AMA with Jenny Weigle, Chief Community Officer at Jenny.Community LLC

How has community management consultancy services changed over the years?

Many aspects of this field have grown within the last few years, and I believe that it’s a responsibility of a community consultant to stay aware of and on top of these. For example, we are seeing more and more community specialists in areas like operations and events. Consultants need to be able to advise their clients on WHEN it’s best to grow their team to include such a role, and ideally, what that person will be tasked with (not to mention, what they’ll be evaluated on). There are many more ways that our field has grown recently. That’s just one example.

What, according to you, are some of the major mistakes that enterprises are doing when communities are concerned? What can we learn from those mistakes?

I’m always surprised when I see an enterprise community that isn’t taking full advantage of the features and functionality available to them on their platform. I think every community team should work with their platform vendor to do an analysis of what they’re using and not using today, and how they can optimize to make the most out of the contract they have with that vendor. Similarly, I see issues where the community professional or team aren’t signed up for the updates about their platform. And I get it, that’s just one more email to read, but it’s critical to stay informed about how the platform is growing and improving. Without doing so, you aren’t fully serving your members to give them the best experience possible.

You are known in the industry for auditing the existing communities, giving your inputs on what they are doing right or wrong. What is the one thing that a lot of communities do wrong?

What jumps to mind isn’t really something the community is doing wrong, so much as the brand/company is. Community can benefit a company in numerous ways and across teams, but when the Community is “housed” under one specific team, I often see it restricted to fulfilling goals only for that team. Very often, that call is coming from the C-Suite or another leadership level, not from the community professional. For example, if a Community falls within the Marketing team but wants to launch an initiative that would benefit the Support team, I sometimes see pushback on that. In the end, that hurts the customer AND the company.

Before going to the community, what lens do you apply to your mind and start the process?

I’ll take the time to research the ideal community member first. Then, I try my best to empathize with that person and put myself in their shoes. I approach every step of an audit through that perspective.

FOLLOW UP QUESTION: What's your breakdown of the process of auditing a community?

First, I take the steps I mentioned above. Then, I start with the home page. I look for signs of life, volume, and recency. I evaluate the calls-to-action, especially the ones about joining the community.

From there, I explore the menu, analyzing the navigation and even the terminology used in it. I make sure to check out the threads in detail, and I’ll test creating my own thread to see what that experience is like.

My favorite thing to look out for is the incentives. I check to see what a community is rewarding or offering for being a member.

What’s the most surprising thing you found while auditing a community? Something that's worth remembering for 100 years? Let our subscribers know :)

You’d be surprised at how many communities have dead links, or prominent links that take people off the community entirely. You want to avoid that, if you can.

How has community building evolved from the time you started in this domain?

When I started off in community work, it was primarily in social media communities. Now, I focus more on peer-to-peer or customer-to-customer communities, and it’s exciting to see how many brands are now exploring this! There used to be a time when it was hard to find a course about this field, and now we see classes like this being offered by many businesses and organizations. Next up, I’d love to see a number of academic institutions offer community management or community strategy as a major or field of study.

What is your best guess about the community industry for the year 2022 and beyond?

I believe we’ll see a rise in the number of community specialty roles out there. The people doing these roles today are proving the value and effectiveness of their work, and I know that my clients are taking notice and already trying to figure out how and in what ways they can expand their community teams.

Your top 3 advice for someone who wants to start their own community management consulting company?

  1. Learn about what it takes to start a business, because you might be able to talk about Community all day long, but do you know about or how to run every other facet of your business?
  2. Set your boundaries, and don’t be afraid to reassess them. When you “close down for the day,” do just that, and enjoy your personal time. Also, you’ll have lots of different kinds of people contacting you about your services. Know who your ideal client is and focus your efforts there, not on pleasing everyone.
  3. Show gratitude. Give thanks to every person who helps in your journey of getting started and staying in business. This relates to clients, partners, mentors, friends, family, people who make key introductions, etc. Never stop showing your gratitude for how these people have benefited you.

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