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Heather Merrick

Customer Support Manager at Healthie
December 30, 2021

Max: What is your best 'unplugging/taking time off' advice to give to fellow CM's who are taking holiday this week?

Great question. I would say try to get away from screens. Get outside, enjoy a screen-less hobby (baking delicious treats, perhaps?), and have some one-on-one time with a family member in person if that's something you're able to do this year. There’s really no replacement for those things. This is advice that I need to follow more, myself!

Kirsti: I’ve got a question about the Gen Z/teen community you helped manage. You mentioned in your blog that they could spot an imposter from a mile away and hated it when folks tried to throw in what they assumed to be teen slang. Was there a specific incident that taught you this? I feel like there’s a funny story there!

Hah. Yes! Or really, a series of incidents. I don't want to call anyone out on how this came about, but basically as soon as the company started to lean too heavily on 'teen slang', it started to come up in NPS feedback and app reviews that it seemed like the brand was trying too hard.

Lindsey: What are you hoping to see more of from the community industry in 2022 that you didn't think got enough love in 2021? Also - any particular holiday dishes or songs that are uplifting your spirits as you're winding this year down?

Hmm! I would love to see workplaces in general, including those in Community, keep talking about the whole person. We’re all impacted by the larger events going on in the world and really need to think about how that translates to the way we behave in other spaces. Most people aren’t able to compartmentalize that well. Not sure if that’s a good answer, but that was my first thought! I listen to a lot of podcasts nowadays and when I listen to music it’s often what my three-year-old wants to hear. Hah. My British in-laws are bringing over Jaffa Cakes from the UK and I can’t wait to have one.

Katelyn: You mentioned that your community superpower is empathy, and I can absolutely relate. And, as I'm sure you know, while empathy can be a superpower in our roles it can also be incredibly draining. How have you managed to still be empathetic in your work while also making sure you're taking care of yourself outside of those situations? Any tips and tricks that have worked for you over time?

It’s a very difficult balance to strike! Learning to meditate and breathe deeply has been a big help, and there are so many great apps for that now. Also, having strict boundaries around when the workday begins and ends, which is sometimes very difficult. It’s honestly a bit scary at first to tell people no, but it does get easier with practice.

Shivani: I’d love to know what you think are some creative ways Community Managers can show their members appreciation? Is there something that you’ve received as a community member that you thought was creative and/or thoughtful?

I’m fairly serious that socks are a much better gift than folks give them credit for, hah, so that is one: high-quality socks! :) I received a handmade beaded bracelet from a community that I was a part of earlier this year (OwnTrail) and that was really nice. It was obviously done with care and attention to personalization.

Mary Ann: What's something that you read or listened to recently that inspired your ideas on the future for community? Anything that changed your mind / gave more hope on where things are trending?

Recently, the NYT published an article about how the city of Frome in England is fighting loneliness through in-person community efforts. That was just so heartening to me and got my gears turning. Community has a measurable impact on physical health! That is so interesting and powerful. Just knowing that folks are doing that work and that others have recognized that what Frome is doing is meaningful was really inspiring and gave me hope

Sagi: What's one negative and one positive change you see happening to the community industry over the next 5 years?

Positive: A *lot* more people continuing to enter this space! It’s so wonderful to see Community taking off as a field in its own right, and I can only see that continuing, with a new and diverse set of people adding their perspectives and work. Negative: I do see some potential for that fuzzy “community” word to get applied so broadly that it essentially loses all meaning. Maybe within the next few years there will be some segmentation and clarification around it. That would be nice.

Kirsti: What’s your favourite engagement play, and what makes it so effective?

Oh gosh! That almost might be outside of my area these days as I've been more focused on team management and support. Something quite general.. any time you have the ability to recognize a specific person for having meaningfully contributed to the community, product, group, whatever it may be. Everyone loves to be recognized for their contributions.

Izzy: I saw that you currently work at a telehealth company and I always wondered how companies that are in the healthcare field view community and if any of them felt like their business could be community-led. What are your thoughts on communities being built for healthcare related tech companies?

Good question! The company I work for focuses on a fairly specific subset of providers, mostly those working in wellness (nutritionists, health coaches, and lactation consultants are some examples). When I came in there was an existing Facebook group for those providers to connect with each other on best practices and tips and tricks. They all seem to get a lot of benefit out of being able to connect with each other, both on the nitty gritty of using the platform but also running a business, since most are very small practices. So yes! Definitely possible. We also really listen to provider feedback and make changes to the product based on that quite often.

Erik: If you were in Academic research these days, and had access/resources to dive deep and study any aspect or phenomena of the modern community behavior and ecosystem, what topic would be first up? What questions would you enjoy investigating for years at a time?

Oh man, I think about this type of thing a lot. I love academia and sometimes want to go back (until I remember how stressful and expensive it is—no thanks!). I'm pretty interested in teens and how it shapes their world. Unfortunately, most of the effects for them are pretty negative, so that could get grim fast! But one positive is thinking about, say, a teen in a rural community who feels quite different from the people around them and doesn't have familial support. In their case, a welcoming online community is likely a true lifesaver for them and helps them be their authentic self in a way that they couldn't without it. That's the magic side to it all.

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