Community you admire? Uncommunity #3

10+ years of community building experience in 5 minutes.

Hey you,

Yeah, you! We are trying something new for this newsletter featuring AMAs with phenomenal community builders where they share their thoughts and wisdom followed up by updates from us to you on all things Uncommunity. ❤️


*drum roll* *🥁 🥁 🥁

Introducing…. Holly Firestone is now the Head of Community at Venafi. She brings more than 10 years of experience building and growing some of the largest B2B communities in the world namely Salesforce, Atlassian.

Community Building from scratch or joining the team with an existing community?

I've done both and there are really great things about both of them and there are challenges with both of them.

When you walk into a situation where the community already exists, you'll very likely have an identified audience and active community engagement. A lot of platforms and processes will already be in place. Your community will have a brand. You'll have historical data on the community, what's worked and not worked, and how it grew into the current place it's in. However, if you've ever heard of technical debt– you've got the same thing here, "community debt." You've got to spend a lot of time getting deep into the weeds to better understand the community, the processes, the successes, the failures, your team as individuals– their strengths and weaknesses, the team as a whole, and more. Then, you have to go in and clean up that "community debt." You're doing a lot of "fixing" which means you're not immediately producing the "shiny" stuff. All of this requires change, and even if it's a change for the better, people hate change. That change will lead to improvements and success, but it's tough to get there.

When you walk into a situation where you're building the community from scratch, you've got an amazing opportunity to build something the best way you can. You don't have any of the "community debt" to clean up. If you already have an actively engaged audience, you're in a great spot. You can start talking to members of this engaged audience and better understand their needs and build a community balancing the needs of this audience and the needs of your business. You get to set your goals. You get to pick your platform. You get to hire and structure your team. On the other hand, in the beginning, you're going to spend a lot of your time building. As community builders know, community growth– authentic community growth– is slow, and this is especially true if you don't already have an engaged audience. You also won't have the "shiny" object right away. You don't have any historical data to base decisions on, so you have to make some educated guesses as you build. You won't always be right, so you'll have to be ready to iterate and pivot throughout the process.

So, like I said, it's tough to choose because they're both wonderful and challenging in their own ways!

One community you admire and why?

This is a tough one because there's SO many!
I would say for B2C, it has to be Sephora. They've built an incredible community with very engaged community members. For B2B, I mean obviously I'm biased, but the Salesforce community will always be astounding to me. The things that the team is doing– with programs, with operations– it's so impressive. 

A few other great B2B communities are Square, Asana, Slack, and Github.

One community professional you admire and why?

There are so many. I'm so impressed by all of the community individuals that I have met. If I had to pick one to mention, it's Evan Hamilton. I admire Evan for so many reasons but to name a few– Evan has been there for me as a good example, a mentor, and a friend since I started this community journey. He's always been there when I needed someone to bounce ideas off of or when I needed advice, especially in the beginning, but even as recently as a few months ago. I think a lot of people could say that about Evan. He's been doing this for a long time, and ever since the beginning, he was running the Community Manager Breakfast, which was an incredible resource for so many people as they were getting started. He still, somehow in his crazy schedule, finds the time to continue pulling together amazing content for his Community Manager Breakfast newsletter. Evan is now the Director of Community at Reddit and they are so lucky to have him.

Advice to someone just getting started?

Congrats! You are joining an incredible industry with the most amazing industry professionals you could ever imagine. As you get started, talk to everyone. Set up "coffees" with other community professionals, and don't ever stop doing this. Ten years in, and I still try to do this once a month. When you meet with other community professionals, don't limit yourself to ones in a specific industry, a specific role, or a specific type of community. Try to talk to everyone across the spectrum. Ask them about their journey, the resources they love most, their biggest successes, and their biggest challenges. Do a TON of LISTENING. Join community professional communities. This is such a giving community, and everyone cares so deeply in helping one another. We have always known that building each other up and helping each other finds success only leads to the success of this industry. Then, when you're a seasoned community professional, don't ever forget to pay it forward and help others.


Follow Holly on Twitter, check her Medium for more wisdom.


What’s cooking?

  • CMX Summit 2020 just went live with their agenda and you should definitely check it out if you haven’t yet! It’s a two-day virtual conference for community builders like us and the best part is you can attend from anywhere in the world for free. The conference is on October 6th and 7th.

  • Bill Johnson kicked off an initiative called Better Communities to create more valuable, inclusive and sustainable communities with support from Vincent Boon, Carrie Melissa Jones, Venessa Paech, Lauren Vargas, Jay Bryant, Alexandra Jacoby, Brian Pagels, and Joi Podgorny. We can’t wait to see the outcome of this project!

  • Uncommunity featured product Airmeet virtual events platform raised $12 million as part of the Series A round from Sequoia and Redpoint.

  • There is this post on Reddit from 4 years ago called, “How do I start to build a community?” and the comments are so great. Give it a read.

  • Tag your favourite community builders


What’s new at Uncommunity?

Do you know what Google and Uncommunity have in common? Search. Not literally. Now you can search by product name, product type. Try now.

  • New tools that we added:

    • GroupApp - Online Community & Course Creation Platform For Creators

    • Toucan - Your New Social Experience

    • VideoAsk (by Typeform) - The most effortless way to have asynchronous video conversations. Engage your community, recruit new talent, and much more

  • Book:

    • Working in Public - The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software by Nadia Eghbal.

Go to Uncommunity.club to find out about the latest tools and all new jobs that we added this week from companies such as Notion, Zero, Icebreaker. Check out the jobs.

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