How to make Community your Competitive Advantage with Connie Chang from Get World Savvy Podcast

May 18, 2020

Welcome to the Get World Savvy Podcast. We talk about business and tech ecosystems and how international founders are building products, understanding markets, and optimizing business models to scale their businesses around the world. Listen in and maybe you can take a piece of their lesser-known startup playbook.

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Connie Chang. Connie has been a customer advocate for over 12 years, she is currently the Director of Community Engagement at Wish, where she leads a team of global community managers. She previously fostered vibrant communities at Facebook, Gogo Bot, and Yelp.

Connie gave us an exclusive in-depth look into the value of community for the growth of a business, top tips to build an engaging community, and the product features on Wish that only exist because of the Wish Stars (also known as Wish Addicts) community of shoppers who are really, really passionate about Wish.

This content is an abbreviated version of my interview with Connie Chang on Episode 3 of the Get World Savvy Podcast. Check out the podcast for the full episode.

Q1. How did you get started in Community?

I started my journey at Yelp about 13 years ago and have really been able to do something that I truly love since.

Community was not a well-known role back in the day. Even now, I feel like it’s still quite unknown in terms of what does a community team at a company do? Over the years, I’ve seen so many more companies adopting it and finding the need to have a community team.

So I started off at Yelp where I was just a really passionate Yelp reviewer and I didn’t know that this was a career path. But I went on to join multiple startups and launch their communities including at Gogobot, which was acquired by Skyscanner. I ended up going to Facebook where I was able to scale multiple communities there for various different teams.

When I was approached by Wish, I thought, wow, there is a great opportunity not only to build a community from scratch but also work for one of the largest e-commerce companies in the world that is not as well known. I can help build the branding around it, work closely with the CEO, and that was just an opportunity I could not pass up.

Q2. Why is community important to growing a business?

When you’re starting out your business and looking to scale it, you can only do so much with the team that you have and the money that you may want to spend is going to be a lot if you want to scale quickly. So finding a community who can rally behind you and help amplify your brand’s message through their networks will be super vital to that growth.

A lot of people want to connect with businesses that have real people speaking to the values of the company - a community can do that for you.

When I talk about community, I’m talking about people who are your brand ambassadors and your advocates. People who are intrinsically passionate about what you do.

The community can:

  1. Amplify your message through their networks
  2. Spread the truth about the messaging
  3. Give you feedback on what you’re building since they are the end-user and using your products every day
  4. Guide and help you prioritize your product roadmap

Q3. What does Community is the new Moat mean to you?

There’s a wall around you and their voices, they’ll be able to keep competitors away or are surrounding you or they are your allies that help protect your brand.

Q4. How did you go about changing the brand image around Wish with a community? Wish used to have a lot of bad press when it first started for products not arriving at all or poor quality.

I was able to find the really passionate customers on Wish. These are people writing a lot of positive reviews. They also expressed their opinions about other issues but they were the most vocal about how much they loved Wish.

It's pretty amazing to know that there were so many people who loved a brand so much like Wish. So I was able to seek these people out. We grew different groups across the globe and share the messaging of the brand through our community.

We’re in the business to sell products but I think what was is more interesting is how these products impacted people’s lives. I wanted to share those stories and bring those stories to life.

Getting to know these community members, we call them our Wish Stars, they are the ones who have been telling all of their friends and family about Wish. They are sharing about how Wish has been able to help afford big events in their lives like weddings, children's birthday parties, and a lot of other very personal life events. I really wanted to surface those and share how much a company like Wish could make a difference in people's lives.

Q5. Tactically, how did you start this community? How did you get the engagement going?

We created Facebook groups and invited these passionate customers into these groups so we can develop a closer relationship with them and for them to build relationships with each other.

With all the data that we have, we invited people really active on Wish, writing a lot of reviews, posting a lot of photos, and just dropping a lot of user-generated content. They called themselves Wish Addicts.

A lot of them have also started sharing with their friends about being part of this community and that’s how we’ve been able to grow these groups. We grew through data and word of mouth. With offline events that we host, we give people the opportunity to invite a +1 to learn more about the Wish community.

Q6. Can you talk about some of the projects that were made more successful were only possible with the community?

We did recently launch community TV and we all are also launching a Wish Hual's feature. This is all powered by the content that the community creates, and so without, all of their content that they have been sharing, this product wouldn't exist.

We definitely are creating more features to help spread the social aspect of Wish, we also just launched our stories landing page too. The videos that we produced are extremely touching, they are stories about community members and how wish has made an impact in their lives. It's in a documentary style, so it's really going to elevate the branding of Wish.

When you were here, we launched Wish Local. That was an idea to bring more products to be more accessible to people. Shoppers would be able to go to their local mom and pop shop and pick up an order from Wish and pick up products that they could get the same day.

This was an idea that came up and with all ideas, we didn’t know how to get started. So we looked to our community members and asked them to help refer stores in their area to join this program, like their local convenience store, barbershop, nail salon, or retail stores. It was pretty incredible to see that there were several people who helped bring in hundreds of partners, and these are people who truly know their neighborhoods and went out, talked to the local business owner, and shared with them about this new program. It's pretty amazing to have so much growth due to Wish stars helping us discover these businesses.

Q7. Why do you think social commerce drives more shopping or like more business growth?

I think that a lot of people tend to want to share what makes them happy, like the things that they buy that make them happy.

People are always looking to other people that they trust to give them recommendations of what they might be missing in their lives.

And so I think that more and more we're seeing that because of what our customers have read or seen or heard about a certain thing on Wish, it has influenced them to also want to purchase it and have it in their lives. I think that naturally, with all of the different social media, we're so immersed in it and people are just trying to feel like they can also be a part of it, and share, and give back to other people.

Q8. How do you manage this group to get engagement to make people feel like they belong?

When you create a safe environment for people to want to share personal stories, things they enjoy doing, or things they like, people will just feel inclined to want to share and participate.

A lot of people have come together because of this shared common love for Wish. It’s always a good feeling to be able to share something with someone else who feels the same way. A lot of friendships have been forged in these groups which have also been amazing.

I feel like the most successful communities are the ones that just run themselves. We want to encourage people to come and contribute their ideas and thoughts without us prompting them to do something.

When it gets to a point where it feels like it's just running on its own and growing on its own, that's when a community is truly successful.

Q9. What do you think people are getting wrong about community?

I think that a lot of people think that you can just build a community from scratch and not do anything to make it grow. While, yes, at a point it will grow on its own you do have to invest in it at the beginning. It’s like a baby. You have to nurture and foster it.

Getting to know the people in your community is going to be important. Having real, authentic relationships with them is going to be important. I think that a lot of people tend to think, “I've created and people will come and join and they'll be able to let it run on its own.” But no, you really do have to invest a lot of your time and effort into it, in the beginning. If you don’t invest in it, people are going to know. People are going to see that you're not even invested in it, so why should they?

Q10. Tips on starting a community?

Think about what are the things that they might want to share about? You’re going to have to start the conversations until they feel comfortable with starting their own conversations.

  • Have ideas of what topics you want people to discuss
  • Run fun contests and different activities in the group to encourage people to share. These are ways that you can make people feel that they didn’t think of contributing something on their own but now they know they can do this.
  • Posting as your own self is important - people trust you more knowing that you’re just like them. Bring your true self!
  • It’s attractive to people to know that they have a connection to someone at the company that they are passionate about. It makes them feel special, having an “in” at the company.

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