekly newspapers prepared him for community. This week, our guest has a degree in technical journalism. What was your aspiration when you chose that course of study?
01:27 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Wow. That was a long time ago, first of all. [chuckle]
01:31 Patrick O’Keefe: Five years, six years ago, don’t worry about it. [chuckle]
01:33 Jennifer Sable Lopez: So I was really, really interested in writing. I was a good communicator with writing, and it wasn’t necessarily long form, I was really good with short form, like quick updates. Back in the day when IRC was a big thing, I used to spend half my day in these IRC chatrooms. And to me, journalism and the typical aspect of it, which some portions was learning radio and video and all this stuff that goes along with it other than just the writing, but it was that being able to tell a story easily and to be able to get the words out quickly that I loved.
02:14 Patrick O’Keefe: And you got into web development, you got into SEO.
02:18 Jennifer Sable Lopez: The exact opposite.
02:20 Patrick O’Keefe: Right, no. But it’s funny you mention that and that’s really where… Well, I guess sports was kind of the first main community I participated in. But really, right around that same time, the first community that really, really, really grabbed me was the web development community, and that’s a really strong community space. It was in the 90s, it is now, web development, programming, always very strong on online community. Always using the technology well. In my case, the SitePoint Forums is a community I’ve talked about on here before, where I learned just a lot about community as a member, as a volunteer staff member, met some of my closest friends, people I’ve known for 15, 16 years that I’ve met in person, I know their kids, I know their families. And it’s a really tight space, and then you- related, web development communities often have SEO discussions, [chuckle] they often have marketing discussions. So you became an SEO consultant and that led you to Moz and then there was an opportunity at Moz to do something more in community and with the blog and you took that opportunity.
03:16 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Yeah. So I really realized as I kind of progressed through my career, even as a developer, I was good at it, but what I was really good was talking to people, running meetings, making sure everyone had the information they needed. They would joke and call me the non-technical technical person because I could do all the technical stuff, it just wasn’t the thing that I seemed to be super passionate about, it was all the things around it. And so when I sort of fell upon SEO, I sort of realized, “Whoa, this is a great combination between my writing and my technical,” and I was really excited about it. But the thing that was still missing was the opportunity really to talk to people a lot. As you can probably tell, I’m quite the talker, and that’s always something that has been a piece of what I’ve loved. And when Moz stopped doing consulting and went to focus 100% on selling software and marketing tools, at that point in time, I spoke with the then COO, now our CEO, Sarah Bird, she and I sat down and I said, “If this tools thing doesn’t work, I really feel like we could build out a community who cares about white hat SEO.” At the time, in 2009, that was our big focus, was like, white hat SEO, and doing things on the up and up, and teaching people the good way to do things, and stuff like that. And I said, “I really thought that that was a thing that we could do really well.”
04:45 Jennifer Sable Lopez: And I was excited for the idea of sort of having something completely new to really jump into and take the background of SEO and technical and writing and all that stuff and put it into place. And that’s sort of how it got kicked off, and luckily I worked with an executive team that was like, “Well, that sounds really great.” And we market to marketers, which is a little odd, and so we have a team of people who understand marketing in a way that’s different, so they were very much like, “Yes, it’s a great idea. Let’s go for it.” [chuckle] And it’s obviously worked out quite well for us as we’ve grown a lot in numbers, we’ve grown a lot in our brand. People know our brand really well. We find that there are times when our tools may have issues and whatnot, and people will stick around and they’ll say, “We love you guys, we know you’ll fix it.” That just doesn’t happen at a lot of SaaS companies.
05:41 Patrick O’Keefe: In January, your title changed from senior director of community to senior director of community and audience development. You report to the CMO and manage two groups; community, where you have five full-time people and three contractors, and audience, with three full-time, one contractor, and various folks contributing around the company. Why was that necessary? What’s the separation between those two groups as far as responsibilities, focus, and goals?
06:05 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Oh, I love this. Okay, so back in the day when it was really just me and a lot of me doing all the things or convincing other people to help me do the things, was a lot of what happened. A lot of user-generated content happened at the time because I simply couldn’t do it on my own. But there was a time when community and essentially content was all one thing. And as we grew, we realized that we needed folks who were very focused on what our greater content strategy was. We needed folks who were focused on the blog and writing guides and things like that. So at some point along the way, I’m not sure exactly when, we sort of broke the two teams apart and I continued to really focus on community and built the community team, and the audience development team, or content team, which might be called in a lot of other places, started focusing heavily on content creation and writing guides and keeping our blog updated and all that. But we always worked really closely, and there was never really a time when our two teams didn’t work together a lot. And as we’ve grown, we’ve noticed more and more how much. It’s like, “Wow, we really could help each other out in a lot of these ways.” So we recently had someone on the team who was managing the audience development team, left to start his own company.
07:30 Jennifer Sable Lopez: And when we really sat down to decide what made sense, from the management perspective, myself, the CMO, and some of the other folks on the team decided it made a lot of sense to put the two teams together. They’re not one team, they’re still two teams, but by having one person sort of managing and overseeing it, we’ve already started making strides in different areas. We’re on community, we’re focused heavily on diversity, and we have started making changes and helping the folks running the blog, to getting a more diverse group of authors, things like that. So there’s already a lot of stuff happening and, for me, it’s like all of my favorite stuff all together. So it’s pretty great.
08:14 Patrick O’Keefe: A few months ago, Carrie Melissa Jones at CMX published a case study on how Moz approaches community metrics. In relation to forum metrics, it was mentioned that the number of staff replies was tracked, and at different times, the community team had focused on incentivizing Moz employees’ participation in the forums. I’d love to hear more about those efforts and how you incentivize participation.
08:34 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Yeah. So from the beginning, we have really tried to find ways to get other Mozzers, which we call ourselves, other Mozzers really being a part of the community themselves. What I don’t want is for people in the community team to be the only ones that ever interact with the community. So lots of different ways. We have our yearly event, MozCon, where the entire company goes. We recruit people from accounting, database administrators, whatever, will come and actually help us manage social during that time. So they’re jumping into like MozCon hashtag conversations, they’re making sure… They’re handing out badges, they’re running registration, they’re doing all this work. And when it comes to our Q&A forum, the piece that’s really great about that is not only do we have other Mozzers, we also have a group of folks we call associates, and associates are also listed in that staff number. And what associates are, are specific industry experts that we have reached out to and said, “We would love to have your help in our Q&A forum. We know that you’re an expert and it would be helpful for people to see that they’re getting an answer direct from you.”
09:50 Jennifer Sable Lopez: And so we pay them and many of these people spend five to 10 hours a month maybe in there, but even that little bit of time that they spend really adds to the, “I can go to this forum and I can get real answers from real experts, or I can have conversations with people.” It may be this big thing just happened, big talk right now is Rank Brain, and there’s all this discussion in the forum about Rank Brain. And it’s really great to have Dr. Pete, who’s a well known Mozzer in this space, come in and give his advice of, “Hey, this is what I’m thinking.” People really, really like that. And so some of it is hardcore, like we will just reach out to people and say… We see this question come in, they send an email to… Maybe it’s about our data, we have one of our data scientists actually go in and answer the question. We’re like, “You know what would really be awesome? Is if you would just geek out on them and give them all kinds of data information and then they look at your profile, they see who you are, and people like freak out about that stuff.” And so we would pinpoint specific people and actually say, “Hey, could you help us out?” And the next thing you know, we get a response from them two weeks later that says, “Hey, I hope you don’t mind, I jumped into this other question and answered because I saw that it was really similar and I was just kinda poking around.”
11:15 Jennifer Sable Lopez: They get more and more interested because they see that people like their answers, they respond to them, they start following them on Twitter or try to add them on LinkedIn. That happens all the time. So other Mozzers and associates really start seeing that there’s this engagement happening and it sort of adds to their like, “Oh, this is really neat. I know about these things and they like to hear what I have to say.” And so it really adds to our brand, obviously. Shows us as an industry leader and it shows the rest of the company that when we talk about community, that it’s not just a thing that the community team does over there. It’s a thing that they can too can participate in and help and they can understand it and be a part of it, really.
12:00 Patrick O’Keefe: And when you say you pay them, obviously they’re employees, they’re paid, right? They’re paid by the company. Is that paying them in addition to that or is it just working hours? What do you mean?
12:07 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Yeah, sorry. That’s separate. So we have our employees, and that’s separate from these other folks that we call associates, and those are folks who may spend five to 10 hours a month in our forum, answering questions because they are industry experts. They’re not full-time employees, they’re contractors, and we help them manage their time and sometimes we assign questions to them. We make it very clear to everyone, we have a specific page on the site in our about section that shows our associates so that people know that they are paid by us, that they’re not just going in there. We also want to make it known that we will pay for the good answers.
12:46 Patrick O’Keefe: Right, that makes sense. So when you said they’re part of the counts, that’s like the three contractors, the one contractor, so it’s really just adding to the hours and…
12:52 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Yeah, in fact…
12:52 Patrick O’Keefe: They’re just demonstrating their value in the community rather than in some sort of internal fashion.
12:57 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Right. And it’s also… So that staff count is associates, plus Mozzers. So having one of our web developers or one of our engineers that works on the big data team jump into a conversation will also help that number go up, in addition to having one of our experts who focuses on international SEO come in and answer a question. So our goal really was to get those numbers up so that it’s not just community members answering and asking questions, but that we are also showing, “We, as Mozzers, are a part of this community, and our focus is to help you give you the best answers possible.” To sort of lift us to a higher ground, and you know when you come to us that you can trust the information that you’re getting.
13:47 Patrick O’Keefe: It’s interesting because a lot of people might pay someone for an article. A lot of content marketing efforts might pay someone to write for their blog. But when you think of forums, they are very influential in searching, and so when people are seeking an answer to a question, there’s a good chance they end up in the forums. So if you look at it as saying that, “This question in our forums is an opportunity to write the definitive answer to this question, and we have these great forums that are respected in our space, respected in search marketing, respected in marketing, they rank well. When people search for that question, there is this great chance they will end up in our forums. And if we have the definitive answer, there’s no telling how many people will read that over the next two, three, five, 10, 20 years. Because forums can live forever. So a lot of people would balk at that, they might say, “Well, why pay someone to write an answer in the forums? Someone else will show up.” Well, if you just kind of tilt your perspective a little bit and think of it as writing the definitive article on that subject… I don’t wanna say it makes a lot more sense because it already made sense, but I think it’s a lot more relatable when you talk about it that way.
14:46 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Yeah. It’s funny, I don’t hear about a lot of other people doing it this way, but that’s definitely how we look at it. We get three times the amount of traffic to our forums through organic measures than we do from internal referrals. No matter how much we send people there, it will never send as much traffic as Google sends because we’re getting those long tail searches. Somebody says, “How do I make sure that I’m not having duplicate pages,” or something. They have this very specific question. And often times, that exact question has been asked. And we’ve been telling people this for years. Like the customer service in all these different areas, you can take that content. Well, what if you just make that the content and then you don’t have to do the extra work on top of it. And at the same time, one thing that I feel like we could actually do a lot better is helping people, once they land on that page, of what to do next. Do we take them to the blog? Do we take them, depending on the type of question, “Here’s the software that we have.” Do we direct them to a webinar? We don’t do a great job of that right now and that is something that is a project that we’ll be working on is, okay, we do an awesome job of getting people here and making sure that they see that our knowledge is high and that they’re finding answers to their questions, but then what’s next? Where can we take them that is the right place, the right next step?
16:17 Patrick O’Keefe: As part of that article at CMX, you shared an issue of your community chronicle, which talks about your community measurement, and your data and progress toward related goals, and really shares that with the wider company. And I like that not all the data showed growth. So bear with me. There were declines, there were stagnation, and yes, there was growth, but with community metrics, there can come this pressure to always show growth; week over week, month over month, year over year. When you’re just starting out, you’ll probably see growth, but mature communities will see a mix. There’s this ebb and flow to metrics, isn’t there?
16:49 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Oh, for sure. And it can be all kinds of different things. And the thing that I love is when we send that out company-wide, we will have an engineer or an accountant or somebody respond to the email and they will say, “So why is Facebook traffic so high all of the sudden?” If you look back, because we’ll show six months prior, and they’ll say, “What happened with Facebook?” And then we have a conversation around, “Well, we’re pretty sure Facebook has changed their algorithm again because they hated us for about a year, and now they seem to love us again.” So that was a case where things went up and looked awesome, but it was out of the ordinary. And an accounting person noticed that, and it wasn’t because there was a number. It wasn’t because our sales went down that month and we attributed it somehow to Facebook, which that’s not gonna happen. It was just that he had noticed this difference. And the other thing that I find is… So let’s say that we’re seeing traffic or engagement going down to our forum, or even to our webinars, let’s say, and an engineer writes back and he’s like, “Oh, I’m looking at this. It’s really interesting, but what I’m noticing is over the last four months, we’ve seen a huge decrease in engagement. Can you shed some light on this?”
18:08 Jennifer Sable Lopez: And it’s really awesome because it allows you to have this whole conversation with the entire company as to what’s happening. Because it could be that the issue is there’s something either broken or there’s a UX issue or something that you wanna do, but because of priorities, it’s always lower on the list. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but for me, even though my company values community very highly, because we don’t make direct sales, we’re not like, “Send a tweet,” or something and they come in and they automatically buy all of our software or something.
18:44 Patrick O’Keefe: Just one click, add to cart, all. Submit.
18:45 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. It doesn’t happen. We know that our efforts are sort of the long-term effort. For us, it can be very difficult sometimes to get community related stuff as a priority. In dev, when there is a new tool going out, a new big upgrade happening and they’re using lots of dev resources, we have resources for marketing specifically, but right within marketing, we have lots of other things going on. So I often have to play this, “How important is this really? Can we hold off?” And what that does is it brings those things to light. So those emails go out, conversations start happening, and the next thing you know, I go into my next priority meeting and everyone understands the problem better and knows it, and it’s easier for me to get that prioritized. Because everybody has seen it and everybody has been a part of this conversation about it.
19:39 Patrick O’Keefe: So let’s talk about the engineer asking the question about the community, real quick. Now, that’s great because it allows you to draw attention to something where you can get some resources to kind of address that problem, but it also is like, “Here’s our metrics.” So the whole company sees it and it’s an opportunity to judge it or pick it apart. Now, what I’m wondering is that: Do other departments, other teams have metrics like that? That get sent out to everyone, including your team, to kind of cross-examine, so to speak, [chuckle] and take a look and say, “Why did you program less lines of code this month?” Or whatever. Engineering, those different departments, do they also have these metrics or is it a fairly unique thing to community?
20:11 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Absolutely every group in the company does it, and that’s when things… So at Moz, we rely heavily on our tenants, which we call TAGFEE. And again, I’ve worked at a lot of companies that have had their like, “We believe in truth and justice,” and whatever, whatever, but nobody ever really does. They’re just like, “Oh, our company likes this,” blah, blah, blah. But at Moz, I literally wouldn’t be able to do my job if I didn’t have TAGFEE, and what TAGFEE is, is Transparency, Authenticity, Generosity, Fun, Empathy, and Exceptional… Or the Exception, and that’s one piece of it. So often people think that because transparency is first, it means that it’s the most important, but it’s not, it’s really the empathy side. But a combination of that. Being empathetic also means that when they send out that information, you don’t write back and say, “Why are you doing your job so poorly?”
21:11 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Right?
21:12 Patrick O’Keefe: Right.
21:12 Jennifer Sable Lopez: There was actually a great conversation happening today about one of our products. The customer support team sent out an email, it was a monthly presentation that they send out that explains issues they’re having or that subscribers are having, and I replied and said, “Can you give me a little more information about this aspect? I’m wondering why so many people are upset about this, and what are we doing to fix this?” So I got a great response and the founder of the company responded and people from literally all over the organization jumped in and some people had information like, “Oh, I know that this is a ticket that we’re actually fixing. This one of the pieces is being fixed.” “Great, that’s awesome.” And it was a whole conversation around some issues that our members were having with one of our products, and everybody had a piece of it. Now, when it comes down to it, I can’t do anything about that and I’m not going to do anything about that because there are people who run that product and it is totally their job and I trust that they are doing their job. The question is not a questioning of how they’re doing their job, it’s a, “Can you tell me more about this? I really wanna understand it. Is there something that we can do?” So that’s really how those go. So from the community standpoint, the same type of thing happened. The thing with the community aspect is that people can jump in and make an impact directly, a lot of times.
22:38 Patrick O’Keefe: Makes sense, makes sense. Alright, let’s stick with teams. You love team management, I love team management, let’s talk about team management. [chuckle] You gave a presentation at CMX Summit on this topic and you showed how your team had grown each year. In 2010, 2011, you had just you; 2012, two people; 2013, four; 2014, seven; 2015, eight. Now, this means that you are deliberately growing out a team and the people that you’ve had, they’ve stuck around. I wanted to ask you, how do you find the right people? What do you look for, what’s the interview process like?
23:10 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Okay, so most people hate me when I say this, but I really despise hiring people. I hate it, it’s horrible to go through that process, the interview process. It’s horrible.
23:26 Patrick O’Keefe: What’s bad about it? Is it telling most of the people no? What is it… What part of it?
23:30 Jennifer Sable Lopez: It’s just I find it really painful. It’s really hard to really know if the person is the right person because somebody can be a great interviewer, somebody could be a horrible interviewer, and even if you look at their writing samples or their community work or maybe presentations that they’ve given, sometimes it’s just hard. So my favorite tactic is to steal people from other parts of the company. [chuckle] Listen to this, I don’t understand why more people don’t do this, to be perfectly honest. I have hired one person to the community team directly, everyone else has come from different parts of the organization. For example, we have one woman who started out, she was on the Help team, which is our customer service team, for two years. In that time, she learned the Moz voice, she learned all the products, she learned how to handle really tough situations, she learned how Moz works and how Moz doesn’t work, and she learned essentially all those things. And with that, those are the things that are sometimes toughest. Especially the voice, getting the voice correctly. For example, on our social accounts, if you respond to @Moz or you ask a question or something, at any point in time, there are probably seven different people who could be on a shift at that point, answering, the voice will always be the same.
24:56 Jennifer Sable Lopez: You’re not gonna get a bunch of different voices based on who the person is. It’s always Roger, Roger Mozbot is the voice, and so finding people who already have that is really key. The other thing is finding people that are in the community. Again, to me, that’s like stealing. Instead of stealing from the support team, I’m stealing from the community and wherever else they’re working.
25:20 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, it sounds like… ‘Cause these people have to get into the company some way, so someone has to interview them and hire them, and it just feels like they’re doing the heavy lifting…
25:27 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Yeah, exactly.
25:28 Patrick O’Keefe: And they’re creating this pool of qualified candidates for you to pick from, and then you just take the candidate you want. It’s a great system.
25:35 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Exactly. [laughter] Really what I found is, specifically here at Moz, the folks who run our help and support teams, our support and success teams, hire brilliant people. They are amazing at hiring folks and really, they hire them with the knowledge that they want them to learn all those things and then they can grow within the company. And so it’s not as if it’s a bad thing. But the other thing is from… Kind of stealing someone from the community, again, you know that they understand TAGFEE, you’ve seen how they interact with folks who are upset, you’ve seen how they’ve jumped into action. We had someone for a really long time, a guy in Spain, for probably a year, we realized, “Every time I’m sleeping, Gianluca is in there answering questions and managing things without having any privileges to do it.” Nobody said, “Hey, Gianluca, can you do this,” or, “I will pay you to do this job.” He just took it upon himself because he loved the community and Moz and the tools and stuff so much. And so the smartest thing I could do was say, “Oh, this is amazing. I would love to pay you as an associate to do this as your job while we are sleeping. These are the things that I would like for you to do.” A win-win situation.
26:58 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, it is.
27:00 Jennifer Sable Lopez: So being able to pull people who already have part of the understanding, I have found, at least for the community side of things, has been extremely helpful.
27:10 Patrick O’Keefe: So if you wanna work in Community at Moz, best advice, based upon the numbers in front of us. If you have eight, nine people, and all but one came from other teams at Moz, then the best thing you can do is get hired in support if you wanna work in community.
27:23 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Well, the other thing is, again, being part of the community is huge.
27:27 Patrick O’Keefe: Right.
27:28 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Or being a part of other parts of the organization. We actually have someone on the team who started on the products side of things, and he was in a couple of different positions, and he’s seriously found his calling in community. We went to CMX Summit last October, where I gave that talk, and he left that and he was like, “These are my people! This is the thing that I want to do and I want to learn about it, and I love community,” and it was just this “Yes!” He came to us doing something else and we helped him to grow and find that perfect spot, which wonderful for me, is on the community team.
28:09 Patrick O’Keefe: Funny how it all works out for the community team. [laughter] I like it, I like it. Now, speaking of like, tell us about Love/Like/Hate.
28:15 Jennifer Sable Lopez: I just did one of those sessions today. So it first came about when, as the team was starting to grow, I wanted to make sure that we had a way that was sort of new that I could easily say, “Listen. Erica, you’re gonna work on these things, and Megan, you’re gonna work on these things.” I could’ve easily just said, “Do these things. This is your job, you do social, you do Q&A, figure it out.
28:40 Patrick O’Keefe: Shut up and do it. [chuckle]
28:40 Jennifer Sable Lopez: “Just shut up and do it.” But I don’t do well in that sense. I like to help form my role, and so we initially did it in a way of, “Let’s make sure that we’re all in the right roles and that we’re all doing the right things,” and so we started out by… We had all these tasks and I went through these Love/Like/Hate things and people would sort of pick what they loved and what they hated and we put it all into a spreadsheet. And then we took all of those tasks and we grouped them, like things that had to do with social went in one area, things that had to do with events went in another area. And then we started walking through and we kind of said, “Okay, who is going to own this task? And it doesn’t have to be the person who’s been currently doing it. Who wants to own this and who’s going to be a back-up?” And then we found that we got an owner and a back-up for every single thing that we do.
29:32 Patrick O’Keefe: Just to back up a little bit…
29:32 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Yeah.
29:33 Patrick O’Keefe: Because you kind of skipped over it. I know from watching the presentation, which I watched, and my research, my thoughtful, dedicated research for this podcast, but you get everybody together, you say, “Here’s Love/Like/Hate. What’s your job and what part of it do you love, like, hate?” And then they wrote those tasks down and then you dumped that into a spreadsheet, as you said. And then from that, you match people to the task that they loved, ideally, liked secondarily, and someone has to do that other stuff. So if there is stuff that they hate, someone has to do it, but ideally you match those people to the most love and like that you possibly can.
30:05 Jennifer Sable Lopez: That is correct, thank you. Yeah, the key is really helping people find the things that they actually enjoy doing, or even… There were some things where people hated something, but what we found is that they didn’t hate the task itself, they hated the process. Or they felt like they weren’t leveled up enough to really do a good enough job at it and so they struggled and so they hated it. And so we could say, “Okay. You still wanna do that, that’s cool. So do we find you a mentor in that particular area? Do we find you someone who can train you on Google Analytics or some classes you can take? Or how do we do this so that you can level up so you don’t hate it so much?” So that was another thing we did with that. The other piece of that was a strength finder test. It’s somewhat similar, but it’s really based on finding the things that you’re sort of naturally good at, and the combination of knowing the things that you’re naturally good at and the things that everyone on the team is naturally good at, you can see the areas where you’re like, “Maybe when we hire for our next role, we need someone who leans towards this. Maybe we need someone who’s really analytical, they’re really focused on things.” In their love pile would be data and spreadsheets and understanding numbers and things like that.
31:31 Jennifer Sable Lopez: It’s not necessarily a case for us because we have several of those, but it’s something to say, “Okay. I know what I’m gonna hire for next because I know where our general weaknesses are.” And not in a bad way, saying that, “Oh, my team can’t do it,” but how do we find someone who’s super strong in this and who can just help bring the team up even more by adding their expertise in?
31:55 Patrick O’Keefe: So expanding on that idea of owners, and back up a little bit, I pulled up the career page, the jobs page for Moz, and the company offers 21 days of paid vacation, seven days of sick leave, 10 paid holidays, and a $3,000 per year vacation expense reimbursement. And as you made clear in your presentation at CMX, you want people to take this time away. So how do you make sure that every team member feels they can do this? That they can leave, things will be okay, the work will still get done, and they won’t be ostracized when they come back.
32:28 Jennifer Sable Lopez: So we also have, at five years, you can take an eight-week sabbatical, and at seven years, which I am at, you can take a 12-week sabbatical. So starting at the end of May, I’m leaving for three months. Woohoo!
32:43 Patrick O’Keefe: Well, I’m glad I got you on here. [chuckle]
32:47 Jennifer Sable Lopez: And I have no worries about that. [chuckle] So it’s important for everyone to make sure that they have a vacation and have rest and feel like they can actually take a break, and Moz in general is very, very big on that. When it comes to community, though, it’s so easy to be on all the time. Somebody sent me an email last night and I replied, and she was like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe we’re on so late,” and I was like, “This is just normal.” [chuckle] It’s not weird for me to be online at 11 PM. We’re just like that, so many of us are, especially… We have a very international community. Literally things are happening on the site or in social or with events all the time, and having that, making sure that someone is your backup, and not just a, “Hey, you got my back?” It’s like they know your job. So that if you run the blog and you are out of town and the person who is supposed to complete their blog posts didn’t submit it on time, and you have to figure out what happens next, that you know what to do. And the owner trusts that person who is the backup to do the best thing that they know how to do. That’s a big piece of it. I know I keep using that word “trust.” But it’s such a huge piece of it.
34:05 Jennifer Sable Lopez: If you don’t trust the folks that you work with to be able to get in and do the job and know that just because they know how to do the job, doesn’t mean that they’re going to take it from you. Because pretty much everyone is like… When you get back, they’re like, “And here you go. I’m sick of doing your stuff.” But the other thing is, if somebody is out for two weeks and you have to put in some extra time or you have to work on this thing that you don’t normally work on, you know that when you take your vacation a few months down the road, that somebody else is gonna have to do that for you. And it’s that knowing that give and take of, “It’s okay. I’m okay putting in my extra time now because somebody else is gonna have to do that for me.”
34:51 Patrick O’Keefe: Jen, thank you so much for coming on the show.
34:53 Jennifer Sable Lopez: Thank you so much for having me. It was great.
34:56 Patrick O’Keefe: We have been talking with Jennifer Sable Lopez, senior director of community and audience development at Moz. You can follow Moz on Twitter, @Moz, that’s M-O-Z, and you can follow Jen @Jennita, J-E-N-N-I-T-A. For the transcript from this episode, plus highlights and links that we have mentioned, please visit communitysignal.com. You can contact me via the website or find me on Twitter @patrickokeefe. Community Signal is produced by Karn Broad, and we’ll be back next week.
Thank you for listening to Community Signal.