We asked two members of the SoundCloud team to talk to us about product development and management of the platform in the context of culture and community. This is the second in that series of interviews. The first was with Matas Petrikas, a Product Manager for HTML5 apps. Here is Jami Welch, Community Manager, SoundCloud.
BizSpark: Does the input from individual users using the product create a community? Or, did the team look for a community to deliver them the product? In other words, is there a chicken and egg thing here? Does the product come first, or does the community?
Jami: At SoundCloud the product comes first, we know the main features and usage patterns that we want to develop. We might use the input from the users to decide on which variation of a particular feature is more likely to work better (A/B, multivariate tests) But that's one of our product development instruments, not modus operandi.
I'd agree with [what Matas has said], mostly feedback is used to identify pain points in the user experience, so that existing features can be refined. The community comes from people finding engaging ways to use the product and platform to reach others.
BizSpark: How do you tell the difference between a community user base’s appreciation for the media delivered by the product and the product itself? I am wondering if there is any way of tracking what people love about a product as differentiated from something as simple as “there’s great music here.”
Jami: We know that we can't be better than the sounds our creators put on the site, so some of our main challenges are: how we can accommodate as much great content as possible? how does a listener discover the content they would love to listen and share? The magic happens when we perform better than the user's expectations. We do measure which aspect of SoundCloud attracts users and encourages them to recommend us, using NPS survey's. So some users recommend us for the content, and others for the ease of use etc. We can then use this data to understand motivations and how well the product works for them.
BizSpark: How does community management work with product development, and are there certain systems or software you have in place to make that type of communication effective?
Jami: We are working very tightly with our community team. We use both software tools for that (Lighthouse, email, etc.) and regular personal syncs. On the products that are in very active development (public beta etc.) we do daily monitor on the user sentiment and feedback in relation to new features and product changes. In every product development iteration we have at least one bigger story that is prioritised from the community sentiment perspective. Also we do regular quarterly user surveys where we measure our NPS rating.
BizSpark: How do you identify a member of your community as an ambassador of your product, and do you use this type of “soft” marketing of Soundcloud?
Jami: We don't have a concrete definition of what makes a SoundCloud user an ambassador, or evangelist, but those that are active on site, and engage with us through social channels are often a close match.
I like to think we take quite an organic approach to cultivating the community. By providing a safe, welcoming environment where people feel able to express themselves freely, through natural word of mouth SoundCloud finds it's fans. The community team is a separate team from Marketing, with different goals.
That being said, we do have some more active programs running, where we assist and elevate users in creative and collaborate projects that involve sharing sound online.