3 Best Practices of a Great Community Builder

Last Updated September 1st, 2020

 

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Strong communities don’t spontaneously spring up around a problem. They’re deliberately curated around that problem and around potential solutions.

Building a community with strategy and intention gives businesses and organizations not only a thriving group of customer advocates but also a space to listen to and test out new ideas about products and services.

But there’s an art (and, of course, a strategy) to taking the customer experience from “I have a problem” to “I am now an active, engaged advocate of this platform.”

In today’s episode of The Customer Experience Podcast, Joe Huber shares three key takeaways he’s learned from his career as a customer community strategist, builder, and manager.

Joe currently serves as Customer Community Strategist at Sprout Social and he also runs the Chicago Customer Success Podcast.

He has a background in sales, marketing, and customer success and has spent four years at Sprout Social in account management and customer onboarding. Joe walks his LinkedIn headline’s talk: “Dedicated to changing the way brands connect with their customers by investing fully in their success.”

Throughout this conversation, we talk about…

What his definition of community is
How thriving spaces can look different for different organizations
Why it’s valuable to try out new ideas within your community
Why honesty is key in conversations with community members
Where the main problem lies in client community building

 

 

3 Best Practices of a Great Community Builder

Hear the entire conversation with Joe Huber of Sprout Social right here:

 

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Full Transcript: 3 Best Practices of a Great Community Builder

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. So you are in what I regard as the greatest American city, Chicago. We’re recording almost exactly halfway through the year here at the very, very end of June. Just for conversation’s sake, I don’t know how much it will come up in this conversation but talk about what’s been going on with regard to the pandemic. How has it affected you or your team or your customers? Set the scene there.

Joe Huber:
Yeah, so I work at Sprout Social, and I’m the Customer Community Strategist, as you mentioned. My role primarily is to facilitate conversations with our customers. And so the pandemic hit, and I think a lot of people spent a lot of time trying to think like, “What are we going to do? What are we going to do?” And our team really sprung into action really fast. We led live Q&A’s. We looked at how those customers are coming together and what they want. And a big question came, “What do I do? What am I supposed to do now?” And so we started to think like, “Okay, how do we do that?” One of the things that we have layered into our strategy is Facebook groups.

Joe Huber:
And that’s a big function of my role is finding customers in the wild, and then helping them have these conversations with one another. So that way it’s, one, structured around what they want, right? And it takes away what Sprout wants or what I want, and it gives them the space to talk about what they want. And so as soon as the pandemic hit, and as soon as people started going into lockdown, a lot of people were just asking the question, “What do we do now?” And so for us, I became busier than I’ve ever been. I became just absolutely overloaded with work in a good way because people were asking questions and people were talking to one another and we were able to build on that. And just our community spaces were already very rich, but now they’re thriving. And they’re places where, one, it’s not just customers too, right? Because customers… That’s a tricky word because anyone can be a customer eventually, especially for software.

Joe Huber:
But for us specifically, and the way I view it is, “I don’t really care if you’re a Sprout customer or not. If you’re a person that works in social marketing, I want you in our group because I want you to have those conversations.” And I don’t really… Obviously, I would love for you to use Sprout, but I don’t really care. Like my job is to help facilitate those conversations. So I always say that my role is to, one, facilitate those conversations, to help customers talk with one another, help customers talk with the brand, and help educate our customers, whether that be in the industry or on our product. And so through that lens, COVID hit and just made us overwhelmed with a lot of, one, positive reaction, because we were able to jump into these conversations with live Q&A webinars for our customers, but also opening up the spaces to anyone who’s a Sprout customer or beyond.

Ethan Beute:
I love it. It’s actually a value add to the Sprout customer to have an even broader community of people working in social spaces and what a great thing. It reminds me a little bit of the benefit of what we’ve done at BombBomb, which is we built the software, we built this community, we built education and training. We modified it a bit in the pandemic, basically accelerated the pace of what we were doing to help people use video to stay connected. And that’s what I think about with having a dedicated community person, such as yourself, you build it and you’re building it, but then all of a sudden, the circumstances change. And it’s so good that you spent all the time you did leading up to it to be prepared. That was awesome. That’s like a preview I think of where we’ll be going here over the next half hour or so. But to kick it off, when I say customer experience to you, Joe, what does that mean to you?

Joe Huber:
So again, I think it goes back to the customer is a tricky word, for me specifically. Because when I think of customer experience, and this is something that I built into… We’ll talk I’m sure later about the Chicago Customer Success Podcast, which is a podcast I run. But the way I view it is customer experience, it goes beyond customer. We tend to think of customer as a destination, when in reality it’s this journey, right? It starts out from before you ever even hear about the brand, before you ever hear about the software, and in fact, that’s obviously software is a service. That’s where I live and operate, but it starts when you are thinking about, “Do I have a problem?” That’s where it starts. And that’s that customer experience is, “Do I have a problem?” all the way through to, “I am now an advocate of this platform.”

Joe Huber:
And to me, customer experience is everything that falls into that. It’s the experience of the buying process. It’s the experience of the negotiations, of using the platform, of learning how to use the platform. It’s literally everything. From before you recognize the issue that is plaguing you, this thing that is costing you 10 hours a week, that you don’t even know you have the problem yet, and that’s where it starts. And then it never ends it. Even when you go away, even if you cancel your subscription, it’s not the end. So the experience is literally everything from start to there is no finish.

Ethan Beute:
So good. Several things I really liked about that. One of them is that you talked about losing 10 hours and not losing five grand or something. That time is super, super valuable. And that is a significant pain point that I think people sometimes undervalue. But I’m with you completely on the journey piece of it and the end to end with no end on the other end aspect of it. And that’s why I host the show. It’s why I talk to people. That’s why I like your background so much is that you have seen the sales marketing customer success piece. Obviously, customer experience transcends that. But those are typically the types of folks that I’m talking with in order to create some alignment in wholism and intentionality. Because all of our teams, even in a healthy environment, can get a little bit siloed, but we need to produce and deliver that experience in a very consistent way across teams and across the function. So that’s really good.

Ethan Beute:
I have one more definitional question before we get going because it’ll be a dominant theme. I just want some my clarity on the way you view it. To you, what is community and what does it mean to build community?

Joe Huber:
Sure. So again, this is another tricky word. I don’t think that there is a single definition that’s super simple and just straightforward, especially when you’re talking about things like this. Because what is community to me, could be something wildly different to somebody else. The way I approach customer communities is again, it’s not just customers. Community spaces, which is how I define them, it’s not just one thing. Community spaces are a Facebook group. They can be your Twitter following. They can be your Instagram following. Whatever it is to you, communities are everywhere. For us specifically in this role, I think of communities, the community spaces that we’ve built in Facebook groups, that’s to me like one of the communities that we have.

Joe Huber:
So communities are a collection of people who are interested in the same thing, and as a community manager or a community strategist, because that’s the thing is I do help manage our communities, but I’m not the only person in there. And the whole point of community spaces is to help people find one another who are like-minded or have similar interests.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. And the way you defined it too, obviously, the medium or the channel or the space itself is part of what these people have in common. I might participate with you on Instagram, but not participate at all on Facebook, for example.

Joe Huber:
Yeah, absolutely. That’s a big thing for anyone who works in social media is, and it’s inherent to you, it’s just obvious. If I’m not on Facebook, I can’t be in your Facebook group. So I’m not a part of that community space, but I’m still a part of your community. And so someone who doesn’t use Instagram, but uses Twitter, or someone who uses TikTok, but doesn’t use Twitter, you’re still a part of their community, but you’re just not in that one space. And so that’s the thing is community is this big, huge, overarching thing that has a lot of strategy involved, especially when you’re thinking in terms of customers. Because customer A might, especially if you work in SaaS, I’m sure that there are a million different use cases for your platform. And you think that it’s this all-encompassing thing and everyone can use it for everything.

Joe Huber:
The reality is probably not that broad, but the reality to you is yes, someone who, so for video, you might have customers that have three different use cases for your specific platform. And so you need to service each one of those three people individually. But the thing is, they’re not in a silo themselves. There are many more people out there like them. So you have to think and find ways to approach multiple different backgrounds with your community spaces.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah, it’s super. Immediately as you were talking, my mind was just this fragmentation of all the potential combinations of enough awareness that they would participate with us, common problems, but maybe different applications or solutions or different views of the same problem. You can just keep breaking all that down and have these hyper-focused communities. And so it makes sense to have someone dedicated to building and supporting that. Before we get too much farther, I expect most… I’m a marketer. I’ve known about Sprout Social for years. I’ve consumed a lot of your content. I guess I would be considered a background passive community member. But for folks who aren’t familiar, what is Sprout about? Who is your ideal customer? And maybe what problem do you solve for them?

Joe Huber:
Yeah, but first of all, everyone, we would love everyone to be a Sprout Social customer. Sprout Social is a social media management platform, which is pretty obvious from the name, but the way Sprout operates is we focus on four main pillars. Publishing, engagement, analytics, and then, of course, listening, which is a newer addition to the social suite over the last five years or so. Listening is a very powerful tool. It’s something that every single person can use. And that’s why when we say it’s… Every single software platform out there is going to tell you, “Yes. Everyone’s an ideal customer.” And I don’t think anyone should limit themselves necessarily.

Joe Huber:
I think of anyone who works in social media that spends too much time publishing, spends too much time or is too scattershot in their engagement. Someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing with their analytics doesn’t know how to read analytics, is an analytics genius as well, going on that full other end of the spectrum or anyone in between, because the thing is Sprout helps you publish more faster. It helps you keep your voice consistent across platforms. It helps you keep your messaging consistent as well across platforms, but it also helps you engage with your customers. It helps you read and put your analytics together. And then listening helps you put together more marketing strategies or creating different think pieces and content in that way. Listening helps you if, to those who are unfamiliar with listening, social listening is a way for you to find various conversations, put together data around those conversations.

Joe Huber:
Just the other day, Mark Cuban asked, “Could someone put together a Word Cloud for me around thing X, Y, Z.” And so we used our listening data and shared it with him and just showed him, “Hey, this is what it is.” So there is a tweet out there that you can find on and see all of the different kinds of stuff for that. But that’s Sprout Social in a nutshell is the ability to better manage your social media.

Ethan Beute:
I love it. And I would guess that the analytics piece helps close a gap that probably a lot of social managers have, which is a clear ROI piece. If there’s any pressure on any social investments, it’s typically around, like, “So what?” You’re just putting our stuff out there and maybe talking [inaudible 00:13:16]. It probably closes that gap. Thank you for that. So I want to get into these three takeaways that you shared with me in advance. And so I’ll just read off a line and then just maybe share your thoughts around it, the motivation, or maybe something practical for folks who are listening. So the first of these three is, “Build thriving spaces where people ask questions about the product with one another.”

Joe Huber:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). So-

Ethan Beute:
Several layers there.

Joe Huber:
Yeah. Yeah. The first thing that I would like just to deconstruct it a little bit. Thriving spaces can mean a lot of different things. So you might have five people who are just super active, and your community space could be just five people. We tend to think of that as an insights community. It tends to be a smaller group of customers. That’s fine. You don’t have to have 10,000 people in your Facebook groups. You can have 10 really engaged customers and that’s fine. So thriving can mean a lot of different things. And that’s one of the things that I consistently tell other people who are looking to either break into community management or strategy is, “Don’t be afraid to build a small community if that’s what’s working.” So thriving spaces can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

Joe Huber:
From a software perspective, there is an inherent value in, one, having people talk to one another because they’ll be able to solve problems for one another. And so there’s this idea that like, “Oh. We’re lowering support tickets,” which is an outcome, but that’s not the end game. That’s not the goal. The goal isn’t to get support tickets down. That’s a metric that a lot of people look at because we have to tie money and value to things, especially when it’s around your work. But the actual outcome is in, “Can I get two people linked together who are solving a problem?” Because the thing is, now they’re going to think about your brand in a much better light. And it becomes a lot more difficult to leave that platform when you feel a certain way. And that’s really what you’re trying to do is you’re showing people that you are invested in their success.

Joe Huber:
And that’s from my perspective, that’s what I want because I want people talking to one another because you’re going to get better. Then when you get better, I win. And that’s my game is to help you become the best professional you can possibly be. And that’s what those community spaces when we think about thriving when we think about people asking one another questions because now you’re both improving. And that means we all win. And when you win, I win. That’s the thing is you have to tie your success to their success. And that’s for thinking about thriving spaces, thinking about people asking one another questions, thinking about community spaces that feel exciting and valuable. That’s when things really start to tip over.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. When I read thriving and in listening to you describe it, I actually think the level of engagement that isn’t company-driven is a clear sign of thriving in my experience. And I love this idea of people helping each other. The minute you raise your hand and help someone else as a customer of Sprout Social, let’s say in a Sprout-generated community, the minute you raise yourself up and have this opportunity to help someone else, there’s your emotional commitment, the way you feel about all of it, changes. It’s really good.

Ethan Beute:
So the second one builds off that in a way, “Leverage the spaces to test out new content ideas and themes.”

Joe Huber:
So we were just talking about this in the pre-show when we were just having banter back and forth, but I’m a very creative person. I’ve always been a creative person. It’s something that’s just in my nature. When I sold windows and doors, I immediately thought of different ways to try and like… If we were installing at a house, my boss wanted us to pass around flyers. The flyers are fine, but they’re really invaluable. They don’t do anything. So one of the things that I started doing was putting together a care package. So things to wash your windows, not just the materials that we give you that show you how to clean a new window, but actually giving you the tools necessary to, one, keep your windows clean, or keep your windows oiled, whatever it was that we were putting together. But then going around to their neighbors and letting them know too with care packages for their existing windows. And by doing that, I was able to increase my sales and I wasn’t the best window salesman of all time. But it was those extra additional things that helped me land customers for the business.

Joe Huber:
I started a YouTube page where I showed people how to clean a double-hung window. Here’s what you should do. Here’s how you take care of it. If there’s a leak, here’s who to call. Those kinds of things. When you’re thinking about customer success from a SaaS perspective, it’s a lot of those same things. So to tie that back in, it’s the idea of we come in community spaces, we already have some trust level. So we’re able to try out new things and test them out and see if they will work in a vacuum. And then we can try to give those to some larger things as well.

Joe Huber:
Just a small example of that is live Q&A’s. We wanted to have an ability to ask you questions, and then you ask us questions right back. And so we’ll have a guest on, and the ability to bring in an interview like this, but having people ask me questions live is a different layer, a different element, that we were able to figure how it works, and our customers were hungry for something like that.

Ethan Beute:
I love it. I like this idea of having people who were bought in on the common problem and the common point of view of the world, which is what brought them to the community in the first place and just floating things and seeing what the response is in a very low threat and probably approximately low-cost type of way. It’s really a… And these are the people who actually care, right?

Joe Huber:
Yep, yep.

Ethan Beute:
And so they’re going to… They’re probably more honest than the average person who might just say something courteous because you’re just not that tight yet kind of things. Really good. And so-

Joe Huber:
Yeah, Can I… One thing I want to say there too is you hit on it and we’ve talked about it. This is something that I was going to loop around to eventually is customers don’t always have to be nice and love your product. A lot of times the things in software companies, you get better when someone tells you they hate something. You don’t just improve, because, “Everyone wants your product all the time, and everything’s all happy.” People have to be able to say, “You know what? I hate the way this is laid out. It’s tough. It doesn’t help me get my job done. It’s a process.” And then we’re able to take that kind of information, give that to our product team. Our product team literally reads every single bit of feedback that our customers give.

Joe Huber:
I’ve told this story a million times, I was blown away. I’ve worked at a couple of different software companies and generally, they find… They get it. But there was something very, very small. I remember it being a very minute problem, just absolutely small. Our product team sent me an email back saying, “Hey. Tell me about this thing.” And I was like, “Really? You’re following up on this?” That was just an outstanding moment for me, but it’s also great for our customers. But you, in your community spaces, you have to build places where people can dissent. They can say, “I don’t like this.” And you have to be, one, comfortable with that. Two, able to respond in a courteous manner. But then, three, understand what they’re saying and get that back to your product team.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah, it’s so good. And it’s such a delicate balance too, of is this just a loud angry voice? Or is this allowed angry voice we should listen to? Is this voice corroborated by other voices? But you don’t want to go into… It’s not pure democracy. If you like, you’re not going to take the product off course, just because 15 people said they wanted it that way instead of two. It’s such a sweet, delicate balance and dance to it. So again, number one is building thriving spaces, and having people talk to one another. Number two is leveraging the spaces to test new ideas and themes. And in what we just passed down there too, was being open to the negative feedback and not just fishing for the positive. And then number three is “Layering this very public feedback into the product design.”

Joe Huber:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s a lot of what we just talked about is the taking feedback from person A and community to your product team. This is where we… You just hit on is exactly the right point. It’s not a democracy. You don’t… No matter who you are, you’re not going to dictate how any software runs. The people building the software will dictate how it runs. You can absolutely say, “This is terrible.” Because so… For example, there’s a web browser extension, Momentum. I love it. I use it. It helps… You can put in your focus for the day and you’ve got to get that done. It integrates with To-Do lists, but it doesn’t integrate with Google Calendar. So it really has become a thing that I’ll put in my focus for the day sometimes, but not every day.

Joe Huber:
And they’re missing a huge opportunity, because a lot of people have said, “If you did Google Calendar, it would be helpful.” And they just haven’t built the integration. And so it’s a thing where they know. They got it. They’ve heard us. They just don’t want to build that one particular thing. And that’s again, whereas a software company, as you said, “It’s this delicate balance,” the reality is you have to build what’s going to impact the most people for you that solves the problem for you.

Joe Huber:
And so there are things that I know that I’ve read where Sprout customers have said, “I wish X, Y, Z.” And my product team has said, We’re not doing that. Just so you know, that flies in the face of what we’re doing.” And as if you work in communities, you have to be able to give that feedback back to the customer and say… Because being honest and upfront about it and just… Because you can lie and say like, “Oh, maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe,” but eventually you’re going to fracture trust if you do that. So if you just be straightforward and honest and say, “We’re not doing that, this is why.” You have to be able to have that kind of conversation. But again, it goes back to the trust. If you build that trust in your community spaces, you can have those conversations where people can say positive or negative feedback, and you can respond in an appropriate manner.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. This idea of stringing people along, because I’ve… For several years, I was a one-person marketing team at BombBomb. And so I had a lot of these responsibilities, even though I didn’t think about them as clearly as you’re articulating them now. So I’ve given a lot of these, a lot of these moments and things. And I learned right away that stringing people along and saying, “Yeah, yeah. We’ll pass that on.” It’s a little bit of a brush off I think for a lot of customers. It can feel that way because nothing’s ever going to come to pass on it. You know it’s not going to come to pass. And so being straightforward and being as honest as possible, as early as possible, is always a win.

Ethan Beute:
But what you just… The way you addressed that one went to somewhere that I wanted to go because I think the ability to handle these things correctly is part of the answer to the question. Your background is really interesting to me in terms of having exposure to marketing and sales and customer success, studying some of that at the undergraduate level, but also doing a public relations master’s degree. What do you think are some characteristics of, and maybe are there multiple roles here and you want to break it down a little bit further, but what are some characteristics in your opinion or experience of a really good community builder and community strategist?

Joe Huber:
I think they’re the same. If you’re… To be a good community builder, you have to have strategy involved. You can’t just have one without the other. The thing I always say, though, in terms of building community, someone who understands and is comfortable with giving up a lot of control of what you’re trying to build. So this is something that I always talk to about with my boss, Luke Reynebeau. I always say to Luke, “What I’m building, I think this is where we’re going to go. I think this is what we want to do.” The reality is though if the customers show up and say, “Okay. That’s great. We don’t care about any of that. We want to go here,” and take it in a completely different direction, that’s fine. You have to be comfortable doing that because the whole point of a community space is meeting people where they are and having the conversations that they want to have.

Joe Huber:
You can think all day. You can think you’ve got the right answers all the time. That’s great. You very likely don’t. Give up that control. Let your customers be the wind in your sails. Essentially, that’s what you’re doing. You’re building a sailboat. And you’re saying, “I think we’re going to set sail for this island.” And the reality is you might end up somewhere completely different because the winds aren’t taking you there. And that’s fine. You have to be comfortable with going wherever the customers want to go. And that’s… In those spaces, they might tell you, “You can build it,” and you might be 100% right. There have been a lot of instances in which I’ve been 100% on target. I said, “I think the customers are going to want this. This is how we’re going to build it. This is how we’re going to deliver it.” And it’s spot on.

Joe Huber:
A lot more often though, I’ll build something and I’ll say, “Here’s what I want to do.” And they’ll say, “Nokay.” Like the response is lukewarm. And that’s again, that goes back to being… I can be pretty adventurous in the content and themes that I want to build. But the thing is, they’re going to let me know pretty quickly, based on engagement, based on views, based on questions coming in. And that’s the thing is if you can see that and make the pivots quickly, you’ll be able to give up a lot of control on what you’re building. But the thing is that’s the key part of the strategy is, “Can I pivot quickly on everything?

Ethan Beute:
Really good. Where do you plug into the organization? I’m going to assume because there are… For anyone listening, whether you’re in executive leadership or whether you’re in sales or marketing or customer success, in your listening you don’t have a dedicated community-building strategy and you don’t have a human dedicated to the task. I can see probably some wheels turning like, “Oh, gosh. This makes sense.” And it really does, because it’s an important part of the brand experience and the customer experience to have this layer where I can directly interact with the brand and its people. I can directly interact with other people in the community, whether or not there are also customers. There’s, obviously, sales opportunities in that situation. They’re marketing in CS opportunities. So where do you plug into the organization? Do you plug into CS?

Joe Huber:
So when… This is the thing. I’ve worked at a couple of different places as a community strategist. I worked in customer success, initially. I’ve worked in marketing as well. And so at Sprout I’m in the marketing department.

Ethan Beute:
Yep, sure.

Joe Huber:
We have a customer marketing team, and that’s where I operate with my team is in the customer marketing arm.

Ethan Beute:
Makes sense. So you’ve also been consulting startups in community and in customer success for six or seven years now. What are a few of the common problems that you see, either in approach or in execution?

Joe Huber:
Yeah. So in consulting work, I generally have done a lot of community consulting with a couple of different SaaS companies. And the biggest, most common problem is people want to build thing and they don’t want to relinquish the control of things. Whatever it is they want to build, if that’s a dedicated customer space, if that’s a video series, if that’s an educational tool, if that’s a marketing push, they want to build a thing and they want just people to just use the thing. And it’s like if I created a pencil and I told you, “You could only write with it. You cannot draw with this pencil.” Well, if I’m trying to… If an artist is using the pencil, they want to draw with it. And you’re trying to build something that is rigid and has an absolute structure and it cannot change. And the thing that I have to go in and let people know is whatever we build, we think we’re going here. We think we’re going to a destination. And that’s impossible because there is no destination. It is a journey. It is an everlasting journey. It doesn’t stop. And you don’t get to decide how that journey goes. Are you comfortable with that?

Joe Huber:
And a lot of times people are not comfortable with that, because a lot of times, especially leadership, they are, “No. There has to be structure. There has to be rigidity. There has to be an outcome. I have to be able to measure it today, tomorrow, forever.” And the thing is sometimes you can’t measure everything in the exact timeframe you’re thinking, and sometimes you have to give longer timelines. And it’s one of those things where I’ve had customer when I’ve consulted with companies, I’ve had them say, “We can’t do this” And I’ll just say, “That’s fine.” That’s not how I operate though. And we can go ahead and we can end the working relationship as it is. And that’s… I’m not going to sacrifice any of my values for your results. And so that’s the biggest problem that people have when it comes to any customer community.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. It’s so interesting that it’s been a common theme on the show for a long time. I am thinking now back to some of the earliest episodes this shift from… And this has been part of what you’ve shared with us over the entire conversation is this relinquishing of control and knowing, recognizing, and honoring the fact that the customer gets to decide. They do. And so you may market the pencil as something to write with because 80% of your customers get 90% of their value by writing with it. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t create a drawing community too.

Joe Huber:
Yeah.

Ethan Beute:
Right?

Joe Huber:
Yep, yeah.

Ethan Beute:
So good.

Joe Huber:
Absolutely.

Ethan Beute:
So this has been awesome. I’ve got a couple more questions for you, but for folks who are listening, if you enjoyed this conversation, I have two more that I know that you will also enjoy. One of them is with the woman who brought Joe and I together for this conversation. Episode 74, I hosted Stef Caldwell, who is senior CS leader and community architect at another great a Chicago-based software company, Narrative Science. And that one was called Using Tech to Scale the Human Touch and to Build Community. Again, Episode 74 with Stef Caldwell.

Ethan Beute:
And Episode 63 with David Meerman Scott. And, of course, he’s the bestselling author of 10 or 11 books. And the most recent one is Fanocracy. We called that one Creating Fans Through Human Connection. And what we touched on here that really relates to that conversation is, it’s not just about company or company representative to customer or customer to company representative, but it’s also about customer to customer. And that’s where you build that human connection is the foundation of a thriving community, therefore, a thriving brand and a thriving business. And so a couple more you’ll like, they’re Episode 74 and Episode 63.

Ethan Beute:
Joe, relationships are our number one core value at BombBomb. And so I always like to give you the chance to do two things. Think or mention someone who’s had a positive impact on your life or your career. And to give a nod or a shout out or a mention to a brand or a company that you really respect for the way they deliver an experience for you as a customer.

Joe Huber:
Yeah. Well, I think… There’s so many people that you want to thank all the time. Ball State was super impactful in my life. But I think the first person who really opened my eyes to what I can be as professional was Dr. Lori Byers. She was the assistant dean or associate dean at the College of Communication, Information, and Media at Ball State when I was a graduate assistant there, and allowed me to define the role, allowed me to come in as a graduate assistant. And instead of it being this rigid structure of, “Here’s job. Do job,” I was able to come in and make it my own and was able to, one, it paid for the second year of my graduate degree. It came with a stipend.

Joe Huber:
It was an amazing job, but she allowed me to turn it into something a lot more than just a job. It became the path for my career. And I was able to build on what could be and thinking through how to design and structure my professional career and path and thinking through what that could be and could look like. So Dr. Lori Byers was really integral in me, understanding how to do that.

Joe Huber:
And then the last person would be Ben Fleischman, just because he helped me create the Chicago Customer Success Podcast. So ChicagoCSPodcast.com is ours. It’s a podcast that’s very similar to this, but it’s focused entirely on customer success. And we focus primarily on Chicago-based organizations, but we do, obviously, have other conversations. So I just thank you very much for letting me say that.

Joe Huber:
And then in terms of brands, the people that really deliver for me, I think I always think of Field Notes. And if you looked at my desk right now at my… I’m sitting at my kitchen table because we’re here. I have just one, two, three, four. I’ve got so many Field Notes branded things sitting on my desk because, one, the products are fun. They’re designed well, but they’re also really useful. And beyond that, I think their social presence is really, really strong. And then probably the only other, the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium are always phenomenal and a lot of fun. I just love the way that they do their social and reach out to people and help build that community in Chicago and show that off.

Ethan Beute:
Love it. It’s part of… They are part of what makes Chicago, in my opinion, the greatest American city.

Joe Huber:
I agree with you.

Ethan Beute:
That’s good. Yeah. And I love that pass on Dr. Lori Byers. There’s just this idea of broadening your perspective and really opening up your mind, opening up your perspective really opens up the entire world. So transformative to your life, it’s so cool. That is a great mention. So this is awesome. I appreciate you so much. If folks want to follow up on this, where would you send them, if they want to learn more about the podcast or about Sprout Social or connect with you? Where are some places you would send people?

Joe Huber:
Sprout Social is all over. So if you’re interested in connecting with us, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, you can always find Sprout Social there. But then also, if you wanted to… If you sign up for a demo, someone will absolutely follow up with you. We have the Social Marketers Exchange by Sprout Social and the Agency Exchange by Sprout Social are our two Facebook groups. So come on in and go there, if you work in social marketing and you want to have a chat. The other thing is you can always connect with me directly on Twitter at Joseph P. Huber. I really… Twitter is where I’m at. That’s my favorite one. I’m on Instagram, but I don’t post a ton. But the biggest thing is Twitter at Joseph P. Huber. And then if you’re interested in, I do professional voiceover work, you can also check me out at JPHuber.voice.com.

Ethan Beute:
Awesome. Folks who are listening, I link all that stuff up. We do short write-ups. I’ll pull some video clips. He showed off his Field Notes. So now I feel obligated to include that clip in the blog post as well. And the home base for all of that is bombbomb.com/podcast. If you visit B-O-M-B-B-O-M-B.com/podcast, you have access to all that in more. Of course, you can subscribe to the show there too. Joe, thank you so much for your time and insights. I’ve really enjoyed it. And I know listeners will too.

Joe Huber:
Awesome. Thank you so much for having me on.

 
 

Video Highlights: 3 Best Practices of a Great Community Builder

Check out the top five video highlights from the discussion with Joe Huber of Sprout Social below…

1. Definition of Community

 

 

2. Best Practice 1: Thriving Spaces and Customer-to-Customer Connections

 

 

3. Best Practice 2: Trying New Ideas within the Community

 

 

4. Best Practice 3: Sharing Customer Feedback with Product Team

 

 

5. Main Community Problem: Failure to Relinquish Control

 

 

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Ethan Beute

Ethan Beute | About The Author

Chief Evangelist at BombBomb, co-author of Rehumanize Your Business, and host of The Customer Experience Podcast, Ethan collects and tells stories of clearer communication, human connection, and higher conversion with simple, personal videos. BA: University of Michigan. MBA: University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. Fresh air & clean water.