Alter Everything

A podcast about data science and analytics culture.
Alteryx Alumni (Retired)

"The most important conversation that's happening about your product or your service is the conversation happening between customers." Beth McIntyre, Head of Community at Bevy and CMX joins us to share the value of community for organizations, and how being data literate can take community success to a new level. 







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Episode Transcription

MADDIE: 00:03

Welcome to Alter Everything. A podcast about data science and analytics culture. I'm Maddie Johansson, and today my guest is Beth Macintyre, head of community at Bevy and CMX. Here at Alteryx, our community won the CMX 2021 Community of the Year award. A huge honor in the community industry. So we thought we'd spotlight community as an industry and share some data about communities, the data found within communities, and how that data can help organizations and businesses meet their goals. Let's get started. [music]

BETH: 00:41

I am Beth Macintyre. I am the head of community at Bevy and CMX. Fun fact about me. I actually live in a van, I love bacon and I like to drink English breakfast tea a lot.

MADDIE: 00:58

That's awesome.

BETH: 00:59

But more to the work stuff. Why we're actually here. So Bevy is a community events platform. We power community events for organizations all over the place. That includes our distributed events, platform and our virtual conference software. CMX is the community of Bevy that is for community professionals. So my job as the head of community for the community of community professionals is-- I say community a lot in my day. And it's kind of inception. I oversee the online spaces where community professionals come together, have conversations about their work, share experiences, share advice and resources. We also do a whole bunch of training and education and certification for community professionals. We have our own events program. So we're really putting all sorts of resources out there for community professionals to learn and get better at building community in their own organizations. And I feel like if you're counting how many times I see a community [laughter] let me know at the end of the podcast and I don't know, I'll buy you a coffee or something. [laughter]

MADDIE: 02:13

Right? I know it's going to be a lot. Just getting started here, and I love the community inception type concept too. I love that. So, yeah. And to set the stage, I'd love to just hear some data about the community industry just to get kind of a general gauge on how communities are growing in popularity and how important they're becoming to organizations.

BETH: 02:38

Yeah. Totally. Community has kind of become a buzz word. I feel like a lot of people are talking about community. There's a lot of people who still don't really understand what we're talking about when we say community. There are a lot of people who lump social media marketing and marketing in general into community. So I'm glad that I can be the one to clarify some of this. There are more and more organizations are realizing that the most important conversation that's happening about your product or your service is the conversation happening between customers. My example I always use is if I'm going to buy a pair of running shoes, I don't need Nike to tell me why their shoes are the best. I'm going to ask my friend who runs five kilometers or five miles every day. I want to ask her which shoe she's wearing. That recommendation is worth so much more to me as a prospective user or customer. So what companies like Nike and what other organizations are realizing is if they can create a space for those kinds of recommendations and conversations to happen organically and they own that space, then they can track those conversations. They can use the conversations as feedback to develop a product. They can use those conversations as resources to share with other customers. They can even use those spaces as a sales funnel so they can actually drive sales through those conversations.

BETH: 04:10

So that's kind of community in a nutshell. And it's been around for a long time. But I would say in the last few years, it's really kind of taken an uptick in popularity. CMX conducts a community industry report every year to gauge these trends in the industry. We ask about community programs and measuring value, diversity, equity and inclusion within community. And then in this last year, we obviously asked about COVID 19 and virtual events and how that impacted people's programming. So each year, we definitely see a change in trends. And I knew I was coming on to this podcast to discuss data. So I actually pulled some numbers so that I can give you some real data here.

MADDIE: 04:53

Love that.

BETH: 04:54

Yeah. I figured you might. So a clear sign that companies are increasingly recognizing the value of community is that they're hiring more people to run those communities. So in 2021, we saw 67% of organizations had at least two full time people on their community team. Which is up from just 56% in 2020.

MADDIE: 05:19

That's huge.

BETH: 05:19

We also see that 88% of organizations have at least one dedicated community manager. We asked this question in 2017 last time, and only 71% said they had a dedicated community manager. We also asked respondents if they would be increasing their investment in community over the next year. 28% said they strongly agree. Which was up from 23%. And we also asked if community has had a positive impact on the organizations' objectives over the last 12 months and 43% strongly agree. Which is up from 35% in 2020. So--

MADDIE: 06:02

That's cool.

BETH: 06:03

--for data minded people, you can see this general uptick in all of those statistics. But really on more of a qualitative level, community is the only thing that your competitors can't copy. They can copy your product, they can copy your events, they can copy your ideas and your programs, even your values if they wanted. But they can't copy the community and the identity that you create among your members. And more and more companies are seeing just that. That community is like your moat that protects your brand and they're investing in it.

MADDIE: 06:38

Yeah. And I mean, I love hearing data about communities. It's so encouraging to hear how it's being taken, maybe a little bit more seriously. Really being tied into companies objectives overall. So now that we've heard a little bit about communities, I'd like to kind of flip it and talk about data found in communities. So on Alter Everything, we often talk about data in certain industries or departments. Like data in healthcare or data in finance. So again, framing it data in communities, I would love to kind of hear community as an industry. How important do you think it is for community professionals to be data savvy? And do you have any tips for community professionals to get more comfortable with their community data?

BETH: 07:26

Hands down, yes. And yes. I have tips. And yes, it's important. So I mean, community professionals wear so many different hats. The work we do is kind of innately emotional and social work. We're connecting people together. We're building relationships. We're driving meaningful connections. Which is a really social kind of thing that you're doing. But just as important is to be able to prove the value of those meaningful connections to your organization. It's really important that you be a little data savvy when you're doing this work. But I'll say that this is probably one of the number one challenges within the industry. Because a lot of people find themselves in the community industry because they're good with people, because they are a natural connector or a naturally good at building those relationships. You're not seeing people walking around with a degree in community management. Not yet, anyway.

MADDIE: 08:30

Yeah, hopefully. [laughter]

BETH: 08:32

One day CMX might. I don't know. Anyway, so it's definitely a big challenge. And it's something that we hear about a lot from different people. So at CMX we do have a couple of frameworks that we use to kind of help community professionals to figure out how to drive value and then how to report the data that proves that value. One of them is called the SPACES model. Which basically breaks down the six main purposes that a community could have. Those include customer success-- it's an acronym. So success, product acquisition, content engagement and success. Actually, in the Alteryx community, you would probably hit a couple of those different purposes. I know you have contribution. I know you have product. You know you have your ideation and your innovation and success. You're helping people learn how to use the product better. So when you choose a couple of those different letters, it helps you, as the community manager, determine what is the business value, what is most important to my organization, is my community driving sales? Is it driving product ideation? And then from there you determine the community level strategy. So your business level strategy is which letter are you in the SPACES model? The community level strategies. Which program are you going to implement in order to drive that business value? So are you going to build an online community space so people can talk? Are you going to run distributed events? Are you going to host podcasts? Are you going to build knowledge bases? Are you going to have product meetings with community members and product managers? Those are the different types of programs that you can implement that would ultimately drive impact to your business level strategy.

BETH: 10:32

Then the third strategy is the tactical level. So what do you do day to day to make sure your community programs are successful so that they drive that business level goal? And it's important to set expectations for both you internally your organization, but then also your members. Members should know what kind of community they're involved in and your organization should know what they can expect of you. And when we talk about data specifically, if we look at a product ideation community, similar to, let's say, Alteryx. Where you're bringing your customers or users together online and you're leveraging the collective insight of the community to get ideas for new features. Common metrics and data that you would want to be tracking would be, how many product ideas are you getting? How is your feature adoption when you release a new feature? You can also look at getting user generated content. You can have your members help other members train up on new features. Customer satisfaction is obviously a really good metric to track. Number of event attendees if you're having different kinds of product events. So those are some examples of of data specifically for a specific business goal.

MADDIE: 11:52

Totally. Yeah. Follow up question that I'd love to hear your take on about how-- the data can really-- being data savvy can help you prove those business goals and prove that business impact. How can data unlock that nurturing experience for the community members?

BETH: 12:13

You're right. Typically, we talk about it in a one way kind of capacity. Where it's if I engage with my members, I'll prove this value and therefore prove the value of the community. But how does it go the other way? I really like that. I feel like data can absolutely influence the different programs that you want to host and the different kinds of things that are going on in your community. And it's a matter of seeing what's going on in the community by reading your data and metrics and then reacting to that. So one of the metrics that I track in the CMX community is what I call the conversation rate. So I track a couple of other things. But once someone has come into the CMX community and they're active, they're in the space and they're viewing content, do they say anything? So if that's a post of their own volition, are they asking a question? Or do they comment on someone else's post? I want to see that if they're coming into the community, are they actually starting or having any sort of conversation? What I can do with that information is-- and then I take notes. So what I can see with that information is week to week, how is our conversation rate going up and down? And I can track those numbers based on who posted, what questions they asked, what topics were talked about, was it me who posted something? Was it David Spinks, who's kind of a celebrity in our community? And then I can also start to track who are our top contributors? Who are the people who are driving these really high conversation weeks where lots of people are talking?

BETH: 13:53

And then you start to see trends. Again, with different people, different topics. You start to rely on that kind of data so that you can build your strategy. You start to highlight those people. You start to highlight those topics. Build a fence around those topics. Build more resources and blog posts around those topics. And then you kind of go from there. But I will say, on the other hand-- just because I like to have lots of hands [laughter]. You have to choose data that you can measure. If you can't measure it, it doesn't really matter. So maybe there's a great opportunity to build a community or program. But if you can't get the data for it at all, then you don't know if it's going to work. So making sure that when you're tracking things like conversation rate in order to change the strategy of your community, it's an important metric, people care about it in my organization and the members are actually going to contribute to it. It has to be something that you can actually measure.

MADDIE: 14:55

Totally. Yeah. I think things get a little sticky when you might have a grand idea for programming and then it's like, "Okay. Well, what are the KPIs? What are we working towards? How are we going to track it?" And you don't really have answers for that. I think that's when it can get a little hard. Because you're right. I think data leading the way for everything and kind of illuminating the path for number one business decisions. But then also how you're going to enrich the experience for your members so that it's like a continuous circle where they want to keep coming back. And I think a lot of our listeners can totally relate to that as well.

BETH: 15:32

Well, I was going to say. We even have a framework called the Social Identity Cycle. And it's really exactly what you're saying. It's identification, who are you and are you a part of our community? And do we match your values? Do you match our values? Then it goes into the participation where, are they having a conversation? Maybe they're a lurker. We love our lurkers just as much. Maybe they only read the information. They don't actually participate. And then we validate. So it validates that they got an answer to their question. We validate that was a really great post that you posted. I'm glad that you started that conversation, whatever. Then it goes around again. So then they identify differently with the community, but still within the values. And then it just keeps going around and around.

MADDIE: 16:17

Totally. I love that. And we'll be sure to link to the framework in the show notes, too. I think that's a cool resource. And yeah. I just I would love to hear just from your experience at CMX and Bevy, maybe a couple of examples. So maybe a fun example, or it may be more inspiring example of how data has driven change or maybe an impactful human experience.

BETH: 16:46

Well, I can talk. At risk of sounding, I guess, like everyone is in 2021. I'd love to talk a little bit about COVID. [laughter]

MADDIE: 16:56

Yeah. Please.

BETH: 16:56

And so Bevy, last year we were a in-person event software which powered in-person events, distributed events, programs around the world for different companies. And COVID 19 happened. The platform absolutely worked for virtual events. But it just wasn't perfect. And we found that the issue was connecting to your external virtual event. So you host your event in Bevy, but then you have to go to Zoom or you have to go somewhere else to actually be in the event. So Bevy created their own virtual event platform. Which also turned into our virtual conference platform. It was incredible. It was an incredible feat of developers and product managers and data scientists and all of the amazing brains behind the scenes. But I think that from the outside looking in, CMX Summit has been our annual conference for the last seven years or so. CMX Summit 2019 was hosted in-person in San Francisco. We had, I think, 700 people attend. It was this big, beautiful, magical event. And then CMX Summit 2020 had to go virtual. We were all a bit nervous. Didn't know how to set goals for number of people who are going to attend. Didn't know how many speakers we were going to have and what this kind of wrench was going to throw into our plans. But the data that truly had me, had our whole team just so full of joy was the records that we broke for diversity. So we were able to track-- using Bevy, we were able to track where people were calling in from, how people joined the event. And we broke records. We had something like 95 countries represented in our audience at CMX Summit 2020.

MADDIE: 18:56

That's awesome.

BETH: 18:58

Right? And those are people who would never have been able to come to CMX Summit before. Either they couldn't afford to travel, they couldn't take time off work or away from their families. There's also barriers like visa entry. There are some countries who aren't allowed into the States. So it was amazing to be able to accept that many or have that many CMXers join us. And then on the other flip side, for the same reasons, we also had the most diverse stage at CMS Summit in history. We had more speakers from underrepresented groups than we've ever had before. Which was a huge, huge impact for our team and for our community. And so it was just really cool to not only have that data, but to be able to track it year over year and see how we've changed and grown in so many different ways.

MADDIE: 19:50

That's amazing. Yeah. I love the piece of just being able to track and show with data. Look at all of these different voices that we're spotlighting and celebrating. And then it just kind of rolls into the content that you create and the impact that it has on the other community members and the other CMXers. And it's just continuously snowballs after that. So I think that's amazing. And it all came from just the opportunity that you guys just totally took advantage of. That's really cool.

BETH: 20:21

Yeah. Definitely it's been a wild ride to move into this virtual world. But I can't wait to see what's next.

MADDIE: 20:28

For sure. Awesome. Well, that sounds like a great place to end on. Thank you so much Beth, for joining me. I really enjoyed our talk.

BETH: 20:37

Thanks so much for having me. And yes, I will definitely make sure you have access to all those links, all the frameworks and the data that I talked about. So you can nerd out about it with me.

MADDIE: 20:46

Perfect. And will count up the amount of times that you use that community as well.[laughter]

BETH: 20:50

Right. Yes. I forgot about that promise. [laughter]

MADDIE: 20:54

All right. Thanks, Beth.

BETH: 20:56


MADDIE: 20:59

Thanks for listening. To join the conversation and find more resources, check out our show notes at Catch you next time. [music]


This episode of Alter Everything was produced by Maddie Johannsen (@MaddieJ).
Special thanks to @andyuttley for the theme music track, and @TaraM for our album artwork.