Threado Community AMA series is exclusively built for the tight-knit slack community we are building at Threado. We gathered and brought together community leaders from Notion, Mixpanel On Deck, Glide, Startup Grind, and many more fast-growing startups.
For our first ever episode, we had Francisco Cruz Mendosa, Community Manager at Notion joining us to answer all questions in the community. The session was filled with many amazing insights on community building. Here are the top highlights from the session
Q: What are some of the best practices that community builders should follow when building a community program (such as ambassadors), taking the ambassador program of Notion as an example?
A: Two key points which made Notion’s ambassador program a success are :
Q: What is the one fundamental philosophy that has led to Notion’s successful Community?
A: Francisco believes that the key to Notion’s success lays in Ben Large’s decision to invite people who were drawn to Notion’s values. People who wanted to align themselves with your goal and your vision. Another thing that he has noticed which helped him a lot is that to see your community as whole people, realising they have lives of their own, stories of their own, struggles of their own. Because when you see them as whole people, not just someone in your community, it makes that person feel valued, it makes them feel heard and supported.
Q: How is the community structured at Notion? What are some of the learnings with respect to hiring?
A: In regard to the first question, there are only three members manging the community at Notion. Ben works with larger, more creative projects like improving the template gallery, working with consultants and finding new ways to expand. While Francisco and Emma split the ambassador and champions program between them, along with the new campus leaders program where they support some of the active users from across the web and try to support them with resources and events.
In terms of hiring Notion has a very high bar for hiring. The people working there are some of the brightest, smartest, kindest most giving people one would every meet. Notion sets a very high bar for hiring along with the kind of person they hire, they hire someone who is genuinely excited to be there and work there. They’re CEO is still the final interview for any potential hire.
Q: What were some interesting experiments that Notion experimented with that did or didn’t work? What were the learnings along the way?
A: An early campus program at notion : A couple years back one of the interns with Notion launched a campus program which progressed quickly, they saw events pop up in various cities where students would gather to talk about notion and how to use it and how it helped them. Unfortunately they didn’t have the bandwidth to support such an advanced program so soon so they had to let it die. The thing they learned from this is that communities always need a bandwidth and TLC to operate. It is also a lot easier to launch a community and maintain it than to launch one, let it die off or let kid activity die off and then revive it.
The Gen Z : The current generation does not use Slack, they classify it as Discord for old corporate people. To appeal more to them, Notion launched themselves on Discord. This has helped them connect more to the younger generation and they have seen multiple events pop up around the world.
One-on-one : As Francisco was conducting his one on one talks, he noticed some people who would give vague answers or wouldn’t respond enthusiastically, these people would leave halfway through their applications etc. To counteract this, they bought in multiple people, so that even if only a few interact, the ball would still be rolling and it would slowly encourage others to interact more. He also called up those who left halfway to come back and finish applying and encouraged them to be more active in the community.
Q: Notion’s community is spread across multiple platforms, how do you ensure engagement?
A: Notion focuses on the “Three River Programs”, which are ambassador programs, champions programs and campus leaders program, outside of that all other programs are run independently.
They have groups on reddit and Facebook, but there aren’t any active admins for the groups, they just make sure they are engaging with the community leaders. They recently reached 100,000 users on reddit and did a big appreciation giveaway.
They sent out a video document to Vietnam when they’re community leader wanted tips on engagement.
The two many problems they face is, one each community is looking in different ways and they need to learn to let go and let the communities grow on their own, second one is with how quickly the community is growing, they don’t know when to jump in and help them, or what resources they can provide for the community.
The sword metrics for measuring a communities net worth right now is growth, how quickly a community is growing who are it’s users how active it is etc.
Q: Was community lead growth something that expanded as Notion grew bigger or was it something that the founders had in mind when they started working on the product?
A: Right from the start, the founders, Ivan and Simon used to answer tickets they had from users, to kind of see what the problems were and how they could rectify it. This care and consideration really helped notion’s community building right from the start. They also trust the communities to run themselves and don’t monitor them. So, yes, it was very much intentional to build a community from start.
Q: What are Notion’s key community initiatives and how have they played a key role in its growth over the years?
A: Notion has always been very community centric forward. They were always in tune with what needed to be fixed and what feedback was expected and how to make it a better tool for everyone, and its these early community members who have started supporting and teaching others and have started their own communities.
One of the core initiative is that they have been looking for different ways to support the community, they regularly invite various members from different platforms who have been dedicated to notion are helping spread the word of notion and they try to give them various tools to access different platforms.
They have also recently launched a campus leaders program where they’re trying to help students host events and help them learn more about notion so they can in turn teach others.
Q: What are some initiatives by notion to spread word about community? How does a product like notion leverage community?
A: Notion is trying a bunch of new things, they’re becoming more active on social media, they noticed a lot of they’re members posting on Instagram and Twitter and Tik Tok so they’re trying to meet they’re members there and making them feel heard.
They’re also working on some new initiatives internally to be able to support the communities better and bring more attention to them.
There are different to leverage the community, one is to localize the community, making it various different languages to remove that language barrier. They have members around the world translating it into various local languages.
There are people creating different forms on content on how to use notion as various people learn in various ways.
There are also various communities for notion, notion for doctors, notion for PhDs etc.
Q: What are the personas of the first few community members of notion? How did notion get those first set of users?
A: The core values of Notion attracted the people who represented them, so people who are really creative, a lot of open minded people flocked to notion and they kind of ended up becoming their biggest users and people who they invited to join and start.
They’re community is built of people lik Ben Large, who loved Notion, loved how organized it made it, how it sort of gave him this superpower and now he has created the community which his very much full of people who are teaching how to use it to others.
They are trying to keep the community full of people who are genuinely excited about notion, want to meet and geek out about it, and exchange tips and tricks about how to use it.
Q: What are some key guiding principles with which Notion approached building communities on different platforms and how did they ensure that the DNA of these communities remains intact?
A: They mainly didn’t want to force anyone to conform to a certain type of platform, they wanted to keep it organic and wanted people to be able to use whichever platform worked best for them. This allowed the communities to be localized and let them take off on their own, unfortunately it did make it hard to be consistent.
In terms of keeping the DNA intact, it really comes down to the product and what kind of community you have, Notion has always tried to be very friendly and informal and that has been a huge attraction point for the users. The communities have always been very friendly and no huge points of contention have come up, the main driving force behind this has been that Notion has set their values and principles very early on and all the communities have followed them, there have obviously been small points of contention but nothing that would break the community down.
The first 30-days in any role are equal parts exciting, overwhelming, and confusing. It’s also really important as it’ll set the tone and direction of your role for years to come.
Acknowledging the top contributors and public shoutouts/appreciation for great work done within the community is a step further towards building trust and fostering a culture of supporting each other.