Nichole Elizabeth is a Community Manager at Product Hunt, the go-to-place for folks in the tech industry to discuss the latest and greatest products. The place is what it is today because of the strong community that the founders have managed to build and nurture, so we thought it’d be a good idea to find out how they did it.
Nichole opens up in this interview about how hard the team works behind the scenes to keep Product Hunt relevant, and the community vibrant.
Where is Product Hunt based?
The Product Hunt team spans across seven time zones and is headquartered in San Francisco. However, everyone will have relocated to SF by mid 2015.
Are you the only person who works with the community? Does anyone else, on the team, pitch in to help?
The entire team contributes to community, but I primarily work alongside Erik and Ryan specifically on Community Management. The engineering and design teams support our efforts and use the feedback we receive from the community to help guide the roadmap. We also have several users who are invaluable to the Product Hunt community.
Eric Willis, Ria Blagburn, Kevin William David, Jack Smith, Bram Kanstein, for example, are just a few of the users to whom we owe thanks for their continued contributions (as well as the thousands of other that up-vote, comment, create collections, and visit Product Hunt daily).
What tools do you use to deal with your @support and @hello queries?
We use Streak to automate e-mail, Olark to provide chat support, and Slack to communicate internally about how to best delight our users.
How many conversations would you say you participate in every day, on average?
I participate in a few hundred conversations a day, as do Erik and Ryan. Conversations are fragmented across Product Hunt itself, and on Twitter, e-mail, and in-person meetings.
Product Hunt’s shiny new office in San Francisco.
How did you land a job at PH?
I have previous experience as the Head of Content at Growth Hacker TV and as a Quality Manager at GrowthHackers, so I guess I naturally seemed to be a good fit for the role. Also, Ryan and I built rapport over time after I discovered his work with Nir Eyal.
For anyone who wants to join a startup in a community role, I’d recommend participating in communities like these and on social media to build trusted relationships.
Tell us about your role at PH.
As a “Community Manager” (we don’t have official titles), I assist with user acquisition, engagement, and retention by working closely with the team to define how to best delight our users and help them be successful with our product.
I participate in 100-200 e-mails and 50-100 tweets a day.
I encourage makers to join conversations about their products, help moderate product listings, help curate collections, help set up exclusives (such as the Startup Toolkit series), and stay in constant communication with our development team about how to best automate community management tasks as we add new features. Erik and Ryan are also actively engaged in these processes.
Can you walk us through your typical day at PH?
I try to wake up around 5:00 AM to start bringing makers into the conversation. After I’ve contacted all or most of them, I respond to e-mails and share feedback with the team, and work on any other projects.
A Product Hunt meetup in Toronto.
How do you motivate yourself day in and day out?
We all drink lots of coffee and share music, gifs, and laughs. We also love our community and are motivated to see their success as a result of having their products posted on our site. Here are some success stories that keep us going:
How do you make sure that the PH community stays generally optimistic and positive round the year? We’ve heard a lot about how receptive your users are to new ideas and products, no matter how esoteric they are.
The community consists of founders, designers, marketers, etc. – people making products – so they have empathy for others doing the same.
We also demonstrate the type of conversation and respect given within the comments ourselves.
And by limiting who can comment to people recommended by others in the community (we have an invite system), we heavily reduce trolling and ultimately build a community of people connected to others from day one.
We know you get asked this a lot, still: how do you think the PH community is different from the Reddit and Hacker News ones?
We require real identities (via Twitter OAuth) and we’re focused on a community of product enthusiasts and makers who love to discover and talk about products.
What’s your most memorable user interaction? And, if you were to pick one conversation that happened in the PH community that you’d remember forever, what would that be?
One of the most memorable conversations I’ve participated in on Product Hunt was in Score with Friends, in which the founder accepted constructive criticism like a boss.
For the better part of a year, the team worked out of a Philz Coffee shop in SF.
Why did you choose to initiate offline PH meetups? How do you think that has strengthened the community?
Erik answered this question. 🙂
Offline meetups are a great way to solidify relationships and build loyalty.
We found that people on the site (early adopters) wanted to meet other early adopters, people just like them, and so we connected them face-to-face via meetup. Also, we found that they wanted to meet us, so we’d have a Product Hunt team member try to attend. I’ve been to PH meetups in over 12 different cities, 5 of them in Europe.
They’ve been huge. We’ve had as much as 500 people come to an individual meetups, and many of them are very well attended.
The meetups help cement relationships that then exist online, create brand ambassadors, and garner loyalty from the early community.
What has life at Product Hunt taught you?
Delighting users is the number one priority.
As Ryan recently commented, “There are a lot of ‘things’ you can do for growth but IMHO, it’s important makers continually ask, ‘How can we delight our community?’ and set that as the focal point for all decisions.”
From what we can see, the Product Hunt community is growing like crazy. How do you plan to moderate as you scale?
We will give users an opportunity to help build the culture and moderate as needed. Inevitably, we’ll also have to bring more people internally onto the community team at Product Hunt.
Participants of the first ever Product Hunt hackathon.
Do you plan to hire more people, and if so, what would you look for in a community person?
An ideal team member would be passionate about what we’re doing, empathetic, and not afraid to roll up their sleeves and do things that aren’t necessarily “fun” (we all have to do this as it’s a small startup).
We noticed that you tweeted, a little while ago, that “diversity in PH is your passion project”. Mind elaborating on that?
Product Hunt has been referred to as an “insider’s club” for Silicon Valley, although 95% of the community and a majority of the products featured on the site, are outside of the Valley.
We want to ensure that products are being posted by makers from around the world and that all ethnicities and genders are fairly represented.
The community continues to grow largely through an invite system where users can recommend others to participate. Other efforts that we’ve made include sharing an official Made by Women Founders collection and hosting world-wide meetups. We also plan to participate in upcoming events such as the YC Women Founders event that will be taking place soon.
Tell us something about PH that no one else knows 😉
Some users know this – if you search *, you’ll get a list of products ordered by up-vote.
Which company do you admire the most in terms of customer service?
Buffer. Their nine values are admirable.
Name another customer support or community manager you’re a fan of and would like to hear from, as part of this series.
Just one more question, Nichole. If you could have dinner with any three people, dead or alive, who would it be? And why?
We started the Secret Sauce series to find out more about what makes the customer service of some great companies click. We get in touch with one awesome support representative and we pick their brains. We find out what a typical day is like for these support rockstars, their personal work-philosophy, support process and what inspires them to go above and beyond the call of duty to make their customers happy. Know a customer support rep you’d like to see featured here? Drop us a line in the comments or shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.