What Tristan Lombard teaches us about community building

I've paid good attention to Tristan Lombard over the last year or so. What a lovely human!

I had the privilege of a 1-2-1 call with him not so long ago. It's the first time we've spoken and at lightning speed he shared a tonne of advice about community building.

So swept up in the conversation I didn't take notes. Which is funny, cos I'm a big note-taker. Maybe I should record these calls in the future (with permission, of course). ๐Ÿค”

Yet after the call I managed to scribble down parts of what was discussed. And I took a moment to reflect on his approach, not just from our call but from the time observing how he interacts with the global testing community, via his Community & Social Media Manager role at Testim (visit his LinkedIn and Twitter).

1. Get out there (virtually)

Share your intent to connect and engage with global communities. It takes bravery to say you wanna do something, particularly when you commit to do so in public. Observe, learn and share.

What if I get it wrong? What if I look stupid? What if I mess up? Well, I guess that's being human. A good community โ€“ one that works in collaboration with you โ€“ will pick you up and offer support no matter how loud your miraculous mistakes might sound.

Tristan invited me to a couple of Slack communities, including one for The Community Club. Itโ€™s been useful to observe how this community sets itself up for success.

2. Lift up underrepresented and marginalised folks

Tristan is the ultimate amplifier and beacon of light for underrepresented and marginalised folks. It's not a question of why this is important, I hope that's clear. It's more how often you default to this approach. The best communities are diverse, ultra inclusive and cultivate genuine belonging - the backbone of every great community.

3. Balance internal goals with community ambition

Marketing teams always want your content. Sales always want more leads. Product and Tech wanna know where to focus their efforts. It's a simplified story yet a familiar one for community managers who juggle multiple internal pressures alongside their (external) community.

Be aware of internal politics and how different teams align the role of the community to their context. Accept that you can't please everyone. It should always come back to the product. As Tristan puts it:

If you donโ€™t love the product or service then youโ€™ll struggle to build a community around it.

4. Find a meaningful and contextual way to measure success

Measuring the success of your community is not about vanity metrics. Anything with a total count is a good indicator of vanity, such as "number of sign ups". It's about engagement metrics. For example, how often individuals come back and respond/contribute to whatever's happening in the community.

And it's very easy to get caught up in vanity metrics using tools like Slack, Circle or Discourse. Just be mindful of that and use the data from these tools to contribute to an overall picture of the health of your community.

Ideally establish three values important to your community, values that you live and breath. And then align your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to those values.

Sometimes you'll need to tie the value of your role to a monetary value, particularly if your company is new to the community manager role. Perhaps itโ€™s about lead generation and revenue-per-quarter based on your community manager activities. For example, map out what might happen if more folks were engaged and an extra % signed up. Calculate what your community building activities mean for the life-time value of a customer.

5. Give back to a community with an AMA

Be willing to try new things and take a twist on popular approaches to virtual events. An Asking Me Anything (AMA) is very popular right now and video-based AMAs provide an excellent way for a community leader or new voice to shine. And it's often a catalyst for people to connect with each other.

Check out this brilliant AMA with Julia Pottinger. Tristan's introduction is wonderful and sets it all up for success:

  • He shares why he loves being a community manager and how grateful he is for the opportunity to do what he does

  • He reiterates the reasons why the community exists

  • He very much amplifies his guest

  • He mentions a product/service without getting all salesy and makes light of his marketing pitch. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Tools are the enablers of events right now, particularly with everything virtual. I see Toucan and Clubhouse doing the rounds and I'm interested to give both a try one day. There's also a nifty playbook for events which Tristan built. I can't exactly remember it so I'll need to ask him again (or maybe you could get in touch with him to find out).

6. Through adversity anything is possible

Tristan openly shares the many challenges he's faced throughout his life. He is someone who lifts up others during their difficult times and is proof that through adversity anything is possible.

Thanks for being an awesome human, Tristan! And long may I continue to learn from you. ๐Ÿ™Œ


And whilst you're here, how about joining the Testim Community to connect with other software quality and development fans, as well as Testim leaders.

Tristan also runs a meetup group for diverse leaders who use all test automation solutions.


Become part of this community building adventure


Photo of Kansas City, Mo by Darren Hibbs on Unsplash