The Strategy Behind Building A Thriving Online Community For Your Brand
In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Jenny Weigle. Jenny has 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.
Community is one of those big buzzwords right now. So what even is community? Does your business need to have one? And what even is the benefit of building a community in the first place? Jenny Weigle has worked with more than 100 brands on aspects of their community strategy and implementations. In this episode, she’s breaking down why it’s so important today to build an online community of raving fans and customers for your business and the best ways to go about it.
Questions I ask Jenny Weigle:
- [1:19] How would you define community and how is it different than my Facebook business profile or page?
- [2:50] Do the people who join a community intend on engaging with many members or is it really because of the way the technology works?
- [3:59] Who needs to be thinking about community — B2B brands or B2C brands?
- [5:58] Does the way community is used change based upon its a small or enterprise-sized brand?
- [7:02] What are some of the platforms for a community that works well for smaller businesses?
- [8:51] What is some of the standard advice you give to brands on how to get engagement in a community they’re building?
- [10:42] What are the benefits of a B2B company growing a community?
- [12:41] Are there upsell opportunities in communities?
- [13:20] What are the risks of having a community?
- [14:13] How do you approach someone giving their honest opinion in a group or community that isn’t so flattering of your product?
- [15:00] Should you be curating members for a community?
- [16:13] What have you seen people do effectively to keep people active in a community through rewards?
- [19:02] What are a few of your favorite communities that you think are doing it right?
- [20:25] Where can people learn more about you and your work?
More About Jenny Weigle:
- Her consulting practice — Jenny.community
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John Jantsch (00:51): Hello, and welcome to another episode of the duct tape marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Jenny Weigle. 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. So we're gonna talk about community today. So Jenny welcome.
Jenny Weigle (01:18): Thanks John. Great to be here.
John Jantsch (01:20): Should we start off by defining community? It seems like that's one of those words that
Jenny Weigle (01:37): Yeah. So the types of communities I work on are peer to peer, usually customer communities. Yeah. So community is a buzzword right now for sure. It's being utilized in a lot of different ways. So I'm really glad that you asked that to start this off, John
John Jantsch (02:50): So is that really a point of view difference or a technology difference? I mean, is that, you know, like, do people join a community like that intent on engaging with many members or is it really just because the way the technology works,
Jenny Weigle (03:03): Both actually. Yeah. There's lots of reasons people join communities. Usually the ones that I work with people are joining because they have a shared interest with the purpose, the community or the members in it, or the brand that's hosting it. They might need a quick response or quick answer to something. And the quickest way they're gonna get that is actually joining the community versus calling a company's social, uh, customer service line or submitting an email or so forth. Some people will do it for status because there are some communities where if you are active enough, you can start to get certain perks and so forth. Some people do it for a connection and belonging. They just wanna find other people who have shared interests as them. And, uh, but they're usually the technology to host. These types of communities is very different than social media technology.
John Jantsch (03:47): So I think a lot of, I think there were certain types of organizations. There are certain types of brands where it just made sense. I mean, Pringles needed a community, right. Or being at, and M's needs a community really, you know, more and more people are getting into it. So, I mean, is it really still a B to C thing? Is it a B to B thing now? You know, I guess the general question is like, who needs to be thinking community?
Jenny Weigle (04:11): Well, I think everyone should consider community. Yeah. But community is not necessarily for everyone. I think that's what we're you might be touching on there. John. And I agree with that statement, not every business or business owner should have community. Okay.
John Jantsch (04:25): But you did agree that Pringles needs one, right?
Jenny Weigle (04:27):
John Jantsch (05:37): I mean, in some ways, when you talk about like a consultant doing, you know, community, it really is in a lot of ways. It's just, I see people who are it as a way to get to know people as a way to start it, to introduce what it would be like to work with them. You know, perhaps as a way to, to really build something that maybe turns into high masterminds and things like that. I mean, is that so different from, you know, a big brand, how a big brand uses it with their customers,
Jenny Weigle (06:05): Not so different in the overall purpose and goals there. Yeah. Yeah. I think a lot of what we're trying to achieve are the same things. Unfortunately, these big brands have the, sometimes the means to hire large community teams so they can do a lot more with their communities and, you know, consultants, small business owners might just have themselves, maybe one or two other people who could help them on the community. And the thing is without someone dedicated toward nurturing the community and help make those connections and nurture the conversations, it will become as a dead zone. And it won't be worth your time. And that's, I guess one advantage that enterprise brands have over that is that they can hire somebody a hundred percent dedicated to that. Right. And we know like the work we do, we're a hundred percent dedicated to every facet of our business. We can't just focus in on one and stay on there.
John Jantsch (06:50): Yeah. And so the thus the 2 million dead Facebook groups that are out there. Right.
Jenny Weigle (07:08): All right. Folks, get ready and write these down or replay because these are definitely some companies you will want to check out. First one disciple sometimes also called disciple media. I think they're starting to go by disciple now, mighty networks, circle dot, so and tribe. And again, a lot of these are appealing to that individual business owner or small business team. And it is a really neat platform to all of them are new platforms. I've seen the UI. It's beautiful. And it's like I said, the price points are nowhere near what these enterprise brands are, are paying. And couple of these specialize in a cohort based experience. So if you're offering any kind of teachings, masterminds classes that you also want a community to prepare and compliment that experience, or you want to welcome people into a community after they have completed it as kind of, you know, part of their graduation gift. Yeah. And yet you're staying in touch with 'em. So some of these have the ability to do that. Also some of these platforms have the ability to offer paid communities. So if you were to start up a community and you wanna charge $5 a month, $50 a month, whatever's gonna be right for your audience. They have the ability to do that as well.
John Jantsch (08:15): Yeah. And you mentioned the cohorts and things. I really think people are a little bit tired of the watch video training, you know, and the idea of having training or learning along with engagement of like-minded individuals. I think people are hungry for that. We're kind of tired of zoom TV and
Jenny Weigle (09:06): Well, if you're going to try this world of community here, one of the things you can do right off the bat is try to see if you can get some volunteer moderators or volunteer hosts in there with you. So that you're not the, always the one who has to kind of kick off the conversation and also see if some people there's some people who want to also throw some virtual events for your community or help post in person events. So kind of getting this exclusive group together, maybe even giving them some extra perks for taking this on, right. That can take some of the work off of you. And then of course you're managing a team and that still takes time. But I think it also says something really strong to the community when it's not just you doing everything, but they see other community members are also helping to plan and organize events.
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John Jantsch (10:36): You've touched on a few of 'em, but maybe I'll kind of tee it up and you can give your typical sales pitch for this. You know, what are the benefits of, you know, of a typical, you know, B2B company growing a community?
Jenny Weigle (10:48): Oh my gosh, there are a ton of benefits. Probably the easiest to calculate, right, right away is support and customer service needs. Right? Sure. You have one of your agents in there as a moderator handling any of those kinds of questions and, or actually not even handling, but in there to address anything, anyone can't answer, but in a really successful B2B community, it's your other community members who are answering the questions and that saves money on from customer service perspective for those costs. But then from a marketing perspective, you've also got, you know, you wanna create a, an area of loyal fans and of raving loyal fans, right? And when they start to connect to each other and start realizing these are connections that only could have been made through that one community, that's pretty powerful. You can also start getting testimonials out of it.
Jenny Weigle (11:33): And depending on the kind of platforms you're picking to have your community, these days, you can start to create some great SEO because the search engine's favor, user generated timely and relevant content, which is all happening on communities. Let's see. So that's a benefits to customer, to customer service. That's benefiting marketing from a customer success standpoint. You can keep track of how many of you know, your clients are active on the community and kind of, you know what they're talking about, maybe they're starting to ask questions about products they don't own yet. So, you know, any good customer success professional would keep an eye on what their clients are talking about, especially if they might be able to spot upsell opportunities. Yeah. And if you're on any kind of a product team at a B2B company, the community will not only help educate people on more features and functionality, cuz people are gonna be asking, how do I use this part? What's a tip for using this area. So that's gonna create awareness and adoption of further of your products. Yeah. But you can also set up kind of an idea area, you know, and let people pitch their ideas or you could propose a number of ideas, let people vote on them. So there's just so many facets of a company, especially a B2B company that a community can benefit.
John Jantsch (12:41): Well, and you didn't mention this explicitly and I'm sure that you have to be cautious of this, but certainly there's upsell opportunities as well. Right? I mean, somebody that's in it, you know, now learns about this higher level thing they can do.
Jenny Weigle (12:54): Exactly. And I've seen that happen with my clients before. Yeah. They have seen conversations happening amongst members. So these were not solicited by staff or anything. And people are talking about a newer product coming out and that opened a door for them to have some, you know, the relationship manager, contact them separately outside of the community and start to say, Hey, what kind of questions can I answer for you about this?
John Jantsch (13:17): Yeah. So let's do the flip side of that. What are risks? What are risks of doing this? Obviously you can have all kinds of community rules and have moderators and whatnot, but at some point you really, people are gonna say what they're gonna say.
Jenny Weigle (13:32): People are gonna say what they're gonna say. And that's why it's very important to have community guidelines in place as well as moderation efforts happening. Yeah. Yeah. So the risks are that if you allow people to go off the community guidelines and start, and aren't adhering to that, what you're creating is an unsafe environment for the rest of everyone else. And you're also diminishing the value of the community. It's not the experience others signed up for. Right. If people can go on and break the guidelines and speak offensive, inappropriate things. Right. So yeah, that is a risk. And it's also a risk. If you're not tending enough to nurturing the community, that it could become a dead zone and it actually looks quite bad on you and your brand. Yeah. If people go to this and see that the last, you know, post was three months ago. Right. And no one's really interacting.
John Jantsch (14:14): Yeah. Well I think what I was getting at a little more, because obviously you have the guidelines, you know, somebody breaks guidelines, you just like, see ya, but what about somebody giving their honest opinion? That's not so flattering of your product or service.
Jenny Weigle (14:26): That's always a tough decision for brands to have to come to. And I have clients that have done that a couple different ways. I have some clients that don't allow any kind of competitor talk and I have some clients that are open to it and they do list some kind of limitations on what, when you're, what you're talking about. So some only allow people to pose questions, you know, some people will not allow an entire testimonial about another, another product. Yeah. Yeah. It's it really just depends on what the community's purpose is and, and yeah. And how the members will respond to what you're putting out there as the guidelines.
John Jantsch (15:00): Talk to me a little bit about curation. Should you be curating members, you know, for a community? So, so what I mean by that is that, you know, you talked about, I mean, people want to go to a place where they're gonna be with peers or where they're, if it is in a B2B community, they're gonna wanna be able to get answers from people that are having the same problems they're having. Maybe because they're a big company as opposed to a little company. I mean, so, so should you be doing that or to so that you really can have everybody going, wow, everybody's here, you know, is on the same page or does that run the risk of stifling?
Jenny Weigle (15:32): It runs the risk of the community, not growing as quickly as some people might want it to. But I will say that when I've seen people do that, they do get, you know, I guess the right kind of member in there, you know, to engage now, I've been invited to be part of many online communities. Some of them I've had to fill out a quick form and you know, then it said, we'll consider your membership. And I actually like that because I like it when a community team or individual takes the time to ask the right questions and ensure that I'm gonna be the right kind of person to come in here and try to connect with the others. And if I'm not, I could really throw off the whole vibe and the whole, just everything happening, all the good Juju happening in the community. Yeah,
John Jantsch (16:12): Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Talk a little bit about rewards. What have you seen people do to effectively other than acknowledgement or, you know, elevating somebody to being a moderator, you know, what have people have done to, to keep people active by rewarding them?
Jenny Weigle (16:27): Well, COVID changed a lot of the coolest rewards I'll say, because I'll say some of the coolest rewards I've seen are people who are part of a super user or ambassador type program of a community, meaning that they have proven that they are the most active. I've seen them get invited to entire weekend conferences just for that group. So a small intimate experience, the brand is flying you out. They want you to come together. You know, they've got some gifts for you, some ways to wine and dine you. I mean, that is quite the, I've seen community members called up on stage at a customer conference, recognized in front of all the company and all of the attendees and their peers, fellow customers. I have seen some really unique pieces of swag given out only to people who hold a certain status in community. Yeah.
Jenny Weigle (17:09): So there's lot of, lots of different things. I've seen certain permissions given in a community that other people can't do, maybe such as, uh, having a certain kind of avatar or the ability to record some video addresses to their audience and so forth. Mm-hmm
John Jantsch (17:40): All right. So switch gear a little bit. What if I'm out there listening to this in there and I'm thinking to myself, I think I would wanna be one of those community manager people. What does that role look like? Or how does somebody train to be that? Or is it just, you gotta be like a certain personality
Jenny Weigle (17:56): Oh, no, but there's all kinds of personalities involved in this field. That's, what's so exciting about it, but there are some roles that I think would make an easier transition than others. So if you have worked on social media communities, there's a lot of similarities. You would need to adapt to some new technologies, but you'd be a great candidate. If you've ever been a customer success manager, you'd be an ideal candidate because I know customer success professionals out there. When you're in your position at your company, you have to have connections with all kinds of different departments, cuz your customers can be asking questions that really over here, over there everywhere. Right? So usually I think customer service professionals have their hands and connections in many parts of the company and you would make a good community professional. If so, because community managers also need to have touch points everywhere. And also if you've ever been a program manager of any kind, that's also a makes for a great background and some foundational skills to contribute to a community manager. But I've also people seeing people come from teaching engineering roles. It's really neat to see all the kinds of people coming into this field now.
John Jantsch (18:58): Awesome. So maybe as we close out here, you could tell me a few of your favorite communities that you think are doing it right. That, that you know, are fun or however you wanna talk about 'em.
Jenny Weigle (19:10): Yeah. So on the B2B side, I have to give it up for Intuit. They have a couple of different communities within their brands. They've got a turbo community, QuickBooks and accountants community, and they've also done a really great job of integrating the community into their products. So if you're using a turbo product and you have a question, when you type in your question, one of your results might show up as a question and answer that came out of the community. So really nice tie in with their product there. And also they've just got very passionate group of members, a wonderful community team, running things. And on the B2C side, I've gotta give it up for my former client, Sephora athletic, gosh, they're all doing some really fun, unique things on the B2C side. Awesome. So check out, just Google those names with community next to it and you'll find out what they're up to.
John Jantsch (20:00): Yeah. And I'm, I actually am a member of the REI community and I can say, you know, one of the beauties of that one is it's most, it's where people who people can collect that have similar interests, you know, and I think that's one of the themes on a lot of really strong communities is, you know, it's, you know, you're gonna go there and you're, you're gonna be talking to somebody who likes the outdoors, uh,
Jenny Weigle (20:18): For example. Exactly. And I'm glad to hear you say that about the community. Cause I know that is what they're hoping their members are getting out of it. Yeah. So that's great to hear.
John Jantsch (20:26): So Jenny tell people where they can find out more about your work and some of what you're up to
Jenny Weigle (20:30): My consulting practice is called jenny.community. So just type jenny.community into your web browser. And you'll learn a little bit more about me as well as where you can find me on social.
John Jantsch (20:39): Awesome. Well, thanks for taking some time to drop by the duct tape marketing podcast. And hopefully we'll run into, I usually end the show by saying, run into you out there on the road someday, but maybe I should say run into you in one of these communities someday.
Jenny Weigle (20:50):
John Jantsch (20:53):
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