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

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Episode 93: Community Strategy that utilizes data with Richard Millington

by Deb Schell
November 6th 2022
00:49:09
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In this episode of the Community Strategy Podcast, you’ll hear a conversation with CSP Host, Deb Schell, and

He's worked with brands such as google, facebook oracle Wikipedia and many more. Uh prior to that, you worked with Seth Godin so we can talk maybe a little bit about that. But welcome Richard Wellington to the community strategy podcast. Yeah, it's great to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me. I've seen a bunch of these society. It's exciting for me to finally be on it. I know right, so glad, so glad to have you here. It was great meeting you. I met you. I read your book uh the buzzing communities. I think I read that in like 2020 fish, maybe 2021 ish maybe. And then um met you at clicks Community Leaders Institute expo earlier this year in Memphis. Yeah, yeah. So, but tell everybody, maybe people have or haven't heard of, you, tell a little bit about your backstory, how you got into the community industry. Sure, in the long story or the short story, give me whatever story is not going to take up too much time.

Yeah, I try to give you the minute long one or maybe slightly longer. So I found That well, let me go before that. So I got into online communities, like a lot of people in this space in the online gaming sector, because gamers were so far ahead back then, this was in like 2001, sometime around then where we all began playing games online. And then we realized there were communities, you know, growing up around all these games and then we began building communities around these games. And so did that for a while. And then um yeah, I did a university degree then, about halfway through that had to do a year working in the industry and like a marketing agency and then we had a client that wanted an online community. Um and I was like the only person that had any knowledge of what an online community was. That was when I kind of realized that, wow, you can, you can build communities for business and get paid for it. So then after that I started a blog about online communities, if the blog around 2008 and then it just steadily grew from that, they're really more people began to read it.

Like the interesting thing about blog I think is that when you first started, no one reads like even my mom did not read that blog because it was two point right? So no, I don't blame her. It was horrific. I look back at some of these posts in my cringe but maybe it's a bigger concern if you don't know what you wrote, you know, 12 years ago or whatever, 14 years ago. So it's two, it's 2008 and gradually after like months and months, you know, I got around 100 people began to read it and then 200 then it slowly grows from there and I think there's a lesson in sticking with it. And then people again reaching out, you know, hey, can you help me grow my community and everything just kind of took off from them. So, you know, we began growing a business around that began getting some fantastic clients that we've been able to work with over the years and really just expanded the services we offer, you know, from strategy to your training to data analytics, like really expanding and trying to offer as much value to apply it as possible.

And now we're in this very fortunate position where we've got like the kind of clients I've always dreamed of working with, you know, we've got like a team that I absolutely love, we're just doing the kind of work that you know, that we really enjoy. So gaming was the entry path for you to coming into this community space. Gaming, I think for many reasons will always be quite far ahead of the curve, partly because you've got a lot of kids with a lot of time to kill. Um and you've got a lot of kids with, you know, a lot of online motivation to, to kill each other um and that breeds a lot of debate. I mean that obviously, um because you've got a lot of early adopters that that want to use the new technology, the new thing, they have the time to learn to learn all those tools and so gaming is always really far ahead. And so yes, I'm always really excited by that space. I don't have many clients in that sector these days, but it's always been a very exciting space to follow. Yeah, so interesting.

And what are the things that that made you keep staying in the space of community building beyond like was it connections with people that you met? What's the magic or what do you feel like really keeps you going in this space every day of staying in the industry, It's evolved over time. Like initially starting my own business is more like I can be my own boss and that was, you know, quite appealing back then. And then it's more like, wow, I'm making money from doing this. That's fantastic. That's amazing. And then it was like the challenge of growing a team and now it's just we get these projects as so complex and it's like solving a puzzle, you know, and you get all these data and inputs. And for me, a lot of the community buildings about solving that puzzle for our clients, you know, figuring out what are the best practices that should be in place here, what are what's the solution, what are the things that their members really want? And you get to work with a lot of organizations for usually a relatively short amount of time compared to their lifespan and you get to see the immediate impact of what you do.

And that's really exciting. Like it's such an exciting thing to be doing and it's not for everyone, like, you know, if you worked for any agency or consultancy, you know that you're hot from 11 project to the next. And that can, can be a challenge. So for some people working for an organization might be a much better fit. But for us it's just, yeah, it's just exciting. Like it's a different challenge every day. You get such a diversity of experience with different clients. So yeah, I think it's just a challenge. That's always very exciting. Yeah. Just the ultimate interesting puzzle to put together of belonging. How do you create belonging? How do you cultivate conversations, how do you spark and inspire others to connect in different and unique ways? Right. Um It's like, it's like a puzzle where you get like the data side of things, you get the qualitative data, you get your experience, you get the business goals and then you have to look at it and figure out, okay, how does all this fit together in a way that that works?

You know, and if you don't get all those things to work, then the community doesn't work and yeah, it's always really interesting. It's really interesting when we get to that point with a client where we've done the discovery of the research part of the work we're doing and we're looking at the next steps and what the best road forward is and that's like the really exciting part, you know? That's yeah, that's gonna ask. So what's it look like to work with you and your team today kind of what things are, what's the steps in the process when you, when you see like when people come to you and you said you've got these interesting things, like can you give us an example of what's an interesting puzzle that that somebody approached you with, um what did that look like for you and your team. Yeah, I won't mention specific names to be respectful of, you know, like there's, you know, one climate working at the moment where they have a community where engagement is declining, not through anything that they're doing wrong, it's mostly because the trends are working against them, you know, people used to go to this community for a reason, but now there's so many other places where people can go for this kind of information and the challenges.

Should they keep, you know, the community going, should they move to a new platform? Should they cut the cost of getting a lot of pressure internally? And it's, you know, it's a team with a significant budget and a significant size team. And so it's more about figuring out what's the point when, like the threshold is crossed when it doesn't offer enough value to the ground to keep going. Another project at the moment is starting a new community from scratch. You know, it's a competitive field, but they have a very unique prop proposition. But even then you gotta figure out people are so used to visiting different platforms at the moment, how do you get them to come to this platform and what is the unique value they're going to get from it. Another client we're working with as a community that's very successful, but they wanted to be aligned to best practices and everything that they do, like their goal is to reach the absolute peak and everything and they've got the resources to do it. It's actually kind of interesting when I first began doing this kind of work, a lot of our marketing was your community isn't doing well, We can help you do it, do it better.

And it wasn't really that effective because people that aren't doing community well, usually don't know, they're not doing it well and usually they're not doing it well because maybe they don't care that much. You know, maybe it's not a priority for the organization when we began saying you're doing it well, we could help you do it better. That was a far more effective route to go down because then you get to work with companies that really care about communities and you get to help them take it to the next level. And so yeah, that's kind of like being being approached. So every client is different, like everyone is always very different, but some of the challenges come up time and time again. Um and the process is usually again, it varies, but usually we spend a lot of time researching the members of that community. We do a lot of UX testing with members, so we'll have members with that will go through the community like a shared zoom call and we'll have them just say what they're thinking or what they're feeling and how they interpret what's happening in that community. We'll build up a whole bunch of recommendations from that, We'll do a detailed dive in the data of that community.

You know we build around dashboards or data pipelines to figure out, you know what is the R. O. I. What is the retention rate, What part of the of the community need more attention, what need less. So we have a really detailed set of recommendations and once we've completed that process issues you where we presented to to the client and then are prioritized list of recommendations of what to do next. Sometimes that's like the short medium and long term but it really depends on what the client needs. Yeah. How do you, so as a fellow consultant I'm going to pick your brain a little bit and ask you where did you start in your consulting business? Kind of what was the steps that lead you to feeling um like you could put out there your offers. I mean like was there anyone you leaned on um in your process of starting out in consulting in the first couple of years? You know what's amazing when I started consulting. So I must have been around, I think there must have been 2000 and 10 I think was when properly began.

So I don't know how long one at that point, maybe 24 went went 25. I'm amazed that anyone hired us at that point because I was so young, I had no idea what I was doing. Um And yeah it's amazing that we got any work at all, I think part of it is, you learn from every client you work with, like that really helps. You know, we tell a lot of clients, we'll never know our customers as well as you do. You know, we'll never know your your organization as well as you, that's not our role. What we bring to the picture here is that wide angle lens, you know, we know best practices so many different situations and what works across communities and what only works in one communities, we can tell the difference and guide you through that process. So to answer your question like I don't think I ever um had a sudden realization, oh now I'm comfortable doing it is more like initially I was doing one small piece of the puzzle which is these are the tips to get more engagement, you know, that was like what it's probably selling back then, what resonated the messaging that resonated with people, right?

Yeah. And if you read my first book in 2012, like you see a lot of that there and then it just gradually expanded like the more we learn about our clients, the more we're like okay they need this this and this. So let's get incredibly good at this. Like if we were doing a lot of data to work today, you know really deep, extracting the data building pipelines, all that kind of stuff and a lot of that is from learning from our clients, you know, we interviewed so many organizations in this space, figuring out what the best practices are, figuring out how they do it, figure figure out how we can do it ourselves and then we can offer that as a service to our clients as well. Um, there's always gonna be some point or like that chicken and the egg to get experience. You need to have experience, right? And that's always going to be a challenge. But I think everything you do, you've got to do with integrity. You know, if you haven't got much experience doing that, then maybe do one for client for free or do it at a discount and just be honest with them. Hey, you know, we think we can do it, but if it doesn't work out, it's on us pay at the end if you want.

I think there's ways of getting around that. Um, but I really think what makes the difference is just understanding what clients need, find out who does that incredibly well, which organization is doing incredibly well to speak to them, find out how, how they do it and see if you can do it yourself. I think a lot of things about, um, orientate around that. Yeah. And and you, you, yeah, you mentioned questions and I am with a background in journalism and reporting. I know how amazing questions can be to gaining insights and understanding. So I'm guessing and I know that your background and when I'm viewed um in addition to the community institute where I saw you present, you also presented recently at C. M X Summit in California. And so um and mostly focused on your, your focus has been really on metrics and I'm measuring the value of community. And so I wanted to really understand and get your take on um the importance of metrics why you decided to focus there and and how you see that emerging um as something that's that's really been a tool for helping community professionals and leaders in the space.

Yeah. Ever since we began doing this, every every organization I think has complained about the same issue, which is, we don't have the data right, Like pretty much everyone always says and the vendors always promise them more data and then no one is really happy and so what we're trying to do is solve that issue. Um and there's I think two or three parts to it. One part is what is the value of the community? Is this community worth doing? Is it worth investing more resources in? Can you show a clear undeniable impact that community, that's one part the second part is is that the community healthy? You know, like if you were to look at how to improve that community data should inform everything that you do about it. And I think it's like if you were running say a local town you know get data about what's happening because otherwise you just speaking to a few people and making decisions based on that. And that's not a terrible way of doing it. But if you only listen to the people that want to talk to you you're going to get a very biased opinion of what's really happening. But the data shows you what people do, not what they say and that's usually very reflective of what people actually want.

And so when we think about data we try to build a system for clients which gives them a level of insight ideally beyond what any platform can offer. So we will gather all the usual engagement metrics. But usually we'll get that from the A. P. I. Not the front end of the system. And then our goal is to figure out what's working, what's not working, what's important, what's not important. And the importance can often come from qualitative interviews that can come from really understanding how people go through the process ux research those kinds of things and what's working or not working. You just look at where the trend lines are going. What we really want to discover is where should the community invest more time, where should they invest less time, what should they change and what should they stop doing? And I think there's always a big disconnect on the data side where people collect a lot of data and they don't know what to do with it. I mean for example if the metric you care about what your audience cares about goes up or down by 10% next month. what will you do differently? You know that's the question and most people are like, I don't know, I send the report to my boss.

I hope that she that she read them and that's usually the end of the journey and that's such a shame because data can guide everything you do when we look at it for our clients, we say look this metric has increased by 10%. If it's important to you, maybe you want to invest more resources in this and invest less resources are your resources in another activity where it's, it's in decline. That's a, that's how you become data driven about what you do and then you can gradually invest more and more of your time and your resources and efforts in the areas where they're going to have the biggest impact but you need real data to do it And if you want to know the return on investment, you know, you need to know how is the community impacted members, a member level, not the aggregate level. And so a lot of data we have at the moment is correlation of information, you know, activity is going up and retention is going up. That's interesting. But if the company is growing or if the products are getting better, you would expect both things to happen anyway. What we try to look at is before and after someone to join the community.

Did their behavior change or what specifically if we pull the data from the Api and had those raw server server logs in place, we can know specifically the sequence that members go through. We can know when they purchase. We can, you know what they did before they purchase. We can compare them to other groups that didn't join a community that exact time and we can have more precise insights and that's that's where we want to be. Like we really want to try and push the frontier. I don't, I mean I don't always think we're successful at it, but I think we're really trying to push the frontier and how we evaluate a community and how we become more data different about the decisions we make. Yeah. And is that something you feel like leadership is um is point on, is it a conversation around? I think there's a good question there of leadership, decide on what is important. Are are those the decision makers, are they the ones that really have to um be on board with it. Do you think? I would say every organization is different when we work with a client we try to speak to all of the stakeholders, understand what's important to them and this will usually begin with a general theme say retention and retention is really interesting, you know?

But then the question is, well, what does that mean? Because the detention is just a word. It's not a metric. Right? So retention, how you, how do you know if retention is successful? And then we must say, well, customers are completing their trial periods at higher rates than what they were or customers renew their subscription after the first year and now we have a metric. Right? So we were like, all right, so I have a metric. We have to think about how can we analyze if the community is having an impact on that? But it always begins with what the key people want. Like it always has to begin at that level. Otherwise we could come up with a bunch of data and someone says, oh, that's nice, what's next? But if we can clearly show that the community is having an impact, that's what we want to be showing. I mean, even just two days ago we had one client that we worked with for over a year now, like a big company and they want to prove that their community is having an impact upon the people that complete that trial period of the product and that's fantastic because now we've got a specific metric.

We can compare it to people that don't participate in the community. We can have very similar journeys that people go through and really get specific about what the impact on that community is. Um, and so that's what I mean, we can give a very precise answer, there's always a lot of assumptions that are built into any uh date two equation or question that you put together, but we want to try and take people as far along that journey as possible. So if you speak to the stakeholders very early on, really try to understand their needs, work with them to frame that question in a data sense, you can deliver a lot of value there. One of the things that I'm working on with, my colleague Todd, which I know he worked with you as well and one of the clients that we've been working with, you know, there's these discussions that, you know, when when, when communicating with leadership, you know, there's a tendency for some people to really be seeing like all of the things and so I was wondering if you had any ways that you kind of bring people into to the vortex of we're just working with in this little bubble or a bubble right now of what's important to us, we're not going to look at, like what everyone else is doing or where everyone else is or like, you know, all the things, I'm wondering if there's any challenges you've had around that with leadership of, of like, you know, them comparing and and just going through these questions without just without the focus of us versus the world and what this is doing.

Yeah, I would, I mean again, I don't have the background this, but I would think let's reframe this. If someone is asking a question of the community, we want to encourage that, right? We don't want to say, oh, the community isn't about that. We want to say, okay, you know, this is what we need from, from you to investigate it or if you want to see a result from that, this is what you need to do. Because I think there's always an opportunity when anyone shows any interest in the community. I want to grab that because I want to draw them into a community and not say, nope, the community is not for you. Um, I'd rather say, hey, yes, we can do that. This is the data you need to provide for us. We can look at it if you want this metric to go up, this is what you can do to help us support. And I think there's opportunities to build these cross functional partnerships across all these teams because I think that's such an exciting opportunity that said, there's definitely many times when se sells or marketing will say, hey, we want to use the community as a sales tool, you know, and sometimes that's not ideal.

Sometimes the community is not set up for that. Yeah, there's ways of doing that and making network, but sometimes the community is not set up for that. But again, we don't want to just say, no, we want to say these are the conditions under that under which that will work, we want to provide examples of that we want to showcase, you know, what they can bring to the table to make that happen. Um and so I also think it's very important that no community professional or consultant comes up with the goals of the community of themselves, you know, I think it's really easy to sit down at a table with a blank piece of paper and say, hey, the goals of this community are x, y and Z, and then you can spend years trying to persuade everyone else how important these goals are, and find yourself disappointed that no one takes it that seriously, it's far easier to go to your stakeholders or the Senior League leadership is higher, but you can go and say what's important to you, this is how the community can help, and then you're beginning with, the goal they already know is important, and those goals, I think, I mean, I wrote an entire book about this, the indispensable unity a couple of years ago, and those goals are usually not what we might think.

You know, I've had people use community as a focus group tour, you know, and instant feedback tool to figure out there should be A or B we've had people use communities to like source, like the top influencers to create, reviews and be the number one thing on the trust comparison site, I mean usually so far beyond engagement, um, yeah, I feel like I'm thinking about, but I think it's critical to what does it mean beyond the number if I want 100,000 people in a community and I'm a leader on the leadership and that's what I'm saying. Well, what does that mean? You know, why, um, why is it important? So I think it's, it's the digger diving questions that sometimes people do, I don't want to answer and maybe it's, um, and maybe the answer isn't community, Sometimes it is and it can be a place and then other times it's like, well, that's actually not, or it's not now, it's the not now thing, let's put this on a shelf for later and Um, right now, here's what we're doing for the 1st 90 days, right?

How long, you know, timeframe timeframe is always the question of like, how long does it take to build an online community in 2022, what do you, what are your thoughts about time? I want a question from a different perspective. I feel like when we can talk about community, we're talking about so many different things, like there's so many different variants of that, I feel more and more, it helps to be more precise about what we're creating, because if you're building, say, a customer support community, say if you're, if you're Microsoft, you know, also the 111 of my clients, if they didn't have a community, they launched one today, they would have a million members tomorrow, but there's sheer size and scale the number of people that have questions that need to go somewhere to find an answer. It would be like that. I mean, they would have to do the platform and all that kind of stuff, but fundamentally, you know, it's right if you are just launching, if you're say a hobbyist or creator and you don't have a big audience and you want to build a community of tech enthusiasts around digital cameras or whatever, um, then you can do that, but that could take a year to get up to the critical mass point.

And so more and more, I think it would be helpful to be more precise about terms because support is very different from a peer group, which is very different from a user group and it's different from an advocacy group or cult brand is different from a customer success style community and all of these have different time frames that they take to reach that critical mass point. So, support, if you do it right, it shouldn't take that long. You know, because you're redirecting existing questions from one place to another and attracting more a customer success community where people are proactively sharing the best advice that usually takes a lot longer, but usually the kind of community that people spend more time, you know, they go there to learn, not just to get an answer to an immediate question, peer groups and user groups, you know, tend to start from events and activities and you know, you can have one event of like 30 people, it goes well, they're like 50 and so on and so support from there. So I don't think there's one answer, I think it very much depends upon what kind of community you're developing.

Um, I think that's one of the thing, you know, when people mentioned like, my first book, I cringe a little because I wrote that in 2012 and I read it now, it's 10 years ago, I was like, I was so naive, you know, there's so many things that I'm like, yeah, that applies to some kinds of communities, but there's so many others that are just like, don't fall into that model. Yeah, so great. And you mentioned platforms, So jumping into platforms. But the first question I get, I don't know if this is true for you. The first question I get is a consultant in the community spaces, what's the right platform? Yeah, I have, I have my favorite response to that, if they ask me what's the right platform? I asked them what's the right car, It was like, well, you know, like because there is no right car, you know, it's all about the needs of budget, you know, what you like and all that kind of stuff. Um There isn't I mean there might be the best platform for a particular group of people with a particular group, group of needs but there's no one best platform.

Having said that I think that we're seeing some general trends in place. You know customer support seems to be drifting more and more to like the big enterprise plat platforms that have ideation and are designed for those kinds of things. You've got some that are drifting more towards customer success. Um and then you've got the smaller platforms like Circle Tribe, Mighty networks are catering more the creator and the hobbyist crowd. You've got the meet up groups and bevy that are doing like the user groups. Um So yeah there's some general trends that are taking place and then you've got people with low budgets that can stitch together really great community platform just by using tools that are out there today. You know you can use tools that are relatively expensive facebook groups, zoom slack. You know the things you can do to design a really good community experience without having to use one of the top enterprise platforms that are out there. Yeah true. There's no one right answer.

I love the car analogy though. What is interesting about platforms is a, we're seeing that the decision is made less and less often by the community team and more and more often by the I. T. Team with like the data privacy concerned. It's an interesting trend and I don't think it's the best trend for us but I can understand that it's so important that data is secure now that it's interesting seeing that happen. Yeah I think there's gonna I don't know if you're feeling a shift but I feel like there's much more of a shift away from social media platforms and and more focused on where were were as as a creator and an entrepreneur. You it's less interesting and intriguing for me to build on somebody else's platform and it's more interesting and um I feel more secure in my own like experience of building a platform on my own website or things like that where I have a lot more control versus these algorithms are fighting me on all the social media stuff and it's like you know you create these spaces and then there's anybody actually seeing it and I don't know about you but when I go on facebook I just feel anxious the second that I'm like looking at the thing I'm just like there's a million things happening and I get lost and then I'm like 10 minutes and I'm like where I gotta go back to doing what I was doing before this whole crazy thing happened on facebook.

Yeah I kind of feel I'm on the opposite side side side of this. So I'll be clear what I want to happen is different from what I think is happening it's interesting that a lot of community professionals in our space, you know, people do fantastic work often say say things that today people want, like hosted brand community brand communities, you know, on their own platforms, but they're saying that on twitter right there, saying that on facebook and when you ask them what brand communities that aren't your own, do you participate in? The answer is often uh none really, and that's what happens again and again, you know, and I've asked this question a lot what brand communities that aren't your own do you participate in? And the answer is usually none. And so these people who think hosted platforms are the future often spend a lot of times saying that on social media, I think there has to be a little bit of awareness that what we want to happen and what is happening, I don't know, I mean other people disagree and I respect that, but I'm on the fence, I think there's definitely a use for hosted platforms and I think, you know, most of our work is on them, but I think we're being a bit too dismissive or maybe we're confusing what we want to happen with what probably is happening.

I got you, I hear you, I am in a lot of communities off of social media and other platforms like money networks in circle and disciple and and a lot of other places, so I'm almost, you know, because I'm such a community builder, I'm on so many places, it's crazy um okay, so rapid round of questions to, to round us out for the interview um when you started building an online community, said that was back in 20 10 either be in like 2010 as a company as a blog, I think it was like 2008, my first community experience was around 4001. Sometime around then. What's the biggest challenge since starting? Do you feel like of all the things you've experienced? Like what was the one thing that was like the biggest hard rock to get past?

If there was one, honestly it wouldn't be a community question, it would be a management question and you can, you can confirm this with Todd if you want. I always thought management wasn't that difficult because I figured it's kind of like a soft skill, you know, how hard can it actually be and then I began growing a team and I was like, wow, it's really hard and this isn't critical of any past employees more. What about me? And I had this really difficult time early on when I was like, oh man, my motivations aren't quite in the right place and I don't have that skill set, I don't really know what I'm doing and so I've never felt more out of my depth was when I first began hiring employees and I feel so bad that being bad that management initially helped me be a lot better today. I still don't think I'm great at it, but like managing a team is yeah, I was the biggest challenge and I was so young back then and that experience really helped me learn um in terms of community, the biggest challenge. Um It's interesting. I can't think of a major one.

Uh I can, I can think of one, there's one client that I remember was very difficult to work with because the Ceo had very specific ideas about how she wanted the community to be and they weren't right. You know, we didn't walk away fast enough and I think that's the lesson that we learned, like sometimes you really want to make it work, but if you're 100% sure that you can't cut through, like you can't get the message through, you've got to walk away. Um I think we learned a lot from that. You can't want it more than they do that came up in my last podcast with, you can't you can't want it more than they do, like we want things to work, but we can't want it more than they do. Um Cool. What's the way you define success with your clients? Like what do you establish as being a successful online community experience? What do you what do you see that looking like? Our definition of success is have we delivered excellent work to them, you know, are they happy with most of our clients?

You know, they hire us a couple of times, you know, Most of our clients have been with us for a long time and that's what matters to us. We are north star in that aspect is relationships. That's why we show up at all these events, you know, build relationships. Having trusted relationships is the North Star that we guide towards. And everything we do is, you know, how do we become a trusted person that you know that they want to work with? There's no single metric of successful community, but if the client feels like they've achieved what they needed to achieve, that's what matters. Because I feel like there's no standardized metric, there really isn't. And it's more because sometimes we'll go in with a client and we'll train their team that's great. You know, but we don't we're not measuring that by anything other than best satisfaction with the training maybe months later. We can check it and um but if we develop a strategy that that could be a strategy that takes like 3 to 5 years to fully implement every plank of that, we will work with them, you know, three months a year, six months.

And so that's part of it. Um I don't think there's a single metric, but me, I I love that feeling. I really love that feeling when we've delivered excellent work, you know, where we know that they find it useful and they're using it and they they're seeing results from it, whatever the results they care about. If we bring them closer to that, that's I think yeah, really motivating motivating thing. The beginning. I, you, I was told by Todd to say hello and to ask you how you worked with Seth Godin, he was asking me that question, Yes, So shortly after I started a blog, Good and did an announcement that he was doing an internship in new york or just north of new york in a place called Hastings on Hudson and I was such a big fan of stuff, you know, I can't even tell you how I found out when I was a staff and he's like, yeah, I was a total Fanboy ism and I didn't get the initial one, but then, like I wrote to him afterwards, I think I called him actually and said, hey, I'm really, you know, I'd really like to do this, can you let me work with you for a couple of months?

And he said yes, so it was like 2008, um as in new york for three months or so, um did an internship with him, I wanted to be respectful of his privacy as well, but Yeah, it was a really challenging experience, it was a really difficult experience, but here's a way of thinking about things with such clarity and depth, you know, like when he launches a project, it's very much who are the 1st 10 people that you're going to detail, what will you tell them? Why will they listen? And there's still a lot of that that infuses my thinking today. My only regret really is not taking more advantage of it. Like I was so in awe of him, Have you ever had that where you're so completely and all someone that you're like, oh, I don't want to bother him with my questions during my internship. Um and so I think if I could tell, like younger Richie would be like, has to him like crazy, you know, you only get one shot at life or what's he gonna do? Like his is a really nice guy. He invited you here, he clearly wants you to be there.

You know, like I wish I could go back in time and be like, you know, don't be in awe of him, just life is short. I had that, I had that shiny moment with you when I was at cli and I walked up to you was like, I get to meet you in person. I did, I did and we had drinks at the bar after that was fun. And so yeah, I I understand what you're saying. So the last question, final question which you kind of share here, but just in the frame of community building um what would you share with any new community builder if you could go back to the beginning of your journey, um, and tell yourself something, and you just mentioned that a little bit about Seth, but what would you tell yourself as a as a community builder? Just starting out in this space? Um so as a community builder, I think I'd be a little bit lost for advice because I've been a consultant for so long, right? I don't, I feel like quite pretentious to be like, hey, you should do X, y and Z.

I do think the people that tend to really thrive can see community from the perspective of the higher ups. I think there's a bit of a problem in the community space where of this group, think where people get together at events, they share how amazing communities are, and they kind of like, gravitate away from reality a little bit, and sometimes you've got to be a cynic about community and ask the questions, you know, because there's some communities, honestly where we've looked at the the the moai were like, oh, it's not generating a positive return that happens. And and some people think like, oh, you can't say that, but that's what the data says, you know, if we were to accept the data. So I think the most important thing is that community is great and it's good to be passionate about that, but try and understand what the criticisms are, try to understand the weak links of community, try to understand your boss's perspective on community, try to and the more you understand that that's how I think you're going to get ahead because I think if you now yourself you're like, oh my boss just doesn't get it, what's really happening is that you don't get your boss, you know, and it's far better to understand that you're working for a company and the goals are to improve the company and community is a channel through doing that if you're at work obviously, and so I say if I said like I'd really spend time understanding the business as much as you do community, because that's how you can connect with everyone else.

Um building relationships is really the key to community building knowing people better. And one of the things like kind of threaded through this conversation is just knowing people and individuals better, is going to give you better insights on what is going to be consumed, how people connect and collaborate the way the path through which we discover each other, you know, in virtual spaces um is really about these, how we know people and how we relate to them the way we understand, relate to each other better. We will then understand how others really, I don't know if that's what you're feeling, but that's kind of what I got, I mean I can give you an example because there's someone that I knew that was building community was was stories stories in my second book and when she was trying to, I think she inherited her community and everyone around her was saying, you know, he's never going to happen, there's so many compliance rules and never gonna let you do anything with it.

And she spent months just sitting with these folks, you know, really taking them out to drinks, really understanding who they are, what their genuine concerns are and not saying, oh, compliance doesn't get it, which is the kind of thing that community professionals sometimes say, like, oh, they just don't get it and they should, but really understanding what the concerns are taking those concerns as seriously as possible, coming up with a plan to mitigate every one of those concerns. And I think that's how you get ahead, like obviously you need to know about the community, but if you know about community and not about the business, you're not going to generate much value for all the business. And so I think about the story a lot, because I don't have any data behind it, but I suspect that the more people spend time understanding their stakeholders and taking their concerns seriously, instead of dismissing them, the more likely they are to get ahead and understand what each wrong about them needs in that community and design. Yeah, reaching out and just asking and understanding business better of, of, you know, if this is the goal to have sales in the next 60 days, well that's a different shift, our focus benefits, We're just trying to create brand awareness versus if we're just trying to get out the message that, you know, we have a new community platform or if there's, you know, whatever this, you know, message, you know, how can community, a part of that experience and how I think others as well to just tap on to that by saying community um departments in addition to communities.

So how do we connect the organization and have them all feel like they're kind of a part of it is something I'm really excited about working with teams on right now of, of saying great, you know, this is the piece how marketing can contribute, this is how sales is going to contribute, this is how our customer services is working in are going together. And I think the more conversations that start that and then they, it's like you, I don't know, there's two ecosystems, right? The community ecosystem of like the community members and that's what's happening within the community, but also in an organization, what's happening in the broader organization, in that community space of where people are relating and and if people are more on board with the community and they get what it's happening like instead of saying, oh well they don't get it, well reaching out to the one person who says who you say that person doesn't get it and say, okay, tell me more, like, like let's let's talk about that. If you want someone to be on your side, take their side. Oh, that's a good way to end right there.

Beautiful. I loved it. That cool. Thank you so much. Richard Wellington for being here thankfully uh celebrating with you um and proud to have you on the community strategy podcast for everybody who's listening, what's the best way to learn more about what what you're doing in the world? Sure, let's go to Fever Be dot com www dot Fever b dot com. And you've got two books. And is there any other three books? Sorry, which is the third one, which is the third one. Uh so it's buzzing community is the indispensable community and the one that came out last year with your community. I recommend that that one. Okay, yeah, that is the next one on my list. For sure. Uh as a author uh fellow author seemed to be when I get my book published next year, um I will definitely be supporting community builders who are writing books so amazing. Well, thanks everyone for joining us, Thank you for joining us.

If you enjoyed this episode, please share this with a friend. I hope that I have found some amazing uh insights to glean here and excited about the future of community in the next year. And um so please share this with anybody. You know, if you're interested in learning more about the community strategy podcast dot com is where you can go to look at all the past episodes. We've had until the next time. I hope you're finding calm in this day, morning, evening, afternoon, wherever it is for you to find a little bit of calm today and connecting with others in any way. That that makes sense for you until the next time. Take care and see you later. Bye. Hey, this is Deb Shell and I am super so psyched to let you know, I am writing a book, big deal. I know maybe it's not for you, but for me it's a big deal. And guess what? I'm writing this book for you because honestly, as a new community builder two years ago in 2020 I had no idea what I was doing and I really got really confused easily.

So I'm going to simplify things for you. But what I need from you right now is to actually help me make this book possible. And so you can support me with a crowdfunding campaign that I'm running through I fund woman. I'm going to have a link in the show notes. Please support me this. This is running from September one room through the end of october So I'm really hoping to reach my goal to be able to write this work style book, it's gonna have worksheets, it's gonna have templates, it's gonna be something that you can actually use today. It's not a course that you have to take for four weeks. It's not, um, a big book that's not going to give you actionable steps, you're gonna be able to take action the same day that you read the book. I'm super excited about this. I've had lots of feedback from clients, but this is what they want. This is what they need. So I'm putting it together and I hope you can support me with it and I hope I hope it's going to help you. So let me know.

Please check out the show notes for that link to the I Fund Woman crowdfunding campaign for the new book I'm writing. It's called creator to Community builder. I'm so excited. Thanks for helping me if you've already donated.

Episode 93: Community Strategy that utilizes data with Richard Millington
Episode 93: Community Strategy that utilizes data with Richard Millington
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