Q: I’m interviewing for a community role but I want to make sure this is a company that actually values community before I decide to work there. Any advice on determining how leadership values community at a company?
If I had a nickel for every time an executive raved about how much they value community, just to deprioritize it 6 months later, I’d have, I don’t know… something like $5?
What I’m trying to say is it’s common.
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Community is an easy thing to get excited about conceptually. It’s a hard thing to stay committed to in practice.
The glow tends to fade when you realize that it’s a ton of work and takes a long time to bear fruit.
So it would be great if you could suss out what leadership truly thinks about community before you sign away your precious 9-5.
There’s one question that I’ve started asking company leaders that always generates interesting insights:
“Imagine there's a thriving community of 10,000 of our current and potential customers.
How much would you pay to acquire that community?
You don’t have to be interviewing for a position - you could ask this question of your current boss, or any decision maker.
The exact number they come up with doesn't matter as much as how they arrive at the number.
I like this approach because if you just ask them straight up how they value community, they’ll immediately start thinking about the costs.
Execs are always looking to cut costs and always looking to find smart investments.
This question reframes community from a "cost" to an "investment". It uses an acquisition scenario where you have to assign a very specific dollar amount.
Pay close attention to their answer. It will tell you a lot about how to be successful in a community role at their company.
If they come up with a value solely based on the leads it could drive, then they see community as a short-term marketing engine. Not a bad thing necessarily, but good to know that upfront.
If they also talk about the value it based on relationships and sentiment, then you know they get the long-term marketing value of community. That’s dope.
But a word of warning: 99% of execs who say “I don’t care about the business impact, I just believe in community”, are 100% full of it.
If they value it based on retention, you'll know that building community that focuses on customer engagement will likely be rewarded at this company.
If they say, "I wouldn't pay anything to acquire it" or “I have no idea how to value it”, then you know everything you need to know. This is a company where you're going to struggle to get budget and buy-in. I wouldn't work there.
Keep asking follow-up questions. They might share other details, like how much they care about:
the tone and voice of the community
the kinds of leaders they want to see in the community
lead scoring criteria like company size or location
legal and communications risks
expected growth rates
Give it a shot!
If you ask this question of your current or future boss, let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear what you learn.
In other news…
I joined my good friend Greg Isenberg on his podcast Where it Happens. We discussed:
Why you should take a sabbatical
What AI can do better than human community managers
Having a personal board of advisors
Listen on Spotify or Apple, or watch it on YouTube.
You did it. You read the whole email. Let’s do this again next week?