How Notion builds a world-class (and world-spanning) community

Building a thriving product community is hard work. Replicating it around the world? That’s even harder.

But that’s just what the team at Notion did—creating brand ambassadors, inspiring in-person meetups, and cultivating user-generated content from North America to Asia and all points in between. The productivity software provider also gained tens of millions of users in the process.

Common Room’s Head of Community Rebecca Marshburn touched on that and much more with Notion’s Community Manager Francisco Cruz-Mendoza in Building global communities with Notion.

Here are three of the top takeaways from that conversation, including:

  • The importance of engaging with community members on their terms
  • Why community champions are the ace up your sleeve
  • Ways to focus on more high-impact community work

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1. Meet your community members where they are

Communities are powered by people—people with different wants, needs, and preferences about where they spend their time.

Based on our analysis of 141 communities, the average organization engages with community members across five different surfaces (Twitter, GitHub, and YouTube take first, second, and third place, respectively). While you may have a primary communication channel for your community, it’s important to meet your members where they are.

“We run all of our communities on Slack, but not everyone is super active on Slack,” Francisco said. “And a lot of times we're just like, ‘Oh, should this member stay? Because I don't really see them messaging and reacting anymore.’ But then they're publishing these amazing content threads on Twitter, or they're posting videos that are getting millions of views. And it's like, wait, how can we leverage all these things and really just get a better idea of where everyone's at?”

This is where visibility into community activity becomes essential. Crawling the internet in search of brand-specific activity—not to mention doing so across a wide range of different platforms—isn’t efficient (or realistic). To keep tabs on your community, wherever it may be, it helps to centralize all relevant information in one place.

“Common Room makes that so easy,” Francisco said. “If I go on a member, I use the tool, I can see, okay, maybe they're not active on Slack. But [...] look at their Twitter following, or look at their impact on this post. So I think one of the things that I really, really appreciate about Common Room and I really want to leverage even more going into the new year is just being able to get a bird's eye view of all the activities all our core members are doing.”
What it means for community teams: It’s hard to build a community strategy around a partial picture. Learn which watering holes your ideal customers frequent—as well as which topics resonate most with them—to inform your strategy.

Lack of visibility doesn’t just mean missing out on engagement opportunities, it also prevents you from enjoying one of the biggest benefits of a community: feedback.

“At Notion [...] we consider feedback a gift,” Francisco said. “Don't be scared of feedback—really listen to your members. Find an easy, accessible way for them to reach out and talk to you and just make sure to do what you can to turn that into actionable changes across the program.”

2. Empower your community champions

Every community member brings value to your organization—from word-of-mouth marketing to insights about product usage. But some take it a step further. They act as ambassadors for your brand, accelerating adoption of and affinity for your product.

These are your community champions, and they deserve to be, well, championed.

Consider this: Community members will respond to each other more frequently (28%) than they will to your internal teams (13%). That’s one reason why 30% of the companies we analyzed already have a champions program—and why the vast majority of the customers we talk to plan to build one.

“We personally don't moderate or admin all the communities you see around Notion,” Francisco said. “They're run by these very, very engaged ambassadors. And we're always looking for new ways to support them.”

What your champions look like may differ based on the maturity and size of your community. The goal is to set your own criteria so you can find and nurture them.

For instance, at Common Room, part of what we look for in champions is contributions to our Uncommon Slack community, whether the individual is an active product user, and what we refer to in our product as impact points (aka how often individuals engage in activities that are more likely to influence the overall community).

“At Notion, it was such an interesting situation because some of the most active members were in Japan and Korea, which normally for a US -based company, that isn't the most obvious place for these things to kind of take off,” Francisco said. “But they kind of figured out a way to support them and made sure that they were sending them out goodies, stickers, what have you, to continue running those events and localizing a lot of the content that they needed to organize.”
What it means for community teams: You can’t cultivate community champions if you don’t know who they are. Learn how to recognize your champions and reward them, whether it’s by helping them run local events or simply thanking them for their time and attention.

Check out the video below to see how we seeded our own champions program using Common Room:

This is another situation where having visibility into activity across community channels is invaluable. For example, when Francisco and his team sponsor in-person events, they use Common Room to understand which locations are most likely to draw attendees.

“We used Common Room to basically track where people were most active and just see, hey, here's some people in Palo Alto that are really active on Twitter or what have you,” Francisco said. “And just use these tools at your disposal to just build a list, reach out to people, and see what happens.”

3. Automate activities where you can

Building a community takes time—not just to get it off the ground, but to keep it growing.

Organizing internal processes, onboarding new members, reporting on member activity—there are a lot of manual activities that can take time away from actually engaging with your community.

That’s why the team at Notion uses Common Room to take the busywork and guesswork out of certain activities, such as reporting. From analyzing activity rates across different community surfaces to measuring overall growth, what used to take them a week can now be done in a few clicks.

“Common Room just kind of presented that in such an easy format,” Francisco said. “We didn't have to create our own internal Excel sheets and kind of hunt things down and go back and start from January and work our way back. It was just all there.”
What it means for community teams: Communities never sleep, but community managers do. Find ways to simplify certain tasks via automated workflows so you can focus more on the work that drives business impact.

Learn how to use automated workflows in Common Room in the video below:

Reporting isn’t just about running metrics up the chain of command—it’s also about spotting opportunities to improve.

“I think that's what I'm really excited about and I really like about Common Room is [...] it allows us to just quickly get a bird's eye view of what's going on in our community, how active it is, and it allows us to jump in there and then follow up with people that maybe aren't so active,” Francisco said. “That's been absolutely great.”

Creating a flourishing community—whether it’s hyper-local or globe-spanning—means supporting the people behind it, both members and community professionals themselves.

Start by understanding who they are, where they are, and what they need.

Power your community strategy with Common Room

Sign up for free or request a demo today to see how Common Room helps you gain visibility into and take action with your community.