a few of us from Higher Logic HQ headed up to Brooklyn in order to
attend CMX Summit East. CMX is an organization-cum-event series that has
sprung up in order to fill the deep-seated craving among community
managers for our own community of practice. Though the hipster quotient
was high (it was in Williamsburg, after all), the education was anything
but. Community management is coming into its own, as an art and as a
For those of you who couldn’t make it to this incredible
event, I brought back my top nine takeaways from CMX Summit East to
share with all of you:
9. Community is, by nature, spontaneous.
“Had we not met.” This was the proposition offered up by
Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman: think of one friend that you feel incredibly
lucky to have met, and then think of the weird and wonderful
circumstances that led to you meeting them. “Had we not met,” life
wouldn’t be as sweet, and that’s where community shines. Communities
create opportunities to meet new people, learn new things, support one
another, and work together on the next big thing. Those opportunities,
then, provide the fertile ground for spontaneous connection and
collaboration. In other words, the true magic of community happens when
you step back and let things happen.
8. Feedback? Write it down!
It might seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating: your most
loyal members will be those who feel like they are being listened to.
So listen to them! In an emoji-laden presentation, Alex Dao of Vimeo
shared her strategies for collecting and organizing user feedback in
order to address the community’s pain points and thus improve user
experience—this presentation included a very sexy spreadsheet that I am planning on taking advantage of immediately. It’s just like college: nobody ever took too many notes.
7. Instead of trying to change what your members are doing, give them opportunities to do what they are already doing better.
Don Draper will always cheat, Stannis Baratheon will
always brood, and your members will always do…whatever it is that they
do. The best way to get people to use your community is to make it
something so beneficial to their everyday lives that they can’t not
use it. That was how Chris Pedregal approached the creation of
Socratic, and in return his members solved problems he didn’t even knew
he had. Step back and watch what they do when you’re not looking, and
then facilitate that.
6. Online communities are really just communities.
Raise your hand if you have a “useless” humanities degree
(Me, me!). The community manager of Stack Exchange, Ana Noemi, tickled
my inner anthropologist when she drew deep connections between
“traditional” communities like Alcoholics Anonymous and online
communities. If you want to create a vibrant and enduring online
community, you need the same things that all communities need: customs
and rituals, shared passions, and a culture of sharing without expecting
in return. In other words, the technology is secondary; what community
managers are doing is as old as humanity itself.
5. Volunteers matter. A lot.
“Together, we can achieve more than when we think and act
alone” were the words concluding the presentation of Kristine
Michelsen-Korrea (from Duolingo), which more or less sum up the goal of
community and the entire point of what we are doing at Higher Logic.
Kristine shared how her team used the laser-focused mission of their
organization to create a vibrant, worldwide community of volunteers, who
give their language skills to Duolingo. By empowering your members to
shape your organization through volunteering, you are turbocharging
their sense of engagement and belonging, which in turn creates a
4. Some things don't scale.
Do you hold community events? Matthew Brimer, founder of
General Assembly and DayBreaker, thinks you should. Meaningful offline
experiences between your true believers are an invaluable way to create a
robust community core that will naturally spread to the rest of the
group. Having held meet ups for both PPA
and the online communities I belong to just for fun, I have to agree
with him. There are some things, like a face-to-face meeting or a dance
party, that just don’t scale. If an event isn’t in your future, take
some time tomorrow to get to know your most active members—not as data
points, but as people. It’s so worth it.
3. A great leader knows what he or she doesn't know.
The day’s keynote was delivered by David Marquet, author of Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders; he
famously took a submarine full of disempowered sailors and turned it
into the best-rated sub in the Navy. His secret: instead of giving
orders, admit what you don’t know and invite those you work with to
think for themselves. Or, in community management terms, listen to your
team, create an environment where it is okay to be wrong or unsure, give
people opportunities to succeed, and remember: community is “we,” not
2. Engagement ≠ ROI. Engagement is a path to ROI.
At some point in every community manager’s life, you are
brought before the powers that be and asked to demonstrate the ROI of
your community. In that moment, the total number of library resources or
the percentage of members subscribed to the Daily Digest will not do.
Sweating yet? Don’t worry—Evan Hamilton (Coursera) broke it down: you
need to measure for retention or acquisition, full stop. In other words,
are community users more likely to renew their membership than
non-users? Do they spend more? Are they more likely to sign up for new
things? These are the numbers that get you the corner office. (Still
feel lost when it comes to ROI? My next blog post will cover this topic
1. Community is on fleek.
It just is. *drops the mic*