Building the Technology to Support Community-Driven Organizations

  • Melanie Ratchford

    July 18th, 2021

Five small circular portraits of people on a light grey background

Community is at the heart of sustained success, and people in community-driven organizations are best poised for building the most valuable and enduring products and experiences. Community means more than users. Depending on your organization and industry, it can also be evangelists, educators, partners, prospects, and more. And within your user base, there are different personas and levels of passion- for example, those that contribute most regularly, influencers with broad reach who can connect with people far beyond your organization’s network, and pioneering members first in their organization to publicly engage with your brand and other members.

With the rise of community-driven organizations, we’re seeing increased investment in community teams and community managers. We connected with leaders at LinkedIn to put quantitative numbers behind the qualitative anecdotes of community growth. And indeed, there’s substantial growth in the community-led space - both the “Community Manager” and “Head of Community” roles have increased over the last year globally, and they’re continuing to move up and to the right:

  • 143K Community Managers, 3,920 open job posts, and the title is growing 7% y/y
  • 4,378 Heads of Community, 92 open job posts, and the title is growing 10% y/y
  • In just the last year, 29,268 members with those titles joined a new company

More than most industries to date, it’s in the technology space that organizations are becoming increasingly community-driven (and they should be). It reduces the time between member needs and organizational response and engagement, moving the end-users even closer to the products they’re building with and educating others about. When looking at the same LinkedIn stats for technology, the growth is even more rapid:

  • 8.6K Community Managers, 378 open job posts, and the title is growing 9% y/y
  • 352 Heads of Community, 8 open job posts, and the title is growing 20% y/y
  • In just the last year, 1,410 members with those titles joined a new Internet company

Growth of Community-Based Titles on LinkedIn(Technology)

We’re also beginning to see representation in the C-Suite, with Chief Community Officers (CCO) like Mary O'Carroll at Ironclad. She’s one of only a few right now, but based on the data and the increasing growth of community-centric roles, we’re likely to also see this C-Suite role boom over time.

These community leaders need new tools to build and grow their communities and more meaningfully engage with their members. It's our mission at Common Room to build the technology to enable every organization to help their community feel supported, heard, and connected. And provide the ability to uncover insights and connect community to business impact. As a people-first and data-driven company, we aim to empower community leaders to excel at both the art (building authentic relationships and a sense of building together) and science (finding insights, measuring impact) of community building.

Why now?

People, content, and the ability to measure impact are key inputs to an organization’s ability to  understand the health of their community, and the health of their community efforts. But until now, tools have only empowered teams to look at one, maybe two of them at a time.

Enterprises are starved for a solution. Many of today’s tools are built for yesterday’s ideas. We may have had some quantitative data and disjointed customer support calls, but little, if any, direct interaction. Customers have been numbers, not people. Legacy customer data platforms deliver leads that aren’t necessarily driven from the right signals for bottoms-up product adoption. What’s more valuable - an email signup for an ebook, or someone regularly contributing answers to questions posed by other members, extending the reach beyond that of your own team?

This leaves most community teams forced to hack together solutions for building, managing, and measuring their communities. We’ve heard almost all of our customers say they have some form of an unwieldy spreadsheet - most often referred to as “the spreadsheet of doom”. While impressive feats, they’re all time-consuming and manual efforts that don't scale. And ultimately, these spreadsheets (of death, doom, and from hell) still can’t give community teams and leaders complete, real-time visibility into what’s happening across their communities, and they certainly don’t enable community teams to quantify the impact of their outreach, evangelism, and support. They’re reactive and after the fact, rather than proactive and future shaping. Customers aren’t heard, and enterprises aren’t empowered.

What will the technology deliver?

  • Visibility into the real people that comprise your community. Community exists everywhere, and you’ve got to know your people. As Rebecca, Common Room’s Head of Community, wrote in a recent Uncommon blog post about why we opened our Slack, understanding which people make up your community is imperative to supporting them, collaborating with them, and building better products and experiences alongside them. To build best for people, you need to know who's using your products and how they're engaging with your brand through all kinds of social channels, networks, and platforms—and you need to be able to engage with them back. Within this visibility, you also need a way to find actionable signals in the noise.  We’re building Common Room to help you answer a multitude of questions. Are there Influencers in the space with a large reach that could make for good co-creators of content? Are you finding Pioneers (the first person from an organization to interact with your community) who may need help with product evaluation or onboarding? Who are the Contributors you want to celebrate, providing the most frequent, helpful information and answers?
  • Insights into the content being shared, asked, and answered across your community. With visibility comes the ability to measure and uncover insights. Remember the “spreadsheet of doom”? We’re building Common Room to aggregate community activity across 1st and 3rd party tools - Slack, Twitter, Discourse, GItHub, and more - to provide a centralized view into the people, content, and conversations within your community. Wouldn’t it be great to know which questions and conversations have generated the most engagement, whether or not sentiment around you product is positive or negative over certain time periods, and which pieces of content ended up going viral over others? Up until now, that’s been an incredibly manual process, and in some cases, impossible. We’re building Common Room to provide automated insights across all the places your community lives.
  • Organizational impact, outside and inside. Enterprises are more empowered and successful when they bring their communities closer. Community creates a flywheel, enabling you to identify product issues, find advocates for your products to bring others on board faster, and get even more feedback faster, which in turn helps with retention and even more product iteration/improvement, and ultimately increases top and bottom line revenue (a win-win-win).

Community teams (often composed of role types like community leads, managers, and support) and Chief Community Officers (CCO) like Erik Martin at Teal, are likely to be the first adopters of the technology. But, community touches every team. We are seeing use cases for product insights, customer success and account based management, or even enabling sales to have a more contextual conversation with an inbound lead.

We’re building Common Room to enable an entirely new and untapped customer acquisition, engagement, and collaboration paradigm. We’re removing boundaries to enable multiple teams (not just Community teams) to get closer to the end-user, to grow, share, learn, and build better together. What better way to know what educational content to build than by seeing what community members are asking questions about daily? Or, what better way for product and engineering teams to build and iterate than by talking directly to the people who are or will be using it?

Shahed Khan, Co-Founder of Loom, recently told us, “It’s pretty simple. Your users are the foundation of your product. The value they can provide on your product roadmap, marketing, word of mouth growth is honestly priceless. We saw our community as horsepower for building our product faster.”

How can it proactively solve community needs?

The technology will open up the ability to more proactively address use cases across the organization. Here's a sampling of what it can enable:

  • Sentiment Analysis for Better Engagement. Our Activity tab is essentially your Community Manager Newsfeed. It has all the comments and conversations coming through your community sources. Common Room provides filters for positive and negative sentiment so you can get a better understanding of both the good, and the not so good things people are talking about. You can then triage the bad, and celebrate those in the community providing positive recognition.
  • Account Health. Customer Success Managers want to have more informed and contextual conversations with their customers. Using our Organizations view, they can look at different members from an account, and how they’re engaging in the community. This can help you better understand who you might want to reach out to for upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
  • Project and Product Feedback. Our Search capabilities on the Activities feed can give you a better pulse on what your community is saying about new projects, products and features, key partnerships, or anything else that’s top of mind for your community. For example, you can discover insights about your product - what community members need, what they love, and what they may be struggling with - to create a community-vetted product roadmap. Or, if you’re launching a new webinar series (Let’s use our Uncommon Conversations as an example), you can type “Uncommon Conversations” into the Search bar and see what people are saying about the content, allowing you the opportunity to respond, as appropriate.
  • Customer Support --> Community Support. Customer Support leaders want to be able to answer questions in real-time, and many may come through community as a first point of contact. Having visibility into community conversations allows them to respond quickly, cutting down on support tickets. They can also offload some technical support by encouraging peer-to-peer knowledge sharing within the community.
  • Collaboration and Co-Creation. People across the organization can reach out to community members for collaborating on content and events, beta testing products and features, and more. With Common Room, you can identify the right people for your project and team.

Community becomes your differentiator.

You can no longer rely only on product features and pricing to stand out. Simply put, with the technology we’re building at Common Room, community becomes a competitive advantage. When you build more authentic relationships with customers via community programs, it leads to more authentic, sustainable growth. To reference Shahed one more time, he sees the impact of the community at Loom every day, noting, “Once you start to invest in community, both time and capital, you start to see the benefits everlasting. It’s just this strong network effect that keeps you and your community stronger [when] your competitors come out and build competing products.”

We’re excited to support a broad, vibrant set of customers with technology purpose-built for the current and future needs of community. We want to enable every organization to lead with a new kind of relationship, based on authenticity, collaboration, and community. The best way to strengthen your product and your organization is to build with the people who matter most.

Interested in trying Common Room? Learn more and sign up for our product waitlist.

And join our community, Uncommon, to engage with other innovative community leaders.



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