Community-led Strategies and Scaling Communities with Amanda Martin

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October 6, 2022

On September 22, we had the pleasure to host Amanda Martin, Head of Community at Unbounce, for our Business of Community event series.

This event series is dedicated to spotlighting work that community builders are doing to drive real business results through community.

In this episode, we chatted with Amanda about:

·  Amanda's path into community

·   Building community through chapters

·   What it means to have a community-led strategy

·   ​How community fits into Unbounce's strategy

·   ​How Unbounce measures the ROI of community

Click here to listen to the episode or read our key highlights below.

Lesson 1: There is no one path into community, yet you may “intentionally” stumble into it

Amanda’s career began in general marketing roles, working across many industries. While building her experience in marketing, communications, and sociology, she pursued a volunteer opportunity with Room to Read, a nonprofit focused on developing literacy skills for children in low-income areas around the world, with a particular focus on girls’ education. Through her volunteership, Amanda became a local chapter leader for the organization. This role piqued an interest in community, which at the time seemed extracurricular. In time, however, Amanda came to see the true value of community.

Years later in 2016, Amanda saw a job opportunity for a Community Manager role for an international association of data professionals who work with the Microsoft Data Platform. The role of Community Manager had many parallels with her experience as a chapter leader and it was then that Amanda realized the elements of community she had loved with her volunteer work could be a career in itself. She was able to pair her professional experience and the strategic elements of marketing with building relationships and connections with others. Amanda was successful in the role, building a global data community with over 300 in-person and virtual groups and staying with the organization for over five years.

In retrospect, her early exposure to community led her to her current role with Unbounce as Head of Community, where she re-launched a community dedicated to helping businesses grow smarter by increasing sales and conversions by building landing pages using the power of AI.  

Lesson 2: Chapters – A Proven Way to Scale Community

“Community leader programs are one of the best ways to scale. By having a network of 300 local groups, I was building programming for 300 people instead of thousands of people within the association.”

Building a community leader program was a major key to Amanda’s success. Her approach was train-to-trainer. By creating “playbooks'' for community leaders, Amanda was able to train others in group motivation and program/content development. These playbooks were integrated into each step of community building, meeting each leader with where they were at in a given moment and empowering them to spearhead community growth. Taking this further, she then created leader/owner programming, which connected the leaders for further group development.

Incentives were also an important part of the leader program, such as public recognition for those who contributed in a meaningful way, spotlighting both leaders and members, and providing free registration to their annual conference for community leaders.

Lesson 3: What Does Community Mean and What Does It Mean to Be a Community Manager

“My definition of community is a group of people who share a common interest, passion or motivation.”

Amanda believes that the top skills of successful community managers are:

1. Communication – Finding the balance between the organization and people, understanding the objectives of the business and sharing that with community leaders, while maintaining advocacy for members back to the business.

2. Strategic planning – Seeing the bigger picture, generating a plan and executing that plan.

3. Enjoy people – Genuinely enjoy chatting with people and getting to know people!

Lesson 4: What is a community-led strategy?

Amanda cautions against getting too caught up on the buzzword “community-led” and instead advises focusing on what that term encompasses. Importantly, a community-led strategy and a community-led business are two different things. A community-led strategy refers to building a strategy alongside your team and community members. A community-led business refers to when all aspects of your business are truly led by community.

Starting with a community-led strategy is the first step in evolving into a community-led business. When beginning to build your strategy, focus on facilitating the relationships between your team and community, emphasizing mutual value and cross-functional collaboration. Bringing in all parts of your business (marketing, operations, customer success, product, etc.) helps create consistent understanding of what community means to your organization, communicates the value of the strategy for each specific team, and attracts diverse voices into the business.  

Lesson 5: Community Goes Beyond Your Product, It Is About Your Mission

Unbounce’s community evolved like many others. Beginning as a Product Q&A, it is evolving into a space to share learnings about AI marketing, landing pages, copywriting, and driving growth in business, outside of just their product. Many product-based communities begin this way, as forums or Q&A support. As businesses with community-strategy evolve, these forums help grow community around the mission of the business, expanding in scope from being solely product-focused.

Lesson 6: Measuring ROI in Community

The two key types of metrics of community building are:

  1. Leading: These community health metrics include acquisition (visitors) to a community, conversion into community members, and engagement in the community (posts, comments, etc.)
  2. Lagging: These business outcome metrics include things like reduced churn, increased conversion of upgrading subscription packages, and increasing expansion revenue.

In time, community can help to drive new customers by creating space for people to ask questions and learn from existing members, leading to customer conversions.

Lessons 7: Platforms and Channels For Community

Most importantly, start with a goal and a strategy, then move to platforms or channels. Having clearly defined goals will guide how you select technologies and tools. Often, the hardest part of building community is ensuring people come back as many times people show up, ask their questions, and don’t come back. Understanding which tools are best suited to your goals ensures that your follow-up (social, email, content, etc.) is meaningful and will drive people back into your community.

Resources shared during this episode:

-   FML Community Resource Bundle

-   SPACES Model

What’s next?

Amanda is starting a new chapter through CMX, a global community of community leaders, to create a place for community professionals in and around Calgary to connect, gain insights, and grow as community builders. The CMX Connect Calgary Chapter is kicking off with a virtual meet and greet, join us on October 25th for the inaugural event!

Up next for FML, we look forward to hosting our next Business of Community podcast on October 20 with guest Nikki Thibodeau, Senior Community Strategist. Register today!

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