Pawan Rochwani

Strategy
Insights
January 31, 2024

Pawan Rochwani

January 31, 2024
Strategy
Insights

Developing Products Through Community Feedback ft. Chelsea Alterman

One of the biggest challenges in the product development life cycle is figuring out what the users truly want. Finding the right people to gain feedback even before the PMF stage can be difficult since many times you are trying to gain feedback before having anything tangible.

That’s why we are excited to have Chelsea Alterman, Director of Community and Partnerships at Expert Session as a guest in the LikeMinds Community Deep Dive series, where we speak to an exciting community marketing leader in each episode and get to know what makes them tick!

We spoke to Chelsea at length to understand:

  • How she identified the ICP and spoke to over 100 of them to start building a community and gather product feedback
  • How Expert Session incorporated the feedback in the product
  • How she made use of her earlier experience in customer success in building the community and interviewing prospective users

Starting a new community with first principles thinking

Chelsea uses the lessons from her past life as a customer success professional and education administrator to accelerate her acquisition of community expertise. 

“If I were to make parallels between community in tech and community building in the higher education space, I think the similarities are that you have to be an active listener in whatever spaces you are with your potential users or community members.”

She has often asked the same nature of questions to users of Expert Session. Understanding what users want out of the platform, what groups to join, and how groups can help solve their challenges is crucial for making the members’ desires come to fruition.

“Sometimes things don't go according to plan and you have to put on a customer success hat in a community role to maintain the energy of the conversation in the group. I knew how to navigate those types of conversations where eventually I wanted to get to the belonging tier in Maslow's hierarchy of needs.”

Community members need to feel safe to use the space. Their barriers or blockers need to be removed before they can be cultivated.

Community builders need to remember that they are business professionals too. If you follow our podcast blogs, you’ve seen other community leaders reiterate this. Chelsea’s team was so committed to understanding their consumers that they had nearly a hundred one-on-one conversations with users and potential users.

“We still need to understand user validation, what aspects of the product they enjoy, how we're creating value for them, how we can build the community with their thoughts and feelings in mind and what blockers are they running into in the product experience to adopt, or potentially adopt it.”

Identifying Users and asking the right questions

They devoted a whole month to just finding interviewees. Once the process started, they structured it largely as a feedback program but also tried to understand who their audience was and their lived experiences. The questions included:

  • What challenges are you running into in your professional or business life?
  • What was your greatest professional highlight?
  • What do you want from a supportive community?
  • What would you want to see from us? What resources for future events or initiatives or engagement efforts can we put together that you would actually want to attend?

The questions gave insight into what Expert Session should be built into as a platform. Now armed with these insights, Chelsea’s current focus is on growing the user base before initiating significant changes.

Chelsea warns against the pitfall of having a space with thousands of members but no real engagement. There’s no real value without good community engagement. 

Handling the stakeholders

Chelsea notes that she had an advantage since the founding team was already convinced about the feasibility of having the community as one of the strategic levers that would grow the product, along with promotion and referrals. 

She fleshed out the expectations clearly. “There's always that conversation that needs to be had where you're defining why you're pursuing the pathways you're pursuing and how that is going to positively impact the business and the bottom line. It's a slower process, that’s not going to be an A to B type of conversion where community members join and infinite sessions get booked.”

We shared our observation that some founders who expect quantifiable value from the community efforts run out of steam in 6-8 months since it is a long-term game.

It's not about how many people are in the Facebook group or Slack group or at the event. It's about the meaningful connections you're able to cultivate and how you're able to communicate the brand message and get people aligned to that.

Expert Session’s goal is for their community to be a place where community members are helping each other. Their events this quarter will feature experts in categories or topics that are in high demand and would provide value to both the experts already in their community.  Attendees will have the opportunity to book a session with these featured experts if they want to learn more. 

Chelsea’s take on community

Moving to a more personal element of the discussion, we asked Chelsea how the future of community building would shape up. She emphasized focusing on ensuring that people walk away from your interactions feeling better than they came in.

Community is everywhere. It's not a forum where you go and members help answer each other's questions.

It's not just a Slack group. It's not just a one-time event. It's not just how prospective and current users engage in our social media channels.

It's everything. It's how that member feels after engaging  with us.

Any community builder’s goal is that potential members should walk away with a sense of satisfaction, thinking, "That was a great conversation." The positive association with Expert Session strengthens and Chelsea hopes they will then share that with someone close. 

We asked her what trends she anticipates over the next 2-3 years. One is the resurgence of offline events. Meeting in person creates more of an investment because it takes more time and money to do so. Therefore, the connections develop deeper.

Most people preferred in-person events and there are a lot of people that expressed that they have Slack community fatigue (which I even do too).

Conclusion

We decided that we’d end the session the way we began it, on a lighter note. So Chelsea told us what she’d advise her 18-year-old self.

I think it would be don't sweat so much about the set ladder that you put in place for yourself”

We all tend to treat milestones and achievements as set in stone, to be accomplished at a specific time, but real life has not worked out that way for Chelsea. She wishes her 18-year-old self would find value in being a generalist. We agreed with her because we advise younger folks to try their hands at everything as well.

Anyone around the world can explore and book sessions with a variety of experts on Expert Session. However, currently, only residents based in the US can join the platform as experts. Check out their website to connect with knowledgeable experts.

About Chelsea

Chelsea moved into community building gradually. She started in higher education administration (incidentally her degree is in that field), pivoting into tech in 2021 in customer success roles. She found those experiences helpful in her transition.

Chelsea is at an interesting stage of her career, having joined Expert Session as one of the early hires. Expert Session is a platform where people can find experts to give them 1-on-1 personalized guidance on myriad topics. The community element is critical to the product taking off. We focused this conversation on what she’s doing and learning at this exciting time.

We love to know how our community experts unwind, and Chelsea as it turns out loves to engage in the vibrant energy of New York, even doing touristy things. She initially moved to the city at the age of 18. She enjoys just exploring New York, finding new places to eat, new attractions, and new things to do, and trying to be a part of the communities that are outside of the digital space. As a remote worker, she ensures that she has time away from the screen and the web. Reach out to her on her LinkedIn or via Expert Session to learn about customer success and community building ;)

About LikeMinds

Done with experimenting and testing your community-building efforts? If you are ready to scale and bring the community within your app, instead of relying on 3rd party platforms, we are here to help you integrate community features in your app in just 15 minutes!!

LikeMinds elevates businesses in unlocking the true potential of their users through their in-app community and social network. Using LikeMinds, businesses achieve higher conversion and retention, by building custom community experiences in their existing platform unlocking community-led growth.

With LikeMinds, businesses get an easy-to-implement and highly scalable infrastructure with a fully customizable UI. All of this with a customization time of 3 days and a deployment time of 15 minutes.

Our Chat and Feed infra have pre-built widgets such as image carousels, PDF slides, short videos, polls, quizzes, events, forms, and more for user engagement and retention along with moderation capabilities to ensure frictionless community operations.

Supercharge your retention with in-app social features

Deploy customised features on top of chat and feed in 15 minutes using LikeMinds SDK.

Contact us to schedule a demo!
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Developing Products Through Community Feedback ft. Chelsea Alterman

Pawan Rochwani
/
January 31, 2024
/

One of the biggest challenges in the product development life cycle is figuring out what the users truly want. Finding the right people to gain feedback even before the PMF stage can be difficult since many times you are trying to gain feedback before having anything tangible.

That’s why we are excited to have Chelsea Alterman, Director of Community and Partnerships at Expert Session as a guest in the LikeMinds Community Deep Dive series, where we speak to an exciting community marketing leader in each episode and get to know what makes them tick!

We spoke to Chelsea at length to understand:

  • How she identified the ICP and spoke to over 100 of them to start building a community and gather product feedback
  • How Expert Session incorporated the feedback in the product
  • How she made use of her earlier experience in customer success in building the community and interviewing prospective users

Starting a new community with first principles thinking

Chelsea uses the lessons from her past life as a customer success professional and education administrator to accelerate her acquisition of community expertise. 

“If I were to make parallels between community in tech and community building in the higher education space, I think the similarities are that you have to be an active listener in whatever spaces you are with your potential users or community members.”

She has often asked the same nature of questions to users of Expert Session. Understanding what users want out of the platform, what groups to join, and how groups can help solve their challenges is crucial for making the members’ desires come to fruition.

“Sometimes things don't go according to plan and you have to put on a customer success hat in a community role to maintain the energy of the conversation in the group. I knew how to navigate those types of conversations where eventually I wanted to get to the belonging tier in Maslow's hierarchy of needs.”

Community members need to feel safe to use the space. Their barriers or blockers need to be removed before they can be cultivated.

Community builders need to remember that they are business professionals too. If you follow our podcast blogs, you’ve seen other community leaders reiterate this. Chelsea’s team was so committed to understanding their consumers that they had nearly a hundred one-on-one conversations with users and potential users.

“We still need to understand user validation, what aspects of the product they enjoy, how we're creating value for them, how we can build the community with their thoughts and feelings in mind and what blockers are they running into in the product experience to adopt, or potentially adopt it.”

Identifying Users and asking the right questions

They devoted a whole month to just finding interviewees. Once the process started, they structured it largely as a feedback program but also tried to understand who their audience was and their lived experiences. The questions included:

  • What challenges are you running into in your professional or business life?
  • What was your greatest professional highlight?
  • What do you want from a supportive community?
  • What would you want to see from us? What resources for future events or initiatives or engagement efforts can we put together that you would actually want to attend?

The questions gave insight into what Expert Session should be built into as a platform. Now armed with these insights, Chelsea’s current focus is on growing the user base before initiating significant changes.

Chelsea warns against the pitfall of having a space with thousands of members but no real engagement. There’s no real value without good community engagement. 

Handling the stakeholders

Chelsea notes that she had an advantage since the founding team was already convinced about the feasibility of having the community as one of the strategic levers that would grow the product, along with promotion and referrals. 

She fleshed out the expectations clearly. “There's always that conversation that needs to be had where you're defining why you're pursuing the pathways you're pursuing and how that is going to positively impact the business and the bottom line. It's a slower process, that’s not going to be an A to B type of conversion where community members join and infinite sessions get booked.”

We shared our observation that some founders who expect quantifiable value from the community efforts run out of steam in 6-8 months since it is a long-term game.

It's not about how many people are in the Facebook group or Slack group or at the event. It's about the meaningful connections you're able to cultivate and how you're able to communicate the brand message and get people aligned to that.

Expert Session’s goal is for their community to be a place where community members are helping each other. Their events this quarter will feature experts in categories or topics that are in high demand and would provide value to both the experts already in their community.  Attendees will have the opportunity to book a session with these featured experts if they want to learn more. 

Chelsea’s take on community

Moving to a more personal element of the discussion, we asked Chelsea how the future of community building would shape up. She emphasized focusing on ensuring that people walk away from your interactions feeling better than they came in.

Community is everywhere. It's not a forum where you go and members help answer each other's questions.

It's not just a Slack group. It's not just a one-time event. It's not just how prospective and current users engage in our social media channels.

It's everything. It's how that member feels after engaging  with us.

Any community builder’s goal is that potential members should walk away with a sense of satisfaction, thinking, "That was a great conversation." The positive association with Expert Session strengthens and Chelsea hopes they will then share that with someone close. 

We asked her what trends she anticipates over the next 2-3 years. One is the resurgence of offline events. Meeting in person creates more of an investment because it takes more time and money to do so. Therefore, the connections develop deeper.

Most people preferred in-person events and there are a lot of people that expressed that they have Slack community fatigue (which I even do too).

Conclusion

We decided that we’d end the session the way we began it, on a lighter note. So Chelsea told us what she’d advise her 18-year-old self.

I think it would be don't sweat so much about the set ladder that you put in place for yourself”

We all tend to treat milestones and achievements as set in stone, to be accomplished at a specific time, but real life has not worked out that way for Chelsea. She wishes her 18-year-old self would find value in being a generalist. We agreed with her because we advise younger folks to try their hands at everything as well.

Anyone around the world can explore and book sessions with a variety of experts on Expert Session. However, currently, only residents based in the US can join the platform as experts. Check out their website to connect with knowledgeable experts.

About Chelsea

Chelsea moved into community building gradually. She started in higher education administration (incidentally her degree is in that field), pivoting into tech in 2021 in customer success roles. She found those experiences helpful in her transition.

Chelsea is at an interesting stage of her career, having joined Expert Session as one of the early hires. Expert Session is a platform where people can find experts to give them 1-on-1 personalized guidance on myriad topics. The community element is critical to the product taking off. We focused this conversation on what she’s doing and learning at this exciting time.

We love to know how our community experts unwind, and Chelsea as it turns out loves to engage in the vibrant energy of New York, even doing touristy things. She initially moved to the city at the age of 18. She enjoys just exploring New York, finding new places to eat, new attractions, and new things to do, and trying to be a part of the communities that are outside of the digital space. As a remote worker, she ensures that she has time away from the screen and the web. Reach out to her on her LinkedIn or via Expert Session to learn about customer success and community building ;)

About LikeMinds

Done with experimenting and testing your community-building efforts? If you are ready to scale and bring the community within your app, instead of relying on 3rd party platforms, we are here to help you integrate community features in your app in just 15 minutes!!

LikeMinds elevates businesses in unlocking the true potential of their users through their in-app community and social network. Using LikeMinds, businesses achieve higher conversion and retention, by building custom community experiences in their existing platform unlocking community-led growth.

With LikeMinds, businesses get an easy-to-implement and highly scalable infrastructure with a fully customizable UI. All of this with a customization time of 3 days and a deployment time of 15 minutes.

Our Chat and Feed infra have pre-built widgets such as image carousels, PDF slides, short videos, polls, quizzes, events, forms, and more for user engagement and retention along with moderation capabilities to ensure frictionless community operations.

Supercharge your retention with in-app social features

Deploy customised features on top of chat and feed in 15 minutes using LikeMinds SDK.

Let's start!