5 Community Growth Hacks from Polyvore CEO Jess Lee

A lot of community professionals are turned off by the term “growth hacking,” but Polyvore CEO Jess Lee believes we’ve got it wrong. Community growth hacks are not about finding sneaky ways around problems or finding short-term solutions.

Instead, she argues, “The best growth hack is to cultivate delight for your users.” And she would know: Though Polyvore is now defunct, it was once the second largest driver of social commerce traffic with 20 million monthly visitors. “The community work we do has serious business results,” she says.

In her talk for CMX Summit, she went on to outline 15 community growth hacks to delight users and see major business results.

Growth Hacks for Delighting Community Members

First, Jess outlined the core principles for how to delight your users. Within each principle, she outlined the growth hacks you could use to drive community.

Core Principle #1: Live

Community has to be baked in to the core culture of your company. Otherwise, people will know you’re not sincere about community if you’re not living those values every day.

1. Include community in your company’s core values. Make sure those values are displayed clearly, and put into practice on a regular basis.

2. Make community part of your onboarding process. Regardless of whether they manage the community or not, all new hires should be exposed.

3. Decorate your office with community memorabilia. Don’t let people forget what it’s all about. Include handwritten notes and cards and photos.

4. Send out a weekly update on the community. This should include member spotlights, love letters, and more.

5. Hire a community manager. This shows investment in the community at your core.

Core Principle #2: Learn

Listen to your users and make sure to incorporate their feedback.

6. Get early feedback on your community. Use Flinto or similar tools to get feedback on prototypes.

7. Broadcast user research internally. Make it fun! Get on Slack at the same time so that everyone can talk with the researchers.

8. Write a strong launch announcement. Be transparent in why you’re making changes. People don’t like change, so you need to anticipate it and make sure people understand why you’re shifting directions.

9. Address problems head-on. Don’t beat around the bush. Instead, transparency and honesty makes a big difference.

10. If you do screw up, say you’re sorry. Don’t qualify it. Just apologize.

11. Tell the community story. Let your community know when good things happen and how they’re contributing to your growth.

Core Principle #3: Love

Show the community how much you care. This is the foundational element to building a strong community, and a necessary component to growth.

12. Spotlight your community members in your product and content. This also doubles as research for your product team.

13. Reward your super users. On a small budget, write handwritten thank you notes. When your budget is larger, you can send gifts. T-shirts work, but try to make it personal.

14. Create personalized gifts for meetups. At Polyvore, the team found specific items that came up frequently on wishlists and bought them for these special community members.

15. Help your community achieve their dreams. Find out what your members really want, and how you can help them get there. For Polyvore, this means helping fashion bloggers, models, stylists, and more accelerate their careers.

These community growth hacks are not fluffy tactics, but rather huge drivers of business success.. They’re part of a larger business model where delight drives word-of-mouth, and word-of-mouth drives growth. This has lead to all amazing results for Polyvore and Polyvore’s community members — a true win-win outcome.

Carrie Melissa Jones