Shana Sumers

Head of Community at Her
August 6, 2020
AMA sticker
Hey everyone! My name is Shana and am excited to chat with you! A little more about me, I have been at HER for 3+ years and am based in Oakland, CA - I didn't start off as a Community Manager, I switched from being a Music Therapist to this role. I love (and very much miss) concerts and live sports, Beyoncé, all things LGBTQ+ and Black Girl Magic 😄

Rosie - I joined a community the other day and was yet again surrounded by 95% white men. What should community builders do to create an intentionally diverse community?

This is exactly how I like to get started! Do you have any connections to any of the leaders/group leaders in that are? My favorite question to ask them is when was the last time you engaged with someone who doesn't look like you in your space? Or in your last 3 interactions were any of them with (fit background, race, gender/sexual identity here) and then call them on it

I don't have direct connections, and when joining I personally would feel awkward asking that stuff so directly.I know it's hard for community builders to build community, and I should just tell them. But it's hard when it's 95% men. 😐

Totally understand that, in a more subtle way you can start feeding that stuff into the community yourself. Post articles that highlight it, feature more diverse people, open ended questions as conversations

Ask if there are any women and wait for no one to respond? 😆

hahahaha! For example, I was in a group like you and someone asked for a thread of inspiring VC's and I shared Arlan Hamilton (Black, queer, woman) who started an amazing VC fund and many people hadn't seen her at all

This opened up conversation and awareness for a few people, and they ended up messaging me after to mention to ask more details and for more suggestions

sometimes it's just as simple as starting there. As you begin to do more, and if you feel bold enough, start to call out more things - Hey all, I want to start a thread of awesome (fill in the blank) and then start with yours which can be a diverse person  so that you set the tone

Jacob - Hey Shana! So curious to know, how do you stay organized and a productive as a community manager? You do so much 😄 What are your secrets, what tools or frameworks or processed do you use?

😅 And I don't drink coffee or anything with caffeine so it's kind of a miracle, haha!

My favorite things are Asana, Jira and Airtable - I also do the old school write down what I am doing everyday for my day to day schedule. I pick specific days to focus on different tasks, and that helps with getting the team to ask me about those things at certain times of the week. I filter my schedule like I would a product sprint - Have a to do list - prioritize for highest priority to lowest, work through the high priority first and as I complete that list I move down. There is a name for this but I am blanking at the moment haha

Mac - Thanks for doing this AMA with us! What advice would you give to those who have been tasked with launching an external community for customers from scratch within their company? What are the biggest pitfalls to avoid?

I'll start with the last questions first

1. Don't wait to start a moderation team, have that ready to go from launch

2. Don't launch a community without surveying your community about what they want, surveying staff about what they have seen that customers want and reviewing similar communities

3. Plan the data you might need so you can show that the ideas/plans you've put into your work have the data to support it's success or need for improvements
Advice I would give:

1. Don't be sad/stressed if your initial strategy doesn't work - it will be tweaked, it's almost unavoidable

2. Write down everything you do, this will help you at future roles and to make sure you remember why you did the steps you needed to

3. Triple check language used, imagery and accessibility

4. Be sure that you have a day of launch plan

5. Get started - List your ideas, show the data for why this will work, make a plan and don't be afraid to go big

Cole - Hey Shana! Thanks for doing this AMA. I'm curious to hear your insight on successfully rebranding or relaunching a community 😄

1. What should community leaders be looking at in their community that shows a need for a relaunch?
2. Are there risks in rebranding a community that people are familiar with? How do you get members on board with big changes?

Hey Cole - Of course! Happy to do it 🙂

Things to look for are:

1. Stagnant, no one is using it - very little activity

2. Lack of purpose: You might have a product but are people using it in anyway that is beneficial to the mission of your company?

3. No one is paying attention to it - that is a big sign

4. People in your company don't even know that you have a community is the biggest red flag (and one that we had)
There are always risks, the main thing is people don't like change, so being sure to communicate that as soon as you start planning so that they feel much better when it happens and can prepare.

Taking members on the journey to launching the community (surveys, calls, in person when we could but zoom calls are great, announcements about progress) it all keeps them in the loop - this majorly helped decrease any negative feedback we had on launch day

Shalvi - Hi Shana! 👋 thanks so much for doing this! How do you get buy-in from stakeholders and agreement on developing features which could help in having more engagement in the community or on important value metrics?

Hey Shalvi - this is one I deal with allll the time because we are a very small company of 11 people. So, trying to get engineers attention or our Product team to prioritize is the worst.

1. If you have access to data, utilize that to help you tell the story (if you have a data scientist, loop them in they can help with this)

2. I share community feedback all the time, so if there is a narrative that the community wants this they will work faster to fix it. One month I made a bet with my team that I could collect 1k responses about this topic and if I did they had to work on it - and it worked. Unconventional, but got the job done haha!

3. My Head of Product always asks "What problem am I trying to solve?" Then provide the problem , how to fix it (the idea of how to fix it) and what the result will look like. This gives them an accessible way to be like cool, I get why you need this.

4. I have specific team members that are on my side, and I've purposely gotten close to them so that if they have time or space in their sprint to start on it or answer my questions to get the project in the next sprint they are there to advocate for it

Mac - Whats your favorite thing about being a community builder?

My favorite thing is interacting with the community! I spend time going into the community multiple times a week and to see how they respond when you answer a question or celebrate their wins too is a great feeling 😄

- Ok we gotta get one last question in here! Whats the craziest story you have from your community building career?

Ohhh great question! We host virtual events and we found out that two women, who are on the opposite sides of the US had been chatting in the private messages on Zoom. After two weeks of attending our events with hopes of seeing each other again, one of them flew from the west coast to the east coast to meet up and now they are dating. They sent us a photo for us to feature them in our weekly #WeMetOnHER segment and there is apparently no plan to fly back yet

This is probably the tamest compared to the nudity, breakups and other things that happen hahahaha