Interview with Mindy from Discord
Lessons learned from managing Discord communities and community programs
This post-interview was published on the 25th of August 2021, during my collaboration with Uncommunity Club, the curated gateway for tools and resources to build internet communities + expert interviews on community building.
What do successful ambassador programs look like? Or (What are the best ways to start and scale the ambassador's program?)
As with any community program, being ruthlessly clear on what the goals are and how you will measure them will be the best way to assure your ambassador program is successful. Whether it's brand awareness or new users, pick a main priority to focus on. The best way to start is to start small; it's better to learn what will help you achieve your goals when you have only committed to 20 ambassadors vs 200, or even 2,000! Once you have proven the concept is successful, expand from there and watch out for areas like communication and distribution that will need to look vastly different the more ambassadors you have. Lastly, you don't need to reinvent the wheel! Learn from others and ask for support.
Surprising and delighting a community is a great way to be loved. What would you do to make a community happy if you are building a community from scratch?
One of the joys of starting a community from scratch is that you have the time and space to do the things that become harder once your community is larger. Get to know your members, truly, and build genuine relationships with them. Deeply understand what they are looking to achieve to understand how your community can help, and show up for them. Remember what they mentioned and check back in a week or so later, asking how it went. Sending a handwritten postcard or some stickers is never a bad idea either to kick start those feel-good moments and connections. Find joy in connecting people, helping them, and empowering them to pay it forward as other members join.
How can the community co-exists with other departments and help the product team make better decisions?
The community provides value to basically every department of the business, the difficulty is often in both provings that and ensuring you don't spread yourself too thin, potentially hampering your chances of driving meaningful impact for your members and goals. One of the lessons I learned in my career is that collecting product feedback diligently week in and week out is a lost cause, not to mention deeply frustrating for your members if the product team or execs have no intention of taking it into consideration when developing roadmaps or OKRs.
Building relationships with those key stakeholders is pivotal as you need to demonstrate the value involving the community can provide for their goals, even if you start small. An ideal place to start is with a closed beta, user research, or interviews, to show that member input is critical to the success of the product. Never forget that you're on the same team as the product and want to achieve the same thing; building something that provides value to the lives of your users/members.
The best way to make people excited about a community is when you design a great onboarding flow. Share some examples of a community or brand that has nailed onboarding.
Some that immediately come to mind are TikTok, Strava, and Flipboard! There are a lot of communities on Discord that have built amazing onboarding for their new members, including selecting roles based on your location, interests, and what you want to be notified about, which delivers a really customized and relevant experience for their members. Bots can do so many amazing things here in finding ways for people to find their people, even within a community.
How did you exponentially scale up the creator community at Patreon with a lean team of just 3 people?
I couldn't have done it without the creator community itself! For example, the Patreon Discord was built entirely by volunteers from the community, who still help moderate and manage it to this day, almost 3 years later. I'll always be indebted to the kind folks I met at meetups and online who spent their valuable time helping others and helping Patreon become a better platform. Outside of that, I worked very hard at creating a strategy to ensure the community sat at the intersection of business needs and member goals and applied everything I did through that lens.
By running some flagship programs, like A Club (an accountability program for creators to help achieve others stay on track) and an 8-week Creator Accelerator Course, I was able to get the 2 additional headcounts needed to truly scale these programs to help more people.
You have done an incredible job by working on multiple community initiatives at Imgur, Patreon, and now Discord. A large part of it also building a team. How do you figure out who is the right person for the community team?
Thank you! I do feel incredibly fortunate to have worked for some wonderful communities. Becoming a people manager has been such a fun journey for me, and it's totally different from being an IC. The job description and interview process is one I take seriously, dedicating a large portion of my time when hiring to ensure I am giving applicants my full attention. I like to block off 2 hours to go through resumes so I can get in the zone and not be distracted! Once we're onto the phone interview stage, I have a set of standard questions that I customize for each candidate and try to keep in mind my own biases to ensure I can interview a diverse range of candidates from backgrounds different from my own.
For the onsite interview, I invite folks from a wide range across the business to be on the panel to look for things outside of the core skills required, such as intelligence, knowledge, and attitude. Bringing on a new person to the team can totally change the dynamic and I take that seriously, as the most important thing to me is that my team can be their true selves at work, and feel exceptionally supported. Beyond all that, trust your gut, always!
Your advice or top 3 advice for other community builders.
Check if you're giving more value than you're taking.
Never underestimate the impact of just talking to your community and asking questions when you're stuck!
Take care of yourself; your own mental health and well-being is always the most important thing :)
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