As part of my work with PIE (Portland Incubator Experiment), I take on the responsibility of day-to-day community management. Among other things, that means tactical efforts like working to ensure that mentors are connected to founders; founders are connected to investors, partners, and customers; and that both groups are connected with peer mentors and founders. Peer connections, expert connections, contractual connections, financial connections — it’s a lot of moving parts!
But all of those tactical connections inform a much more important strategic effort: that each and every one of those introductions leads to the individual feeling more connected to the PIE community. And through that connection, feeling like they are part of something bigger and more beneficial than their specific individual role in that community.
Maybe I should back up a bit.
If you’re not familiar with PIE (and why would you be?), we’re an ongoing experiment designed to explore ways that established organizations — like corporations, government, and educational institutions, among others — can more effectively collaborate with the Portland startup community, for mutual benefit. In so doing, we hope to discover strategies and tactics that benefit both our community as well as communities that are similar to ours. Because what works in the Bay Area world of startups doesn’t really work anywhere else.
Today, PIE currently looks like an early stage startup accelerator. But it’s also been a coworking space. And a consultancy for other accelerator programs. And a lab for hackathons and the like. It keeps morphing. And through that morphing, it tends to attract a very diverse group of constituents and participants. And it’s my job to ensure that each and every one of those participants feels that connection.
Now, when PIE was just starting, this was much easier to manage. I could easily do it in my head. Or by scanning who was sitting in the room. Or by sending a few emails here and there. But as the organization continued to grow — tangentially and adjacently — managing those areas of expertise and connections became a series of spreadsheets, outreach, and serendipitous reminders.
Professional, it was not. It was a hodge podge. A kludge to keep some semblance of order in the randomness. And it only sort of worked. But it worked.
You see, a community — especially a larger community — isn’t a funnel. Or a pipeline. It’s not an orderly progression of attracting and retaining people. Community is organic. Like a jellyfish. It fluctuates. It ebbs and flows. People come and go and come back. Expertise is desperately needed and then unnecessary. Until it is desperately needed, again.
Some individuals are active participants. Some are more passive. Most are primarily lurking throughout their existence in the community — until they are specifically asked to engage. And when they are asked to engage, they have to actively experience value in that engagement. Or their connection to the community wanes.
Now, throw all of that into the middle of a global pandemic.
In the middle of the pandemic, that serendipity on which I relied became all but nonexistent. And the fluctuations of individuals all became immediately static. Everyone felt disconnected from everyone. Regardless of the strength of their previous ties. And no automated intro bot was going to fix that. It was going to take good old fashioned person-to-person communication.
This is when Clickety really empowered me to be a better community manager. And to take a professional approach to that effort.
Using Clickety, I was able to organize our community into their respective roles, better document their skills, and keep ongoing notes on their levels of engagement. At a glance, I could immediately see who was languishing and who was drifting away — even if the dynamics of a virtual PIE program required them to be engaged.
Clickety became my day-to-day community dashboard. Not only did it enable me to keep my head above water, it empowered me to actively assail that pervasive feeling of disconnectedness with action. And to understand where, how, and who needed to be connected.
Best of all, using Clickety features like groups, subgroups, and its Kanban-esque “Board” views, I was able to tease out the finer nuances of activity and communication. I wasn’t just pinging people with some generic “How are you…?” for the sake of checking something off of the list. I was able to create highly targeted, relevant, and engaging communications, enabling me to better demonstrate my appreciation of the value that each individual brought to the community.
Clickety has helped me change the way I work for the better. And for the betterment of my community. I can’t wait to see how it continues to bestow me with additional super powers as we all re-emerge, bleary eyed, into a world of actual human connection.
If you enjoyed this, be sure to check out the rest of the Clickety and Community series we’ll be posting throughout this month! Join us next week when we talk about wrangling community content contributors!