8-min read
May 25, 2022

6 Insightful Lessons from The 2022 Community-Led Summit

Shivani Shah

Cross-Functional Impact means that community can — and should — maximize impact across business areas when done right.

The 2022 Community-Led Summit may be over, but our speakers shared some timeless advice with actionable lessons we can all use in our communities and companies.

Our theme this year was Cross-Functional Impact — what it means, how to communicate and work collaboratively with other teams, how to measure and report community value on business outcomes, and so much more.

“Community-Led isn't exclusive to Community Managers; it is a philosophy and strategy that is relevant to all professionals and is crucial to the success of organizations looking to build or expand communities,” says Naya Joseph, Community Events Manager at Commsor and The Community Club. “That's why this year's theme was Cross-Functional Impact, to emphasize that community can — and should — maximize impact across business areas when done right.”

Thank you to everyone who joined us this year. We appreciate you taking the time to attend, contributing to the chat, and making the event fun and valuable for everyone!

If you missed the summit, you can catch replays of every talk on Hopin now (coming soon to our YouTube channel!). For a peek at the valuable insights from the speakers, we’ve summarized some key takeaways below.

1. Take ownership about educating other teams

In his session, SVP of New Products at Commsor Brian Oblinger did a deep dive into what it means to be Community-Led, sharing examples of Communities of Product, Practice, and Interest that embody the principles of Community-Led.

Being truly Community-Led means working cross-functionally, said Brian, and Community and other teams must work together to achieve business goals. But what happens if other teams don’t understand the value of community? 

Among the Community team’s responsibilities is helping other teams in the organization learn why community is important.

“One of the things about being Community-Led is that you're never done educating, and this can be frustrating. Why don't they just get it?” he said. “It’s our job. It's on us to educate people, help them understand, and tell those stories. It's our responsibility and nobody else’s. You can't expect anybody to just wake up one day and have an epiphany about community. We have to educate.”

One of the ways to do this is to show others the value of community and how it solves real business problems. “Create ROI models, and do good calculations that anybody can look at and understand what the outcomes are. Up your game from a business acumen standpoint, understand how other people in a company think about value, and deliver that to them in story form.”

2. Build partnerships and find solutions through community

In their talk on effective people management, Work Futurist Danielle Farage, Director of Community at Venafi Sofía Rodríguez Mata, and Head of Community Engagement, Gatheround Marcie Walker talked about managing expectations and relationships across the organization.

Sofía shared her process — and acronym — for educating and persuading others on the value of community and forming partnerships with community. To channel your confidence and be successful, put on your crown and get REGAL, she said.

R = Research

“You're going to first research your audience. You want to understand their goals, their frustrations, their limits. And it's really likely that you're going to realize that one of their limits is that they don't know really what community is.”

E = Educate

“So that brings us to education. What you want to communicate is how does community impact the business? They need to understand why someone would join your company’s community, what the benefits are, and how they as team members can actually participate.”

G = Guide

“With guide, you're taking all of that knowledge and showing them the connection between them and community. Take what you learned about their frustrations and limits and guide them into realizing that they can find a solution for those through the community.”

A = Animate

“Animating is about painting the picture for them. This is where you bring in case studies, success stories, and have them speak to other people. You're really helping them understand what does the potential of this partnership look like, and how can we continue to work with the community?”

L = Link

“You wrap it all up by linking up with that person. So it's not just about the kickoff. It's not just about the initial presentation, but you're really looking to form a partnership with them.”

3. Get specific about the business value of community

The platform chat was on fire when the Community-Led growth team at HubSpot — Evan Hamilton, Director of Community; Jon Dick, SVP of Marketing; Laurie Aquilante Faiola, VP of Community-Led Growth; and Shana Sumers, Senior Manager, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging Communities — took the stage.

Their hour-long session covered a range of topics, from how HubSpot formed its Community-Led growth team, building multiple communities that tie into business goals while also addressing specific needs, and creating meaningful incentives for members.

An actionable tip we loved learning about was getting executive buy-in for your community — what to do, and what not to do as well!

One pitch that didn’t work at HubSpot was: ‘Community is everything, and because community is everything, if we want to grow, we have to change the whole company, organized around community’. 

Community touches every single aspect of the flywheel, so they weren’t wrong, said Jon. So how do you turn that nebulous idea into something concrete that will convince leadership?

“One way is finding the right use cases that get different leaders in the company excited,” said Jon. “If you can get your customer success leader and your CFO really excited about a great community of support, that's incredible and a great use case.

“Mapping use cases to specific KPIs that it can offset and being specific about those things to get an individual leader excited about the role of community is really an effective path. You have to tackle a real problem with community and say, ‘This will fundamentally change the way that we either attract, engage, and delight our customers. And it's going to have real benefit’. That kind of focus and that kind of passion gets people really motivated behind you.”

4. Know how to communicate business value to your leaders

Director of Creator Community at Picsart Jocelyn Hsu and Director of Community at Public.com Willa Tellekson-Flash had fascinating chat about working with leadership — how to interact with leadership teams, how (and why) to highlight wins and celebrate successes with leaders, and what they wish leadership teams knew about community.

Among our favorite insights from their session was that community professionals need to understand the communication styles of their leaders to communicate effectively with them. “Every leader is different. They all have their own preferred communication style, and so there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to how to talk with a leader,” said Jocelyn. “It's really helpful to talk with other people who have worked with them for a long time, whether that's a chief of staff or an executive assistant or even another director or head of department who's been around for a really long time.

“Be prepared to do that so that you can go in knowing what this executive’s preferred communication style is, because it'll be a bit like talking to like a brick wall if you're talking about data but this person really just wants to talk about like user stories or user journeys, or if they've kind of tuned you out because you're showing a doc with too many words and they really like visuals.”

Willa added that it’s also important to have a regular cadence for communication with leadership so that your community and team are top of mind for them. “For me that looks like a quarterly meeting with our C Suite. Maybe for someone else that's monthly or bimonthly,” she said. “That's a time when I walk through the impact from the past quarter that my team has had — successes, pain points, as well as places that we need support. It's a time to align on what we're focusing on, so that during the day-to-day we can run on our own, and also to raise concerns if we need to pull in cross-functional support from other teams.”

5. You can’t measure everything — and that’s OK

Community Specialist and Advisor Victoria Cumberbatch and Bri Leever, Community Architect at Ember, had an insightful chat about Creating OKRs — how are they different from KPIs, what are the top things to measure, and how to make them work for your community. And while we love a good metric — you need these numbers to share how your community is doing with coworkers and leadership — some activities just aren’t measurable.

You often learn things about your community when you consider what you’ve done in retrospect, said Victoria, and a Net Promoter Score is the best thing that comes out of activities you can’t necessarily measure. 

“It’s a controversial thing, because people with the most negative feedback are often the ones that are filling out those NPS. But they're also probably the people that you can learn the most from. They're there, and they're giving you the hard truths but they want this community to work for them. I’d want to focus on those people, because I want to know how to make it better for them.”

6. Tie your skills to business outcomes of community

Senior Community Strategist at Shopify Nikki Thibodeau’s session was a goldmine in negotiation tips, from understanding negotiation types to prepping for a negotiation, complete with a worksheet! We especially loved her advice for people trying to break into community — you’ve got the skills to be a Community Manager, even if you don’t know it yet.

“If you look at the job posting, what is the business outcome that you’re going to influence in that role? Know what they’re looking for, and tell them your experience to back it up,” she said.

“If you’re new to the world of community, it doesn’t mean you don’t have previous experience that’s relevant to the role. If anyone tries to tell you that, laugh and walk away. Because we all build up core skills that are transferable skills, and it’s important to know what those are.”

So what are these transferable skills you need? Communicating clearly and collaboratively, problem solving skills, having an active learner’s mentality, the ability to self manage your time and responsibilities, and an eagerness to grow and develop new skills.

“And I'd argue that any great employee has these core skills and if you have these, I'd be stoked. You can always learn community specific nuances. Just be inquisitive.”

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