Community Management and HUG Connect w/ Katie Raeburn
Alex Mastrianni: Welcome to The Member Engagement Show with Higher Logic, the podcast for association professionals looking to boost retention, gain new members, and deepen member involvement.
Heather McNair: Throughout our show, we'll bring on some experts, talk shop about engagement, and you'll walk away with strategies proven to transform your organization. I'm Heather McNair.
Alex Mastrianni: I'm Alex Mastrianni, and we are happy you're here. Hey everyone, it's Alex. Before we get started with today's episode, I wanted to share one quick update. Heather and I will be moving on from the podcast, and we're super excited to introduce you all to a new host of The Member Engagement Show. Of course, if you've listened to the show before, attended any association event or Higher Logic webinar this year, you'll surely recognize her voice. It's Beth Arritt, the Higher Logic Association evangelist. We welcome her and leave you all in her very capable hands. Take it away, Beth.
Beth Arritt: Thanks Alex, and many thanks to both you and Heather for all of the amazing work you did getting this podcast up and running. I only hope that I can continue the legacy anywhere near as well as you guys did. I do have to admit that they've made it easy for me on my first go. My guest for today is our Higher Logic User Group or HUG Community Manager, Katie Raeburn. Katie, welcome to the podcast.
Katie Raeburn: Thanks. Hi, Beth.
Beth Arritt: Hi, it's nice to have you here.
Katie Raeburn: Nice to be here.
Beth Arritt: I guess we can just dive right into it. I know a lot of our HUG members are probably interested in learning more about you. So maybe tell us a little bit about how you ended up in community management, and then how you ended up here at Higher Logic?
Katie Raeburn: Sure. So I think like a lot of people, I sort of fell into community management. It was not something that was on my radar. I didn't even really know it existed as a profession for a long time. So I was in customer marketing management at my last company, and we had talked for a long time as a marketing team about wanting to increase advocacy within our organization and find a good way, or an easier way at least, to highlight our advocates and to get them to do things we wanted them to do, like take surveys or leave us online reviews, or find people for white papers, things like that. We were kind of struggling with that and we stumbled into community software and we decided to pick one up and just try it. And I was assigned to it and that's how I became a Community Manager for the first time. So it was sort of a whirlwind and I had no idea what I was doing, and built my first community within the first 60 days of having that software, and the rest is history. So that's my inspirational story, I guess. And I came to Higher Logic because I had been with my previous company for 11 years, and I had been a Customer Marketing Manager with a side of Community Manager, and I was enjoying the Community Manager part of it so much that I decided I wanted to stick with it full time. I wanted to be able to focus on the community and have that be the thing that I did. So there were some internal changes going on at my organization and it was the right time to start looking, so the first place I looked was Higher Logic. Actually, a lot of my previous co- workers work at Higher Logic now, so I was pretty aware of it, aware of the culture. I really liked what I heard and the time was right, because there was an online community position, manager position open, and I just jumped on it, and here we are. So it was great timing all around.
Beth Arritt: Sounds like it was just something that was meant to be.
Katie Raeburn: It was meant to be.
Beth Arritt: You said that you just sort of fell into community management, but that you really loved it and that's why you went after this. So can you talk a little bit maybe about what community means to you?
Katie Raeburn: Yeah. So I think a lot of people will talk about the dictionary definition of community management, which is a group of people who come together for a similar purpose or a similar goal. And obviously that's what community is, but I think to take it a step further, for me it's really a place where people come together and can feel safe to ask questions that they may think are silly, or to reveal a vulnerability that they don't know how to do something. One of the hardest challenges for me in a school setting for example, was to raise my hand and ask a question because I felt kind of dumb sometimes doing it. And for a community, especially to have an online community where a lot of people don't know each other in person, it's really important to have that sense of security and inclusiveness, and to feel like you're going to be with a group of people who you may not know anything about, but you're going to have something in common and everyone's going to be as helpful as they can, whether they're answering a question or whether they're telling you that they've had the same issue, and they also don't know the answer. There are a lot of different variabilities, but I want to make sure that the community that I'm a part of is just really warm and safe. And so for me, that's the ultimate point of it, the community, and what I hope the community will be.
Beth Arritt: I love that. I love the idea of a safe space to be able to talk about the problems that maybe other people in your organization don't understand, but other community managers would, or in my case, other marketing animation people would, I love that.
Katie Raeburn: Yeah.
Beth Arritt: I think that's of huge importance. With that in mind, how has your experience been with HUG so far?
Katie Raeburn: I was really nervous when I first started because HUG was such a big thriving community already, and it's one thing to sort of start your own community and build it from the ground up, but it's another to take over a community that already exists, that someone else has worked on and built, and already has a huge group of advocates and members involved already. So I was nervous, but I will tell you that everyone I've been in contact with or have reached out to, or have talked to already in HUG, everybody's been so warm, everybody's been so kind and understanding when I maybe don't know an answer right off the bat. It's been really great. I've had a good time sort of getting to meet people," Face- to- face," in air quotes because we're all of course, over Zoom most of the time, but I'm getting to see people's faces some and getting to learn people's names, and getting to kind of know people through the community, and that's been really, really fun. So I've been having a blast. I'm not nervous anymore. Thankfully, that didn't last too long.
Beth Arritt: Well, that's good. You didn't strike me as somebody who was going to be nervous about it for long when we first met. Yeah. Once the catastrophes got out of the way.
Katie Raeburn: Yeah, right?
Beth Arritt: The first two or three times that Katie and I were supposed to meet about stuff, some kind of catastrophe would happen for me and I'd have to change the meeting. We did finally get past that. We can actually now schedule meetings.
Katie Raeburn: It was odd.
Beth Arritt: It really was. Weird stuff like my ceiling leaking or things like that was bizarre, but we've gotten past it now. Talking about your experience with the community, what kind of impact has this community had on you so far?
Katie Raeburn: It's definitely been a big learning experience for me. It's a much bigger community than I came from. So just a lot of moving pieces. It's an old community as well. It's been around for quite a while, so there are a lot of intricate pieces to it. So I've been really spending a lot of time sort of trying to learn the history a little bit, trying to figure out who's a part of the community and how they fit, and what they're doing, and sort of what their stamp has been. But I would say overall, through all of that, getting to know the community and getting a deeper dive as I've been here longer and longer, it's been really inspiring to me. I've been able to think of really interesting, to me at least, ideas, things that I want to do, projects I want to run. I've just had a lot of interesting ideas for the future, and so that's been the most exciting thing for me, is sort of being reinvigorated and remembering why I love communities so much in the first place. And I think change is scary, but change is also really good for you. It really opens your mind up a little bit more, and so I've been in that place for the last couple months and it's been, I think, super inspiring.
Beth Arritt: Well, I know you and I have talked about some of the things you want to do, and I am glad that it's inspired you and reinvigorated you because you've got some great plans and I'm really excited for everybody to start seeing those come out. I think it's going to be great.
Katie Raeburn: Thanks. I think so too, and we have a few plans together also, Beth.
Beth Arritt: We do, we do. Not to be secretive or anything. There's some cool stuff coming down the line. With those plans in mind, overall, what kind of impact do you hope to have on the community itself?
Katie Raeburn: So the community is a really well- oiled machine. You can just kind of let it go right now and it functions as a community. So given that it's at the baseline right now and it's kind of chugging along, I really want to add some additional things that will make the experience even better for members, and how I want to do that, at least in part, is to really start highlighting our members and showcasing what they can do, what they have been doing, really interesting things that they have thought of that we never have, and to share those things with all the other members, because one of the things I love most about community is learning from everyone else because someone is going to have an amazing idea that you never thought of, that you can borrow or steal, however you want to look at it, for your own community or for your own marketing, automation, emails, things like that. So that's sort of how this world works, is that there's always someone inspiring you with something. And so, I want to make sure we give everyone the opportunity to shine and to be able to share their stories and their great ideas so others can learn from them. So in the short term, some of my plans are to highlight those people, whether it's in a member spotlight on HUG, or whether maybe it's on a podcast like this, or it's in one of our HUG Connect sessions, just want to get people to be a little bit more in the spotlight to be able to understand how important they are to us, and how important they are to everyone else in the community, and go from there. So I'm really excited.
Beth Arritt: I am too. Again, there's just so much cool stuff that you're planning to do and I can't wait to see it start to come in. But you did talk about community being about learning from each other. So let's talk a little bit about the HUG Connects, because I feel like those are meaningful for HUG members for so many reasons.
Katie Raeburn: Yes, and I think we have you to thank for that. You and Viv because you all have really spearheaded that effort way before I was here, with HUG Connect for marketing. And for those of you who maybe don't know what HUG Connect is, we hold weekly sessions, one on Tuesdays from 3: 00 to 4: 00 PM Eastern, and those are for community. And then Beth and Viv hold a one hour session on Thursdays from 3: 00 to 4: 00 Eastern, and that's about marketing automation. And so, what we do is we just have an hour that's pretty unstructured, it's very casual. We just get on Zoom and we share our faces usually, if people feel brave enough we try, and we just talk about a topic that we've decided on ahead of time. We like to share real- life examples if we can, because I feel like real- life examples are always more useful than hypothetical examples. So I ask people to bring examples of whatever we're going to be talking about, and we just talk about them. If people have questions, they can ask. If I have questions about what they're talking about, I'll ask and we just have a chat. And I think it's been really great just for me being a newbie to get to know people that way. Even if we're not having a seriously in- depth conversation, it's just good to get to know people, find out what they're interested in, find out what their struggles might be, or what they might be really good at. So I can reach out to them later. It's a good way to build your network, but also to learn in a safe and non- scary environments because we are super non- scary around here.
Beth Arritt: Yeah, I agree. I love the sense of community. I love that the sense of community is so strong...
Katie Raeburn: Mm- hmm( affirmative).
Beth Arritt: When you go to a HUG Connect. And even if it's a topic that you might not necessarily think you're interested in, or you might not think you're able to use, you generally end up learning something, but more than that, it's your hour to spend with people who understand your job and understand how hard it can be. I think marketing in particular, and I know community probably is as well, is a much harder to understand. You get the whole... Well, anybody could do marketing. I can put a picture and some words out there and send it in an email and I'm done.
Katie Raeburn: Right.
Beth Arritt: And I think that a lot of people don't necessarily know what goes into the planning and what goes into making sure everything goes out on time with the right messaging, and it's not hitting too many people and all the different ways that you can go about that. And then there's automation, landing pages and all these other tools that you may not know about. And I feel like community kind of goes the same way. They feel like," Oh. Well, you built a community. Okay. People are going to come, right?"
Katie Raeburn: Exactly. Yeah, it seems so simple. And I think the other interesting thing is that often an organization's or an association's... A Community Manager or maybe even a marketing person, they may be the only person on their team doing that thing.
Beth Arritt: Exactly.
Katie Raeburn: And so yeah, When I was a Community Manager in my last position, I had no one in my organization to bounce ideas off of, or to ask questions of or anything. I had to go other places, and so I feel like that is one great resource for you. HUG Connect is there, it's full of people who are doing maybe essentially your job, if it's not exactly your job. And there's just somebody to, yes, bounce a question off of, if there's something that's been bothering you, or there may be a whole group of people that you can bounce questions off of. So I found it to be really helpful just for that. You're not alone in the thing that you're doing, which is nice.
Beth Arritt: We have enough people who are like," Yeah. I just like the hour to decompress. This is my hour," that a lot of times on the week before a holiday, since it's on a Thursday afternoon for marketing, we'll just have an AMA happy hour/ coffee chat during that time. Not really a topic, but just so we can get together, chat about whatever people have on their mind in terms of marketing, ask questions of each other, just because we're used to that hour of community. It's kind of like book club without a book.
Katie Raeburn: It's exactly like book club without a book. We should use that as our tagline.
Beth Arritt: It's like book club, but you don't have to read a book first.
Katie Raeburn: You don't have to do anything first. You don't have to prepare a thing and that's...
Beth Arritt: Just show up.
Katie Raeburn: crosstalk Yeah. I have people show up and they... Some of the people who have come to my Connect sessions, they don't even have a community yet. So they're just sitting and learning and absorbing. And so you can be somebody who's had a community for 30 years, or you could have not even started yet and you'll hopefully get something out of it, even if it's just a relationship or a friendship with the people in the group.
Beth Arritt: There's one person who comes to almost every single HUG Connect for marketing. I think the only one she's missed is when she was on vacation, and even one of those, she just popped in to say hi. And she says that she comes, whether she thinks she might be inaudible interested, not because every single time she comes, she comes away with one thing at the very least, that she didn't know or that can help her in her job.
Katie Raeburn: That's so cool.
Beth Arritt: In addition to the whole sense of community and being able to just relax with people who know how hard your job is.
Katie Raeburn: Yeah. That's so cool. I love that she came even during her vacation, that is dedication.
Beth Arritt: Yeah. She just sort of popped in out of nowhere. I was like," Wait, what are you doing here? I thought you were on vacation." She's like," Oh, I had a few minutes. I just thought I'd stop by and say hi."
Katie Raeburn: I love that.
Beth Arritt: Yeah, it does get to be kind of like that though. It gets to be kind of like a group of people who come on a regular basis, and so we know each other and we know each other's systems and kind of what they're working with. So it's easy for us to go," Oh. Hey, by the way, this will help with that thing." Or," Oh, have you seen so and so's newsletter?" There's a particular person that I'm always saying," Oh, you have to go look at their newsletter because of the way it's laid out. It's just so beautiful." And then you get new people who we are always trying to be extremely welcome too, and try to pull them into the conversation and engage them. How have you found it in the HUGS Connects for community? Because I think community, people are probably a little more outgoing, whereas a lot of us marketing people went into marketing because we were too introverted for sales. So trying to get the... I know that sounds weird for me now, but back in the day-
Katie Raeburn: I was going to say, it doesn't sound like your best, but-
Beth Arritt: Yeah. No, back in the day it was a little different. What advice do you have for people who might be coming to a HUG Connect for the first time and are a little worried about jumping in to a group of people who, some of them know each other, or speaking out or asking a question, or that might feel silly?
Katie Raeburn: Well, I get it first of all, because in my past life I was that person. In a brand new situation, getting me off of mute and turning on my camera would be a very tough order. So I understand and I really don't like to pressure people. I appreciate it when people do take off their... or turn their camera on because I do like to see people's faces when we talk, but I don't pressure them. And so, if that's where you feel most comfortable or if you're in a situation where you're like in a really busy area where it's loud and you don't necessarily want to share that with everyone, that's okay too. Stay on mute if you need to, but I hope that if you come a couple of times you'll feel comfortable enough to sort of share yourself because you'll hopefully see that none of us are taking ourselves too seriously, first of all. None of us is an expert on everything, I'll say that, some people are experts in something, but nobody's an expert in everything. And so, there's no need to feel intimidated or like we're going to scoff at you if you don't know the answer to something that you think is probably pretty easy. Everybody who has attended so far has been, at least to my face, very, very nice and very welcoming. And so, because I'm new, I know that they'll be like that for all the other new people too. So there is no need to worry, and I've also been on Beth's HUG Connects and I know the same thing goes for them. So there's nothing scary about either one of those.
Beth Arritt: Yeah. Everybody on the marketing ones is super nice, and just so welcoming and get excited to talk about something that you don't really get to talk about with other people a lot of the times, because a lot of them, like you said, are small teams of one or two people.
Katie Raeburn: Yeah.
Beth Arritt: And this is a great way to connect with other people and to be inspired.
Katie Raeburn: Yeah. You can geek out a little bit. You don't get the chance to do that all the time, so you might as well do it in a place where everybody's going to feel the same about it.
Beth Arritt: Basically, we're advocating right now that you try to go to as many HUG Connects as possible. Again, HUG Connect for community is on Tuesdays at 3: 00 PM Eastern. HUG Connect for marketing is on Thursdays at 3: 00 PM Eastern. The list of everything for HUG Connect is up on a HUG to register through the end of the year, and I think if I remember correctly, I know at least through the end of November, is up for Connect for community, right?
Katie Raeburn: Yes, and I'm going to try to have through the end of the year up in the next week or so, so it should all be up.
Beth Arritt: Okay. So by the time this goes out, everything maybe up.
Katie Raeburn: Yeah.
Beth Arritt: So before we go, I have one more question.
Katie Raeburn: Okay.
Beth Arritt: And that is what message would you give to other Community Managers about how to get people engaged?
Katie Raeburn: Try a lot of different things. I think some people are scared to try a lot because they think that it seems like they don't know what they're doing if they're not focusing on one specific strategy, but I'll tell you that you're not going to know what's going to work until you try it. So I just kind of do anything I can think of that may work, and if it doesn't work, you don't have to try it again, but I'm a big fan of being creative and going in a direction that you think might work, and keep going that direction if it does, and then just stop and try something else if you don't. So don't be afraid to try and fail because a lot of people do it. And I would just ask too, if you're a part of HUG, go ahead and ask in the community management community, just kind of see what people's best practices are because people have done it before you, and there's no use reinventing the wheel if you don't have to. I think that's two pieces of advice, but-
Beth Arritt: But they're two very good pieces of advice.
Katie Raeburn: Thank you.
Beth Arritt: Yeah. I think people are very quick to share their examples and what they've done on HUG, both as inspiration and to a see," Hey, does anybody have suggestions for improvement? Anybody done this before?"
Katie Raeburn: Yes.
Beth Arritt: So just go, participate, sign up for the Digests, I think is helpful for anyone.
Katie Raeburn: 100%. Yeah. Do that. Attend those HUG Connects. We have a lot of different ways for you to get involved, so you might as well because they're there for you and it's easy.
Beth Arritt: So Katie, thank you so much for coming on the podcast and for making my first turn as podcast host so easy. I really appreciate it.
Katie Raeburn: I'm so honored to be here for your first podcast episode ever.
Beth Arritt: I'm so happy you're here for it. So in case you guys can't tell, I love working with Katie. She awesome.
Katie Raeburn: Beth is the best too. Let's just talk about that for the next five minutes.
Beth Arritt: Yeah. No, I don't want to bore people to death. So yeah, thank you for coming on. Thanks everybody for listening. Hope that you will join us again next week for another edition of the podcast. Have a great week.
In this week's episode of The Member Engagement Show, our new host and engagement expert, Beth Arritt, sits down with Katie Raeburn to discuss community management. Katie is an Online Community Manager here at Higher Logic. Today, she shares her expertise on online communities, including why HUG can be beneficial for marketers and insights to help you begin your HUG journey. Tune in now!