Tiffany Oda

Co-Founder & Co-Leader at Community OPServations
June 16, 2022
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Jocelyn - Hiiii Tiff!!!! What's your favorite & least favorite thing about community operations? Also what's your favorite breed of doggggo?

Jocelyn!!! Favorite thing: I love how much I get to work with everyone on the community team and so closely with community stakeholders on initiatives. And I love being able to see the outcomes of operational things I implement, like an automation or a new form or process.

Least favorite: A lot of people still don’t quite grasp the amount of work operational things take! I can’t just snap my fingers and make automations “automagically” happen, so there’s still a lot of educating and awareness to be done in the space.

Obviously our two are two of my faves (PS CorgiCon SF is on Saturday!) and I have a shiba named Yoshi for those who don’t know. But… there is also this breed of dog called a German Vallhund that’s looks like a wolf corgi and they are SO cute.

Max - Tiffany thank you for doing this!! Community Operations is such an important role of the whole community team! What is one piece of advice that you would give to CM's to empower them to bring up the case of hiring a community ops person on their team?

Hi Max!! Great question. I think a LOT of CMs do operational things everyday in their roles, without even thinking about it or realizing it. A lot of the time it’s just one of the MANY things we have to do in our jobs. So taking a second to take a step back and list out all of the ops things you’re doing, and what you aren’t able to do because you’re focused on those things. That’s the start of the business case. Then, looking forward, forecasting the community based on growth and actually quantifying how much more time you’d be spending on things like manual processes, random operational tasks, etc. shows a pretty powerful outlook on what kind of impact having a dedicated ops person can bring and how much time it would eventually save the team.

Izzy - Hey Tiffany! Thank you for joining us for this AMA today :) I wanted to know what you are most excited about in terms of new trends that you are seeing in the CommOps world?

Hi Izzy!!! oooh love this question. I think the first thing is that more people are talking about it. I’m seeing a lot more job postings for Community Operations people, and it makes my heart flutter w/joy every time I see one pop up in the job channels. I also see people start to understand what CommOps entails a bit more, and from a product perspective, I think more companies are building with operations in mind, which is really exciting.

Diane - Hi Tiffany! :) Always love seeing your name in community spaces, you're such a role model for community professionals! My question: For those of us relatively new in our community careers and are exploring professional development and considering specializing in community ops, what sort of skills would you say are necessary for a role in community ops? What kind of person would say a community ops role is great for?

Hi Diane! Wow thank you for the kind words. That means so much.For me, I think there are a few skills, that are a combination of innate and learned skills:

• People person - just like being a CM, you need good people skills. You’ll be working closely with your community team, stakeholders, AND your community members. You need to be able to build good rapport, build relationships, listen, and have trust and good communication, both internally and externally.

• Organization - you’ll be balancing a lot, multiple initiatives, competing priorities, all the time. And being able to stay organized, document everything, and be able to give people information in the way they can understand, is really important for the role. You’re working with a lot of people and each person works differently, consumes info differently, so being accommodating and understanding of that will help you and them be successful.

• Project management - kind of similar to organization, I think having some PM experience is really valuable. Keeping a timeline, action items and due dates, working cross-functionally with team members to work on a single goal.

• Techie - with how many tools and platforms we have to work with, it helps a lot to not be afraid to learn new platforms, learn them quickly. Also, don’t let data scare you - you’ll be working a lot of data in the role.

Katelyn - Hi there, Tiffany! Thanks for doing this AMA today. If you could only choose one aspect of community management to automate, what would it be and what tool would you considering using? Also, bonus points if you're up for sharing a favorite moment you had from your recent trip to Antarctica!

That is a great question. HMMM - one of the things I’ve been thinking about, for an advocacy or top contributor program, is automated contribution tracking. Allowing members to submit contributions, things they’re working on, events they speak at, etc. and having the tool classify, organize the contributions in our system. That way the community team can easily see what each person is working on and the impact they’re having. AFAIK this doesn’t exist in its entirety yet, but that’s something I’d love to see and I know a lot of people have been looking for something along these lines too.

Favorite moment in Antarctica: I’m still obsessed. There were whales everywhere and for those who don’t know me, I’m addicted to all cetacean. But this iceberg in particular was also really cool. It was HUGE for scale, and looked like a giant alligator.

Scott - Tiffany, what's got you excited about your new role and the Event Makers community?

Hi Scott! I’ve been friends and talking with for quite a while now. We really work well together, and when she told me that she is building Talkbase out as a Community Ops platform, I obviously had to get more involved. It’s been great! Getting back into the startup space and helping to build not only the product from a commops perspect, but helping to build a budding community - it’s the best of both worlds. It’s such a fun passion project working with a great team.

Naya - Hey Tiffany, thanks for joining us today! :) How do you measure the effectiveness of community operations? What metrics or KPIs have you found to be most relevant to your work?

Oh heyy Naya, fancy seeing you here ;) This is a lot of fun!

There are a few ways to measure effectiveness of commops, kind of depending on the area you’re working on. Examples:

• Let’s say you just implemented a new externally-facing process - you could measure success by looking at your community support cases and how many you get from people needing help with the process.  If you get a bunch of emails with people getting stuck on a certain part, for example, it’s an indicator there’s still work to be done on that part.

• Let’s say you implemented a new automation - tracking things like how many times the automation ran, how many times it error’ed out and the reason (e.g. was it broken? was it an exception case you didn’t consider), how much time it is saving you and your team (this one is really powerful, because it can show you time and money saved due to an automation you created)

• As commops, you’re also oftentimes responsible for the community data itself, so looking at things like the comprehensiveness of the data - what % of fields and info you collect are accurate, do you have data integrity? What are items that you need to report on but don’t currently have access to? Making sure your team and your stakeholders have ready access to the metrics and KPIs they need is a big indicator of your success as a commops person as well

Sara - Hi Tiffany! Thank you for today's AMA :D What's one thing you would tell a CM to focus on when it comes to community operations? And follow-up, what's your go-to tech stack?

Hey fellow commops superhero!

For a CM, I think documentation is an undervalued part of CommOps. Both internally - how things are built, steps for processes, noting potential areas of improvement/automation, instructions for how to do things (like updating something in the platform, for example). And externally - giving your community members resources and tools to help them navigate the community, get help, go through processes. I freakin’ love documentation and find it is SO helpful when done correctly. From something as small as a Change Log of recent changes you’ve implemented to as large as a full-fledged community KB, I think it’s worth the time to be thorough about documentation.

Secondly, I think encouraging CM’s to put themselves in the community members’ shoes and going through their journey and experience. Finding parts where they might get confused, or resources they’d want at certain parts of times, or what could help them be more successful in the community. I find a lot of times we get caught up in the engagement and the moderation and interaction in the community, but taking time to look at their journey and finding improvements (operational or otherwise) adds a lot of value and retention in community.

Tech Stack - there’s no perfect answer tbh. I think each tool I’ve learned about has improvement areas. But, I’m big fans of Notion, Airtable, and Trello and use them everyday. Also, this is biased, but I think Talkbase really has potential to be a CommOps’ person bff platform.

Holly - Hi Tiffany! What has been your favorite long-term community ops project to date and why?

ohai Holly

Building out the Salesforce MVP nominations and renewals process and tech stack was I think the most gratifying (and stressful) commops project. For those who don’t know, the Salesforce MVPs are our top contributors, and there’s an extensive process that goes from public nominations, to a feedback round by peers, to an internal review and decisioning process, and there was A LOT going on. When I started at Salesforce (as you know), everything was manual and it took SOOOO much time to organize and go through all of the data. The MVP program is also a very high visibility program that the whole company and whole community (and ecosystem) look at. So doing it right was important.

It required working with our developers, marketing team, internal team, partner teams/stakeholders, and a lot of work to get the platform down itself. Then there was a TON of process work both for external users and internal users. Lots of documentation. All on a tight timeline with a lot of constant updates and requirements from leadership. Then also the data we had was originally super messy, scattered in spreadsheets, and it was hard to have a wholistic view of each person.

It was no small feat and I’m not even going into the details here, but now there’s an amazing tool just for MVP nominations and renewals and internal review, the team has the easy visibility to all the info they need to make their decisions on who gets into the program, and we have really good tracking and reporting. lol good memories.

Gabrielle - Hey Tiffany, how much input do you think an Ops CM should have on curation/programming of the content of actual events? And content in general?!

Hey Gabrielle! For events specifically, there is generally a large ops component with the logistics (like the tech stack, the event platform, the process for sending invites out and tracking RSVPs and attendance, maybe making a form, sometimes swag logistics, etc.). Programming and content-wise though, it completely depends on what the event is. For example, at Salesforce we used to do user group leader summits and I’d present on the latest stats, operational changes, etc. because that fell in my swimlane.

Generally though, I don’t think CommOps should be responsible for community content or engagement. That tends to be where the community managers really shine. TBH those are areas where, though I support them, they’re not my forte and not where my time is best well spent. Of course, usually teams are small and you have to wear all the hats sometimes, so I’d never say I don’t do that, but I don’t think content falls in the ops umbrella unless it’s content related to something operational.

Sofía - Hey Tiffany, what is something not necessarily related to community ops (i.e. working at a startup, taking a pottery class) in your background that you believe has had a positive impact on your success as a community ops professional?

I think working at a startup and managing/doing customer support and customer success really helped me.
• Customer facing
• Listening
• Had to build things from scratch, implement tools (including our CRM), write KB articles
• Built out an onboarding experience and customer journey
• Implemented and built our service experience and tool
• Had to work on scale and automation as we were quickly growing
• Reporting on metrics (and building the reports)
• Had to be flexible as the product was continuously evolving, and we had to support our customers and our internal processes and operational components along with it

Holly - Was there a specific moment or event in your career that you made you decide community ops was "the one"?

I don’t think there was a specific moment, but a slow realization that it was everything I loved doing. Community is great - I love being able to work with and talk with customers, people who are in the ecosystem/space. I love the uplifting of others and helping each other of community and the connections you can make with others. I love being able to have a foot on both sides of the house (front and back of the house). I love being able to work with stakeholders across the company and work on collaborative projects, like the product team and ideas submitted in the company. I love being a program manager and being able to manage timelines, roadmaps, keep things organized. And I love being able to see the impact of things I do and have a sense of accountability. And CommOps is all of that.

Holly - Follow up: Are you aware that you are the best community ops professional in the world? How do you make it look so easy? B)

<3 I am always looking to be learning and to be constantly improving myself. I have a lot to learn still (and will forever more), and I’m in no way perfect or the knower of all things. But I think it’s so important to continue sharing knowledge and to continue talking about Community Operations. And I learned from some of the best.