So many metrics, so little time! Luckily on this episode Jess Burnham from Unbounce breaks down for us what some of the key metrics and areas of impact community has. If you are in any way trying to show how valuable all the community work you do is this episode is a must!
Jess shares that while sign ups and total number of community members is good what you really want to track are ACTIVE members. For example, you have 10k community members but many are attendees at your events? You can easily get lost in the big vanity metrics and end up with almost no one actually engaging so focusing on those metrics makes sure you actually move the needle. In Jess’s case, she tracks the weekly active users (aka return visitors) on her forum.
She also mentions that product development is a huge area of impact that the community contributes to the company. Her top community members get direct access to alpha and beta features and give it thorough testing and share the positive and negative feedback that Jess relays back to the product team.
She also has created a group for the top 1%-3% of community members called “Unbounce Experts”. These are the people who are sharing feedback, helping other community members, sharing the product with potential customers and sharing on social. Jess knows it’s extremely important to engage and reward the “Unbounce Experts” so she gives them perks like a private Slack channel, free tickets to their CTA Conference , access to the early features (mentioned above) and much more.
While she has made sure to track metrics and scale to 16k members she also knows that some parts of community are unscalable. She still has regular conversations with the “Unbounce Experts” and remembers fun facts about them that they appreciate. That’s the art of community, creating a system where the community can scale and grow itself while still engaging deeply and meaningfully.
[0:00:03.8] DA: Welcome to the C2C Podcast. I am your host, Derek Andersen. After holding my first event in 2010, I went on to create Startup Grind, a 400-chapter community based in over a 100 countries. Along the way, I discovered the greatest marketing tool of all time; your customers. Yet, I couldn’t find anyone sharing how to build a community where people could experience your brain in person, or at scale.
On this show, we talk with the brightest minds and companies on the planet about how to build customer to customer marketing strategies and create in-person experiences for your brand and customers before your competitor does.
[0:00:43.8] JF: John Fry from the Bevy team here and I am thrilled to announce that today’s guest is none other than Jess Burnham who is currently a community strategist over at Unbound. On this episode, they talk about metrics, how does this tie back to the product team, how can the community help in building your product, how do you identify who are those top one or 2% of your community and engage with them, and how to have meaningful growth not just vanity of you know, growing general memberships and what specific units of measurement they look at to make sure that their community is engaged.
Without further ado, please enjoy the show.
[0:01:27.5] JF: Jess, when did the Unbounce community get started and how was it started?
[0:01:32.6] JB: The Unbounce community started as an extension of support from what I understand in 2009. The founders were very much, they were hands on, they were still dealing with the customers when they were reaching out for support tickets and I think originally, it was sort of to elevate that stress on the support team, they were getting bogged down with a lot of repeated questions and so I started getting involved with the customers in a way that they could – If they could answer the questions in a way that other customers could jump in and get those answers and sort of self-serve that the community was existent for that.
[0:02:04.4] JF: What is Unbounce and what problem does it solve? Tell us about the product?
[0:02:08.3] JB: Oh boy. So the product is a landing page and pop up and sticky bar builders. So if you're a marketer, it’s great, you can create your marketing campaigns and you can measure them and you can optimize them, you can AB test. So for people on the landing page world, that makes a lot of sense and for people who are not in the landing page world, there is a lot to learn. It’s sort of like, I liken our button to like Google spreadsheets where you can get the job done if you sort of know what you're doing. If you really know what you’re doing and you kind of want to look under the hood then there’s a lot to learn there.
[0:02:39.5] JF: How big is the Unbounce community?
[0:02:42.2] JB: There is about 16,000 members and signed up for the community right now and we get about 600 active members every week.
[0:02:49.4] JF: Wow, and what do you do to keep growth and track engagement? Like what metrics are important to you all?
[0:02:55.8] JB: Signups are important but the active members is really important. That means that’s the people who are revisiting, they’ve signed up for the community, they logged in. Lurkers are really common, so we get a lot of people – we get thousands of people logging in to the community but they’re not necessarily liking posts, not necessarily commenting and I know that’s widespread throughout all community management. Lurkers, it’s kind of like Reddit, you go and you absorb but you don’t necessarily participate if you’re not that kind of person.
But we look at – so we do look at engagement but it’s mostly the return visitors that just means that that person went to the community, found something either interesting or helpful and then came back again.
[0:03:34.3] JF: How do you, like this 600 member weekly — that’s weekly, is that right?
[0:03:40.0] JB: Yeah, roughly.
[0:03:42.3] JF: So 600 people are engaged. How do you increase that, how do you push that forward, what do you do to sort of grow that number?
[0:03:49.4] JB: It really depends on the time. I hate the answer, “it depends”. But if it’s a feature launch or something like that then we’re talking about the feature and we’re monitoring features usage and we’re looking at how people are using features because in the community, you can start to have more dialogue around certain features. So I guess, we just recently released AMP: Accelerated Mobile Pages.
A lot of the research that we did before we launched that new feature was looking to the community, are people talking about this, is this something that people want, is this something that people can use? So we use that to evaluate and that’s the type of engagement that sort of builds up and then we see that engagement kind of take up when we start to talk about it a little bit more and then upon feature release, how are people using it, if there’s a spike in community engagement around that subject that we know, okay, there’s either work to be done because people don’t understand it or maybe it’s just something that’s, you know, people are really excited about and you can kind of do a sentiment analysis around that. That’s an example.
[0:04:48.0] JF: How does Unbounce as a company look at community and you're certainly biased source of this, but just like, where does it sit in the organization? You know, how to – which groups is it under and you know, just tell us a little about how the company looks at community in general?
[0:05:07.4] JB: So I can give you sort of the org chart overview. So there’s – I work on the customer marketing team so community management lives under customer marketing, we’re called the expansion team. So we help our customers find value in our product the best ways that we can. Then over top of that, we’re in the customer success department. We work, that’s also the engagement team who works with our enterprise customers, our support team who obviously answers support tickets and helps our customers be successful and then above that, is our business unit, which is the revenue business unit and then that’s the whole organization pretty much, it’s broken up that way.
The way that I sit in the company, the way that Unbounce views community, it was really born from the founders. So I believe we have six founders.
[0:05:52.3] JF: Good grief.
[0:05:53.1] JB: I know, so many fights I bet.
[0:05:55.8] JF: Are they still around? They can’t all be around.
[0:05:57.9] JB: Most of them. I’m looking at one of them right now.
[0:06:00.8] JF: No kidding.
[0:06:01.8] JB: Yeah, yeah. He’s in the office across the hall.
[0:06:03.4] JF: Well that in itself is an accomplishment.
[0:06:03.6] JB: His name is Carter and –
[0:06:05.6] JF: He’s working at Unbounce, you're not looking at some other company –
[0:06:09.4] JB: No, he’s working here the whole way.
[0:06:12.4] JF: Okay, good.
[0:06:13.3] JB: I know he had his hand in the community and he’s had a lot of ideas around it but I think the reason that I’m still here and our company’s 10 years old this year is because they originally had that idea. Some kind of a common thread that I noticed amongst community managers is either they work in an organization where I guess like the CEO has a vision for community and then they hire somebody and they have a lot of buy in but they don’t really know what to do with all of that buy in.
Or you’re community manager and you have so much drag to be a community manager. But if it’s top down and they don’t find value in it, then you struggle. But for me, there’s just always been investment in community. So that’s in person events, that’s philanthropy. In my case, it’s the forum. I work mostly with forum users and a group of customers called the Unbounce Experts. So they’re essentially our power users and we do a lot of customer to customer marketing through that.
[0:07:06.6] JF: How does that work? Tell us about the Unbounce Experts program.
[0:07:10.2] JB: The Unbounce Experts, they’re the best part of my job. There’s nine of them, they’re located around the world and the way that that group started, they were called the Unbounce Experts before I started. I did not choose the name and they’re too humble so they don’t really like it.
They were just very active in the forum and we used a tool called Get Satisfaction at the time and it had a gamified system that you can actually get points for engagement. After talking to them, they knew you can’t cash in your points, it’s just a point system and they just wanted to get more so they would just chime into more threads and get more involved helping other customers using Unbounce and over time we reached out to them and we just said, “Hey, obviously you’re very familiar with the product, we’d love to chat more with you.”
Which turned into meetings, which turned into privates Slack channel, which turned into tickets to CTA Conf every year and now, I talk to them like my colleagues. We have a Slack channel. We just talk about industry standards. We talk about hockey, we talk about lots of stuff.
[0:08:11.6] JF: So they get to come to the conference. They get like expert VIP treatment I assume or what happens to them?
[0:08:16.8] JB: While they are here, what happens?
[0:08:18.7] JF: Yeah, I am just wondering like what else do you do to sort of cultivate and help the expert? So okay, you have an online conversations with them but like are there other things you do to improve their lives or to help them?
[0:08:31.2] JB: Well, it is a very symbiotic relationship. So for them they get alpha beta access to all of our new features. So months out before we release anything, they get their hands on it. They get to use anything and provide us feedback and they are very candid, which is really helpful for us because if it was a group of like yes men and women then that wouldn’t really be serving anybody and most of them are agencies. So they run their own businesses and Unbounce is, you know, that is one of the major tools in their marketing stack.
So if they know more about Unbounce and if they are at the forefront of the things that we are building that makes them look good to their clients and then while they are here, we run a full day of workshops. So that started about two years ago. They had just an hour segment, they had a panel and attendees who had signed up for the conference, got to come and ask our power users how are you using the product, are you running a business.
What are the marketing trends that you are noticing and it was so highly reviewed that the next year, we asked them to come back and each of them individually owns their own hour segment to talk about anything that they were specializing in.
[0:09:32.1] JF: So if I got this right, the expert program, the most I don’t know, two or 3% most engaged users on the platform, you sort of found them and have given them a place where they could access all the early features so they can give their direct feedback on it. They get access to the conference and to participate in that from speaking to sort of specific content just for them or workshops just for them and then you have a place where you can go talk about hockey and other really awesome Canadian things that we all love and appreciate.
Are those the main? Is there anything else there that you think? Because this is something like some big companies have these kinds of programs but I would say most don’t and so it is something that we have definitely seen with lots of valuable communities. We have seen it be hugely valuable to sort of like, “Can I actually do that? Why would somebody want to do that?” I know that is a question I got a lot is like, “Why would somebody actually want to be an Unbounce Expert? What’s in it? Like is it really enough for them?”
I think people who have never really done it or experience it they don’t realize that these people are already doing this stuff anyway because it is good for their business and it is something that they care about and so you’re just helping them and rewarding them for things that they are already doing and so they’ll be stoked about doing it. You’ve just got to give them a program to do it around.
[0:10:58.1] JB: Yeah, exactly and I think there’s probably more people that would want to do this than you’d think but they just need to be given that opportunity. I am sure there is more Unbounce customers who if they knew about the Unbounce experts program and understood the qualifications and the benefit of being in it they would want to be in it but the nice thing about having to program being nine people right now is it still intimate and we can actually scale the work that we do if we wanted to.
But right now, I like knowing the first and last name. I like knowing their email addresses off the top of my head, I like that I know random stuff about each of them and that’s only because the group has been able to actually get to know each other whereas if you have a Slack channel of 50 people you can’t do that as well.
[0:11:42.3] JF: What’s happened as you’ve brought that online community in person at the CTA conference or in these more intimate gatherings? Like what has been the result of that?
[0:11:53.0] JB: A lot. It is actually a pretty exciting time right now. So in – oh, I guess that would have been 2017 to the Unbounce Experts were here. They work for or they are cofounders of a company called Webistry out of Montreal and they’re Unbounce customers. They scaled their business a lot over the last couple of years and they came in to our office and to the event space and they were able to just talk to our company, which at the time was probably 160 of us or so.
We sat in the event space and heard about their journey with Unbounce and so for our company, it’s a tech company. It is a lot of people in engineering, a lot of people anywhere in product development that they are building this product and they may not ever actually meet the end user most of the time and so for our company to actually get to have that experience to say or to see the things that you build in action and then to hear about how customers are using it, how it is serving their clients and be able to actually kind of personify that, that’s huge for us and so we keep asking them back and I don’t think they actually understand the impact that that has. When people hear doing that day to day building software, you don’t feel that human touch at the end of it.
[0:13:05.1] JF: So you have been in the community industry for a long time and you are somewhat known as oracle in the industry. Tell us where do you see community customer to customer marketing going over, even if it is just later this year, like where do you see things going? What are you excited about? What is your energy going towards over the next year or two and in customer to customer marketing or community marketing?
[0:13:30.5] JB: Well, so I have this analogy that I use and I’ve talked about this with a couple of people. A customer to customer marketing is I honestly think that it’s more powerful than a sales team and this is not to knock sales teams. I think that they are fantastic and they are valuable but really, the sales teams that I know, it is almost like the end user is experiencing the sales fatigue where they’re constantly being sold to products online.
Even if I am just scrolling through my phone I am just being bombarded with stuff that I should be doing and buying and the customer to customer experience – sorry the analogy that I was referring to is that if you’re in a restaurant and the waiter comes over and says, “This is a special, it’s really tasty. You should definitely buy it,” and then somebody at the table next to me is eating something and they’re like, “Actually I am eating this thing and it sounds way better than that thing so you should eat it because I am eating it and I am enjoying it,” and it’s just getting the referral from somebody who is doing the thing or who has bought the thing versus somebody who is selling you the thing.
[0:14:33.4] JF: Gosh, I love that analogy and doesn’t it always feel like the waitress or waiter that’s serving you is like they always happen to recommend the most expensive thing on the menu like that’s the thing they like the most? But that backs that up, right? It is like they’re biased, they don’t necessarily have your best interest in mind. Maybe they have their own best interest in mind whereas the person sitting next to you or another customer –
[0:14:58.8] JB: They have nothing to gain.
[0:14:59.7] JF: They have nothing to gain except for just being a good human beings.
[0:15:03.8] JB: Yeah and thought leadership is still a thing. So it makes them look good, “I just referred that thing and they use that thing,” and so in business I understand that. Like if a customer of Unbounce refers Unbounce and then is able to help them, I see that business case. That makes sense to me.
But our community, the reason that it is so active is because we had users who want to be able to help other users. It is not just a constant flow of support tickets that are coming in and getting answered by our support team. Our support team honestly will just refer, people who come in they’ll just say, “Okay, well, this answer is in the community. Please go help yourself to that information.” So it is a great deflection tool.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:15:44.3] DA: Thank you so much for listening. If you liked the show, please leave a review wherever you listen to this. If you’d like to see more, about how to create your own event community, go to bevylabs.com/pod. Again that’s bevylabs.com/pod.