Published: Tuesday 2nd of December 2014

One of the most common questions plaguing startups around community is: how do I hire the right community professional for my team? And, beyond that, how will I know how to grow the community team in the most effective way possible?

We’ll answer those questions today, using one of the most well-established community teams we know as an example.

In October, I sat down with the Moz team at their Seattle headquarters, just as they were celebrating their tenth anniversary. Over that time, they have grown a full-fledged, thriving community team under the direction of Jennifer Sable Lopez, their Director of Community. That team now makes up about 5% of their total workforce.

Today, we’ll break down the nine most common functions of a community team, who owns what function, what contributions your internal team can empower the community to take on, and who should be hired to take on these roles.

The Current Moz Community Team 

Let’s start by outlining exactly who makes up the Moz community team.

Moz community team (from left to right): Charlene Inoncillo, Erica McGillivray, Jennifer Sable Lopez, Danie Launders, Megan Singley [not pictured: Keri Morgret]

Moz community team (from left to right): Charlene Inoncillo, Erica McGillivray, Jennifer Sable Lopez, Danie Launders, Megan Singley [not pictured: Keri Morgret]

  1. Jennifer Sable Lopez – Director of Community
  2. Erica McGillivray – Senior Community Manager
  3. Keri Morgret – Community Manager
  4. Megan Singley – Social Community Manager
  5. Charlene Inoncillo – Brand Community Manager
  6. Danie Launders – Marketing Administrator [not yet fully on the community team]

(in order of when they joined the team)

Establishing the Voice of the Community

The Moz community started with just one: Jennifer Sable Lopez. One of her first roles was advocating for the Moz community. As of October 2014, she has been with Moz for almost six years, since the very early days. In fact, she was the twentieth employee, and now she’s been there the fourth longest in the entire company.

From those early days, it was really up to her to guide the community roadmap, build programs, and begin the hiring process from the start. Moz is most certainly a shining example of a company that holds its community up high and sees incredible returns on the investment (and, if there is any doubt, check out these letters to the community from founder Rand Fishkin and CEO Sarah Bird).

But perhaps this would not be so much the case if it were not for Jennifer’s warmth and long-term vision of giving back to the community. From early on, Jennifer advocated that the team invest in community across the board. As such, Jennifer has had a hand in creating the strategy around all of the other functions and programs that community has taken on at Moz over the years, including:

  • MozCon (the annual Moz conference)
  • Q&A Forums (part of Moz Pro paid software, driving real revenue)
  • The Moz Associates program (This program singles out industry experts who help Moz by answering questions in the forum, testing products, and in general helping to care for the community. Most of them are paid for their work.)
  • Comment moderation on the main Moz blog
  • YouMoz (the user-generated Moz blog)
  • Mozinars (webinars that teach new skills to users)
  • Mozcations (Moz community members vote on a location for a Moz conference)
  • MozTalks (events that occur in the Moz office)
  • Moz Community College (a training program for new Moz hires to learn about the community)
  • Moz’s social media properties (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.)

Over time, each of these initiatives has come to live under the umbrella of nine core community functions, which are as follows.

The 9 Most Common Functions of a Community Team

  1. Organizing the community and establishing initiatives and programs to serve them
  2. Forum moderation and starting conversations
  3. Empowering others to moderate and keep conversations going
  4. Blogging and content creation
  5. Empowering others to share user-generated content
  6. Event planning
  7. Social conversations
  8. Gathering product feedback
  9. Identifying new members and partners and sharing symbols of membership (i.e. swag)

As you’ll see, it is not necessary that each of these functions has its own community hire. Some functions, once off-boarded to the community, can be done at the same time. In addition, Moz re-evaluates everyone’s function and responsibilities every six months, making decisions as a team to re-focus when needed.

1. Organizing the Community

Who Owns This: Jennifer, Director

Jennifer builds and monitors high-level community strategy and roadmaps. She also organizes and maintains the Moz Associates program, which blossomed out of a partnership that Moz had started in its early days. These associates are given special priveleges within the Moz community and three are actually paid extra to take on more work on behalf of Moz, including social posting and moderation, conference attendance and speaking, and more. 

Jennifer also pays close attention to community health metrics such as who is gaining MozPoints on their platform, who is participating in the forums, etc. and she offers guidance and help to the entire internal team.

2. Forum Moderation and Starting Conversations

Who Owns This: Keri, Community Manager

The forums are part of a paid Moz Pro package, driving revenue for Moz overall. Keri primarily owns the Moz Q&A forum, where she began her work as a contractor until she was hired full-time shortly thereafter in 2012.

A lot of her work involves getting down in the trenches with the community, moderating the forums, and doing research on their members in order to reach out to them and build deeper relationships.

“She’s a superspy,” laughs Erica, describing her colleague. “She’s on maternity leave, and we still find that she’s often replying and moderating on the Moz forums.”

3. Empowering Others to Moderate and Continue Conversations

Who Owns This: Keri, Community Manager

While moderating forums often starts out as a largely internal, manual task, Moz found ways to leverage their passionate userbase to engage users further. Forum moderation is now largely the role of top users (who get special badges) as well as the Moz associates.

Moz also pays one of their associates to moderate the forums alongside Keri: Christy Correll. “She assigns questions to other Associates to answer or endorse members’ answers, answers questions when she can, and generally makes sure things are running smoothly. She works closely with Keri on this,” Jennifer says. In this way, Keri is able to spread out her responsibilities and take on other work outside the forum, such as in managing the user-generated blog.

4. Blogging

Who Owns This: Now exists outside the community team, community team moderates comments

Blogging and content creation is another great way to capture passionate voices, spotlight super users, and drive awareness of the community and brand at large. The blogging is actually not owned by the community team at Moz.

Rather, the community team is in charge of moderating all discussion on the blog. They will continue the conversation, moderate spam, and keep things alive.

5. User-Generated Blogging and Content Creation

Who Owns This: Keri, Community Manager

The team wanted to find ways to harness Moz’s passionate fanbase, and one of the best ways to do so was to allow them to contribute their own writing to the conversation around Moz. Moz’s blog, YouMoz, captures some of their user’s passion and gives them a platform to share their knowledge with the world.

In an act of true community-building, Moz has now actually empowered one of their community Associates to take over the blog’s management: “Ronell Smith has taken over management of YouMoz while Keri is on maternity leave. He’s helped raise the bar of contributions from our community and is working to help improve the process.”

6. Event Planning

Who Owns This: Erica, Sr. Community Manager, and Charlene Inconcillo, Community Brand Manager

Moz runs tons of community events, such as MozCon, MozTalks, Mozinars (online), and Mozcations. These are a significant source of building brand awareness as well as creating real offline community between Moz fans.

Erica and Charlene organize MozCon, Moz’s enormous annual community conference. Erica also organizes local SEO conferences, where members of the community can work with Moz to put on their own local events around defining best practices (another great example of empowering your users to organize on your behalf).

In addition to these rather large undertakings, Erica manages Mozinars (webinars for users) as well as Mozcations, where Moz community members vote on a location and Moz goes to that place to organize a conference for their users.

After doing this so many times, she’s got a lot of her work down to an art. “I still handle all the speakers and promotion for these events, but it gets easier each time.”

For the last year and a half, Charlene Inconcillo, the team’s Brand Community Manager, has focused on internal events (like MozTalks, which happen twice per year) and external events and sponsorships. She invites members of the local Seattle community to Moz events, does all the setup and promotion, and also locks down sponsorships for events at Moz. This is a huge undertaking given the breadth of events that Moz hosts and sponsors.

Moz Talks

A MozTalk in the Moz Headquarters in Seattle

7. Social Media Conversations

Who Owns This: Originally Erica, Sr. Community Manager. Now Megan, Social Community Manager, and Danie, Marketing Admin.

This is one of the first things that Erica owned on the team (being the first full-time hire). She tied up loose ends and created cohesive social media programs before handing this over to Megan, the Social Community Manager.

As Megan explains, “I work on everything Moz community that is off the site, including Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.” She maintains the channels, sets up a schedule for who owns the channels at different times of day (so she doesn’t have to be on-call 24/7!), and works with an Associate to keep things going when an internal employee is not on hand. Danie, the marketing administrator, helps her with this task as well.

“I don’t do this alone,” Megan says. “There are technically seven people managing our social media accounts. And I’ve found shortcuts like Pinterest animal boards for fun content and animated GIF searches. I also work closely with one of our Moz Associate’s Melissa Fach.”

Jennifer explains how they leverage their community members to manage their social channels: “Melissa Fach manages all of our social channels from the East coast every morning. While those of us on the West coast are still sleeping, she’s answering questions, alerting our engineers of any issues, and generally handling all things social. She’s the eyes and ears of Moz each morning.”

Design also now works closely with community in this respect, which has far-reaching implications for community voice and brand consistency. Because Megan is able to work with design and empower the team and the Moz Associate to lend a hand, she is also able to take on a variety of other roles.

The Moz Holiday YouTube Cover

The Moz Holiday YouTube Cover

8. Facilitating Product Feedback

Who Owns This: Megan, Social Community Manager

Megan is also in charge of product feedback sessions, where she meets with the product team once per week to talk about what she has learned through the various social channels, forums, blog comments, and more.

She also writes a newsletter called “The Community Chronicle” that shares community metrics internally. This creates company-wide excitement for the work of the community team. Then they share these newsletters externally. Here’s just one example. 

9. Identifying New Members and Partners

Who Owns This: Megan, Social Community Manager with the help of Jennifer, Director

Megan also deals with “customer happiness scores” (like NPS scores), MozPoints, and outreach to those who reach certain levels of engagement on the blog and Q&A (Jennifer runs the numbers; Megan does the legwork). Her role is incredibly significant in this regard, as it contributes to the continual growth and expansion of the Moz community.

Charlene also has a hand in this outreach work, as she manages Moz’s relationship with Kotis designs, a Seattle-based swag company. Charlene simply sends people’s names and addresses to Kotis and they take care of sending swag to each and every community member on her behalf.

Key Takeaways from the Moz Community Case Study

Why the Team is Structured the Way It Is

Now, let’s boil down exactly why each team member owns each responsibility. As you think through your own community priorities and programs, decide who is best suited and positioned to own what is on the table.

  1. Organizing the community, internally and externally: Jennifer is a veteran community builder and provides strong leadership and mentorship to the team. She focuses on data gathering and measuring success, a pivotal role that is hard to do when you’re deep in the trenches of everyday community nurturing.
  2. Forum moderation and starting conversations: Keri, the community manager, owns this function and she was the first person on the team hired to help Jennifer with this task. This was a top priority from the early days, and the relationships built on the forums helped to establish all the other programs that followed.
  3. Empowering others to moderate and keep conversations going: Keri is able to scale her moderation work to the community at large.
  4. Blogging and content creation: Because Keri has empowered the community to help with the forums, she is also able to spend time leveraging their knowledge in other ways, such as through the YouMoz blog.
  5. Empowering others to share user-generated content: Again, Keri is “working herself out of a job”, empowering the community to own the UGC content while she steps back to oversee operations. That’s the mark of a talented community professional.
  6. Event planning: Events are a HUGE priority at Moz, so two people own this function and work on various programs together and separately. The Sr. Community Manager, Erica, and the Brand Community Manager, Charlene, are best poised to take on these tasks, as they work on a high level to maintain brand integrity and leverage high-profile community members in creative ways.
  7. Social conversations: Megan, the social community manager, owns this. Her job title speaks for itself. It is best to have one person overseeing and owning the social channels and finding ways to give responsibility to other team members so that she is not overwhelmed by the 24/7 nature of the social world.
  8. Gathering product feedback: Megan owns this role as well, since she is on the front lines of feedback via social.
  9. Identifying new members and partners and sharing symbols of membership (i.e. swag): Again, Megan owns this role (among many others) alongside Jennifer and Charlene so that she can empower the users who are vocal on the forums as well as in the social channels.

Overall Tips for Community Team Success

  • Having dedicated designers allows you to be nimble about your external presence as well. Moz changes their social skins every 2 weeks, switching it up to things that matter to their community or to celebrate holidays and Moz happenings. This extends the community feel to the branded pages outside of Moz.com.
  • The community associates program has been an amazing boon to Moz as a whole. They’re able to leverage passionate users who want to take on the Moz voice and gain massive credibility in the SEO space.
  • Doing special things for your community is what it’s all about. Moz will often send handwritten cards to members when they get new jobs. On one occasion, Megan even found a local bakery and sent a community member cookies simply because they had said they were craving them.
  • Moz runs a program called “Moz Community College” that trains all new hires in what the Moz community does and who it consists of. The new hires spend one hour onsite looking at the community’s interactions and one hour reviewing social media. This gets all new hires invested in the community from day one. Community is therefore not just confined to this one team.
  • Your community team will be ever-evolving. Your team members should be ready to take on new challenges through the lens of the community at any time. At Moz, they get together every six months to re-evaluate everyone’s goals and make sure they’re doing work that makes the most sense. It’s a team effort.

Conclusion

“We are lucky to have a crazy active community that just loves Moz,” says Jennifer. “One of the things we’ve always done here is promote the community. It’s about building trust together,” explains Jennifer. It’s clearly a top priority for them. “It’s odd for a small company to have a large community team, but it’s honestly such a focus for us. It just makes sense.”

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Carrie Melissa Jones

Carrie Melissa Jones | @caremjo

Carrie is the COO and Founding Partner of CMX. She has built community at Chegg and Scribd and has consulted with community companies around the world. She lives in Seattle, WA with her pup, Bruce Wayne.