Community isn’t fast because it’s centered on human beings. Uncommunity #20

Hi, Rafy here.

Uncommunity Weekly is a bi-weekly newsletter. Wait. What? How can this be a weekly newsletter if it’s bi-weekly? 😝 We bring you community experts interviews, resources related to building and growing communities, tools that you can use to scale your community or events and books that you can read to become better community builders and jobs to be applied.


Shannon is working as a community manager at Higher Logic. With almost 7 years of community management experience in SaaS-based software, Shannon has seen it all and still loves what she does. You’ll often find her with a smile on her face and nerding out about community management. During non-working hours, you’ll find Shannon planning her next big adventure, trying new foods, and hanging out with her partner and their beloved pup, Hermione.

In the last decade of your community industry experience, how has the industry changed positively and negatively?  

The answer is the same on both sides – the industry’s growth. When an industry grows at a fast rate as it did in 2020, you’re going to get misguided attempts, the origins get twisted, and it starts to lose its meaning. I always said that the community would grow purely based on the workforce getting younger. While they may not use the same terminology my brilliant, younger counterparts have grown up in a sense of community for as long as they could get online. With their arrival into the workforce and in decision making roles, I knew community would pick up in speed. 2020 changed things drastically and the industry didn’t naturally evolve and ended up on a fast track. If you pay attention, you now see ‘community’ everywhere and sometimes it’s an empty sentiment or attempt. 

With growth comes more investment and more supporters and that’s brilliant. I’ve never seen organizations more interested, or people want to learn more. It’s heartening because there are more voices at the table. I know I’m not alone either and that’s a powerful & positive turn of events. I think it will be up to the giants in the field and those who have done this for a while to keep the true meaning of community at the center of it all – connecting people to people.

For community builders working on user groups, what's your advice on how to retain and scale up the user groups? 

First and foremost – don’t force something to scale. I can hear the gasps in the distance. 

I know, I’m a community manager with a corporate background and so the name of the game is “make the numbers better.” 

However, ask yourself, when’s the last time you attended a user group event (or any event) where you felt like you connected to all the attendees? Yes, I said all of them. I can almost guarantee that you haven’t but if you are reading this and have, you need to do an AMA. Just saying.  

There will be times when scaling a group or event to be bigger is an amazing idea. For example, we have a product line that needed some love because they didn’t use community every day. I had a hard time connecting with them and one of or product marketers came on board and tried different tactics to get them involved. Attendance spiked on events, there have been more discussions, etc., and I’m happy these community members are coming together to connect & share. 

This is the scaling I’m talking about – allowing connection and intimacy before heading to big & nameless which can make you feel lost. You will need to scale your groups but think about segmentation to keep them smaller – maybe it’s regional or local user groups around the topic. Maybe you look at the user group and get specific and invite members to those specific topics. This way it retains that intimacy and doesn’t feel too big. Retention will happen when they feel connected – don’t forget that.

How important are tools and platforms in running a community?

I love these questions because I’ve worked with a few different community vendors over the years. Each set of tools and platforms has strengths & weaknesses. It is important that you understand these before choosing the platform or tools which should help get you to your community strategy and end goal. Always start with the strategy and then pick your tools – it’ll be easier in the long run for you because you won’t be forcing a square into a round hole.

Since you work with multiple clients with different community needs and background, what's the most interesting client community that you worked with? Any learnings from that experience?

My most interesting community is the internal community I’ve been running here at Higher Logic for the past two years. We lovingly call it “the OC” and internal community management is a whole different world. 

A few lessons learned:

  • Patience is key. You develop even more patience working cross-functionally within your organization. 

  • Be loud then be LOUDER. I learned that I need to use my voice and position within the company to ensure my colleagues are heard too. 

  • Emotional intelligence is key. When you become a trusted person within your organization, you’re going to hear a lot of things & encounter situations you need to navigate. Emotional intelligence is key in navigating those first steps.

What is the one thing that has kept you motivated for the last decade to stay in the community field? Did you ever feel burnt out, how did you cope with it?

My motivation is simple because I’ve always wanted to help people and when I can do that, my helper heart is bolstered, and I can keep going. I always tell people “when you succeed, I succeed” and I keep that at the center of my focus as I move along. 

When I do burn out, as it inevitably happens, I take a step back and connect with my real-life community – my family and friends. I call my Grandma, I chat with my best friend, I go for an adventure with my partner, I joke with my brother. My people center my life so I always come back to them. I also pick up something tangible like a book or a craft and focus on that. I do a lot of online work so I like the feel of something I can touch to recenter myself. I also love to travel and explore the world as much as possible. 😊

One community professional you admire and why?

How do I pick just one? In true Shannon fashion, I won’t pick just one. I admire every single community manager in this field. The folx with their heads down, doing the work. The ones who smile when their members are successful or connect. The ones who get excited when they dive into metrics. The ones managing teams & fight for their voices to be heard. The ones who are launching their first community or relaunching their tenth community. I admire each of you. Keep going. Keep doing the damn thing.

Advice to someone just getting started.  

Community isn’t fast because it’s centered on human beings and humans are good at throwing wrenches into things, not doing what you thought they would do and will know how to push your buttons. Remember to breathe, channel your patience, and be kind to yourself. Everything in community is a learning experience. Also – stand on the shoulders of those who came before you – you are not in this alone, come find us community friends and we can all learn together.

Follow Shannon Emery on Twitter.

What else we’re reading?

  • Audience and community has to co-exists. Few understand this.

What’s new at Uncommunity? ^Upvote your favorites^

  • Experts added:

    • Christina Garnett - Christina Garnett is the Senior Marketing Manager, Offline Community & Advocacy at HubSpot

    • Krystal Wu - Social Community Marketer at HubSpot

  • Book added:

Go to to find out about the latest tools and all new jobs that we added this week from companies like Thingtesting, Brainly, Deel and Patreon, etc. Check out the jobs.

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