Hey, friends! My name’s Erica, and I’m pumped to be here today. I’m currently the senior manager of community engagement at Atlassian, and before that I worked in community roles at Bitly and 2U. My roots are in journalism, and I’ve done a lot of work in social media as well. I’ve been learning a lot about The Loveland Foundation recently and started a monthly donation to support their amazing work, so check them out!
Cole - Hey, thanks for doing this AMA Erica! I’m interested to know what the recruitment process looks like for an ambassador program. How selective are you in this process, and how do you handle letting ambassadors go?
thanks, Cole! we’ve gotten a lot more savvy about educating people about the Leaders program. think: mentions in our general Community newsletter, in emails we send to folks who have become certified in Atlassian products, really anywhere where people are demonstrating expertise and going above and beyond, these are people we want to get in front of.
Potential candidates can apply for the program on our landing page: community.atlassian.com/leaders. The apps are routed through Salesforce and assigned to the proper Community Manager based on geo and interest area. Online candidates are then evaluated by our Community Support team based on a rubric that looks at tone/empathy and technical accuracy. Events candidates are sent a few additional follow-up questions about their goals and then invited to join an onboarding call to learn about processes and resources. Once invited, online Leaders are expected to maintain 50 points per quarter (points are earned by posting, getting accepted answers and writing articles), and events Leaders are required to host at least four events per year.
we recently created this thread so folks know what that journey might look like.
re: retiring folks, it does happen, but we give them a lot of runway to re-engage if they go a bit dormant (life happens!) but if it’s clear that they’re no longer a good fit, we retire them and send an exit survey to get at what wasn’t working for them.
Cassie - What do you love most about being a community manager?
Queen Cassie! Great question, and I think the short answer is that I’ve always been a natural dot-connector. As a CM, you get to talk to people, find out what makes them tick and what will help them succeed, give them the tools and resources to do so, and then get the hell out of their way. 😎 As Erica Kuhl once so aptly stated, you get to make heroes out of these people, and that is incredibly rewarding.
Chris - What does your community team look like @Erica (Atlassian) ? Content person? Operations? Moderators?
Thanks, Chris! We are a… big team to say the least, especially in the Community arena (I was a team of one in so many jobs!)
Stephanie, head of global community
Monique, community ops
Cassie, community ops
Celina, community manager (Americas)
Darline, community manager (EMEA)
Tamanna, community manager (APAC)
Erica, community manager (Trello)
Bridget, content manager
Mandy, program manager (product and design)
Bianca, email and paid marketing
Dan - How do you think about KPIs for community @Erica (Atlassian)?
Thanks, Dan! KPIs have been a moving target for us (as I know they are for a lot of people). In the early days, I think we thought a lot about deflected support tickets and the direct business impact of that. These days, Community team goals ladder up to the goals in our marketing org, so for the past six months, there’s been a big push to bring in more Leaders who are familiar with our Cloud product offerings and to train our current Leaders so they feel comfortable answering questions, as well as increasing engagement (likes, posts) for Cloud users in general and making it easier for them to be repeat contributors.
Jacob - Heard that you led a big migration of 1,400 members from Stride (another chat tool) to Slack. You also publicly shared how Atlassian moved to a custom forum (article here). What were those platform transitions like and what tips do you have for community managers considering switching platforms? Even if executed perfectly, is there an inevitable drop off in engagement and retention, or is it offset by new members and more scalability?
thanks, Jacob! we really thought long and hard about whether or not each of those moves were in the best interest of our Community, first and foremost. the Stride to Slack move was more mandatory, as Atlassian was deprecating the tool, but even so, we made sure to establish a clear timeline, give our members ample time to move/collect any info they wanted, and be as transparent as possible. it was actually quite seamless, all things considered!
the second move was taking our general Trello enthusiasts from Slack and moving them into the Atlassian Community, and that was absolutely about scalability. it’s tough when conversations are happening behind a wall in Slack, and we wanted to elevate all of those great best practices and learnings and put them in a public place. we talked to our most engaged Slack members before we made any decisions about that, so that we could get at their motivations, etc., and I think some other folks weren’t amped about losing the instantaneous nature that a chat tool provides.
again, we gave a clear timeline and were super transparent about the process, and incentivized folks to earn the “Friend of Taco” badge during the migration from Slack to the Trello collection in the Atlassian Community.
I think you’re always going to lose some people, but for us, it was about giving folks the best possible outcomes and widening the reach to the community at large.
Chris - I’m a team of one @Erica (Atlassian). I’ve built our a customer Cyber Security community and it’s open to Google. Nothings really closed, yet. We went live October 14th of last year. I focus on all things and know I need to push to hire someone. What kind of person would you hire first?
thanks, Chris! my gut instinct is that you need someone who knows community, but also has a brain for operations — someone like my colleague, @Cassie Mayes! she understands what makes people tick, is super personable and built a great rapport with our Leaders, but she’s also able to think about tooling and how that helps our program scale. I think this type of role is only going to become more and more important.
Cassie - What is it about the Atlassian Community (offline and online) that makes it award winning? What community project did your team tackle within the last year that you’re most proud?
haha! our Community team motto is literally: WE GREAT, and we bring that mindset into everything we do. it’s not cocky, it’s just an understanding that all of our actions and decisions are driven by our community members and Leaders because we would be nothing without them. I think we’re willing to experiment and to try new things, and we spent a LOT of time working alongside our Leaders in the second half of 2019, streamlining and simplifying basic programmatic things like onboarding, and I truly witnessed a transformation. I’d say that’s also what I’m most proud of, because we took a 10,000-foot view of how we were bringing people into the program and optimized it in order to give people the best chance at succeeding.
Cole - With your community being on Slack, do you ever feel like the lack of proper moderation tools is a hindrance? How do you effectively moderate your community?
thanks, Cole! so right now, our Slack presence is limited to our Community Leaders (~400 people) who answer questions for us in the online community and host events on our behalf. we set up very specific channels and guardrails from the beginning, so that we could really funnel the right conversations into the right place. (think: a channel dedicated to threads that need escalation to internal teams.) I don’t have a public version of our guidelines, but think things like: glossary of terms for those who are new to Slack, a channel directory so folks know where to go for what, and FAQs like how to manage notifications and the policy around using @ here
Kelsey - What are some key ways you continuously engage your community @Erica (Atlassian)?
thanks, Kelsey! I love this question because I feel like CMs are always looking for new ways to get people engaged, and I learn a lot from our peers in this space.
Recognition is a major motivator for folks in our Leaders program and beyond. Some examples of how that plays out: including members’ stories in keynotes at our annual user conference, content awards, annual community awards, Random Acts of Community badge, Q&As in the community, swag, etc. More about Random Acts of Community
Gamification, led by my teammate, Monique, is a huge behavior driver in the Community. We have evergreen badges (Level 1, Level 2, etc.) that people can earn at any time based on increasing activity, as well as badges with specific calls to action (Embrace Remote, Friend of Taco, Fri-yay, etc.) You can check out mine here.
Max - @Erica (Atlassian) We are in the early stages of launching our community. Our enterprise software has 20,000 users worldwide and in phases, we are bringing in our customers to the community. We currently sit at 500 community users with a pretty small but loyal group of folks logging in. What recommendations do you have for a community like ours in its infancy?
thanks, Max! this was something I faced when initially inviting folks to our now deprecated Trello Slack community… I wanted to invite them to this party, but I didn’t want them to show up and hear crickets, or wonder how best to navigate the space! so we seeded a lot of our channels with intros from internal teams (product, content, etc.) and questions and best practices from our initial wave of members.
something that has worked very well for the Atlassian Community is a dedicated section for newbies: the Welcome Center
it has been one of the best ways to establish an inclusive and welcoming tone in the Atlassian Community from a member’s very first interaction. It includes links to FAQs, team bios, addresses people who think they’re “too new to contribute” and encourages everyone to introduce themselves. Every person gets a personal hello from me (and often from our Leaders as well!), and I direct them to different areas of the Community based on what they indicate they’re interested in. (edited)
Nicole - @Erica (Atlassian) It seems like you have a really great user group program. I would love to know how you have moved those to virtual and if its working or not?
thanks, Nicole! I think every community manager who touches events had to get really scrappy this year as COVID flipped all of our protocols upside down. Led by my teammate, Celina, we quickly crowdsourced best practices on virtual events from our Leaders (via a Trello board), drafted sample comms for their members, and propped up resources and new reimbursement allotments for things like Zoom pro accounts. So far this year, our Leaders have hosted 150 virtual events.
Max - @Erica (Atlassian) I believe in our young community. The people that are using it and others who we have shown it to see it’s value. How do we get more people to log in and visit us at least once?
great question: one suggestion is to introduce the community early and often. we mention it EVERYWHERE, from product emails that get sent to customers, to the contact form on the Trello Support page, to emails that we send folks who get certified in Atlassian products. promotion is key. another suggestion is to make sure you’re giving folks stuff in the community that they simply cannot get anywhere else. we’ve had a huge push to get our product and product marketing teams more involved in community (thanks to my teammates Mandy and Bridget!) through AMAs in the Community (just like this one!), focus groups, product roadshows, product team members as speakers at Community events, trainings for our Leaders, and more. Sample AMA.