People love Evernote. The productivity app has over two hundred million users around the world and Joshua Zerkel is one of them. He’s currently their Director of Global Customer Education and Community.
Before he joined Evernote four years ago, Josh was a productivity consultant in the Bay Area. The company recruited him to lead their customer education and community programs after years of partnering with him as a product ambassador.
A year ago Evernote rebooted their community partner marketing program and integrated GrowSumo to help manage and monitor it. Since then, Evernote’s community program has grown to over 1500 members from around the world.
“When we first launched the Evernote Ambassador program six or seven years ago, I don’t think there was a specific strategy in mind. It was more like, ‘let’s harness this goodwill’—which is a very good place to start. The difference now is we have a clearer sense of what the community wants from a program like this, what we can offer them, and what the business value is.’”
We chatted with Josh just before Memorial Day weekend. He shared three tips on how to support your influencers.
#1 Let people connect the way they want
Your community is made up of people with things in common, right? People with things in common like to talk to each other. That’s why many community programs have a space where members can send messages, post questions, and share resources. Choosing a platform is an important decision, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult one. Evernote uses Facebook groups.
“We polled the community as to which communication tool they preferred, and they almost unanimously wanted Facebook. That’s why we created private Facebook groups. There are strengths and weaknesses to every platform, and we wanted to make sure we were having the conversation where people wanted to have it.”
Building a private Facebook group is easy and requires no effort to join—literally a click of a button. When Evernote tried to roll out other platforms for engaging their community partners, they didn’t take off.
Josh tells us his community members often answer each other’s questions about Evernote features and tricks. This takes some pressure off of Evernote’s community team and also lets group members feel good about contributing.
#2 Offer something exclusive
Evernote started hosting monthly, invitation-only webinars as part of its community program reboot. These events give their most avid fans a chance to hear about product updates before the general public, ask the Evernote team (including senior execs) live questions, and share tips like how to talk about Evernote on social media.
“Our community program members respond very positively to our private webinars. They know it’s just for them.”
Josh recommends having an agenda or topic for each webinar and posting it ahead of time so people know what to expect.
The webinars are a great way to give people real inside access. Having your CEO host a Q&A, for example, gives your biggest cheerleaders a chance to feel like they’re part of the tribe.
#3 See past the marketing
Good community managers know that it’s a two-way street. Since our hunter-gatherer days, reciprocity has been the bedrock of community.
Evernote uses Facebook live events and their official blog to profile community members and feature them as guest contributors. While members generate the majority of activity on Evernote’s private Facebook groups, Josh and his team take the time to share product updates, ask questions, and run contests to engage them.
Evernote’s product and content teams love talking to community members because they’re the most engaged users. Asking for their feedback gets them insight into how others are talking and thinking about Evernote. The company also teams up with members to generate user-centric content like use cases, stories, and templates.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that people in Evernote’s influencer community are product experts. The company uses a platform called Directly to send some customer support tickets to community program members, allowing them to earn money for helping others.
“If you do these programs right, you can extend the value these people provide and the value you provide to them beyond marketing.”
Josh looks back on the success of the community program reboot and how he was able to maintain quality as it grew.
“Having the right tool to help manage a program is critical before you scale it. Now that we have GrowSumo in place, the next step for us is to continue to scale on a global level.”
It’s clear to us that Josh loves his job.
“All the feels come from working with the community members. I don’t know how companies function without community partner programs. This is the future of how companies will market to and engage with their customers.”