We’re trying something a little different from those “normal” so-and-so joins X company. Here, you’ll be hearing directly from me (Tiff) on a bit about my journey, Community Operations, and Talkbase. 🙂 Happy reading!
I first met Talkbase’s CEO Klara in July 2021. Talkbase hadn’t even been invented yet, and Klara volunteered to be a speaker at my Community OPServations meetup. It was shortly after when she messaged me, letting me know that she had quit her full-time job and was starting her own company.
A few months later, she asked me if I’d be free to see the product in a mini demo. Though Talkbase was originally very event management-focused, I could see she was interested in building something for the community manager’s day-to-day - those tedious repetitive tasks, keeping things organized, managing community programs, those things that community managers have to do behind the scenes to keep the community running. In other words, she wanted to build a tool for Community Operations.
If you don’t know me and my work, let me just say - I kinda like Community Ops. 😉
I officially fell into a community role in 2017 after dabbling indirectly around community for several years before that, working in customer success and customer support. I was hired to be a Program Manager for the Salesforce Trailblazer Community, a 3-million member community spanning across 87 countries. As I continued to manage community programs over time, there seemed to be a natural deviation between “community manager tasks,” things like engagement, moderation, and copy, and “operations,” like processes, documentation, setting up the tools and the tech stack, and setting up reports. More and more, my manager would say, “Okay so Tiff will handle the operations and [so-and-so] will handle the CM tasks.”
I realized that Community Operations is so distinct from general operations - you need to have a community manager mindset and understand community; you need to be able to be in the front of the house, interacting and having a relationship with your members while also being able to excel in the backend, making sure that both your team members and your community members have the resources they need to be successful, whether that’s a knowledge base article or an automation to make their lives easier.
I also realized that a lot of people on community teams are mostly focused on community management, but by nature of limited resources also have to work on operations. It’s not as simple as it sounds - they’re completely different skillsets (left brain/right brain type stuff), and the time taken to work on backend ops stuff detracts from the time they could be engaging and fostering community growth. This is one of the reasons I have been trying to mainstream Community Operations, not only sharing my expertise and thought leadership across the space, but teaching others about it as well, trying to get additional operations-specific roles on community teams, spread awareness about what a CommOps person does.
I heard Klara’s desire to build an operations-centric tool for community building and management, so when she asked me to be a community advisor in October 2021, I jumped at the opportunity. Though I had been asked previously from a few other companies for feedback in a more informal capacity, there were a few key differentiators with Talkbase:
- Klara came from a community background and understood the industry and landscape. Surprisingly, the strong majority of founders building community tools don’t actually come from community, and this automatically puts them at a huge disadvantage.
- Despite her experience, Klara was still incredibly open to learning and feedback. There’s no ego; there is just a willingness to listen, learn, and build. I had a very solid impact on being able to help provide feedback and build the product roadmap, and we had the trust to be able to have candor with one another.
- Talkbase was specific to Community Operations. They weren’t trying to do everything under the sun; they weren’t spreading themselves thin by trying to accomplish all of the needs of a community manager. They were targeting and focusing on a few key operational items that would have the largest impact.
Klara and I met IRL for the first time in January 2022 at an Asian fusion restaurant in San Francisco for lunch, where she asked me to come onboard full-time to head the community. At that time, I wasn’t mentally prepared to re-join the startup life. I had started my career working at a few startups, and I couldn’t really bring myself to go back to that lifestyle workstyle. Though incredibly grateful for the opportunity, I told her it wasn’t the right time, but I’d love to be more involved. I up’ed my engagement with Talkbase, allocating more hours and being more involved in the product and also in community initiatives, like re-launching the Talkbase Friends Community and launching a few community programs.
As the year continued, the recession hit - everyday I was seeing friends and acquaintances in the community space being laid off from their jobs. Similarly to the tech companies who hired too much and were now laying off their employees, the community space grew a lot and teams were now being cut down in size (or eliminated all together). Going forward, I think there will be a strong emphasis on efficiency, minimizing spend, and being able to show the health and value of the community on the business. I think with the uprising of AI, community will be focused on how to generate authentic relationships at scale. I think platform management, minimizing tech debt across the tech stack, and ensuring comprehensive data across platforms and easy visibility are going to be more important than ever.
These were some of my considerations in December 2022 when I suddenly found myself open to new opportunities. Throughout the year, we had built SO many amazing new features with Talkbase, got some great feedback and ideas from community geniuses in the space, grew our network, grew our team, and have a clear vision of where we want to go in the future. There was no doubt or question in my mind when Klara and Roman reached out asking if I’d like to join Talkbase in a full-time capacity as Chief Operations Officer.
I’m incredibly thankful that I get to work with a team that I love, building a product that I feel will truly make an impact in the industry. The empathy, sense of community understanding, openness to learn, lack of ego, but want to build and do great things are traits that everyone at Talkbase has. Coupled with the direction that the community space is trending, I truly think Talkbase will be a core tool in the community tech stack, and I’m so excited to continue being a part of this journey in a leadership capacity, being able to help guide the strategic direction of the company while ensuring operational excellence throughout the organization and the community.
January 17, 2023
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