Valentina Ruffoni

Community Experience Manager at Disciple Media
May 19, 2022
AMA sticker

Alex - Valentina!!! Thanks so much for doing an AMA today :) I would love to know: what has been one of the most surprising things about your Community career? Were there any big mindset shifts you had to make along the way?

Hey Alex! Thank you for your question!

Firstly, mindset shifts – really trying to change my mindset, especially with this pandemic and working at home a lot more, to "you need to switch off." Y'know, you can't be taking the laptop into the bedroom, into the living room, and just working all the time. And that's obviously come up in the last few years and it's something I'm really trying hard to work on and I'm sure a lot of people can relate to me on that.

Things that have been surprising to me? I'll be honest, since jumping into this industry properly in 2018, the support from everybody in this industry is just so nice. I don't think I've ever felt so welcome in any other industry that I've worked in. And the fact the other community builders, managers, and professionals are willing to just jump in and help and network. And we all kind of know each other, but don't because we've not all met in person.

But that's one of the surprising things I've learned about being in the industry. And the mindset shift of 'not overworking' because it's very easy to. So those are my top 2!

Max - Hey Valentina! Thank you so much for taking the time! Would love to hear what some of your favorite community moments have been?

Hey Max! Thank you for your question – hope you're doing well! I'll be honest, there's been quite a few over the last few years and I'm super super grateful for all of the different experiences and the people I've met along the way.

I guess my first favorite community moment is really just starting my own community – that's how I really got into the industry. I moved to Madrid in 2016 and I started a Facebook group for people that like to eat out in restaurants in Madrid and it's still going 'til this day. And I'm super happy that it is! And I've become quite hands-off because that community is really completely community-driven, which is always one of our goals as community managers – is for the community to take over and for it to be fueled by them. So that's been one of my favorite moments – is being able to sit here and watch that continue to grow after putting in all of that hard working in the beginning.

One of my other favorite community moments was attending CMX Summit. It was my first community summit back in 2019, it was in-person, and I was just like, "Oh my gosh! I love this industry, I want to be in this forever!" And I'm very much an events person (that's what I have studied and grown up in) so I love in-person events and I love meeting people so that has been a favorite moment. And just being able to continue to grow and feel that we are connected even though we haven't been able to meet in person over the last few years. We've all really struggled, but it's still been really nice.

One last favorite moment would be when I landed the job at Disciple! I started there on 5-10 hours per week and that's now manifested into a full-time role as Community Experience Manager. Being part of a team is so important and [so is] being able to help our customers thrive every single day! And even though sometimes you don't feel like you're making an impact, there's always people out there that are saying thank you.

And it's just really great to be able to share what I know and the experience I've had building communities with others. So those are some of my favorite moments!

Nicolette - Hey Valentina :) being a community coach/mentor, what are some of the most common challenges you come across that are easier to solve than individuals realize? (And what's your advice for those challenges?)

Hi Nicolette, thank you for your question!

Most common challenges? I'm actually writing a resource about this right now! There's a lot of common challenges that come up, but the ones that I've seen most recently is:

1. People are saying, "Community-building is hard work" and it is! I'm not going to lie – it is hard work. My full-time job is to build a community so I'm not going to sugarcoat that, but there are ways to make it easier and that's all around strategizing what you're doing for the community. It's also looking at what you're personally doing and how you're managing your time [and] setting boundaries. Because if you're not letting yourself disconnect from the community – and we all know communities never close – but we can't be 24/7, not sleeping, not enjoying our lives.

So yeah, looking at strategizing, going back to the foundations, and if you don't have a strategy then you should create one. If you do have a strategy then it's looking at what you had written down whenever that was – are you reaching any of your goals? do they make sense anymore? has your mission changed? – and that should help you really hone in on what's important.

Sammy Hepburn, another community builder in the industry, said at an event I went to in 2019, "You can do anything, but you can't do everything." And I think as community builders we get very excited with ideas and go, "Oh, we should do this and this and this!" but we really have to be quite strict. And that's something that I've learned, which goes back to Alex's question about surprising things. Y'know, I thought I could do everything! I was like, "I'm a multitasker! Community's great – I love doing all of this!" But you just can't.

2. This one is all around, "I don't have time, I'm struggling, and I can't do everything." And it's loosely related to the first one, but with time it's really centered around: do you need help and what kind of help do you need?

If you've got an existing community, do you have super members that are actively coming back and getting involved? Could you reach out to them and see if they want to host a weekly discussion? Or do they want to get involved in the comments to help others? So you don't have to be in there all of the time.

Now, if you're looking for somebody to do more strategy, more day-to-day, and take on more responsibility then maybe hiring a community manager is something you can look at doing. There are so many people out there looking for experience. I mean, inside of The Community Club itself we have people of all expertise and different levels of experience. And there's people all over – I mean, I'm very active on LinkedIn and I share jobs all the time – there is a lot of opportunity out there and people are interested in it! So if you are struggling with time, think about what you can't do and that will help you decide what kind of help you're looking for inside of your community.

3. And the last thing is around engagement! It's a topic that comes as no surprise; people have challenges getting people talking a lot of the time. They're like, "I have all of this content, this amazing space, and I post and no one is replying, no one is doing anything." At this point, an easy thing that you can do is look back to your strategy.

I actually created a framework about a month ago called the SPARK framework, which is Strategize, Participate, Acknowledge, Review, Rework, Repeat, and then Keep track. In this case, if you are not seeing engagement on your posts then maybe you need to RE-SPARK. That 'RE' at the beginning indicates that you need to Recall what you're doing and then Elevate and Embrace what you're doing to really hone in. Because sometimes it can be that you're just not sharing the right content (content that people want) or it's at the wrong time or you're not asking the right questions in the comments to get people to talk. So those are my 3 common challenges and some easy ways that you can overcome them!

Naya - Hey Valentina! Thanks for joining us today :) What do you now know about community management that you wish someone had told you sooner?

Hi Naya, thank you for this question!

I wish I had gotten into this industry much earlier! I don't like to have regrets, but I wish I had gotten into this industry earlier and I wish I had known there were other people doing this. Back in 2018, there were places that community builders would get together, but obviously the online presence wasn't as big as it is now so you did feel like you were quite alone. And I wish, back in 2018, that I didn't feel so alone and maybe that would've pushed me a little bit further and maybe I would be in a different position today. But at the same time, I wouldn't want to be in a different position today because I love what I do!

I also wish that I knew how many different tasks we would be doing on a daily basis and that my day is just not a normal day. Some people ask, "What does a normal day look like as a Community Manager?" And it's like I can't even tell you! Yes, there's things I do like check my email and things like that, but sometimes I don't even get the chance to check my email because things come up. And I'm sure a lot of people will be able to resonate with what I'm saying. I wish I knew that, even though you technically might be doing a 9 to 5 – and I know some people aren't because again, community is open 24 hours – the tasks that you do in that day are never the same everyday.

That's why I also find it funny when you're looking at job descriptions – they say, "These are the tasks you're going to be doing" – and you're looking at that thinking in reality, that list is a lot longer! But I love multitasking, I like to move between different projects and different things – it's something I've done in lots of jobs – so I'm pretty accustomed to it. But that's something that maybe a lot of new people coming into the industry might not know about. And y'know, it's not for everybody either! So those are my things I wish people had told me.

And also, maybe I wish someone would've been like, "You're going to love community management!" Again, back in the day I didn't really know many people so I didn't know. But now I know I do and I will tell everybody very openly that being in this industry – it is an amazing industry to be in!

Going back to some of the previous questions, the support from other people in this industry from all over the world is just amazing and that really helps me every single day to see people reaching out and lifting people up and connecting each other. So you are not alone! If you think that you are, you are not; we all are here – just a DM away, a phone call away, a voice note away.

Izzy - I would love to know Valentina: what is your community superpower and how does that play out in your day-to-day work?

Hey Izzy, thank you!

To answer your question, I have always been very, very organized – my degree title actually was Organizing Live Arts – so I am a sucker for lists, lists, lists, and lists! I am actually looking now, on my other screen, I have this Trello board and I don't even know how many lists are on there! But I like to make notes and keep myself accountable and checking things off – I get this great feeling from like scratching through something that I've done!

Being organized has really helped me because working in community management, you're working on so many projects everyday. In my current role at Disciple, we have our customer community, I've got content I need to create, I've got our Champions Club that I'm managing, I'm also organizing events, [and] I'm interviewing people on podcasts. So being organized and being able to multitask and make sure that everything is running like clockwork is something that I pride myself in because multitasking is not easy!

So I guess that is my superpower – I can juggle quite a lot of things; I can't actually juggle in real life though, but I would love to! I do have some juggling balls, but that's off topic!

But yes, my superpower is being very, very organized and making sure that I get everything done that needs to be done. And being able to switch my brain very quickly between one project and another because we all know things come up during the day and you need to stop and do something else. So that is my superpower – being organized!