The Engagers: Megan Berry on Building Communities

Megan Berry aka The Juggler

We are nearing the end of 2013, but have a few more Engagers to introduce into this year’s team! In this edition, Megan Berry, Head of Consumer at RebelMouse talks to us about wearing many hats, including community building and marketing. Previously, Megan led Community at Klout.

Tell us about the first time you realized you had influence on the world around you. How did that impact your career choices?

For my eleventh birthday my day bought me meganberry.com and I immediately set to work figuring out what to put there. It ended up being a site focused around book reviews and adopting virtual pets. It won an award in a national kid’s magazine and was featured in a local news show. But, what really got to me, was when kids would email me saying they had read a book because of my book review or that they loved my site. These were kids from all over the world and it was incredibly to me that I could have an impact like that. That’s when I fell in love with tech and the love affair has only gotten stronger.

In college, I started blogging for myself and Huffington Post and had the same feeling. It’s incredibly powerful to make or write something that people all over the world can see. It’s taking something that was already true (that we listen to our friends and peers) but transforms it because of these platforms’ abilities to share your message to a bigger audience than was ever possible before for the average person. And, of course, since I ended up at Klout, you know online influence is a bit of a passion of mine :p

You are a firm believer in the ability of community building and social media marketing to contribute to business goals. What types of things do you look for or measure to make sure you’re on target?

“You are what you measure.” I don’t know who originally said that, but it’s all too true. Almost any metric has it’s pros and cons, so the most important thing is to understand them as you track it and to make sure it’s the right fit for your real goals. It’s also much easier to manipulate one number than many, so you have to track multiple things at once and look at them week/week and month/month to really understand how you’re doing. In particular we look at visits to the site (and from what sources), new sign ups, visits to our blog, twitter followers, @mentions, RTs and impressions, Facebook likes, reach and engagement and similar numbers for all the networks we’re on.

In your experience at Klout and now at Rebel Mouse, what are the key ingredients of a successful community?

It’s definitely not a one size fits all situation. Your community will depend on how your users interact with the product, their relationship with you as a brand and how much they wish to engage with other people who use the product. In general though, I have found a good community for a web product like Klout and RebelMouse is one where the community is excited to share your product and feels a part of it (i.e. that their inputs shapes what you build and do). Even better if your key community members start taking a leadership role in helping out new members and fostering connections within your community.

You have super sonic hearing, aka, the ability to really listen to a community for insights. Beyond product recommendations, what sort of things do you actively listen for among your community?

I should add that everyone can always get better at this. I think they key thing is to always keep thinking of new ways to integrate your community’s thoughts and input into what you’re doing. I encourage everyone on our community, support and social team (we combine those areas into one team) to share user insights in aggregate (in terms of the most asked-for things) and also any really cool ideas that come through the pipeline or cool uses of the product. We are always showcasing users and throughout the company have a really strong focus on making users happy and that they are the most important part of what we do. Looking at aggregate stats of how people are using the product is also useful for this (another type of “listening”).

Have you downloaded The Engagers yet?

On of the most burning question most marketers want to know… how do you expand the size of your community? Are there some techniques or strategies you recommend?

The million dollar question! The real answer is you have to keep struggling. You’ll discover one step change to take it to the next level and then plateau for a bit. Then you get back into the brainstorm room and come up with more things to try. Some things will work and you double down on the, other things won’t and you move on as quickly as possible. Just like lean product encourages companies to develop quickly and test, I think this is the best social media strategy as well.

One of the exciting, yet uber-challenging things about working for young, high growth companies, is that as a marketer you get to be involved in everything from product to marketing to PR. How do you manage to stay sane?

I’m very lucky because I really love what I do and have such an amazing team to work with. I really do feel blessed to get a chance to be a part of what we’re doing. And I think feeling like that is the *only* way to stay sane in a startup like this. Then it becomes a passion project as much as a job. I should add also that I think occasionally really checking out and taking a break is really critical. Our CEO says sometimes that “to be creative, you have to be uncreative” meaning that you have to let yourself chill out sometimes to really move things to the next level and bring that creativity to the role.

If there really was a team of superheroes named the Engagers and you were on it, what name would you give yourself?

The Juggler! I think the most critical piece to success in startup life is being able to multi-task and handle a million tasks all at once. I can’t say that I’m perfect at it yet, but I’m working on it :p