October 3, 2021
7
 min read
Fellowship Showcase

How On Deck Taught Me Indispensable Skills for Building a Strong Community

Authors

Avatar icon
Arielle Nissenblatt
Head of Community
,
SquadCast
The post originally appeared on MikeWilner.com. It was republished with permission.

Authors

Avatar icon
Arielle Nissenblatt
Head of Community
,
SquadCast

Avatar icon
Arielle Nissenblatt
Head of Community
,
SquadCast

Investors

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Arielle Nissenblatt had always been a community builder, whether through her job as Community Manager at SquadCast or through EarBuds Podcast Collective, the podcast community she runs. ODCB helped Arielle learn the vocabulary of a community builder, use the software of a community builder, and absorb the knowledge of how to build community from others invested in it.

Investor's note

Falling into Podcasts 

When people first fall in love with a specific interest and build events, rituals, and gatherings of like minded individuals around it, it’s easy to miss what’s happening: community building. 

When I moved to Los Angeles, I slowly began to center my life around podcasts: I worked at a podcast studio in West LA, started a newsletter called EarBuds Podcast Collective, and started attending local events in the podcast space. Soon, I began putting on my own storytelling shows where a lineup of storytellers would present to a crowd followed by a cocktail party. 

What drew me to podcasts was their ability to give everyone a space to tell their story, leading to a massive variety in available content. When I first started, I stuck to three core podcasts, simply because there wasn't a great discovery platform for more. I started EarBuds Podcast Collective to address that need: a crowdsourced, weekly email where 5 podcasts are curated around a set theme, reaching over 5000 people per week.

Making it official: My career as a Community Manager 


SquadCast tackled a pattern I’d seen emerge in the podcast space: they were working to advance the podcast studio into the cloud. Following my work at a physical podcast studio and my newsletter, SquadCast felt like the perfect fit when I joined as Community Manager. 

Arielle creates a community among the three core audience types that Squadcast serves: Professional, Indie and, Enterprise Podcasters.


When I started at SquadCast in August 2020 I had never formally been trained in community building. Harry Duran, one of the advisors of SquadCast who had been participating in the On Deck No Code Fellowship, saw that On Deck had launched the Community Builders fellowship and recommended that I participate. 

I immediately recognized that On Deck was right up my alley: a set of high-quality speakers and a curated community and mentors that could answer my pressing questions as I started in the space. My primary goal at On Deck was to figure out how to quantify accomplishments of a community builder – What are we supposed to be measuring? What does success look like for a community? 

Right away I met community builders who’d been at it for a while. Simply being around them helped me to professionalize my approach towards building the community at SquadCast. One of the most valuable takeaways for me was learning the vocabulary of a community builder, using the software of a community builder, and absorbing the knowledge of how to build community from others invested in it.

Applying the skills & knowledge


When I joined SquadCast, I was tasked with managing the two different Facebook groups (one with 500 people that’d been deactivated a while back and building one from scratch that now has 1000 members), the testimonials page, and an exchange service where we matched ads and monetization opportunities with different podcasts. Through the Facebook groups, we were able to host events and office hours, but wanted to launch a smaller, more engaged community where we could service our core customers. 

I was inspired by On Deck’s high level of curation, and set a high bar for The Squad Pod community. I sent out a survey that asked: 

  • Do you use SquadCast? 
  • What does community mean to you? 
  • Are you interested in participating in this new community? 
  • Can you commit x number of hours a week to the community?

Once we reached a critical mass of applications, I set up a Zoom call with everyone that applied to talk about our goals, expectations, and how that aligned with SquadCast mission. 


Tapping into an evergreen source of growth 


The most impactful session for me was when Randall Kanna, the previous Head of Community at Gumroad, gave her Fireside Chat. She focused on why "authentic tweets and genuine interactions" are what drive results in building a real community on Twitter and answered a question that was always on my mind, “How do  I build reputation in a certain niche?” 

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m completely obsessed with podcasts. I’m always reading about the space -- current trends, new podcast deals, upcoming tools and software. I wanted to make a conscious switch from consumer to creator and start to share my own content and thoughts after spending four years in the space. 

When I joined the Fireside chat with Randall Kanna, I was expecting to receive a masterclass in how she grew their Circle community to over 3000 members or helped to launch Gumroad Creator School. Instead, Randall’s most impactful advice was about  how she used Twitter as a personal community building tool: “Learn to give away high-quality information for free while retaining a sense of mystery.” 

This idea gave me the strategy I needed to anchor my personal content creation. I started doing threads on Twitter sharing a mix between personal stories (How I grew my personal podcast, Counter Programming to 100k downloads during the pandemic) and actionable insights (How to leverage podcast recommendation newsletters to increase growth). Since starting, people have reached out to invite me to join podcasts and Clubhouse rooms, asking for permission to share it in a blog post and more. 

Right when I joined On Deck Community Builders, I was taken aback by the energy of the cohort, specifically in the introductions Slack channel. I loved the model of having each Fellow share a bullet list of asks and offers so that people could immediately get into a give-first mentality. 

The energy of the introductions also carried over into the programming of the Fellowship. Lais and Kelly did a great job setting expectations and sharing how we should navigate the program. Their goal was to ensure that everyone was “adequately whelmed,” ensuring people prioritize balance. 

Going forward as I build out the Squad Pod community, On Deck’s model has offered incredible guidance in how to create a vibrant, yet balanced community. I have already begun implementing some of the introduction practices and look forward to continuing to learn and work with the On Deck team. 


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