In this episode we welcome Laura Gluhanich, cofounder of Signal Camp. You can find her on twitter @lauraglu. Please tweet us with comments and requests @TINT with #SocialStudies. Check out our 1st Episode: Social Media and Customer Experience and our 2nd Episode: Why People Suck at Content Marketing.

Making Your Users Your Story

Nathan Zaru: Hello and welcome to the next episode of the Social Studies Podcast. Today we have Laura Gluhanich, co-founder of Signal Camp. Hope you enjoy the episode.

Laura Gluhanich:     Hello.

Nathan Zaru:             Laura.

Laura Gluhanich:     Hi.

Nathan Zaru:             Hey there.

Laura Gluhanich:     How’s it going?

Nathan Zaru:             Welcome to the Social Studies Podcast.

Laura Gluhanich:     Thanks. Thanks for having me.

Nathan Zaru:             Absolutely. It really stokes to have you on the show today. Ever since we met, I guess it was a year or two ago, you dropped some serious knowledge bombs on me about marketing community managers so I really want to tell everyone about it. Do you start by giving us a quick background as to who you are and what you do and what Signal Camp is?

Laura Gluhanich:     Sure. Yes. I’m co-founder of Signal Camp with my business partner Fiona Tang. We’re both ex-community managers. Today we work with startups and nonprofits on their user engagement outreach community strategy and implementation.

Nathan Zaru:             Right. You’re an ex-community manager, but I think you were at a company that probably a lot of people have heard about. Do you want to tell us about it?

Laura Gluhanich:     Oh yeah. The place where I was most recently before Signal Camp is Hopefully everyone has an page. It’s a great way to tell your story to the world. I got my community management piece at a company called Ning. I was there for about three years. We had, I don’t know, over a million networks of communities of all shapes and sizes and all interest levels, so we really got to see everything there.

Nathan Zaru:             All right, thanks. Did you bring in your community management skills with Fiona at Signal Camp? Is that how it works?

Laura Gluhanich:     Yeah. Fiona also has community management background. She has a little bit more press experience than I do or PR and my experience tends to be towards user support. We both work on user communications. We just really care a lot about how companies are treating their users and making sure that users can get the most out of any product they’re trying.

Nathan Zaru:             What’s the threat a company runs if they don’t care about their users, if they don’t hire a company like Signal Camp?

Laura Gluhanich:     You’re not going to have any engagement and people won’t necessarily come back. Especially we work a lot with early stage companies. We do a lot of company or product launches. There’s times where you may just need to change one or two things to make your product really take off. If you don’t keep your users with you along that road, then you may have lost them forever. I think larger companies, it’s obviously just a different scale and a little bit different situation but you should really treat … You should treat all your users with respect and built those relationships, but the early stage really matters a lot.

Nathan Zaru:             Correct me if I’m wrong but you’re probably in the opposite camp of build it and they will come.

Laura Gluhanich:     I just think that’s really rare. If you are building for yourself, then yes other people like you will come to that product, but if you’re building something that is for more than just yourself, then it’s really good to get some people in the door, find out what’s working and what’s not, what problem you’re solving and how you can communicate that.

Nathan Zaru:             Is the kind of work you do a science or an art?

Laura Gluhanich:     Honestly it’s a lot more art for us just because of the scale we’re at. It’s less of a science. I would love to say that we do everything with statistical significance and things like that, but that’s just not …

Nathan Zaru:             You have to understand people, right?

Laura Gluhanich:     Right, right. There’s a lot of just precision and being accurate and things like that that matter, but it’s a lot more language and how you’re communicating and combining chemicals.

Nathan Zaru:             Excellent. Thanks Laura. I have everyone that comes on the Social Studies Podcast come up with a theme or an idea and I think you’re going to tell us today something about making your users your story.

Laura Gluhanich:     Yes, yes. That’s something that we do. I touched on it a little bit, but with Signal Camp or with any company that I’ve worked with, this is particularly I think if you’re consumer based or content driven maybe a bit more, though even as you get larger as an enterprise level you still want to tell your customer story. The reality is you can make your users do a lot of evangelism work on your behalf just by building relationships with them and letting them tell their story to the world and then on your behalf, you want to make sure that you’re communicating with them to find out how are they using this app or product, what benefits are they getting, what problems are they running into and then that’s the content that you can use to generate more users and more interest and everything along the way.

Nathan Zaru:             Are you saying you use your existing users to find more users?

Laura Gluhanich:     Yeah, that’s kind of what we’re doing here. You’re letting people who use your product talk about how they might use your product or …

Nathan Zaru:             Oh touché.

Laura Gluhanich:     Yeah.

Nathan Zaru:             Very good.

Laura Gluhanich:     You’re getting the word out. That’s a lot of what content marketing is, but content marketing can sometimes be pretty general or generic where it’s just like three things that do Y and really ideally you’re pulling authentic and individual users into that mix and telling their story. There’s just the very, again just understanding the little benefit of it’s authentic but then also ideally those users are also just telling their friends about it, telling people that might be interested and so they’re just helping to get the word out.

Really when you’re at a small scale, you need all the help you can get. If you’re a two-member team on a product, there’s only so much that you two can do and if your product isn’t quite ready yet for the full blown PR and ads spend and all that kind of stuff because maybe you haven’t raised a bunch of money or maybe you’re still figuring out product-market fit, you really can use your early adopters to help get the word out.

Nathan Zaru:             You mentioned content marketing is the larger scale kind of thing. I’m getting the sense that you’re looking for ideal customer profiles and creating their customer personas, is that right? How do you determine who your ideal customer is or user?

Laura Gluhanich:     I think really when you’re building a product, you have a problem that you’re trying to solve with your product. Inevitably, there will be potentially a dozen more things that your product can do or solve. You may have here is the reason I built this is because this person needs it for this thing, but there may be five other people that can tell you, “I’m not using it for that, but I’m using it for this and it’s actually really working,” so making sure that you’re open to those other product use cases and making sure that you’re profiling those situations so then you can speak to them down the line. Does that make sense?

Nathan Zaru:             Yeah, of course, of course. I always wonder at what time, at what point in the company life cycle do you make the change from one persona or profile to many?

Laura Gluhanich:     That’s a good question.

Nathan Zaru:             Or I guess maybe a better question is how detailed are you going through these different use cases?

Laura Gluhanich:     I don’t know that it’s … I don’t think it’s super detailed. I think it’s more what are people getting from this. It can be a really specific use case like this is duct tape and you can use it for six different things or a million, but it also might just be here are the benefits people are getting from this product and part of that might be they have a place to belong, they’re getting feedback on something that they created. There’s other benefits that may not be as definite as … It’s all individual use case, but it still might be a benefit that you want to speak to in your copy and in your content.

Nathan Zaru:             Not everyone is such a community user pro like you. We have a lot of companies out there, apps, startups, big and small businesses that need to get a better handle on their community. Do you go through an audit process? What’s your strategy planning guide for these types of people who need to step up?

Laura Gluhanich:     So early stage we set up a workshop with anyone that we work with and really we say, “Where do you want to be six months from now or potentially three months now?” We look at those not numeric goals like oh you want this many demos or this many ratings, but then we also look at the what do you achieve and what are the milestones and so it’s people are actually giving you these use cases and people are feeling that their problems are being solved and how can we measure that. We just take this definition of six months down the road here’s what success looks like and then we work backwards from that.

We do make sure we’re hitting every communication channel that we can think of so that means notifications, that might mean some press, that might mean social media, that means in-app things that can be done so that users can talk to each other, it means is the founder out there talking about it or is it a community manager, is it a product manager, who’s the face of the company, so we just look at all different channels and all different things that could be done.

Nathan Zaru:             You mentioned community manager. I have no doubt that a community manager is a really critical part of any marketing team, although I see bigger companies localizing their community managers like getting their community manager from each of their locales all over the country or whatever it might be, how do you know when you need to hire a community manager?

Laura Gluhanich:     I think your community manager hire should be within the first five people on your team mostly because community could just do a lot. They can do your beta testing and your user feedback. They can do as much content really as you need. They can do your user support and they can just really help build the grounds well. I think potentially they can come a little bit later if it’s B2B or if it’s enterprise because the reality is that most people who are using a product for their job aren’t necessarily as fired up about …

Nathan Zaru:             You don’t say.

Laura Gluhanich:     They’re not spending their free time on that product necessarily.

Nathan Zaru:             You’re saying I don’t tweet Microsoft saying, “Thanks for the Excel.”

Laura Gluhanich:     Right. Slack might be an exception to that rule. There are a few exceptions to that rule, but a lot of times if it’s a consumer app, if it’s something that’s content driven, then getting someone in early on who can help drive the use and engagement and then also potentially curate what’s happening is really important.

Nathan Zaru:             Do you ever run into CEOs, CMOs saying, “Community managers, why do we need that? Don’t they just tweet all day long?”

Laura Gluhanich:     I know they’re out there, but we don’t necessarily … I have a company. We have clients. I’m not in the business of selling community management as a value. We’re too small for that. We’re two people.

Nathan Zaru:             Of course, of course.

Laura Gluhanich:     I will say this. Actually people that question the value of community, I have a good time mentioning the billion dollar acquisitions that happened in the past couple of years, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat or whoever, they’re all community-driven companies.

Nathan Zaru:             Right. Are you saying they’re beyond just a social network?

Laura Gluhanich:     Right. I don’t know if there’s …

Nathan Zaru:             What’s the difference between a social network and a community-driven company I guess?

Laura Gluhanich:     I think again it’s telling the user’s story. It’s allowing them to engage and it’s letting the users communicate just with each other and focusing on that quite a bit. For example Instagram started their photo walk series and they let anyone have an instant meetup photo walk and it’s like they tried to own that and they’re the only ones that can do it, they let everyone do it. There’s a ton of companies that do that whether it’s Yelp or Meetup or Etsy. They let their users drive a lot of the engagement.

Nathan Zaru:             To be a community-driven company you have to connect your user community with each other?

Laura Gluhanich:     Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nathan Zaru:             I see.

Laura Gluhanich:     Yes.

Nathan Zaru:             You consider that to be the primary role of the community manager?

Laura Gluhanich:     Yeah. I think the community manager should really try to facilitate that and ideally they come up with those programs and projects that the company can test out, but then anything that catches on within the community, it can scale where the company is not needed for it to happen.

Nathan Zaru:             I think Yelp is a great example of that. I’ve heard and seen these Meetups and whatnot, but how do you know or when do you know to go out to the users and reach out to them and say, “Hey, do you want to go to a Yelp party?” There’s different kinds of Yelp users and some people just go to look for what’s on for dinner versus some people who are avid Yelpers. How do you distinguish between these users? In-app analytics perhaps?

Laura Gluhanich:     Yeah, probably. I think you want to look at how they’re using it. There are people who will go in and just read reviews and there’s people that go in and write 10 reviews a day and it’s the people that write 10 reviews a day that you probably want to invite to the party. I do think day one you should start engaging your users. You should find out how they want to participate within the product and how they want to interact with the company.

Nathan Zaru:             What is the role of product versus B2B community management once you get someone to your door? Someone comes to the door, now what?

Laura Gluhanich:     Right. I think community generally is just on the frontline across the board of what’s going on with your community. They’re seeing what’s on social. They’re seeing what’s happening. Potentially in meetups in real life they’re getting feedback from users over email or over support channels. They can really help tell, again just tell the user story to product or to marketing to help shape the product or to help get the word out there. They are the ones who are just the frontline and have that one-on-one relationship with a lot of different users.

Nathan Zaru:             It makes sense then to have maybe community measuring people involved with product meetings.

Laura Gluhanich:     Oh yeah.

Nathan Zaru:             Definitely.

Laura Gluhanich:     Yeah. Actually each release we had, there was a community manager who was part of the release team and they were responsible for a lot of things, just telling the rest of the team what was in the release, writing the FAQs for that release, figuring out what needed to be communicated to users and by sitting in those meetings, they understood what was happening but also why and they could question the decisions that were being made and sometimes something might change because the community managers says, “Look, this is what people are asking for and this is why and there may be a better solution.”

Nathan Zaru:             Bringing community into your products. Laura, thanks so much for coming by.

Laura Gluhanich:     Thanks for having me.