Posts tagged community building
It’s a wrap! August

Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. August’s definitely been a month that pushed me out of my comfort zone multiple times. Having lived in five (you could even say six) countries, I’d say I’m highly aware of the needs and concerns of people with foreign nationalities. Thus, it’s rather surprising my latest project challenged me on multiple levels and did so due to cultural differences.

There are differences in how people from different countries communicate and how much they communicate. There are also differences in how other cultures approach work in general. The project I took on over the summer was with a team from Reykjavik. I now know what we consider the Wiener Gemütlichkeit (Viennese unhurriedness) might feel rather dramatic to Icelanders. One Icelandic sentence I learned but also heard way too often this past month was: “Þetta reddast!” It stands for, “It will work out okay.”

After working on Kickstarter’s side for two years, it was rather interesting to join a team as a direct consultant for a change. It’s not something I had intended to do after leaving Kickstarter, but the request came from within my personal network and I didn’t have anything else to do, so I thought why not.

Of course, once you’ve consulted hundreds of projects, you have a pretty good idea of what works, what doesn’t, what the common hurdles are, and why so many projects don’t meet the finish line. To spare you the details, we had all the red flags I could’ve thought of before going live, and also during the campaign. Retrospectively, it’s of little surprise I plucked several white hairs this past month.

Without going into much detail, but to give you one insight that was crucial to how this whole project felt to me, we didn’t have a working prototype until three days before the launch. A not-so small detail that I wasn’t made aware of when signing a collaboration contract.

It’s highly unlikely you can build a brand, a fan base, a loyal following, and eventually convert them into paying customers without a functioning product. To sum things up, there’s a difference between “everyone loving a concept,” an idea you share and having people hold your product, to them then immediately fetching their credit cards from their wallets because they’re actually willing to pay for it. I’d recommend everyone to check that and make sure you have chatted with enough people before trying to convince them to pay you.  

I’ve most certainly learned what sort of scenarios one should include in a contract. It’s crucial to include all potentials that could go wrong. As a freelancer, it’s much harder to put away financial and emotional hurdles. One doesn’t have anyone on the team to balance out instabilities, so one should make sure to minimize all potential risks. It’s also important to have a system in place to cheer oneself up. Luckily, I had a ticket to, an incredible conference in Brighton, that helped me recharge my batteries and write these line with a cool head. Out of a Viennese Café feeling all the Gemütlichkeit vibes.

To end on a positive note: I’m very proud SOS Kinderdorf and I made progress with the initiatives we’re working on, and that Matt Trinetti mentioned me in his newsletter (subscribe! It’s one of my favorites).

I’m still free for projects if you need help with something.

Now, onwards and upwards!

It’s a wrap! June

I kicked off June with a second workshop with the team at SOS Kinderdorf. We’ve discussed community building for their various activities. As transparency must be at the core for any business that wants to build a community, it was rather challenging to figure out a strategy for community building initiatives while making sure the privacy of SOS Kinderdorf's protégés remains guaranteed. 

Nowadays, and with the rise of the social web, many people want to have a full understanding of how different systems work and they want to understand in more detail what happens to their money. While the social web has given everyone the tools to emotionalize people and build a community, people are being held accountable and must remain open and transparent if they want to win trust of donors.

In my opinion, having to be transparent has paved the way for independent makers and creators, and it’s what makes working with Kickstarter creators so enjoyable. In June, I organized an event for fashion creators. I also helped Matriarch, I Lock It, and Triggers to hit their goals on Kickstarter.

Furthermore, I was honored to participate in Stephan’s Kardos Creativity Gym as a speaker to a small group of talented students at the University of Economics in Vienna. 

One of my favorite community building initiatives was Joe Edelman’s Soundtrack Dinner. Joe created a playlist and invited everyone to come up with a tapas dish to go with the song he chose. For one hour, we listened to the songs, while eating. Talking wasn’t allowed. The sensory feeling one gets from focusing all your energy on your ears and taste buds was pretty much unforgettable, and I’d recommend everyone to try this out at home too! It was, let me tell you, bloody damn amazing!

Let’s see what July brings!

It’s a wrap! April

One day, just like that, I received an email from the SOS Kinderdorf Austria asking whether I’d like to talk to them about community building. As I said when I summarized my February, you can only do what you can fit into your week, so focusing all my time and energy working with Kickstarter these days, I would have passed this challenge to someone else. However, given the type of work SOS Kinderdorf does, I thought they might benefit from my observations on why certain Kickstarter creators succeed and others don’t when trying to make their projects come to life, as well as how I’ve seen online communities evolve in the past couple of years. I will write a more in-depth report once we have some success stories to show. 

The 1st of April marked one year of me representing Kickstarter in DE, AT, and NL. I’m incredibly proud of having worked with the team for so long. I would have never expected for this to become such a long-term collaboration, but once your values and the values of a company align so well, it wouldn’t make much sense to do anything else. 

In the past, I’ve often switched between jobs when I saw my goals there as accomplished or thought my work could benefit another company more, but with Kickstarter, there has been a continuous supply of new challenges. 

On one hand, not as many people in Europe know what Kickstarter is, and the far bigger challenge is the preoccupations I often face when talking about Kickstarter with people I meet: to many, Kickstarter is a platform where you ask for money and people, an anonymous crowd, throws it at you. From my perspective on the other hand, Kickstarter works because successful creators are genuine with their output and want to share their creative work with others. Creativity in a professional sense is often only possible when there is the necessary funding and so, yes, Kickstarter is a tool to help raise money. But overall, it’s more about giving and not so much about getting. If anything, it’s a platform that connects people so that both parties benefit: the supporter gets a piece of the creation the creative produced. 

What I consider my biggest challenge at this point is to clearly communicate the values the team in Greenpoint and I share, and how these observations can be translated into successful campaigning. To me personally, Kickstarter is far more about social mobility than it is about making the big buck. I’ve touched upon this subject in an interview with The Apartment that will be released in May.

If you need help with your Kickstarter project or would like me to come to talk to your community at a local coworking space or a creative university, please let me know. 

smarterGerman – Community building for an entrepreneurial German teacher

When you think of teachers, do you think of them as entrepreneurs? As people who need a website, who have an online shop and who have the need to build a community? Usually not, I am assuming, which is why I would love to introduce you to one of my clients: a teacher and someone who also does all the things mentioned above. 

Michael Schmitz teaches German, smarterGerman to be precise. He spent ten years tinkering with learning and teaching systems to bring his students, starting with no knowledge of German, to succeed at the B1 exam in only two months.

When Michael's frustration with conventional school curriculum hit the ceiling, he quit his job and decided to start his own company. I say company because Michael does not only give private lessons, he has used these forms of teaching to create a complete German grammar course for A1 to B1, showcasing some of his videos on Youtube and selling the compiled courses and extra material through his website

Michael initially approached me because he was looking for someone to take care of his social media channels. While talking about the company and his aims, he also mentioned his sales targets. While I believe that social media is important for small businesses, I wouldn’t want to make any promises to reach a number of sales with just a few tweets, Facebook or Instagram updates. 

Word of mouth is the key to good marketing and increase in sales. In order to tap into that you must listen to your clients needs, their feedback and engage them in a way so that they will tell their friends who in turn will tell their friends and so on.

I offered to look over smarterGerman's website; clarify the structure, update the copy and look over every written communication with existing customers. 

As a teacher you’re obviously interested in people learning and understanding the subject, which, if you are an online business should be reflected throughout your entire communication strategy. When you want to teach people something, your communication must go beyond the point of sale. You must show interest in your customer's success at mastering the knowledge. “Thank you for buying from us” is not enough if you want to build a successful relationship with your clients.

I suggested getting in touch with all past clients, collecting references and staying in touch even after they had succeeded in their exams. We had an amazing feedback and for their insights, smarterGerman’s clients will soon receive a little present to put under they Christmas trees too. 

Getting in touch with past clients enabled us to recognise the strengths of smarterGerman and the reasons why people decided to learn German with Michael in the first place, and so we were able to identify future business potential, define smarterGerman's target group and thus create a social media strategy that truly adds value to people’s lives. A strategy that is not just ‘noise’ but which also caters to the very specific needs of the people who move to Germany to make the country their home. 

smarterGerman’s private lessons aren’t cheap; they start at € 4.099,-. It’s a fair price given that Michael focuses all his energy on one person at a time. Looking over smarterGerman's website, I recognised that the main focus of his web presence was the price; a justification of it and not a celebration of the people reaching B1 level. Those people who are not rich or famous but who simply want to attain residency status and integrate into the local community – something which potential clients can easily identify with. 

It was a wonderful experience to work with Michael. I really loved his emails reporting on the rise of the website’s traffic and the increase to sales shortly after the updates went public. 

If you are looking for someone who can help you create retaining customer relations, please do get in touch. I am available to work on new projects after the Christmas break. Email: