The Community Strategy Podcast: The nexus where online community strategy meets intentionality

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Episode 50: Find Calm creating your community strategy with Jenny Weigle

by Deb Schell
September 5th 2021

In this episode of the Find Calm Here Podcast, Jenny Weigle shares how she’s creating, executing, and reviewing strategies for online communities for more ... More

Okay yeah. Hi all and welcome to the fine comb here podcast. I'm your host. Deb Shell on this podcast. I share conversations I have with community builders who offer tips on what's worked for them and resources that help them find calm in the community building process. If you're a new community builder or just considering a community to bring together your clients, customers or audience, but you don't know what to do or where to start. I'd be happy to help you with getting some clarity during a discovery call. I will have a link in the show notes so that if you're interested in a free discovery call there will be an option for you to click and schedule to chat with me. Um you can sign up also for the com community newsletter that has lots of tools and resources and tips to help you build your paid online community. Uh if you need support and accountability with a group of community builders, I'd love to invite you to join the fun. Come here community, you'll receive support tools and resources to help you have a successful launch, grow your membership and tackle any challenges with the support of peers in a safe space.

We've got a ton of awesome things happening inside the fund. Com here community, including the new calm guides to support you in any stage of your community building journey. I'm excited to introduce today's guest Jenny Wiggle, she's been creating, executing and reviewing strategies for online communities for more than 10 years. She's worked with more than 100 brands on various aspects of their community strategy and implementations including launch, migration, programming and planning, Jennings consulted for Airbnb google HP, quickbooks, Pinterest, ari I Samsung Sephora Splunk Visa, just to name a few when she's not getting out on community strategy, she spends a lot of time in Los Angeles with her partner john stepdaughter and in her personal life, she's proud to be a member of a number of communities, Southern California gator Club, Spiritual Sisters of Los Angeles which she founded Oak Park, L. A. Crossfit, Lots of other ones. There's just official Disney fan club.

It sounds so fun. You've got lots going on, so welcome your podcast. Thank you Deb, This is such an honor to be here. I appreciate it. Of course, of course. So tell us a little bit about it sounds, you're just, your experience is just such an awesome collection. You've gotten lots of things here. So maybe could you like rewind us back to maybe what really interested you about the community industry. I in a way, fell into the community industry. So, uh, but once I realized I was in it, I uh that was a whole, that's a whole other story. But yeah, I'll take you back a little bit. I was living in my hometown of Tampa and working on some marketing projects for a bank that I I worked for and this was when social media communities were on the rise, but particularly social media use for business and I just really saw that if I wanted to stay in the realm of marketing, like that's where the future of marketing was going and the company I worked for was a wonderful company, but they were just not ready to embrace that yet and I wanted to be on top of the trends and so forth and just you know, just start to educate myself, I didn't want to think of myself as falling behind as a marketing practitioner, so I decided to become self taught in that area and the beginning of my career really focused on social media communities.

I think like a lot of people in this field, it wasn't until a little bit later that I was able to really have the focus of just enterprise brand communities, which I get a lot more fulfillment out of, I think because of the peer to peer aspect of it, but I've been fortunate enough to work on everything from, you know, social media communities, too many of the enterprise brand communities you mentioned, and I still look back now and can't believe that this is my career path that I mean I get paid to connect people and to tell people how to connect people and it's it's fulfilling on so many levels. And it takes me also back to high school me when I was filling out my college applications and the dining room of our kitchen and our at the kitchen table, should I say, and remember like asking my mom about this one field that was asking what my intended major was, and I said, mom, like I just like to connect people and I is there anything in connection and she goes maybe sales?

Um but I just remember being so confused at that time and thinking like there's not really a major for me and even if that major doesn't exist today, um I still fell into this field where the primary purpose is to connect people and that is extraordinary. Uh and I am grateful for it every single day. Thanks so much for sharing. It sounds like you really have a passion for community, right? You've expressed a lot of different. Um and I think a lot of community professionals can say they kind of fell into community. I think that's a lot of the time I hear that several times. For sure. Um and marketing is a usually a transition for a lot of people. I think when you're talking about social media management and I know we could dive into a little bit of uh you know, maybe chatting about what what do you believe is the difference between that that social media management and community management in that direction of of things. And uh you decided to go in the community, you know, building world instead of community management, maybe could you share with us on um how you got to what you're doing now.

Yes, I think the biggest difference in my opinion is that so much of social media marketing is a one to many audience and big difference with the communities I work with today are the peer to peer to aspect of it. So you're not waiting on the brand to kick off a conversation or to post something and then everyone can comment, you know, anyone in the community can go and start a conversation, ask a question, posed something for discussion. And that is a unique aspect. So I think that you know, I just gravitated towards that because of you know, success I had had in making connections in in personal communities and so forth. I also just saw that not a lot of people I guess in my previous fields and so forth, that had really understood what that was and I thought maybe I can make a difference here. Maybe I can help this industry in some way, because I felt like I got it and I understood the strategies behind it and the differences. So I, you know, that's why I wanted to just remain dedicated to the focus of enterprise brands.

And it's also part of the reason I went out on my own as I I want to see this industry grow even more and I want to help further that growth as much as I can and I feel like I can do that best with my solo consulting practice. Um so sorry, I went off on a little bit of a tangent there, uh but I do think that working on social media communities set a wonderful foundation for me to step into this area and I do think that if you've been a social media manager and you want to come more into the enterprise community world, you have a transferable skill set, you are going to find differences, but I think you still have a strong foundation uh and I think that if you can prove that you are adaptable to kind of just new processes and new technologies that um it could definitely be something that you could transition to. Yeah, I think, I think it's a great point. Uh it's such a, you know, similar but different kind of a situation, the one communication connection, but like you're saying one too many versus 1 to 1, what's the, What's maybe an example of how you've maybe helped with connecting people and creating that connection?

What was that like for you? Maybe one example I just think of moments where my clients have told me about how community members have sent them a message about something that happened in the community, somebody they met, um maybe some sort of piece of information that was just invaluable to them and those kind of connections and those moments are the reason I do this work, even when I'm on linked in and I'm scrolling through my feet and I see people posting about the community that they are in in some way and how they just achieved a new bad or rank or some kind of achievement. Uh, and they're so proud and they're posting about it, whether that's from my clients community or not, um that just fills me up with so much joy, because it's an example of how proud people are to be part of something and when they are achieving things, there are, there are a lot of people who want to share that with the world. I want to share that on linkedin or in conversation with their friends. So when I hear those stories, that's, that's what definitely fills me up inside.

Yeah, it's amazing how, so how do you get the question right? The challenge is how do you create that um feeling of camaraderie, a feeling of being a part of something bigger maybe, or just just how do you create that spark in there in the beginning, when, when our communities new, when it's new is, and even when the user is new to the community, that is the most important part of the relationship, in my opinion. Uh, if first impressions are not enough to keep someone on or interested in coming back, then you are gonna have a really hard time growing your community. So some great onboarding includes, you know, immediate welcome messages, but also messages when the user has maybe made their first couple of posts, you know, because sometimes it takes someone a while. Sometimes people might be a little shy to speak up in the community much like they might be try to speak up at a party or gathering of some sort, right? I think it's always great to send off a message when someone has made their first post and just thank them for taking the time to do that, encouraged them to do more as a community manager, tell them how much you're looking forward to hearing more from them.

So, you know, those kinds of personal messages like that go a long way, even when somebody maybe hits a major milestone in the community, like a certain achievement of so many badges or a certain rank level or maybe it's their anniversary in the community, you know, another personal message again, thanking them for their time and congratulations for the achievement. I know personal messages aren't desirable because of their they're not really that scalable unless you're constantly using the same template and it's worked to just, you know, create these manual messages, but they go a long way and I've seen that happen before. So, you know, those personal messages in the beginning, um, making sure that what the user sees as they are registering and then coming to the community for the very first time as a registered member, um, is also critical to them finding their way, feeling like they belong, feeling like there's information there, that they, that will benefit them. So, you know, I hope every community manager goes through those steps and sees what the regular user sees when they go through the sign up process, when they first, you know, hit the community homepage or wherever, wherever it takes you after you're signing, you've signed up and um you know, I hope that people are just taking into account all the different kinds of personalities that might be coming to community and what those people need and need to see from the start, but there could be a whole episode on that depth.

We can go much longer completely. Yeah, it's funny, we were bringing that up in a workshop recently in the community about learning styles and how people, you know, some are visual learners, some are auditory learners, some are um you know, analytical wanna you know, have, you know, worksheets out other people are like, I just want to watch videos, it's interesting um yeah, that could be like a whole a whole another conversation, but I wanted to ask you about content because um I'm curious, I know you work with enterprise, I mostly work with um entrepreneurs or like startups and you know what I'm seeing is they a lot of the startups feel like they've got to have so much content in the very beginning before they launch something and I'm curious to your thoughts of you know how much content is the right amount of content when you're just starting out. Yeah, that is a challenge when you're just getting started. Um, and maybe you perhaps only have what we typically call founding members, right? You haven't, I hate like a critical mass yet, and you're still building up that founding membership to hopefully just keep growing your membership in general.

Um, let's see, content from that perspective is you still want to have enough that it is valuable for someone to be spending time on the community. But I think when you are recruiting founding members, it's important to convey to them what their experience is going to be like. Um, and recruiting founding members is a skill in itself because you are, you're, you're essentially reaching out to people to form this relationship to ask them to help start off and you know, this, this community and to be have ambassador like behavior of it, right? And hopefully other people will model their behavior. Um, and in exchange, hopefully the brand is giving some kind of of perks for the, for that for the time they're going to spend. But in these communications with founding members, it should also be conveyed that, you know, hey, while this community is in this phase, you know, we're not going to have thousands and thousands of posts to read through and yet, you know, but we hope to be there at some point. So for now, you know what, you what, you might find our, you know, some posts here and there and we still appreciate you chiming in and um replying to those and starting new posts and I think that as long as you're clear about what the experience is going to be like for a founding member, uh, and you just set that expectation then then you're just being as honest and up front as you can with them and so they know what to, what to see what to expect when, when they go in.

Um, and again, as far as how much content, uh, I think even interviewing people, your, your customers or people who are going to be founding members, asking what do they expect then, if they, if they know that it's going to be, you know, community with not a ton of volume in the beginning, what do they need to have in there to make them, you know, want to come back and so come utilizing their suggestions and starting from there. That's a good, that's a good starting point. I love that. And it's funny because that's what I bring up. You've mentioned a couple of key points there and so far and one was the importance of on boarding and the other was, you know, doing the discovery in the ideal member interviews is what we call them sometimes and I think that's such a pivotal point part that a lot of people miss. Um, how much golden nuggets basically you can find in the discovery process, Have you experienced that I have um in the past I've had clients who wanted to skip that process and and I won't I won't do it um probably not the consultant you want to work with if you want to skip that process.

Uh that is so key. Um it is to me a very obvious step like oh what should we do next in our community, how should we grow, what do people want to hear? Um why don't we go talk to community members or potential community members? Uh but because it is time consuming, that's why a lot of people don't want to put in the effort and um I just caution any community professional out there who thinks they know what their members want and are being tasked to go forth and create a community. Um please please do not do so until you have interviewed at least five ideal members and asked them about breadth of questions. Everything from you know, what communities are they already apart of two, why would they come to this one? What would incentivize them to come back? What content are they looking for? What are their needs? Um All those kinds of questions that's so great. Yeah and what are their needs? What are you, what do you what problem are you going to help them solve or what transformation are you offering them is sometimes how we refer to it in our communities because we've got a lot of people who are doing like life coaching or you know, some kind of inspirational spiritual mindfulness, you know, courses or work or those kinds of things, so when you're, you know you're setting something up you want to know, okay well what would be helpful and, and even the ability to recognize timeframe of, you know, if you're gonna have live events or you know, social networking events or things like that, how many is appropriate?

One of the clients I talked to was saying he only did um you know, a live event. He had initially had a live event once a month, but then realized the members are saying, oh why we want to connect more, so you know, just knowing your members, right, Super important. Exactly, yes, you're right and it's funny because, so you, you've had all this experience with brands and I'm curious about, you know, you're a part of a lot of communities and when you also mentioned about what communities are they in, I think that's such an important question because it shows where there your whether intentions are and you know where there are already showing up, right? Yes, exactly. If that's a question I like to lead with actually in opening up a lot of my workshops, I like to ask people to think of a community that they are part of, whether it's in their personal professional life, whether it's in real life or virtual, Okay, but something that they would consider themselves a member of and then give three reasons why they are a member of that and what you usually end up hearing people say collectively as a group that comes out of that is because people joined for shared interests um for education, for social reasons, I always find that that's a really nice opener to workshops, to bring everyone in alignment, because I'm just about everyone in the room can say they're part of some community in some way, maybe it's a parents group of some sort, maybe it's a church group, maybe it's, you know, a facebook group that they are are heavily involved in, um but pretty much everyone can say they're part of at least one community also gives a little nice little personal insight into the people in the workshop, right?

Because then you can self identify with as being a member of the community, you can have the member perspective, and then when you're looking at community building in general, then you can like, you know, have that parallel of, okay, if I'm a member in this community, if I was looking at maybe, you know, if I was the host of this community or the lead or however you want to title that, um you know, what would that be different, how would I vision that out maybe to set the vision for this new space that I'm trying to build, right? Absolutely, and when it comes to personal communities, I'm probably a member of too many of them, but I am a compulsive Joyner and I'm working on that, uh but I just, when I really find a community I love, I can't help it, I want to sign up, I want to do as much as I can, then I usually have to back off a little bit, but um yeah, I just found a lot of communities that really resonate with me, so I'm fortunate in that regard. Yeah, I agree. I think um I've been, I'm a member of so many online communities, I keep finding more and joining us um and and now I'm doing in person things now that that's starting to happen again, and it's just been funny to, to try to figure out, okay, well what is really like, how much time do I have?

And so I'm really kind of trying to look at the lifestyle design, which I recommend. My clients look at lifestyle design and say, um you know, before you launch this community, is this really gonna make sense for you? Is this the right time? I mean if you're, you know, having a baby in two months might not be the very time to launch an online community, you know, if you're traveling for a month or something or you know, just thinking about like what your priorities are in life and then aligning that with, with what your intentions are when you're building a community, and I think the other thing is that people um think they have to scale right away. And I noticed that in the beginning you're talking a little bit about more personal um connections and I was curious what you recommend people do um maybe after they've launched and they're in, you know, they're there in the community and you know they're getting people to kind of talk, are you still um doing more personal connections as like the community manager or the community host?

I would like to think so and I would hope so uh and yeah in a perfect world, those personal connections would never stop. But I mean let's think realistically at some point your community is going to reach a certain size that you know, it's just going to be not be feasible to welcome every new member by a personal um communication or or figure out who's just made their first post and made you know, again send another individual communication off of that. But I think that's going to be up to each community manager to decide when, when they is a bright point for them to stop that, you know, and then I think it all depends on the size of the community they are trying to get to or also if there, I think a good indicator is that if you are finding yourself neglecting other community management duties just because you're trying to send these personal emails um you know, are you neglecting the moderation now? Is it, is the moderation not um, you're not keeping up with it. Are there people putting things that she, you know, shouldn't even be in the community now and you can't get to it because you're sending all of these personal messages.

Uh, so you think about those things and prioritize, you know, what needs to be happening in the community? I've got I've had some clients in the past as well who just kind of just did a weekly or even monthly welcome 2, 2 new members. Because they just got to a point, we couldn't address it all in, you know, in individual posts anymore. So just keep the pulse on that and again, keep the pulse of the community you're building and make sure that, you know, they are satisfied. Moderation efforts are in flow, uh, and that all other operations are going well and if any of that starts to suffer, then maybe it's time to to think of something else since instead of the personal communications. Mm hmm. Yeah, Yeah, because eventually you're not, you're going to have to figure out a way to time manage and and time block all of these different activities and assign tasks that we as a community manager, you have, right? It's only amount of hours in the day. Um, so since you are one I would consider one of the leading community professional experts that I know.

Um, I'm curious, I'm curious to know, you know, where do you see the industry going right now In 2021 as we speak, in August uh well, first thank you so much for that, so kind of you to say. Uh and that also just like I'm smiling so big right now um and I know you know you can see it, but I am, that means a lot to me because this field means a lot to me and I've been excited to see how much growth it has had, where do I think it's going? Uh I mean, I think there is a world of possibilities for it. I would love to see some kind of marriage of these audio form platforms with enterprise communities in the future, not sure exactly what that looks like yet, but uh but yeah, I think that would be something really need to add like an audio component or special area of community where audio conversations are happening, right? Um because that with the rise of clubhouse and twitter spaces and um racket all of these different platforms that are just based on audio, I think there is potential there.

I think also it can be really lovely to hear someone's voice. Uh it would be even lovelier to see them on video, but I mean if we don't have not everyone has the time to do something like that, right? Post video responses to everything happening in a community. Um but there are some times when I kind of just want to rattle off and hit the record button and respond to something that way, but now I gotta wait till I can sit down and type it all out, you know, and um so that's one area uh I think I would also, this is more of a hope, um just the growth of this field to start seeing more senior positions in community uh is a huge hope for, for the whole, for the whole area of community management. What I mean by that is like, I'd love to start seeing more VP of community titles, Chief community officer titles, and I know there are some companies out there looking for people in those roles and right now it's really hard to find people who have the seniority in this area to um you know, the companies are looking for, so I love efforts like the community club is making with a leadership track soon that they're going to be uh they're going to be having for people who want to um you know, put their career on a, on a path like that and keep moving up in community because the opportunity is there and right now we just don't have enough people out there to fulfill all those roles.

Yeah, that's super sad, so I love the idea about uh sound like using club cast, I have a community that I'm in one of the fun come here, members of her community is a networking community and they do clubhouse meetups, I think every week on like thursday or something and I've started to join her, her club meetups and she promotes it in her muddy network and so uh you know she has it up there and then you can join on the chats and so that's kind of an interactive way to have an audio, but I don't see that a lot, I mean that's a brand new platform really in the last year. Right, so um that could probably be integrated I think a little bit more going forward into a lot of these different platforms, but speaking of platforms, what platforms do you like or recommend to your clients and so you're chatting about platforms. Uh so with the clients I work with, I am most often most often uh discussing with them the platforms such as um kouros, Higher Logic, Incited or Salesforce Experience Cloud, I just a disclaimer, I did want to work at kouros, so I do know a lot of the back end of that platform pretty well, but I have relationships with all of the companies and um what the key thing is really is just sitting down with my client, finding out what their needs are and the strategy and goals they want to fulfill and then trying to find you know the right platform partner for them.

So there's a couple of different but has been interesting ever, you know since I started my own consulting practice to learn how many more of these platforms that sort of all sizes of communities have come about and that's so exciting to see, even though I I just continue to work with the the few again from an enterprise enterprise level, but um you know dad, I would think, you know the audience that you're probably working with, there's a number of different platforms out there that cater to that particular audience and this is all, you know, these companies are only a few years old, most of them. So how fascinating is this just to see how many new platform options are now being opened up and created for for businesses and consultants of of all levels. Yeah, there's just so many options, I think at some point it's a bit overwhelming and I like the perspective of what you're saying is focus on the goals of what we're trying to do before, you know, the logistics of a platform and all the setup and I think people could jump right into the, you know, the techie aspect of it and I think the strategy people like you're saying about what the Discovery people don't spend enough time to, you know, on that Discovery and Strategy phase two, like then have the vision and then say, okay, well what platform would best serve us and I think that's what and even I've been doing a lot with the money networks, but I'm looking at Circle now and I'm looking at some other platforms, not for me to move to them, but just to better understand what platforms are available for my clients because I do have some people now that I'm talking with that are on that they prefer, you know, these different other platforms, like Circle just comes to mind.

Um, I don't know a whole lot about, there's a few other ones out there, but um, Money Networks has been primarily the one that I've been working within, a lot of the people that are listening to the podcast here are probably um familiar with the Money Networks platform. They're having tons of new upgrades and they're not that old, I want to say maybe five or six years old and they're not very old at all and they just got funding in the past year to upgrade their platform even more. So there they're definitely like 50 $60 million or something was invested to help that platform grow because they're like blew up during covid because entrepreneurs started businesses or we're trying to figure out public speakers and authors and all these, you know, people that couldn't then do online or in person were scrambling to figure out, Okay, well what does that mean for us now, So they would actually starting to launch their own like online communities and see what that's about as creators or um, you know, writers and things like that, so I think it's, you know, the platform really depends like you're saying um on, you know, what are the goals, what is going to make the most sense for what we're trying to do.

And then just to start small and I like, I really recommend starting with small cohorts of people in the beginning, when you do pick a platform to kind of see, is this the right platform for us before you kind of, you know, do a big launch. Right, right, exactly agree with everything you yes, beta testing such an important part. Um well tell us a little bit about how you help people and where people can find out more about you. Yeah, my website is jenny dot community, not jenny dot com. I'm actually using the dot community domain uh from there, you can see more about the communities that I have worked with a little bit about me and my offerings uh sign up for my blog, which is also my, my substack, where I'm sending out lots of great information, creating tons of free templates and sharing tips and um outstanding communities. I have a series every week called community of the week and I'm profiling a different community and sharing what I love about it and making a little wish list of my own for it.

So it's almost like I'm doing a very high level review or audit of the, of the community of the week and hopefully, you know, that will inspire some community professionals out there and they'll see what other great community professionals are doing. Uh yeah and so lots of lots of ways we can connect, you can also find all of my social profiles there. But mostly I think I'm gonna be the best resource to enterprise brands who are diving into this for the first time and are confused about where to start, what to do and like someone's telling them, oh, you need to go do research and discovery and create a plan. Well, we don't have time, that's what I can help with. And uh, and yeah, and I really enjoy helping, helping companies just create these places of connection. But I also have worked with companies that are maybe doing a migration of some sort, they have an established community and now they want to pick their, picked a new platform and they need some help with the change management of all that or perhaps they just want to refine a certain area of their community strategy uh, and so please look up jenny dot community. Very cool, very cool.

Was there any last question maybe that I didn't ask, but something that you could share with us as a tip, a resource for our listeners, let's see, Oh my gosh, there's so many, so many great ones out there and I am going to say that the one that's top of mind right now is a book called building brand communities by Kerry melissa jones and Charles Bogle, which I just finished reading. Um, and I really have to give credit to both of them for putting this book out there in such a way that it is going to be understandable for anyone who is new to community, but highly valuable as well to anyone like me, who has already been a community professional and as a strategist, I'd like to make sure I am still reading all the books coming out from my peers in this space. Um, not just to to learn more, but sometimes it's nice to hear things they say that are validating things that I'm saying, you know, um and it's always nice to hear another perspective. So um, kudos to carry and Charles on that book, Building Brand Communities because it's very thorough, very insightful and has a ton of great examples that are inspiring examples.

Oh, very cool. That's actually come up a couple of times with conversations I've had with community builders and uh, I think that might be our next Book Club book at this point, we're working through the business of belonging by David Spinks and we've been doing that book from june and july and then it's august is we're wrapping it up, I believe we just, we pulled out like one or two chapters at a time and then decided to discuss those in a little bit more detail in a, in our book clubs and that seems to be really invaluable for people, people like, you know, picking apart these little just hints and ideas of things and then how that can actually translate into what they're doing. It just seems really, um really helpful. So thanks for sharing that book. That book recommendation. Yeah. And hope that you and the Book club find as much value as I did. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being here on the fun. Come here podcast. I appreciate everything that you've shared with us today for the listeners. Make sure you subscribe to the fun come here podcast on any platform that you're on, because we're having lots of more fun interviews every week from community builders uh in all stages of the community building process.

Um, so until the next time, I hope you're finding calm in your day, evening, afternoon Tuesday morning friday brunch or any other time. Find calm. Take care until next time. Bye. Mhm.

Episode 50: Find Calm creating your community strategy with Jenny Weigle
Episode 50: Find Calm creating your community strategy with Jenny Weigle
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