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Blog

Reimagining Customer Support Communities

Caty Kobe

Earlier this month I was fortunate enough to speak at the 5th annual SWARM Conference in Sydney, Australia. SWARM is one of my most favorite events in the community space, and I've "watched" from afar, via Twitter, over the last 4 years. The in-person experience did not disappoint in the slightest!

The closest thing to having my name in lights! 😂

The closest thing to having my name in lights! 😂

Talks were held at the New Law Building on the University of Sydney campus, and it was nothing short of breathtaking! Had I gone to college on that campus, I probably would have found ways to avoid graduation just so I could stay a few extra years. 

This was *not* the New Law Building, but a very lovely building on campus nonetheless.

This was *not* the New Law Building, but a very lovely building on campus nonetheless.

Alison and Venessa are the most incredible women, and excellent hosts. If you're in the community space, and don't know them, you should. These two really know how to put together an action-packed event that mixed traditional presentations, lightning talks (10 minute quick talks with no slides), and even a good 'ole fashioned debate on the future of community management (spoiler: I lost). It was an amazing event, and we had the #swarmconf hashtag trending on Twitter before 10am on day 1! 

The beautiful Venessa Paech & Alison Michalk, as captured by Mark Woodrow. 💞

The beautiful Venessa Paech & Alison Michalk, as captured by Mark Woodrow. 💞

My talk centered around the topic of customer support communities, and how we can improve upon our accepted standards. I've been in software long enough to know that your customers will either rant about you, or rave about, depending on the situation. But if they don't say anything, then that's when you need to worry. Sadly, we don't hear nearly enough (if any!) people talking about the great experiences they've had in customer support communities. We don't hear about the money they've saved, the time they've saved, or even the friends they've made. I truly believe that we can make memorable, praise-worthy customer community experiences. We just have to dream big enough, and put in a bit of effort. So my goal for this talk is to inspire all of the customer community managers out there to reach a little higher, and think way outside of the box about what we might be able to achieve.

Have a look through the slides and let me know what you think. Also, here are a few great recap posts written by fellow Swarmees:

Or you can just scroll down and look through a few more photos from Sydney. Your choice. 😉

My Biggest Project To Date!

Caty Kobe

One of the most fun, yet challenging aspects about working for a small company is that you have to be willing to go out of your comfort zone to get things done on behalf of the business. If there's software that you need to use, you're going to have to learn it. If there's a strategy you need to create, yet don't have experience, you're going to have to research and figure it out. When the question of outsourcing to freelancers comes up, you're going to have to decide if it's worth the time and energy to bring them on board.

The project I recently completed entailed all 3 of those challenges, and so much more. It took a lot of long days, and late nights, and a fair amount of swearing at my MacBook Pro. But the work has been done, and now I'm so proud, and thrilled, to share it with you.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome FeverBee On-Demand. A brand new, self-paced training platform for online community managers!

WHY TRAINING MATTERS

Community management is a really hard job. A really hard job. You're required to be as creative as a designer, as empathetic as a therapist, as responsive as a customer support agent, as witty as a copywriter, as aggressive as a sales professional, as innovative as a product manager, as energetic as an events manager, and as connected as a CEO. In fact, aside from a CEO, I don't believe that there is any other single position within an organization that requires as much multifaceted thinking and execution than that of a community manager.

Most of the top community managers learned on the job because they had to. There was never any real training for community professionals before 2010, so the people who have been in the game for a long time are truly pioneers. Ellen Petry Lense, Bill Johnston, Susan Tenby, Joe Cothrel, Blaise Grimes-Viort, John Coate, Randy Farmer, Amy Muller... these are just a few of the many people who have paved the way in the practice of online community management. We owe a lot to each of them. 

While there is plenty of value in learning from the school of hard knocks, the industry has matured significantly in the last few decades. It's outdated to expect that every community manager should have to figure it out for themselves when proven best practices have emerged from the field. No two communities are unique, so there is still opportunity to to learn on the job. But community professionals don't have to learn everything on the job.

ABOUT THE COURSES

FeverBee created the original Professional Community Management Course in 2010 as an exclusive resource for clients. As the need for community management training grew, we opened the course up to the full market in 2011 in effort to bridge the gap between personal and professional experience. The original course has been a smashing success, and still is. In fact, I trained 17 professionals last semester alone! (Testimonials)

FeverBee On-Demand takes the original course modules, and delivers through a self-paced, responsive platform that can be used on any device. Students can start and stop at any time. Binge, or snack. Sprint, or stroll. You get the idea. :)

How To Start An Online Community is perfect for those who are brand new to online community management, or if you've never started an online community before. Believe me, there's a big difference between managing an existing community and starting a new one from scratch. This course teaches how to do the latter, following our proven process. 

Successful Community Management is fantastic for anyone who has already "launched" their online community and reached critical mass, or for those who are managing an existing community that's in a good place. It focuses heavily on the day-to-day tasks that you need to execute in order to move your community through the different phases of the lifecycle.

Advanced Community Strategy is designed for those who are working a bit further beyond the day-to-day community management tasks. This course focuses on things like strategic planning, time management, scaling strategies and techniques, holistic business integration, and more. Oh, and we talk in depth about how to calculate return on investment too. NBD.

Click through the links above to view the individual syllabus associated with each course. You can also read through the business case as well.

WHAT'S INCLUDED

I've packed as much value into each one of these courses as as possible. All of the lectures have been recorded in 720 and 1080 HD, and I've included exclusive presentations from our SPRINT conferences and podcast interviews to reinforce the learning concepts.

Students will get access to our corresponding templates and worksheets. I've also included my personal recommendations for blogs to follow, articles to read, and apps to use. Students can partake in group discussions via the integrated Disqus threads, and can also download an in-depth companion PDF that covers all of the lecture content, and the cited articles from all of the social science research.

Once the lectures have been completed, students will be able to download their digital badge and certificate of completion to proudly display. These skills are really valuable, and marketable, so they should be featured on LinkedIn, About.me, relevant community profiles, and on personal websites! Additionally, students will have access to the course for as long as the site exists. This means free access to any updated videos, new PDFs, or any additional content that gets added to the course. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The scariest part about putting your work out into the world is just that... it's out there. I've put everything I have into building this product, with the ultimate mission of being able to provide a program that will help both professionals and amateurs alike, all over the world, build stronger communities.

I hope you like it.

The FeverBee Podcast is Back!

Caty Kobe

I don't spend a lot of time blogging here, because I spend most of my days creating content for the company I work for, FeverBee.

Last fall I took over FeverBee's podcast, and revamped it with a little bit of my own style. I seek out community professionals with unique stories, and have a relaxed, personal conversation with them. I try to tease out new and interesting nuggets of information, or emerging tactics.

The podcast went on a bit of a break at the end of last year, but is now back and ready for the new year. I've kicked things off with an interview with Amanda Swan, Community Manager for Optimizely, and we largely discussed her A/B testing strategy that helps to drive increased registrations for her community.

Next week I'll feature Sara O'Connor, Digital Fiction Director for Hot Key Books and Picadilly Press. Sara will be sharing an incredible story of how she's leveraged forums to get authors and school children to collaborate on developing fiction books. It's an incredible adventure that's excited and inspired many children to read.

You can access the podcast from the CommunityGeek site, or by subscribing on iTunes. If you like it, please share with your friends (#fbpodcast) and even consider leaving a review! If there's someone you'd like to see interviewed on the podcast, please don't hesitate to leave a comment with your suggestion.