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About Our guest

Rachel Makool - Sr. Community Manager at GoDaddy

Rachel built and manages GoDaddy’s global online Community to provide engagement and support of the company’s products and services.

Rachel helps large companies, start-ups and non-profit organizations develop and implement strategies that acquire and engage customers to strengthen their brand and drive business growth. She’s worked with international team members and business partners all over the world.

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Show notes

Part 1

The Purpose of the Community (03:07) 

Your community is your customer base. Anybody that’s a customer should be included and considered as part of your community. Engaging with your community in multiple ways, helps you gain their trust. They become attached to your brand and this is super important as you continue to grow your business. 

Bringing People Who Are Not Buyers Of Your Product/Service (05:26) 

It all comes down to what your goals are. If you are looking at community building as a lead generation tool, that's certainly one way of looking at it. If you're looking at engaging customers in community activities, whether it's an online forum or offline events then that’s a very different lens into community engagement. 

If you’re trying to engage people who are not currently part of your customer base then you need to be super clear on why you are asking them to engage and what they are gonna get out of it. 

The Community Engagement Strategies (07:13)

Every company has a very different goal for their community. Some could be lead generation, some could be to produce content to help their customers, some can be a deflection of customer support etc. It very much depends on the goal of the company, but the goals can change over time as well. 

Tools To Build Community Assets (08:50) 

A lot of people think that community is just forums, but the definition is much broader than that. You can do AMA’s with your customers on social media - talk about your products or take questions from them. You need to be transparent with people and be willing to answer some tough questions from time to time. 

Another function of the community is being able to get feedback on your products and services. I always looked at this as a gift to all of us. They could have some great suggestions that could help you enhance your product. 

Other Areas Where Community Can Be Useful (11:41) 

I am very passionate about the offline component - meeting customer face to face.  That's a question that anybody in business should be asking every day - how we can do better. That's just a basic marketing principle that all people should be thinking about every single day. 

Meeting customers in person can be very rewarding and from a differentiation standpoint, that's how companies really make a difference.

Part 2

The Technology Solutions For Building a Community (03:53) 

GoDaddy uses Lithium Technology Company which is based in San Francisco. They have a lot of experience in building community platforms. There are other solutions as well, and I think this depends a lot on the size of the company and their goals. 

Immediately investing in technical infrastructure could be very costly for new businesses. Social platforms are great for experimenting and creating communities. For example, you can start with Facebook Groups. Invite people to join the group and start having conversations with them. 

See if that works and if it does, then maybe you can find some kind of technical forum. I’d just warn people to be cautious when changing technology because people usually don’t like change. 

You want something that’s very easy for people to use and to sign up for. If people struggle with something, they would probably not come back again. Simple is better. 

Social Media Tools vs. Your Own Community (08:31) 

From my personal standpoint, I like to have a community that is under our brand. Also, to have control over the technical and the customization options. That said, a lot of businesses cannot afford that at the beginning. 

Technologies For Managing Moderation (10:30) 

This depends on how companies are structured and what they are trying to accomplish. GoDaddy uses Sprinklr to manage all the social platforms. We use Lithium’s tools and Lithium also has tools that help manage all the social platforms. 

Measurement of Community Activities (11:45) 

There are different ways of looking at the success of the community. We use a lot of different measurements looking at on a weekly and monthly basis, and this is pretty common for most community platforms. You look at the number of questions that have been answered, page views, how many people have actually registered, solution views etc. And you have to ask yourself how does this connect to revenue. 

Tools For People With Lower Budgets (15:05) 

Start meeting people in person and talk to them. I think that’s a great tool for engagement, which can lead to more ideas. 

Part 3

Getting Started With Building Communities (03:15) 

Start with baby steps. In the beginning, people set unrealistic goals like having 100,000 customers by the end of the year. You might be able to accomplish that if you are a big brand. 

Again, start small and find 10 customers that are willing to help you and talk to them as a group. That’s how you start to build a community. 

Customers like to meet each other as well and they like to share best practices and notes. 

Getting People Excited To Be a Part of Your Community (05:07) 

Most customers never asked for anything. Occasionally, we had people ask if they will get paid, but a lot of people just like to be in the know. They like to be part of something. When I started working for GoDaddy, we had a core group of people that helped us build the product. We called them GoDaddy community founders and we gave them a special badge.

Creating The First Bits Of Content (07:34) 

You never want to launch a community as an empty house. Six weeks before we launched the GoDaddy forums with the group of core founders, we were able to start seeding content. We asked people to post some questions that they think that other customers might be interested in seeing and then helping to reply to those questions. 

When you start a community you should never have more than 5-7 forums. When you start really small, you gain traction over time. You see what types of topics people want to talk about and then you can build upon that. 

At the beginning, we started with seven forums. One was a welcome forum and the other one was a suggestions forum. 

Outsourcing Content (09:37) 

I have never personally hired outside companies to do content. The most authentic content comes from customers because they write in their own language and other customers can really relate and understand what they're talking about. 

You can train people on the outside to do this, but personally, I believe that it is best to utilize employees as well as working with your customers for content. 

Also, you can't just launch a technical platform with some founders and then disappear. They expect you to be there and to be engaging with them. I am very passionate about working with founders and putting them under some sort of a nondisclosure agreement while working with them on improving our products and services. 

Finding The Next Set Of The Community Members (14:08) 

You have to promote your community. Building it is just the first step. The other thing we did is that we created a lot of help content and video content for learning how to use our products and services. Over time, as you get traction, you start to rank higher on Google and other search engines which brings more people to your product. 

Part 4

Building Lasting Relationships (03:09) 

You need to have top contributors, people that you see on a regular basis and who are engaging, helping out and even willing to do podcasts or write content. A lot of companies have programs that are community recognition programs. The point behind these programs is to thank the top contributors.

Some companies even have a customer conference every year where they make a special dinner for their customers. In general, there are many things that you can do to make these people feel appreciated. 

If these contributors are active and if they write great content, this is way more important than the number of people you have. 

If you are looking to gamify community engagement, you better make sure that you have employees that can manage that.

Recruiting Process For New Community Members (07:09) 

Again, it all comes down to what the goals of your company are. Many times people will find you through search and they will want to join the community and answer some of the questions. That’s one way but certainly, you need to promote your community.

If you are doing AMA or a podcast, you need to promote that through your email and social media channels. 

What Makes People Feel Good About Joining The Community (10:26) 

The platform that we use - Lithium Software - has all sorts of badges that you can utilize. When people hit certain levels then they get assigned a new badge. A very important component is to be present with your community members. For those that seem to be really active, just do the personal touch. You can message people and ask them if they would be willing to do a call with you. 

How To Surface The Best Thing To The Top (12:22) 

It depends on the platform that you’re using. Within the software that we use, there are modules where you can actually showcase your top contributors and click over to their profile page and see all of the questions that they've engaged with. 

I had also mentioned solutions - you can accept an answer as a solution and then you can rank that answer by the number of views for that particular answer. 

Try to create content that is super short and to the point, and that allows people to come in and spend a very short amount of time. If they like your content and decide to stay then that’s great. I think that in general, people don’t like reading too much so short and to the point is better. 

Part 5

How To Stop Your Community From Becoming An Angry Mob (03:12) 

If you have established an honest and straightforward relationship with your community, that goes a long way to building that necessary trust. Talking with other companies about reasons why their community got angry with them was mostly related to the changes that have been made without notifying their community. They have promised something and they did not fulfill that promise. That can create an angry mob. 

How To Break The Bad News (05:08)

When it comes to the price change, no customer likes to have a price increase. It is important to be upfront and if possible try to give rationale as to why you are doing a price increase. You have to be prepared to manage this situation and have a discussion with your employees about the ways you will manage it.

Develop a list of questions you’re gonna get asked by your customers and then try to come up with answers to those questions. That can make a world of difference and you won’t be caught off guard. 

When it comes to other types of changes, work ahead of time with a group of customers that you trust. Have conversations with them about these changes. And you are gonna be much more prepared about any potential crisis. The more honest you can be in your communication, the better people will receive it. They may be angry for a little while, but they will respect you for being honest and they will move on. 

Last Tips On Making Sure That Your Community Remains Your Advocate (11:04) 

Be genuine. This is so important. You will also find that a lot of people who manage communities are really good and down to earth people who care about the customers.