How Fiverr built a thriving community of millions

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We’re not dreamers. We’re doers.

Nine months after the popular freelance marketplace launched its prolific ‘In Doers We Trust’ campaign, we had the chance to talk to Matt Jensen from Fiverr’s own corporate marketing team.

Matt is a community manager at Fiverr, and the man driving digital engagement for the company’s online community of millions.

The trailblazer for a new gig economy, Fiverr is in the business of democratizing entrepreneurship and empowering individuals to do, by connecting freelancers and businesses with the resources they need to get things done. An endeavor that is only partially complete, without the engagement of users in a self-sustained, constructive exchange of information, feedback, resources and product knowledge.

However, at 2.5 million forum views every month and the ‘Doers Across America’ road show in full swing, Fiverr seems to have gotten community engagement down pat.

So what does Matt think the secret sauce to Fiverr’s thriving community is?

“Well, the key to getting that spark going in any community revolves around the same few core ideas”, says Matt. “First, I think it’s important to set goals for the community to help people who join understand what they can expect to get out of your forums. Without these goals, you can’t guide interactions on the platform to create the ideal community you’re envisioning.”

Goals for the Fiverr community include giving tips and tricks for buyers and sellers on the platform, sharing user stories and exchanging know-how to improve gigs. They also have categories for providing forum feedback and reporting bugs.

Find out 3 actionable tips from Fiverr’s example for deciding community goals to drive engagement and set the right expectations for visitors:

Define purposes that your community can serve for the user, clearly highlighting the value that visitors can get from engaging constructively.

As a new visitor, it’s easy for me to see:

  1. What I can learn from this community – tips, tricks and know-how for buying, selling and freelancing.
  2. How I can benefit from participating – I might be able to get more gigs, work more efficiently as a freelancer, or understand whether a freelance career could work for me.

To define goals for your user community, ask yourself, “What are some topics that people who have been brought together by my product would find useful to discuss with each other?”

Define how much customer support users can expect on your forums.

By letting visitors know that customer support does not operate in this space, Fiverr limits the chances of their community devolving into a place where users only think to go when they want to air their grievances with the company.

Encourage an educational tone and foster a culture of self-help in your forums.

Even if I found Fiverr’s forums to vent my frustration, there’s a good chance I’d be distracted by the number of useful, relevant discussions taking place that could help me with my problem. This vibrant forum is a place for learning and empowerment.

To help you drive the message and goals of your community, any company will need to find influencers or people who are already active and coming up with questions who can start the engagement.

“When you identify those little sparks of people who are interested and posting often, it’s important to encourage them, and say, ‘Hey, that was a great question. Here’s another one that’s along the same lines.’ You have those conversations to get them the confidence to continue being the influencer that they can be. And what’s great is that it actually helps with support too.”

Identify potential influencers and initiate conversations using two easy tactics:

Create light-hearted user polls to improve engagement and bring out the personality of your users.

You’ll have a few laughs and something to chat about.

Give users badges to recognize and encourage their contributions in forums.

You can identify potential influencers easily, while encouraging continued activity.

As the community grows, you can crowdsource more community activities by identifying great moderators for forum threads, or power users who can be ambassadors too. “It’s like having lieutenants in a military – you might be the general, but you can’t micromanage everything, so you have lieutenants who run your divisions.”

Moderators on forum threads understand the context behind every post by asking the questions “why, what and who” before proceeding to respond suitably. “If they find something on our forums and say, ‘Hey, this is something that’s kind of popping up’, then I think of a response, or work with another group to figure out the right response.”

“One of my favorite things is being able to identify new ambassadors or moderators, and having those initial conversations with them to see if they’re interested in doing a little bit more for the community. Most of the time when they’re already active, it feels like a promotion because you get to see that great excitement about being more involved.”

The ambassadors, on the other hand, play an important role in helping Matt take feedback from the community back to the appropriate teams at Fiverr.

“Partnering with the customer success team, we created an ambassador program for Fiverr by identifying top rated sellers and very active forum members and adding them in Slack instances to create real-time Fiverr communities. So we have one group with the ambassadors called the Sellers’ Advisory Board where they can have discussions interact in real-time with our product managers, developers and customer success managers.”

“We have a bug channel with a similar small segment of people who have been on the platform for a long time. We know how they work and we can trust them with respect to the feedback that we’re getting.”

Matt also tries and takes a snapshot of forum topics for the previous week to see what he can take back to the product team.

“Every week, I sit down and take a look at the last week to see what the hot topics are, where a lot of people are commenting, where the fire is and if there are any actionable items from that. So there are lots of different ways in which we communicate back and forth, and we utilize them all.”

When you have influencers, moderators, ambassadors, community management staff and support representatives all contributing on the same forums, there needs to be a focus on maintaining consistency across the board.

“I’d say aim for a mixture of empathy, and consistency in message and cadence when you interact with users to build expectations for what one is going to get back when they reach out to your company. Make sure that you have community guidelines in place and solid practices for the way your community or support team interact with users”, says Matt.

Community guidelines are essential for a successful community. With most user forums being run on company assets, there is a legal responsibility for the organization to ensure that things that are said on these forums align with laws and company terms of service.

Creating community guidelines sets expectations for users as to what they can get and how they can act in the community . They communicate what is tolerated and what is not. For example, we don’t allow any real names or contact information on the forum. Users have control over what information is out there, and we encourage them not to share personal information on public forums as a rule.”

“We use the forum software Discourse  to help us foster a culture of self-moderation in the community. The longer you use Discourse, the more moderation tools that become open to other users. So as long as you steer the ship in the right direction, you have a great feedback source and you have a great moderation source to make sure that the community is following its own guidelines.”

The Fiverr community is active enough that ongoing offline events are coordinated at various locations all over the country. “We find sellers who are interested, and give them the resources, time and ability to help us create these events. We post news of these events on the forum through Eventbrite with geo-targeting so that we reach people who may not see our posts on social media, or who aren’t on our mailing lists. Any user can submit a form if they’re interested in hosting an event, and that’s how we as a company, understand what they’re interested in doing and how we can support them. In that way, still being able to let the community tell you what it wants to do is very important.”

Fiverr really did ask the community to tell them what they were looking for.

This led to a lot of interesting answers, resulting in the launch of a beta program for engaging users in a new way.

But here’s a difficult question: what do you do when disappointed or disgruntled users take to your forum to post negative comments? Complaints on forums kill other kinds of conversation. Plus, any new visitor who chances upon a bad thread in your public forum through search engines, may form unfavourable opinions about your product or company.

Matt suggests a three-pronged approach. First and foremost, work on prevention , he says. “For example, when we’re working on features here at Fiverr, we’re not going to talk about until we are 100% ready and they’re coming.”

Second, always respond to negative feedback. “You have to contextualize every single post to understand where it’s coming from and why the user is talking about it. What’s the scenario behind why they’re complaining?”

When users express your frustrations on forums or social media, they’re looking for an empathetic ear. They’re looking for someone to say, ‘Absolutely. I’ve been through that too. I know it’s not a great experience but let’s fix it together’. Understanding the context of where a rant is coming from can help you empathize and provide that supportive experience.

Most of the time, that fixes the problem. “When we do respond and engage, they delete the tweet. Sometimes they’ll just say, ‘Oh no, I was just frustrated at time but I worked through it and it’s fine now.’

For us of course, it’s a public forum and that negative review remains. But having engaged on it and responded with empathy, it shows that as a company you have done the outreach and are there trying to fix the problem. I think the positives in a public forum definitely outweigh the negatives.”

Fiverr embraces the need to rant sometimes, instead of shying away from that sordid but inevitable function of forums.

The verdict: everything gets better with friends around!

Lastly, make sure you diagnose the size of the problem correctly . This is where understanding the context behind every post becomes very important, because it helps you figure out how big an issue can become. “I work with our press and PR departments to figure out exactly what kind of response is needed in some situations.”

“Chances are that in a large community with like-minded individuals who may have come across similar issues, sometimes negative posts can definitely build up firestorms. You can say certain things but that doesn’t necessarily work to quell the fears and concerns of the community. At those times, you go and you find somebody else, maybe the head of product or your COO, or even your CEO if it requires a different level of engagement. Because I can say certain things in the forum and it would hold a certain amount of credibility, but if I bring the CEO in, users know that there is no doubt to be had about the importance of their problems or the truth of your response.”

Having worked in community management and social media management for over ten years now, Matt says the best part of his job is getting to hear from the community. “I know that’s a very standard answer from a community manager. But it’s amazing to hear the user stories that come out about why people are using Fiverr and how they’re using Fiverr. Listening to stories of how users were able to do vacations or home improvements, how they were even able to quit their jobs, or go from the corporate world to freelancing because of their success on Fiverr is the most inspirational thing about Fiverr and about the community itself.

The community is so great because they want to share those stories, and we want to hear them. We try to post as many user success stories as we possibly can on our blog, because that to us is a small way to say, ‘Thank you’, for using the service. For them it’s a way to thank us too, so it’s a mutual exchange of goodwill and value.”

“You know, there’s the drudge of the minutiae, of little things here and there, but then, there are great conversations happening all around and inspirational user stories we hear about that more than balance it out. I think that’s the biggest positive of the job, that you get to break into a big smile hearing about people who have changed their lives using your service.”

And on that warm and fuzzy note, we concluded our interview with Matt.

Digital engagement of user communities is an important endeavour for any organization today. On the internet, any group of people can pool their knowledge to become more successful. Engaging users in these conversations on your community is the challenge which, if achieved, can greatly improve users’ experience of your product and loyalty to your business.

Our thanks to Matt Jensen and the Fiverr team for sharing their insights on successfully managing online communities.

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