Launching a community: An interview with Jenny Weigle
With a love for community that began in her childhood years, Jenny Weigle has been creating, executing, and reviewing strategies for various online communities for the last 10 years. During this time, she has done incredible work with over 100 brands, ranging from community strategy to migration and launches. We caught up with Jenny to talk about the work she has done over the years, and what she’s learned from working on some of the biggest brands in the world.
Would you tell us more about your professional background, and how you first became involved in communities?
My relationship with community-building started at the age of 9 when I created a ‘club’ for the kids in my neighborhood. Fast-forward to my high school years, as I was looking at which colleges to apply to. None of them offered a major in Community or Connection, but I already knew that’s where my passion was. Fast-forward even more to when I became the first-ever Social Media & Community Manager to work for CareerBuilder. That was a wonderful opportunity to set a foundation for myself, and after that, my career turned to consulting on brand peer-to-peer communities.
You created Jenny.Community with the purpose of helping enterprise brands to build thriving online communities. How would you describe the benefits of building a community for brands?
Wow, where do I begin! Online communities can benefit many company teams: Marketing, Customer Success, Customer Service, and Support, Product, and Sales. To me, the biggest benefit comes from having one centralized digital home for your customers, and the opportunities that can come from that: connecting with other customers, increased brand loyalty, and the ability to quickly get solutions. These things, and more, can completely enhance the customer experience.
When do you believe that a community is ready to be launched?
A community is ready for launch after a few key things have happened:
You’ve spent time talking to your ideal community members and what they want out of the experience.
You’ve been diligent about creating a strategic plan.
You’ve identified a person or a team to lead the vision and given full bandwidth for that person to focus on community.
You’ve created your community and allowed a few lucky people to experience it and offer their feedback before you publicly launch it.
In your opinion how important is it for community managers to frequently track and analyze community metrics?
It's critical. How else will you know if your efforts have been successful? You need to measure and evaluate to satisfy both your community members and your business.
Would you share with us your favorite stories about one of the communities you managed? What were the greatest achievements driven by that community?
I remember helping a brand launch their community, and early on, they weren’t sure who to select for their first Community Manager. After some strategizing, they chose someone who had been an employee for many years, but she had never worked in community management. She was genuinely excited about this opportunity! I remember promising the leadership team that we could train her to be a Community Manager, and that it was very valuable that she had years of knowledge about the company.
Years later, she is still the Community Manager for that brand. She’s done phenomenal things to grow and nurture the community, and the leadership team is thrilled with her work! That story is important to me because it shows where we are as a field today. There’s a deep interest in people entering this field, and once they have entered, there are countless opportunities awaiting them.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced managing a community and how did you overcome them?
Like other community professionals, I’ve faced problems getting engagement. I remember trying out various programs and pieces of content, and eventually, I found what worked. I had a long list of ideas that had come out of talking to my members, so those were the things I tried. You can’t be afraid to try and fail.
Visit Jenny.Community’s website here, where you can learn more about the work Jenny has done, and also access wonderful free resources for community professionals. Ready to take a deeper dive into the world of communities? Be sure to have a look at our blog page for more interviews with industry leaders, and expert insider tips on community management.