Last week I was very lucky to have the opportunity to hear Zoli Radnai of Prezi and David Noel of Soundcloud speak about the communities at their respective companies. I myself have tried to write an article on the topic during the past summer for a marketing blog, but didn’t succeed, as every direction I […]
Last week I was very lucky to have the opportunity to hear Zoli Radnai of Prezi and David Noel of Soundcloud speak about the communities at their respective companies. I myself have tried to write an article on the topic during the past summer for a marketing blog, but didn’t succeed, as every direction I tried to take the article just seemed really “fluffy” and not that useful to the reader. So here’s my next attempt and yes, this time it feels right. I hope you’re gonna be able to take away a thing or two, just like I have from the talks.
THE PREZI STORY
Zoli Radnai has been with Prezi pretty much from the beginning and shared the story of how they got started with their marketing at the Viennese Startup Marketing Get-Together. You can have a look at his Prezi, but I’m also gonna summarize a few key points.
So. At the very beginning of Prezi there was a deliberate focus on communities – to attract key users, but also to learn from them. The first thing you should do, is to really think about who your product delivers value to. No – this is never “everyone”. Well it could be, but those people will always be part of different communities, which have different needs and interests, that you should pay attention to. One example from Prezi would be the early focus on conference speakers, who were offered support on the design of their presentations. And I’m sure this initial effort paid off! I can still remember the “wow-moment”, when I saw the first Prezi and right afterwards got my account. Furthermore, the focus on conference speakers was obviously smart as those experience a lot of exposure to a highly relevant audience.
From the very beginning there were people in the Prezi user community, who had quickly turned into brand ambassadors, who would get others excited about the product. Generally speaking it’s important to find out who those users in your community are and how to support them. Ideas here could be to give them more rights on the platform, have them beta-test for you, etc. Some of Prezi’s early users now train others on how to user Prezi, a few even for a living.
Yes, measurement matters and community management can also have KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), just like any other department. Zoli shared the story about how he started his work with Prezi having a journalistic background and learned to love metrics. “Metrics allow you to see more, see further and understand connections”. In the beginning however it can be hard at times to measure and may seem difficult to scale. Just keep at it and eventually you will also end up with results. One thing you could and should measure in relation to community management is customer happiness.
Communities evolve. So community management has to adapt. Think about your audience, try new things, that might interest them and make sure you always keep the user’s best interest in mind, while executing on your companies objectives.
THE SOUNDCLOUD STORY
… as told by David Noel of Soundcloud at the Pioneers Festival this year.
A community can be seen as a group of people interacting with each other around a shared purpose. This could be a product, an object, a belief, a way of life. In Soundcloud’s case people connect around the social object “sound”. The community on the platform is an essential part of the product. Many artists on Soundcloud owe their careers to the people supporting them on the platform.
Although Soundcloud is an online product, community building started offline for them. At the very beginning, the founders took the conscious decision to move the company to Berlin, when thinking about what kind of people would be likely to use their service.
So how did Soundcloud get to the first 50 000 users?
In the beginning it was all about bringing people together. Offline. They invited people to their new office in Berlin – there was music and there were people, who they thought could potentially have an interest in their product. It was about creating a good atmosphere, having the right people (opinion leaders) at the parties and “hijacking their attention”. The tone: No selling. No pushing. More “This is what we’re building. Wanna have a look?”
What Soundcloud offers is a playground and they invited people to populate it and collaborate.
So what does a community manager actually do?
Let’s start of with a definition, that David presented:
Community managers are empathetic storytellers who are the product’s external voice, users’ internal advocates, who find motivation in helping others.
Community management is a role that hadn’t existed before the rise of one-to-many networks online. It’s neither support nor marketing, although it has aspects of each. (Christina Cacioppo)
Lots of useful food for thought in there already. Generally the role of a community manager should be about support, empowerment and amplification of the user community. It’s about understanding what they think and feel and being the community’s internal advocate. It’s about getting to know your community and telling their stories – also externally to make the product more personal. Furthermore it is about support. In terms of support, I thought it was interesting that both, Soundcloud and Prezi, work with GetSatisfaction for scaleable user support. So, if you’re looking for a solution there, you might want to check it out. David however also mentioned that in the early days of Soundcloud, there was a lot of support done in different forums by users for users, which took a lot pressure from the internal support team. This early development can be traced back to the dedicated attempt to create a helpful, positive environment from the very start and the investment (time & resources) clearly paid off.
David also spoke about how the term community management itself and how it is actually misleading. It’s not about managing a community, it’s about educating, inspiring and motivating people to participate – your power users and brand advocates, but also new people, who might want to join. No, it’s not only about talking to people, it’s about ensuring that people will start to have conversations of their own.
So… to wrap this up here are some thoughts:
What if community was just another way of structuring, looking at and working with your target audience(s). To me at least, this makes a lot of sense and makes community management a lot less fluffy, more measurable and might finally get the many community managers out there the respect they deserve!