Erica Virvo Hackman

Director of Community at Nomadic Matt
November 15, 2022
AMA sticker

Izzy - Hey! Thank you for taking the time to be with us today :) I’ll start us off by asking what is a community engagement tactic has always worked for you?

Great question! "Personal acknowledgement" has gotten me far.

Allow me to explain... during the zoom-meeting-only days of quarantine, we hosted 2-6 virtual travel presentations a week (with anywhere from 25-150 members in attendence). We encouraged attendees to turn their cameras on so we could feel their presence. I'd scan the faces of the members who showed up while simultaneously hosting. Then, I'd slide into the zoom DMs of people that I recognized from previous events. I'd personally acknowledge that I remembered and recognized them. I'd ask them questions about themselves, I'd get to know them, and I'd connect them to people or resources that could help them whenevder possible.

Many members have shared that being seen by the head of the community was so touching that they just had to come back. Many have stepped up their membership and have either become a chapter leader in their area, presented at their own virtual event, attended our conference, or brought friends into this community as a result.

Maggie - Hi Erica! My question: Have you found that super user programs have helped build engagement in your community?

Hey Maggie, thanks for asking!

We have a paid membership version of our site called TNN+. It's not anything too crazy, you just get access to our entire library of TNN virtual presentation recordings to watch at your leisure (with a few other ebooks and resources).

We have seen that the people that pay to be a part of that program are the ones that show up week after week and month after month. Those are the people who end up becoming local chapter leaders, or people who are just waiting to open our newsletters to see what we have coming up next.

Having said that, 99% of our users are not a part of TNN+ and so I also love that you can access all of the information we are sharing for $0 forever if you wish too. It's nice to have options.

Michelle - Hi Erica! have you ever had to take a community that became “stale” or “dead” and bring it back to life? If so, what we’re some of the biggest lessons.

Hi - awesome question that is probably so relatable.

Reinvention is an important process whether the community has become "stale" or you've just been doing the same thing for a while without questioning it (even if people are showing up).

We have extensive bases/spreadsheets in Airtable that track sooooo many numbers and all sorts of data. So we can see pretty accurately which community events and programs are "succeeding" numbers-wise ...and which might need a jolt back to life. Or which types of activities we want to replicate over and over ...and which we might want to put to sleep for a while.

I think "giving people what they want" is an important lesson for community builders. Not just what I think they want, but what they're actually showing up for. For example, in our community all of our travel hacking (the art of collecting and spending points & miles) events do wildly better than any other topic — which makes sense since our members really do want to stretch their money so they can travel longer and more. So, now we are sure to get monthly presenters to share travel hacking tips and tricks. And, that wasn't something we were aware of before we ran the numbers and realized that what the community was responding the best to.

Katelyn - Hi there, ! As a big time travel enthusiast myself, I love what you’re building with Nomadic Matt’s travel community. A question I get asked often by other CM’s is this: what’s the difference between community engagement and community experience? Are they entirely separate, does one belong to the other, or are they two phrases that ultimately mean the same thing? Thanks in advance for your insight!

Hey Katelyn so glad you love to travel! Travelers are the greatest ;)

Your question has gotten me thinking. I've always used the phrases interchangably.

Can you really experience something you're not engaged in?

Can you really engage in something and not experience it?

Honestly, I'm not sure? If you want to clarify through example, I'm happy to think it through a bit more and answer again.

Naya - Hi thanks for being here! It seems that attendance continues to be lower than we saw pre-pandemic for most online and even in-person communities; what are some of the other metrics you're using/recommend to track engagement and prove the value of community despite this?

Hi Naya - that's a great question. I think as community builders, we all have a big soft spot in our heart for qualitative data.

Yes, it's always empowering to see numbers rise.

But, what moves me forward is hearing stories about the connections made and doors opened "thanks to" The Nomadic Network.

Learning that people who have met at an event have started dating, become roomates, traveled together, or that someones story about their trip has inspired another member to do something out of their comfort zone.

We created this community to connect travelers to each other (to help travel people find their people), so hearing those stories is proof that we're doing what we set out to do. Even when the numbers seem to dip.

Bri - Erica, I'm curious, what was your biggest fail with community? What happened and what did you learn?

Oh the list feels endless some days!

I think a notable one was when we switched website platforms without haulting our 5-6 weekly (in-person and virtual) events. So while we were dealing with tons of expected glitches and friction - we are also trying to continue like nothing ever changed. This continued for 2 straight months.

If I could impart some wisdom from a community builder who has "been there and learned from that" - don't do that. Take a break in programing and normal activities whenever you might need to.

In general, breaks in programing are perfectly okay (whether it's over a holiday, in the summer, or if you're changing things within your company that outwardly doesn't look like a time that you might need a break). I have found that it's better to build breaks in for your self and your team, rather than have to 1) cancel events, or 2) work super-extra-painfully hard to make sure they run as smoothly as possible.