Office Hours: I’m the Head of Community Experience at Reddit. I’m Colleen Curtis. AMA!Featured

Hi everyone! Happy 2023, excited to virtually be here.

I’m Colleen Curtis and I’m the Head of Community Experience at Reddit.

Before joining Reddit in September ‘22, I was at Miro as their first Head of Community, scaled The Mom Project through their Seed Stage to Series C. In my first real career shot in Community, I built and scaled the Yelp Community program alongside some amazing folks from 2008-2017, ultimately finishing as their Global VP of International Community expansion.

During my downtime I enjoy walking with my dog (Jojo), reading (mostly fiction), being a mom (Isaac & Cyrus), sleeping, furniture thrifting and trying to be as good of a friend, daughter and sister as possible.

Ask me anything about fostering communities (any size!), careers in community, getting hired, remote collaboration, women in tech, working motherhood, community growth strategy, advising as a side hustle, or whatever you’d like – I’m here for it!

Thanks so much for joining us @colleencurtis!Elphas – please ask @colleencurtis your questions before Friday, January 6th. @colleencurtis may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hello @colleencurtis! Thank you for joining us!-How do YOU define 'community'?-What was the biggest challenge you had to learn as you not only scaled community, and companies, but also in your career?Thank you for your time!
Hi @madeleinelee! Thanks for these questions! Q: How do YOU define 'community'?I define Community as a collective of people that connect around a shared purpose and by doing so create value for themselves, each other and their greater good...together. Community can take many shapes, forms and sizes but at the heart of it the members must feel connected to and excited about something bigger than themselves and empowered to contribute in a way that increases the value within the system. Q: What was the biggest challenge you had to learn as you not only scaled community, and companies, but also in your career?Phew this sent me back through the archives of my career! The biggest challenge I had to overcome was being a "yes-person-people-pleaser-I-can-fix-anything-through-sheer-will-gal." When you grow up as a generalist and can flex into other areas, or are known as a "fixer" it can be very hard to say no. Learning to say no means you are able to say yes to what is really for you. This sounds overly simple, but it is so hard. My best advice in scaling communities and my career is learning how to get great at saying yes to the highest potential things and then being ok with "strategically underachieving" in things that don't require my A-game. This leveling of effort can propel you forward in ways you never thought possible, perfection is not a state of being and saying yes to everything means you missed out on being able to say yes to what might've really been the best thing.
How exciting, hiee Colleen! Hiba and I work together and she beams about you and your work together! Which community activations or rollout campaigns that you have been particularly proud of? What made them special? Also, what furniture find is on the top of your thrift wishlist? I actually have so many questions—thank you for taking the time for Office Hours. ❣️
Hi @Sonam! I am so jealous you get to work with the one and only Hiba! Since we are on the topic of The Mom Project (where I was lucky to work with Hiba!) my favorite activation there was the "Baby on Board" campaign: I loved most about this activation was that it was inspired by a community member (Mom Megan Nufer, featured in the article) and she had come to us with the idea. She was known to get things moving when action was needed and it was the spark we needed! We activated around her inspiration, quickly assembled pins for pregnant commuters and worked to call attention to the ways in which the CTA and fellow humans needed to acknowledge the struggles pregnant women face in something as ordinary as commuting. It ended up getting a lot of press and awareness for a very small investment (pins and an event to distribute one morning at the CTA stops). One key element was that we were able to position it as a bit of a call out to the CTA to do better in facilitating better etiquette on public transit. In fact they pulled up the launch of their own pins by a month due to the pressure. It stoked a great conversation and the star of the show was Megan and moms, not The Mom Project. When the Community can shine, that is the real winner. Furniture: I'm a sucker for mid-century modern and just scored a beautiful teak coffee table on one of my new favorite sites All Hers (in Austin right now): (women founded!)
Thanks, @colleencurtis for hosting an office hour!
Thank you for tuning in!
Hi @colleencurtis thanks for your openness to answer this AMA.- What are the absolute must-do's for any early stage startup that wants to build out a community around their brand?- What are great examples of CPG startups with strong communities?Thank you in advance!
Great questions! Must dos for early stage startup community thesis: what do your members care about? If you don't know, you don't have a community. Start there and the rest will follow. The best CPG community is Glossier, in my opinion. They've tapped into an intensely visual way for their community to add value for each other through their products and continue to invest in the experience of those people being able to interact, showcase, learn together. Sephora also has done a pretty good job of building community (they use Khoros), similar shared values around learning techniques of beauty, tutorials, product reviews, etc.
Hi Colleen! Thank you for being here and answering our questions. My questions are:- Are there any specific metrics used to measure community engagement? And tools? - Any community best practices or principles that guide retention? For some background, I’m building an open source security tool for crypto developers (seed stage). Devrel feels like a whole different beast, but hoping learn from the best :)
Hey Colleen! I had the privilege of working with you for just a tiny amount of time in early 2021 when I joined the RISE team at TMP. I'd love to hear some of your strategies for creating community engagement with a small following. Of course, the goal is to grow the following/audience, but how have you created value and engagement when the community is small?
Hi @cassiemanning - congrats on the recent promotion! I am copy/pasting from an answer above that I'll elaborate on: Must dos for early community thesis: what do your members care about? If you don't know, you don't have a community. Start there and the rest will follow. There's a big difference between audience and community. An audience can be grown with inputs only from the "parent" (the brand, organization, etc) -- a community is the result of empowering members to generate value that benefits them all. By taking a look at what members care about and then building paths for them to work towards what they care about together, this is where you can start to see the force multiplier effect. Community can facilitate larger followings but ensuring you have a strategy for community and audience are important, as well as not confusing the two. Good luck, love RISE!
Thanks, @colleencurtis, fabulous differentiation between audience and community. I appreciate you!
thanks for taking the time to conduct office hours here @colleencurtis! really appreciate it. my questions are: on community growthquality over quantity– at which point do you focus on either, or do you think they go hand-in-hand? how do you effectively and organically turn high quality members into mouthpieces/ advocates? on community metrics which engagement metrics do you tie to business metrics? what does the runway to business impact look like?
Hi Colleen, I'm the CEO + Founder of HUSSLUP. We are in the 8th month of our invite-only beta and have created a very supportive creative community of over 4K so we have gotten past the cold start problem. But I am trying to figure out how we can boost immediate value for our new and returning users. What levers or tools do you recommend to pinpoint successful initiatives we can launch? Thanks! H
Do you see any differences in creating co-ed vs single gender/womens' communities? Twitter used to feel like I was walking around a college dorm late a night, and could find new people to talk with--but now the hallways are not as full. I'm thiking of reactivating my reddit account for those serendipitous convos. Will I find them I wonder?
Yes, please come wander the halls of Reddit with us! I am continually amazed at the level of conversation between strangers, it's a really beautiful thing amidst the layers of the internet.
Hey @colleencurtis! Thanks for starting this AMA. What would you say is the most important KPI to track to measure the success of a community?
The million dollar question -- the North Star of Community! This is very specific to the community and the business, but getting to a shared understanding of the key metric that Community is responsible for within the business IS very important. This can look like Daily Active/Engaged Users or Daily Active/Engaged Contributors. This can be specific to community surfaces or for the product/platform as a whole. It's important that whatever the Community NSM is, that over time it is continually being assessed for it's contribution to the larger company goals (revenue, traffic, etc) without changing the NSM rapidly or without analysis. Great strategies in community come from consistency in this metric as a proxy for growing engagement and impact to the business.
Hi @colleencurtis - thank you for taking the time to chat! My question is how do you know whether a space/topic is ripe for a community - are there signals or characteristics, as an example? And conversely, are there situations where community-building isn't right for a particular brand or space and what are those characteristics? Lastly, I'd be curious to get your perspective on the wrong way to build community and the most common failure patterns you've seen. Thanks again!
Hi Colleen! Thanks so much for joining us. As an early in career professional, I was wondering if you could share with us the kind of professional growth path community has. I'd also love to know what companies you admire in their community efforts. Who is top of class in your mind?Thanks so much in advance!
Hi @colleencurtis! Thanks so much for joining :)I'm super curious how you set goals for your community team -- what does that process look like?
Just excited to be here. Thank you for time @colleencurtis
thank you for bringing the good vibes to this AMA! Happy you are here.
Hi @colleencurtis! Thanks for joining! I am currently building the first dating community that includes singles and non-singles. It's called Meet The Otter. When you start a community, what are the best practices you use? Are there any consistencies you've found in growing different communities that can be applied? Thank you!
Always down to learn from your expertise @colleencurtis! I'd love to hear your pros and cons of working for an early stage vs mature company as a community professional. As a bonus, how would you evaluate whether an early stage company is the right fit given how little is established about the company, the community, or the working culture by that point?
@EmilyLakin - I always love running into you on the internet, one of my fav Community pros! This is such a great question. Early stage Community: + You get to be the architect and blueprint from scratch (this is a pro if you are a true builder, of course!) + You really get a sense of original/founding members and what they need/want. You'll understand the problems deeply and be able to move nimbly to build through that with the community. At early stage you often know almost all the members. + ability to experiment and learn very quickly without a lot of friction. +Really get to be the face of the company/community, which is fun. - Community folks at an early stage company can often get "co-opted" to urgent initiatives because they are good at many things (marketing, etc), this means you may end up out of scope quite often if the org is not disciplined or you are not good at shaping the scope and keeping it steady amidst fluctuations in the business. - You are often a team of 1 so it can be lonely and hard to strategize plus execute simultaneously. Mature companies it's a bit of the inverse -- more resources, but also somewhat slower to move. More stability, but also often lots of work that needs to be redone or undone to promote growth within the community or create more scalable paths for growth. Whatever the size of the company, my #1 piece of advice is to understand what portion of your time will be spent educating the organization and executives on the value of community. I will no longer take roles where this is over 10% of my time (or team's time). If we are continuously questioning the value of community, we are not asking the right questions and I want to be with companies asking the right questions...we see this across company size, so it's a great place to start. Hope to catch up soon, Emily!
so excited to hear your responses to so many great questions, @colleencurtis. my questions are around starting communities:1. it seems everyone wants to start a community now, but with so many out there, how do you capture attention the attention of your target audience?2. shat should you aim for in terms of usage? is it DAU, or has that metric shifted with the amount of things fighting for your attention these days?tia!
How did you get started in your side hustle of advising? How are you finding new clients?
Hi @saraduke - thanks for asking this. I actually never set out to advise as a side hustle, however I started to receive a significant amount of inbound requests for my expertise and advice on Community strategy, building, etc. Over time Community continued to be a hot button topic, and in parallel I became more protective and selective about how I was spending my "free" time. We only have so much of it! While I continue to offer complimentary advising sessions to causes/companies/people I care about (many are non-profits) or am connected to -- but I now reserve 5-10 hours per month to advise on Community in a paid capacity. This allows companies to "pick my brain" without a bunch of friction, and also for me to be compensated for my time and expertise.I do not actively seek new clients, but I am a very natural networker and am visible in the space that I am most experienced in -- I spend a decent amount of time staying in touch with connections and helping others where I can, and it has resulted in many referrals. I am mostly connected through my network and through Linkedin. My biggest breakthrough was to connect my Calendly with a Stripe integration for payments (this is a premium feature/integration) and to send that link when approached. To book a slot the company/individual must pay up front. Whenever I am approached for "picking my brain" activities I send this link. Not everyone books and pays for my time, but many do. And those are the folks I prioritize in my 5-10 allotted paid hours. I've met many great companies and we can often cover a LOT of ground in 2-3 hours, sometimes even in an hour if it's very focused. I prefer advising to more long term consulting as I work full-time and have 2 small kids so I am not in a position to provide deliverables or consulting engagements. I also like to do other things with my life. The additional revenue stream is a nice bonus, but mostly I prefer to work with people and companies who value my time and expertise and this system has helped me stay in line with those values of mutual respect. Hope this was helpful!
What is the single most important tactic for community experience? What is your go-to tactic to rejuvenate a sense of community?
Hi @Hyperfaery! Q: What is the single most important tactic for community experience?A: Empowering members to create shared value for and with each other that aligns to their shared purpose. Any tactic built with this intention will likely succeed, but it's very important the value exchange be facilitated between users/members. Q: What is your go-to tactic to rejuvenate a sense of community?A: Same as above :) When users feel a shared sense of purpose and drive to create value for themselves and others, this is when they feel connected to the purpose and the sense of community can thrive.
Thanks @colleencurtis I'm inspired to learn about you and your career. I'm a leadership coach who has worked with solopreneurs for over a decade and recently pivoted to corporate coaching where I'm yet to build extensive community networks. I have some specific goals (like working with values-aligned leaders who want to develop themselves and their people in the areas where I excel - self awareness, emotional intelligence, strategic thinking, systems thinking, communication, stress resilience). And I have a sense of openness to possibilities I haven't yet thought of, in terms of how I might partner with other consultants, organisations, or teams on projects that extend my capacity and use my skills. I am moderately active on LinkedIN - connecting with people I am interested in, and posting on relevant topics (though I'd like to be more intentional about both).How would you recommend I approach building networks that can expand my thinking and lead to more opportunities for myself and my business?
Hi @colleencurtis! Thanks for doing an AMA on Elpha and sharing your knowledge with us. I wanted to ask about the recruiting process at Reddit - what would you say they were looking for in particular and how you matched up with the role?
hi there! My experience at Reddit was a direct result of maintaining my network and work friendships through the years. I was lucky enough to come work for a former colleague of mine at Yelp. My biggest advice is to maintain professional relationships in a genuine way through the years. I had wanted to work with this woman again but our timing was misaligned a few times -- finally when she joined Reddit and asked me to come as well, the timing was right! Reddit is a really special place and culture.
Thank you for this @colleencurtis !! I really like that and I've maintained my work relationships but in a more personal way, maybe I should also include some professional networking too! Hopefully I can keep upgrading in career like you have!