You call yourself a ‘Community Architect’ – what does this mean?
I help companies build a passionate, loyal user base. Generally, community folks obsess about experience of a product or service from a participant’s perspective. What is the value in participating for the individual, how does it move the needle for the company? What is the relationship and interaction between them, and from user-to-user? The Community Architect defines this strategy through product features, offline interaction, and in communication via email or social media.
You’re an advisor to startups like ThreadFlip and Skillshare – do you think companies are starting to realise how important community is to business?
Within the startup world, “Community Management” has become a buzzword in the last few years, no doubt thanks to Yelp. But there is much confusion about where it fits amongst marketing and support. I think about it in terms of function; marketing is externally-focused and geared towards acquisition; community focuses on internal user engagement and loyalty, growth is a bi-product.
The foundations of community: engagement, advocacy, ambassadorship, and loyalty, are not new themes in the worlds of marketing and advertising. Startups have appropriated these principles and given new nomenclature, but the essence is the same. They work across industries, whatever the names, because they speak to universal human drives and motivations.
Do all businesses need community? Well, would your love for Coca Cola be enriched by drinking one amongst the company of others who dig it? Some companies seem to make more sense than others.
You’ve worked in senior community roles for Airbnb and Yelp – how do you think the role’s evolved over the past five years?
The value of community differs greatly depending on the business – there is no universal formula – and I think companies are starting to see that you can’t just replicate programs and expect to have the same success.
A lot of companies hire recent grads to handle community – do you think there’s much career progression for senior CMs?
Like many careers, one starts on the front lines, moves to a leadership role within the organization, then tackles the higher level strategy, or starts a new project.
If someone is relatively green but passionate about a product and thinks deeply about how to make the experience better, that’s far more valuable than an experienced person who isn’t invested.
Community Management Appreciation Day is on Monday Jan 28 – why do you think this day is important and what activities do you have planned?
CMAD is important in raising awareness about the mission and challenges of community folk, and gives us the opportunity to connect and swap stories!
There are many activities planned in the Bay Area such as Community Hacks and Strategy TNT. This year I’m kicking off a series of quarterly workshops for community builders called Together Labs. Through small group exercises people explore community beyond the context of their own companies.
What events and communities do you recommend in the Bay Area?
That depends on what you’re into, but of course The Fetch is a great resource to find out what’s happening in the startup scene and The Bold Italic features the fun and fresh in the city. I belong to the ForageSF community and really enjoy the happenings of SFFT, and of course Yelp is in my heart. Mortified and Tourettes Without Regrets are immensely entertaining events for the silly. Happy exploring!
Check out Ligaya’s TEDxSoMa talk: Rethinking Startup Communities here.
About our Curator // Kate Kendall is the founder and CEO of The Fetch, a community where professionals can discover and share what’s happening in their city. Before this, Kate led product, content and digital at magazine companies, handled outreach for new startups and organised too many communities and events to mention. Follow her on Twitter at @katekendall.