CMX Summit West

I volunteered this week at my first CMX Summit conference here in San Francisco, put on by the CMX Hub, a leading community in the community management space. The group operates mostly via Facebook, which is awesome, yet they have an amazing team and social presence that’s allowed them to put on major conferences and events in cities world-wide. Their focus is on advancing the community as a whole, uniting the professionals in support for each other. I urge you to check out the group, a lot of inspiring shit going on.

Here’s what to expect in this recap.

Day One: Workshops
The Fundamentals of Community Strategy with David Spinks
Building Community Success with Shira Levine
(The above are detailed and thorough – skip past the horizontal line for Day Two.)

Day Two: Speakers
Acquisition & Retention with Hootsuite and CMX
Keynotes fromAlexis Ohanian (Reddit), Derek Andersen (Startup Grind), Emiliana Simon-Thomas (UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center).

For additional takeaways, look to the presentations on Slideshare, quick quotes and pictures on the #CMXSummit stream, and a few Keynotes via Facebook Live. Finally, before we dig in, here’s a last look on the community and vision:

Day One


The Fundamentals of Community Strategy Workshop
Presented by David Spinks, Founder of CMX

Intro: This is a macro framework behind community building, and community strategies today. Goal: Walk away with a clear plan and a high-level structure.

Let’s preface with the fact that the #1 reason branded online communities fail is due to a lack of internal support and resources. And to understand what we’re building today…
Strat·e·gy (noun): a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim (high-level, not tactics).

Getting Started: Community Investment Strategy

  1. Advocate: Get Buy-in
  2. Plan: Strategy and Budget
  3. Kick Off: Launch and Engagement
  4. Plan for Scale: Scale and Buy-In
  5. Scale: Grow Community and Team

It’s imperative to not skip step #2, jumping from the advocate stage to full-on community launch… It’s critical to get buy-in, but important to share how much it will cost, the true value, and more specific tactics.

For a hard-truth example, David announced that CMX is not doing the Summit East. It’s a really tough change, but the team had to take a step back and realize it may not be in the best interest of the community. So, use this investment strategy as a framework to look at every community-based project.

The CMX Community Strategy Canvas

  • Alignment
    • Business value + member goals, needs, and identities.
    • Branding and positioning.
  • Development
    • Experience – how and why will members participate in the community?
    • Content and Programming – what to create?
    • Measurement – how will we measure and track the community?
  • Management
    • Team – who will work on the community? Any partners?
    • Communication – what will be shared? Reports? How often?
    • Budget – how much will everything cost?
Click to download.

Level One: Alignment

  • The sweet spot is at the overlap of your business needs and community needs.
  • Why will this community be valuable to our business?
    • We’re building a platform, not a community. It’s a space for people to contribute.
    • Traditional business model of creating a product and marketing it, sending out to the world, has changed. Now, business creates platform for contributors to add value via the platform, in turn going to consumers.
  • Crowds, Collaborations, Communities (all can exist on the platform)
    • Crowd: Airbnb. Apartment on Platform, contributors don’t communicate. Contributing without a sense of community.
    • Collaboration: Contributors start to interact. Will make creators more efficient in adding value to platform. Exchange advise, answer questions, etc. (Airbnb: How to make experience better for guests discussions)
    • Community: Interacting, but developing more emotional relationships. Sense of community. Care about other members of group. Drives an increased contribution to the platform. (Airbnb: sense of belonging, attending events, personally knowing each other)
      • In turn, value to guests on Airbnb has grown exponentially via contributors collaborating on the platform’s development.
      • The value of community is its ability to fuel creation of value.

The SPACE Model
(Level One: Alignment)

  • Support
  • Product
  • Acquisition
  • Content
  • Engagement


  • Platform value: improve customer experience by getting them answers to their questions, keeping support costs low.
  • Community goal: increase quality and quantity of platform.
  • Business value metrics:


  • Members share product ideas and feedback with each other.
  • Platform value: improve product by gathering quality ideas from community.
  • Community goal: increase quality and quantity of ideas and feedback posted on platform.
  • Business value metrics: number of feedback items or ideas shared, …


  • Ambassadors contribute by…
  • Platform value: increase awareness and drive signup/sales for product.
  • Community goal: make ambassadors more successful at driving awareness and acquisition.
  • Business value metrics: # of quality referrals from ambassadors. Views created by ambassadors.


  • Creators contribute the content that makes up the product. (Open source, social networks, etc.) à Contributions make up product itself.
  • Platform value: create content at scale by empowering people to contribute.
  • Community goal: improve the quantity and quality of contributed value.
  • Business value metrics: retention of contributors, amount of contributions used or shipped.
  • Examples: Huffington Post. Vine (died by not taking care of creators). Duolingo (incubator program — all created by contributors). Google Developer’s Community (hackathons…people building the tools).


  • Members connect and share information around a common interest.
  • Platform value: Increase conversation to sale, retention and investment of users or customers.
  • Community goal: Increase the quantity and quality of conversations and experience on the platform.
  • Business value metrics: Retention, Lifetime Value (LTV).
  • Ex: Sephora’s Beauty Talk community (make up advice, video, pictures). Nike Run community = more brand loyalty.

Practice Questions:

  • Using SPACE, what kind of platform is your business building?
  • What roles does community play in making the platform successful?
  • What metrics will help you track the business value of your platform?

Building Community Personas
(Level One: Alignment)

  1. Demographics – gender, age, income, location
  2. Lifestyle – career, hobbies, activities, interests
  3. Communication preferences – channels, mediums, frequency
  4. Other communities – where else are they participating?
  5. Personality – demeanor, voice, role models, style (influences voice you use)
  6. Goals/Challenges – needs, wants, pain points
  7. Real Quotes – about goals/challenges

Make document visual and identifiable, easy to consume.

Practice Questions

  • Describe your ideal community members in 3-5 sentences?
  • How do they like to communicate?
  • What are their biggest needs and challenges?

Defining Community Positioning
(Level One: Alignment)

  1. Vision
  2. Values
  3. Voice
  4. Value Proposition


  • What is the future your community exists to create?
  • Reddit = help discover places to be your true self, empower our community to flourish. (Aspirational)
  • CMX = (Facebook group) create a safe, positive space for anyone building community professionally can find moral support and information they need to thrive.


  • Principles that will shape community culture and how members are expected to conduct themselves.
  • Focus: Diversity, inclusion, entertainment, knowledge…
  • Salesforce Ohana
  • Reddit: Remember the human. Evolve (grow together). What would Snoo do?


  • Personality used in all content and communications with your community (Community voice is aligned with brand voice.
  • “You have the same voice all the time, but your tone changes.” –Mailchimp
  • Resources: and
  • Who is your celebrity voice?

Value Proposition

  • What makes your platform uniquely valuable?
  • Airbnb: “Live there” and sense of belonging.”
  • We help X do Y by doing Z.
    • X = member persona
    • Y = benefit
    • Z = how community creates benefit

Practice Questions

  • What is your community vision?
  • What will your community values be?
  • Who is your celebrity voice? What are 5 attributes of that voice?
  • What unique value will your platform provide? (We help X do Y by doing Z)

Level Two: Development

A few models behind the typical engagement in, and development of, communities.

CMX Community Engagement Cycle

  • Identity
  • Trust
  • Participate
  • Reward


Community Lifecycle

  • Pre-launch
  • Initiation
  • Growth
  • Maturity
  • Segmentation (larger community is now too large to provide value… takes us back to initiation to re-shape)

product-huntExample, let’s look at Product Hunt:

  • Pre-Launch:
    • Identity – people Ryan met through startup world.
    • Trust – they knew Ryan.
    • Participation – attend brunch events.
    • Reward – get to meet awesome people.
  • Initiation
    • Identity – people who have been coming to brunch, love new products.
    • Trust – they knew other people from events
    • Participation – post a product
    • Reward – props from other members
  • Growth
    • Identity – people who love discovering new products referred by existing members
    • Trust – they’ve seen the popularity of the platform
    • Participation – post products, comment, vote, etc.
    • Reward – improved reputation on the platform and new relationships formed.
  • Maturity
    • Identity – different identities for power, active, passive members
    • Trust – power members know each other, brand had credibility
    • Participation – post products, comment, vote, etc. (power users hosting events)
    • Reward – recognition as power users, improved reputation, traffic.
  • Segmentation
    • Identity – interested in specific kinds of products (books, games)
    • Trust – they’ve gotten to know other members interested in specific topics looking for a more specific experience
    • Participation – join product specific channels
    • Reward – more curated, product specific content and recognition
    • (launched sub-groups on specific topics)

More on the CMX Community Engagement Cycle here.

Practice Questions

  • What stage of the community lifecycle is your community in?
  • How would you describe the shared identity of your community members?
  • Why will members trust they’ll get value from your community?
  • How will members participate in your community? What platform will they use? What actions will they take on the platform?
  • What reward will members get for their participation?

Content and Programming

  • Small or large events… online discussions/Q&A… coffee meetings… articles/resources… videos, etc.
  • Community Engagement Planner will assist in fueling content strategy and identity.
  • Rituals people expect à Monday morning CMX group welcomes in Facebook.
    • Rituals build cadence, think Twitter chats at same time each day.

Practice Questions

  • What are three types of content and programming that will be created?
  • Who will be responsible for creating each one?
  • What measure of success will you use to know if each one is working?


  • Programming & Content –> Community Engagement –> Business Objectives
  • Content is an experiment you should always be testing.


  • What was the goal?
  • What was the result?
  • Success or no?

Create content and programming tracker, if even as simple as a Google Sheet containing filtered tabs: Date, Content/Program, Results, Success Rating, and Notes.

Measures of success:

  • Levels of participation
  • Quality of content
  • Revenue
  • Impact on reputation
  • Creation of relationships

Example, place a weight of X out of 5 for each topic to benchmark yourself, review internally and see how it’s working.

  • Participation: # of people attending
  • Reputation: Survey results
  • Revenue: Make money? Loss?
  • Example Total = X/20

Measuring Community Engagement

Looking at the Growth/Churn of your community:

(# of engaged at END minus # of engaged at START)
Divided by # engaged at START

Example: (450 members – 500 members) / 500 = -10% = Churn. Booo.

Business Objectives

  • Validate platform is creating value to the business.
  • Valuable actions using SPACE Model:
    • Support = answers to questions
      • # of answers per question. Correct answers.
    • Product = ideas/feedback shared
      • Number of ideas/month. Feedback applied to product.
    • Acquisition = referrals and signups
      • Number of signups/week. Product usage.
    • Content = content contributed
      • Number of articles submitted/month. Articles approved for publication.
    • Engagement = repurchases
      • Repurchases per member. Compared to non-members.

Practice Questions

  • What metrics will you need to collect?
  • Where will the data come from?
  • Do you already have access to that data or do you still need to get it?
  • Where will your data be tracked and stored?

Community Team Structure

  • Early stage startup = Solo, community super hero.
  • Role-based: Moz (dedicated to different positions)
  • Topic-based: Kickstarter (dedicated to different topics/industries)
  • Location-based: Yelp, Airbnb, Uber
  • Engagement-based: Google+ (growth, onboarding, engagement, power users)
  • Department-based: in Product, Marketing, Communications, or Support. Examples are Vimeo (product), Apple (support)

Working with other teams:

  • What do you need from them / them from you?
  • Community + Marketing
    • Help with growth. Collaborate on events/experiences.
    • Co-create blog, social, email content.
  • Community + Product
  • Community + Support
    • Help pages, FAQs, respond to questions in support forums (need a specialist involved), following up with angry customers.
  • Community + Design/Developers
    • Must stay connected so they know who they’re building for.
    • Getting help developing tools, features, designs, data, analytics, etc.

Practice Questions:

  • How will your team be structured? (Sole, role, topic, location, engagement, department)
  • What other teams will be involved?
  • What do you need from those teams?
  • What do they need from you?

Level 3: Management

Communications channels may include:

  • Reports (internal/external)
  • Meetings
  • Email/Chat
  • Project Management Software

The real question: How much will everything cost?

  • Team, Tech, Content and Programming
  • Set it up this way… Annual budget: Project amount vs. Confirmed amount.
    • Total expenses = X
    • Business value generated = Y
  • Allows you to state a case for additional investment, if budget is handled correctly.

That’s it for David’s session. Super insightful in building and managing communities for the first time. Hit up with any questions! I’m on the hunt for his slides and will update when/if received..

Building on Community Success – Buy-In, Iteration, and Troubleshooting
Presented by Shira Levine (@communitydrives), CEO of Fanchismo

Intro: Shira has been a part of the CMX community since the beginning. She began her engaging session by posing the question, “What is community?”

The use case answer might surprise you. Trilobites – sightless creatures that roamed the ocean floor millions of years ago. These creatures would find each other and move together across ocean floor together, depicting the basic animal instinct to congregate, showing that community is key to survival.

Shira’s belief is that community is a true driver of revenue and business impact, and a narrative of marketing, support, product, analytics, and more. Each of us attending the CMX Summit are elevating our respected positions in our organizations, as the value of community is still very new to many executives. “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

Becoming a Chief Community Officer

  1. Know the hero metric.
  2. Marshal the resources.
  3. Learn to manage your boss.
  4. Innovate.
  5. Connect with the community.

#1 – Finding the Hero Metric & Developing a Narrative

  • Hero Metric = the most important metric to the company, and how your work fits into the big picture.
  • How do community goals nest inside organizational goals?
  • What % of community members produce what % of activity that business is measured on?
  • Sort your community to understand power users: What makes/keeps people active?
  • “SHIRAMYD” model: Manage people at top, use their content to Engage everyone else, this will Grow your community.
    • Show community what people at the top are doing (most engaged), and watch everyone else funnel up.

#2 – Marshal Resources

  • Have a prioritized list of necessary tools, how to get there, and communicate internally all the time.
  • Number one reason Community Managers fail is because they fail to marshal resources.
  • Control and OWN THE NARRATIVE!

#3 – Managing Your Boss

  • Managing up can be mutually beneficial for both your goals, and your bosses’.
  • Cater to their personality and their business needs.
  • When in doubt, send positive yoga vibes their way, says Shira.

#4 – Innovation

  • Use what’s under your control to hack a meaningful metric together. Do new stuff! Invent stuff! Make your community go berserk!
  • Example: Can create a community-based holiday. #NationalDonateForGrandkidsDay
    • Must test up to 10 times for success. (Twice is an A/B test, 4 is minimum, 10 is good number)

#5 – Connect

  • Always talk to your community. Planned and unplanned, structured and unstructured. You are the voice; be the voice!
  • Canva: Take quotes from your community and push them out via social media (with permission, of course).

Let’s dig a big deeper with a few additional tips.

Shop Your Services

  • Show how access to your customers can be helpful for different departments.
  • How the community can contribute to their practice.
  • How to do this?
    • Form a queue for exclusive access to your community insights.
    • You are invited to join our community Tuesday at 3pm, and you’ll have these 10 questions (repeatable, Google Doc they can’t edit)

Start Saying Yes

  • Do your best to work on at least one external project per quarter.
  • You’ll gain exposure to another department, build trust with coworkers, and develop broader organizational ideas.

Don’t Hog Customer Contact

  • We are the voice of the customer, must actually BE the voice!
  • Thumbtack: Framed pictures of community/customers in lobby of office.
  • Share the experience.

Speak With Clarity, Transparency, and Precision

  • Community is smart, recruiting other users; they will retain information, and feel like they’re a part of the brand story.

Be the Voice

  • Connect with customers, as they are keeping the lights on in your office.

In Conclusion: Invent stuff!

Day Two


Day two was a long one for me — volunteered with the setup crew from 5:30am. I didn’t attend most of the morning programming, but did collect a few tidbits from the mid-morning Keynotes.

Gina Bianchini (Mightybell) — “Mobile experience for communities needs to be native as opposed to mobile web or desktop-only. Don’t forget to explore various business models including subscription-based, partnerships, and sponsorships.”

Jake McKee (Community5) — “Cluetrain Manifesto book  from 1999 asks what’s happening in the culture of business? Mentions markets are pieces of conversations.”

Next up was the Acquisition & Retention Communities track.

Building a Global Ambassador Program
Alicia Taggio (Hootsuite)

  • Hootup Events – free events organized by users.
  • Ambassadors must use the platform, won’t be accepted if found using competitor products. Be sure to test this, as the affinity must be there.
  • Gain commitment –> Cultivate enthusiasm –> Deliver benefits
  • Employees in over 50 countries = insights globally on future of social — APAC loves Instagram over Twitter, etc. — important because social moves very quickly.
  • Thought leadership at conferences: Ask ambassadors to speak at local events, being set up for success by Hootsuite team.
  • Check in on ambassadors every 30/60/and 90 days. See what they’ve been up to, results, why they’re not engaging, etc. Do your best to get to know them on a personal level and meet up face-to-face.
  • New tool: Hootsuite Amplify = share easily from mobile devices. Put into Ambassador hands before customers even have.
  • Employee advocacy = they are often your ambassadors, as well, and people love hearing what they have to say.

The Power of Retention and Measuring its Effects
Evan Hamilton (CMX)

  • Measuring retention value. Retention is the most important thing to a business.
  • Switching is really EASY, retention is really HARD.
  • Elements of value pyramid (from down to up) – based of Maslow’s
    • Functionality
    • Emotional (fun elements / gamification)
    • Life changing elements (connection, community, self-actualization)
    • Changing the world.


Derek Andersen – Startup Grind

  • Startup Grind boasts 400,000+ Members and Chapters in 200+ cities across the world. Powered by Google for Entrepreneurs.
  • Values: Give before take, help others first, come to make friends.
  • Prior to making events $5-10/each, it was a “startup homeless shelter” – people taking pizza and leaving before start.
  • Eventually spread to LA and NYC, now seeing Chapters in Babol (Iran) and Ramallah (Palestine), to illustrate the success of Startup Grind. Derek mentioned being in Ramallah, and although there may be a war zone outside, once you enter the door it feels just like SV.
  • For questions hit up

Tips for building a lasting community:

  1. Lead by example. Go through the process, use the tools, etc.
  2. Never yell at a volunteer. Treat them like gold.
  3. Empower great teams.
  4. Pace yourself, enjoy what you’re doing, plan on being here in 10-15 years!

Creating a Safe & Engaged Online Community
Emiliana Simon-Thomas: Science Director Greater Good Science Center @ UC Berkeley

  • Bringing humanism to online communities
  • Happiness = strength and genuine-ness of physical connections. How resilient you are in handling difficulties of life.
  • At the core: being kind and generous (Rand study)
  • Must make online communities feel as safe as possible to thrive.
  • Prosocial spending: Spending on others.

Alexis Ohanian 

You know I had to grab a front-row seat for this one.

Alexis started with the thought that people have slept on community management for the last few years. Just now, the practices is coming to fruition and executives are appreciating skill and value in the field.

“So much amazing stuff happens on the internet because we are greater than our individual selves.”
– Alexis on the power of the group and collective wisdom

The next concept: Facebook is not the only structure for social/online communities.

  • Reddit is 250M page views/month. 87% under 35.
  • Reddit communities feel intimate and personal, albeit hundreds or thousands of people sharing and lurking. Reddit doesn’t feel mainstream, but it is.

Pseudonymity lets you be yourself.

  • Not anonymity, because pseudonymity carries a comment trail and sense of “internet points” in creating, sharing, and discussing.
  • Our generation is growing up using usernames for everything: AIM, Forums, online video gaming, etc.
  • Usernames allow you to be completely honest, instantly, outside of a Facebook-repercussion scenario.
  • Pseudonymity communities can create real change.
    • /r/changemyview is a sub-reddit community doing just that. People literally go here to change their perspective.
  • Bonus: Alexis recommended Black Mirror on Netflix, in particular Season 3, Episode 1, does a great job depicting the dystopian future, rating experiences from every human interaction from 0-5 stars.

Safety & Security as a pillar.

  • Built a sub-reddit for Mod/User communications
    • Something they had neglected for a while – old-fashioned communication. Positive reaction and successful results.
  • Trust & Safety team is operated separately from Community Management team
    • Separates weird backlash from people who are publicly responsible for the content. (ie. Baseball players coming in for AMA on r/baseball)
  • Brought on Philippe Beaudette as Director of Communities — a social anthropologist and community expert experienced from the Wikipedia site-blackout in protest of the SOPA and PIPA acts in Congress.
    • Introducing policies / regulation made the development process for employees must easier and quicker, onboarding for new employees at a faster pace.


  • Invited Moderators to SF for dinner to ask them (Reddit execs) anything.
  • “We spend too much time dealing with spam. Give us tools to make this more efficient.”
  • Moderator Mail update … anonymous reporting of abuse… cases of abuse reported dropped 30% by introduction of processes and more community managers.
  • Last 4 months, reddit has closed 170k tickets and reduced average response time from 56 hours to 6 hours, using Zendesk.
  • .02% of ALL Reddit content gets reported.

Where do we go from here?

  • Snapchat concept introduced a kindred spirit of authenticity. Alexis admits to loving it. Not filtered and really feels “in the moment.”
  • Communities are more and more hungry for real shit.
  • Platforms we create will trend to real shit. People will demand it, what we build will trend that way.
  • This is what we want as people. Human connection makes us feel we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves.

The Pokemon Go Phenomenon

Analyzing data and predicting behavior off word of mouth insights. Discussions that are literally affecting the world, how people vote, and more. (picture below)

Reddit behavior predicting success of Pokemon Go, activity measured against two stable sub-reddit categories

Water cooler discussions that influence us are happening on channels that encourage authenticity. This will, in turn, create better art, better music, better sneakers, better video games…

The New Age

  • WestWorld Case Study: If you haven’t seen WestWorld, you should. Anyways..
  • 4 weeks into the show, top-down creators are discussing fan theories and able to interact/discuss with the actual producers of the show.
  • Social media today is allowing access to people all over the world, if they choose to engage and be openminded. Safety and security are essential in expediting a better internet, but for now we’ll stick to Pseudonymity.
  • With hit TV shows today, like Donald Glover’s Atlanta, Donald has admitted to using direct community feedback in creating future content. He’s quoted, “The best part about this show so far is that Atlanta is actually excited to see it.”
  • Alexis noted, at Reddit they have a front row seat to study what’s going on in this new age, and they didn’t even set out to create the platform for it!

Big picture takeaway: We’ve been living through the “cocktail party” phase of social media for the last 10 years, and it’s now getting to dinner-time. Social media has been filtered for too long, and doesn’t have any depth of connection. Understandably, this process takes time and trust, and social media needs an refreshing sense of security. Security will allow us to move away from sharing family vacation photos to connecting via real, meaningful experiences. The trend towards less-polished, more raw social media (Snapchat) is encouraging.

Closing thought


How online communities transition in the coming days, months, and decades is up to us. These communities, and their platforms, need leaders to administer positivity, capitalizing on collective wisdom and creating powerful opportunities to unite and change the world. Let’s do the damn thing.

Be sure to follow @CMX on Twitter, and join the official Facebook group to take part in all community manager-related conversation! Thanks again to all the sponsors, as well as Galvanize and the Innovation Hangar for hosting.

Here are a few pictures from the event.

Palace of Fine Arts at 5:00am (connected to Innovation Hangar)
Palace of Fine Arts around 5 am
Inside the Innovation Hangar (old SF Exploratorium museum)
The Infamous David Spinks Spritzer
The Infamous Spinks Spritzer
After Party - Thanks to Bohemian Guitars and Standard Deviant Brewing!
After Party – Thanks to Bohemian Guitars and Standard Deviant Brewing! … Adam for pouring!
A look at the space during the After Party.
A look at the space during the After Party.

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