Don’t Forget to Smell the Flowers

I was walking around Rockridge talking about community strategy with a good friend and we stumbled upon these gorgeous blossoms.

I’m not sure if you can see it in this photo, but this particular flower had a bee in the center going to town, collecting pollen.

As I mentioned in Advice for a New Community Manager, it’s important to “take that vacation…and enjoy it!”. This suggestion also applies to taking a break from thinking to enjoy moments like these.

Flower with a bee

Advice for a New Community Manager

Two people having coffee

My winning submission from Khoros’ Community Manager Appreciation Day 2020 Contest.

Most community managers are on a team of one (as I am) so my advice focuses around that – especially when Community is new to one’s organization:

  1. Don’t overwhelm yourself with tasks. Select up to 3 initiatives to focus on for that particular quarter or fiscal year. Is it growth? engagement? Your calendar and any task manager software are your friends!
  2. Become familiar with your new organization and how it fits with your community. Go to your intranet, make a list of all of the departments and create bullet points on how they could contribute and benefit your community – tactically and strategically. This list will help you promote community internally and find allies that will help make your job easier.
  3. Have an open-door policy to talk about Community. Find active community members (internal and external) and call them up to learn how they use community and what could be better. This information provides incredible insight into user behavior
  4. Welcome new internal team members, introduce yourself and the Community’s value to their department. Newly hired folks need a buddy…so why not have it be you? Not only will you be their lifeline within the company, you can show them the value of Community. Similarly, newly hired folks want to be recognized and seen by their managers. Share how the Community would benefit their careers within your org (i.e. Give them something they can share on LinkedIn!)
  5. Always think strategically. Connect with internal team members who are influential in making decisions and would encourage their department to participate more in the community. Take them to coffee or lunch to understand their current work struggles and leverage that information to demonstrate how your community will help make their jobs easier.
  6. (Last but not least) Take that vacation…and enjoy it! Don’t feel guilty if you need to take a day off or a vacation. Come up with a process where you can casually check emails (or train a back-up) while you’re on vacation. You will be more influential and valuable when you’re refreshed and well-rested.

My First Podcast on Community Signal

Iphone on Sofa

Community Signal LogoI’ve always enjoyed listening to other people talk at conferences about community management and never thought that I’d be asked to actually be on a podcast…but then it happened!

Out of the blue, I received a Twitter DM from Patrick O’Keefe from Community Signal which is a bi-weekly podcast for community professionals.

I’ve heard of this podcast before and always thought that the guests were people who had done amazing things so I was definitely surprised when Patrick asked me to be a guest on his show.  I was super excited about it, but also nervous because I didn’t think I had anything interesting to say.

To gauge whether or not he had a show, Patrick sent me a questionnaire and I answered it as detailed as I could because I wanted to be picked.  He wrote back saying “We definitely have a show!” and we setup a time to chat.

Without giving away too much of my episode, we talked how I discovered Community Management and titled my show From Civil Engineer to Community Manager.

So without further ado, here’s my podcast episode.  I hope you like it!



FAQs: Your Community's Best Friend

There’s nothing more annoying than fielding the same question…over and over again.  When I was going through my Lithium training, the instructor said that the rule of thumb was that for every person who has a question, you can assume that 25 people have that same question.

That’s where FAQs in your Community help – especially with deflected tickets.  When I was a Meetup forum moderator, I kept a cheat sheet of FAQs so that I could copy and paste the answer.

For the Zuora Community, nearly all of the questions are technical; customers usually search Google for their answer, which is why it’s crucial to have FAQs for error messages, security issues, “how tos” and so forth.

Customer Solutions Articles (CSAs)

Since we’re on Lithium, we have our support agents write what we call “Customer Solutions Articles” based on questions asked in their Zendesk tickets.  They post the question as the original post, followed by the reply in the subsequent post.  Then they mark the reply as an accepted solution.  Right now, we don’t showcase our accepted solutions (I know, I know….I’ve logged that request with our IT team), but when we do, those will show up.

CSA Tracking

Each CSA is given a “Customer Solutions Article” label so that I can track the number of label views.

Quality Controlled CSAs

In our first year, we used to have a Q&A process, but that took forever to get something posted so the community would get, at most 5 CSAs posted a month, if the agents didn’t have many fires to put out.  The number of views were around 1000 page views/month and the “Customer Solutions Article” label was consistently #1 – not bad for a brand new community!

The problem with this process was that there was a lot of back and forth – checking, editing, rechecking – such that the CSA queue was getting longer and longer and it wasn’t a priority.

Enter…the Kraken!

At the beginning of our 2nd year, the CSA queue got to ~60 pending articles waiting to be quality-checked.  So we said “Screw it…let’s just get the articles out there for our customers!” There were some folks who were hesitant on letting incorrect information float around the Community, but my opinion was that it’ll create a great discussion; any engagement is good engagement to a Community Manager, right? 🙂

So, we released the Kraken…

Liam Neeson Release the Kraken

Did all hell break loose?  No!  Our CSA views skyrocketed to around 4000 views/month!

One can easily assume that a percentage of those views resulted in a deflected ticket as many customers didn’t ask additional questions in the CSAs.  We also had very few corrections.

Wait…it gets better!

Requiring CSAs Upon Ticket Closure Results in Metrics of Gold!

If agents posting CSAs at-will increased the article views 4x as much, we should require agents to write a CSA (if it makes sense) before they’re allowed to close a Zendesk ticket.  Sounds evil, right?

We followed this process for a few months (no more than 2 quarters) and the Community was overflowing with CSAs.  Imagine how many tickets an agent sees a week and translate those tickets into CSAs.  It was awesome and the metrics supported it.

One month prior to this requirement, CSA labels were seeing an average of 4000 page views/month. The month after, CSAs skyrocketed to 7000 page views/month.

While these numbers are impressive, we found that agents were getting burnt out and a little sloppy writing their CSAs, so we went back to posting articles at-will.  Still, our CSA metrics hang out around the upper 7000 page views/month.

FAQs are Your Best Friend

It takes time to build up a FAQ, but the payoff is well worth the effort.  Our agents were reporting that customers were asking fewer lower-hanging fruit type of questions, which made their job more interesting and customers were getting their questions answered.

Start out with 10 FAQs and built it up from there.  Remember that browsers will crawl your site when people Google their questions so keep SEO in mind.

Personalizing Emails to Users

Woman at Computer

Sending personalized emails to users can really help increase engagement, but many platforms like Mailchimp or Aweber still give the impression that the recipient is still part of a mass-emailing campaign.

The alternative would be to individually write an email to each user, but that can be time consuming – so what do you do?

If you’re using Gmail for your email provider, look into a script that will customize mass emails  like this Mail Merge tool from Steffon Davis.

With this tool, you can send up to 1500 emails a day and I’ve used it to invite customers to the Community, send out my Welcome Kit or collect feedback.

Don’t get me wrong, Mailchimp is a great tool in and of itself, but there are times when a personal touch will make a huge difference.


Creating a Community Welcome Kit

Onboarding customers is really important for a Community Manager – it’s our job to show them the lay of the land. This is why the Community onboarding process is crucial and the best place to begin, is with a welcome kit that is sent out to new users within a week of registration.

After a visitor registers for the Community, they receive an email to verify their email address. In the past, that used to be the only step of onboarding, but now, I created a welcome kit to highlight areas that they should pay attention to.

The goal of the welcome kit is to encourage engagement so that I’ll be able to identify who might be a good superuser.

The Welcome Kit

I prepared a welcome kit using (Canva for Work) with our branding and our mascot, Zed.  I made it short and sweet and created a linkable PDF form.

Items I highlighted:

  1. Community checklist in the welcome board
  2. Customer solutions articles
  3. SME webinars
  4. Sending the Community team feedback

Zuora Community Welcome Kit
Zuora Community Welcome Kit


Community Welcome Email

My welcome email is also short and sweet with the PDF attached.

Weekly, I send out this message to all new registrants that were collected using LSI and then I edit the 3 linked items that might pique their interest to participate.

Welcome to Community Email

Metrics I’m Watching

  • link clicks – each link in the email is a link
  • Page views of these posts from LSI
  • Comments and kudos of these posts


My Community Has a Commercial!

Zuora Community Video

To help encourage customers to register for our community, one of our customer success managers and a member of the branding team came up with this amazing video! I hope to have a collection of them to show off at conferences in the background.

What I love about it:

  1. It’s branded
  2. Short and Sweet – The message to join gets across in a short amount of time
  3. Visuals are fast and engaging
  4. Perfect for sharing on social and in the Community in our Community News blog
  5. Perfect for reuse in our Community booth TV screens at conferences.

Check out the video below