Member Spotlight: Jess Williams talks personas and journey mapping for community


(Sarah Hawk) #1

My two great passions are Community and UX, and the reason I love them is that they are the perfect blend of technology and psychology. I’m really excited about this member spotlight with @jesswlms because it gets even more meta, blending Community and UX!

But this isn’t about me, so let’s jump into it. Thanks Jess for sharing your time and knowledge.

Hawk: What type of community work do you get passionate about?

Jess: Like so many other community managers, I have worn many hats throughout the years. Right now I am most excited about in-depth member research (including the persona creation and journey mapping discussed below), building engagement strategies, and cultivating advisory/ambassador programs.

I’m a huge advocate for transparency, solid communication strategies and trusting your members to help lead your community to success. Facilitating empathy and trust is my “sweet spot” and what I strive to do in all my work.

Hawk: Can you briefly describe what user personas and journey mapping are?

Jess: User personas and journey maps are visual tools you create to better understand your community members and the experiences they have with your platform or product. Both tools center on the member’s needs and expectations and are created with comprehensive user data (interviews, analytics, surveys, etc). Personas and journey maps are often used in UX design and marketing, but I believe community professionals can greatly benefit from creating, promoting and referencing these tools.

Personas: A user persona shows the personal demographics, behaviors, values, motivations, and expectations of a large community segment condensed into a single fictitious individual. It’s used to facilitate real-world conversations around everything from design decisions to engagement programming. Personas are also vital components of journey maps. Formats vary greatly, but here are some examples.
From Christina Nghiem
From Paul Gokin
From Studio 27inc

Journey Maps: A journey map (also called an experience map) visually shows the journey a community member takes to reach specific business goals, but from the member’s perspective. It’s used to uncover goals, expectations, feelings, roadblocks, and pain-points along journey touchpoints and business requirements so that you can understand and improve the user experience. Again, formats can vary, but here are some examples:
From UX Mastery
From Adaptive Path
From UX Matters

Hawk: What are some of the benefits of this kind of work? How can these techniques be leveraged in community, and what do they help us to understand?

Jess: Personas and journey maps foster empathy within the organization. A stakeholder who is usually focused on the latest business requirements can have an incredible “ah-ha!” moment when viewing a persona for the first time. Walking in the shoes of a member through the journey map is also incredibly powerful. The process of creating personas and journey maps often uncovers hidden issues and helps clarify priorities. Empathetically evaluating the needs of the community helps gear everyone up for true engagement projects and programming.

Using clear visuals everyone can quickly understand, community professionals can speak on behalf of the community with clarity and confidence. For example:

  • Your marketing team wants to increase advertising and needs demographic data on the community. Instead of pulling age, gender and location from registration data, you could share personas (which already has this analytics data and much more!) to better target new members. It’s just easier to come up with ideas when you can see which social media outlets and websites “Sally” likes to visit.
  • Your products team is planning the Q4 roadmap and wants your top 2 priorities for the community. Rather than send them two bullet points, why not collaborate over a journey map that shows pain-points and gaps that need to be addressed? Priorities become much more clear when everyone is walking in the member’s shoes together.
  • Your boss is looking at analytics and trying to make sense of why participation in a new incentive program is falling. She calls you up for your initial thoughts on why members don’t seem interested. Why not look at the goals and expectations of your community to spot potential misalignment? You’ve already interviewed and surveyed members on their favorite types of incentives, so your persona and journey maps should show: a) how members feel about different types of rewards, b) the touchpoints and channels a member must go through when traversing your incentive programming. It’s easier to identify and convey potential opportunities or roadblocks in the program when you have clear visual tools and data to back up your initial thoughts on the matter.

Hawk: What kind of response do you get from the audience? Are people open to the benefits of this kind of research?

Jess: Organizations who are familiar with “user-centered design” will have no problem with this kind of approach and probably already have some version of these tools in place.

However, creating excitement around these types of research tools can be tricky if your org does not view the community experience as a priority. If they focus only on analytic data as a way to measure success, if they are not focused on true engagement and are not actively trying to build lasting relationships with the community, you may have trouble introducing this into the org. Simply put, if your members are just numbers, you’re facing an uphill battle.

If you’ve got a user experience designer on the team, they’ll probably be an advocate for this type of work (done right). Marketing professionals probably know how to create customer personas. Product managers may have encountered these and will see the value. Rally your supporters and maybe even form a cross-functional team to get the work done or at least be your sounding board.

Hawk: How would you propose introducing persona creation and journey mapping to an organization that has never done this before?

These tools are best introduced in the early stages of community building, especially before choosing a platform or building out engagement programming. However, that’s not always realistic and if your org is already on a path, you’ll need to treat these tools as great supplemental resources that can help shape future engagement and foster deeper community loyalty.

Your research is going to highlight problems and surface issues that people may not be willing or able to fix, so be aware of that and try to keep the bigger picture at the forefront. These tools should help foster empathy, not create discord.

Luckily, most people (especially busy stakeholders!) love infographics and appreciate seeing detailed information condensed into a pleasing visual. If you can explain the benefits while showing examples of what you’d like to create, that may be your best way to get the go-ahead. Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project:

  • Time! It takes time to gather the data, analyse it, design it, and then educate the org once it’s published. Be realistic - it won’t be done in a week.
  • Access to data and tools. Existing data will be great, but you’ll also need to survey and interview your members with your own customized questions.
  • Access to stakeholders, UX designers, product managers and staff who interact with the community. You’ll need to spend some time mapping out the actual business processes, etc. This is best done in a workshop format.
  • A way to create the graphics - either with a UX designer or on your own. (I haven’t tried this, but here’s a free persona creator tool)
  • A platform in which to share the personas and maps with your org. The tools are useless if people don’t know what they are, where they live, or how to use them. The best personas and journey maps are hung on office walls for all to see. Strive for that!

_**Hawk: [In your earlier post]( you say “Regardless of why you're creating it, a journey map must be a tool to help define strategy and set goals." Can you explain how you do that? How do you turn the results of your research into tactical or actionable outcomes?**_

Jess: Because personas and journey maps are tools to inform and foster empathy, it it’s not always obvious how to actually use them. That’s why it is critical to know what strategies these tools will support before you even start.

This will depend on where your org is in the community building process, what kinds of challenges you’re facing, and whether or not you can influence product development and design.

In a perfect world, personas and journey maps will be incredibly helpful when creating strategies around:

  • Content
  • Design interfaces
  • Features and tools
  • Programs
  • Marketing

Specifically for community professionals who are not working in design, marketing or product development, these tools can be useful in creating engagement strategies and programming.

Programming Example:
You’re working to increase the loyalty of your members who use your e-learning software by creating more engaging community programs.

You have two personas representing the two main segments of your e-learning community. The first persona, Sally, is a professional freelance consultant creating online classes for universities. Your second persona, Jacob, is an HR professional who creates occasional training for his company. Sally and Jacob come to your community to share tips about the software and get advice on creating great online educational experiences – but they have very different needs, goals, expectations and motivations.

Using the personas, you can propose two different programs tailored to fit Sally the Professional and Jacob the Amateur, rather than taking a one-program-fits-all approach which may not fit either segment.

Using the journey maps, you can precisely plan content and interactions that help Sally and Jacob work through the program in an engaging and rewarding way.

For example, perhaps Sally is a power user and has access to online tools because of her paid software subscription. Is this a frustrating roadblock for Jacob, who does not have a subscription? If so, how will his program differ and what channels must he follow on the journey map to be successful? Can he tap into a trial subscription normally offered later in the member’s journey? All of these touchpoints and incentives should already be very clearly laid out on a journey map and can help you easily form a plan of action for your new programs.

_**Hawk: If you could insert yourself into an animated movie, what character fits you best?**_

I think I’m a mix between Joy from “Inside Out” and Po from “KungFu Panda”. I can be endlessly (almost irritatingly) optimistic and determined to make things work. Like Po, I get “wonder-struck” quite often, enthusiastically learning as much as I can and geeking out about my favorite things in life. The scene where Po is seeing all the artifacts in the Sacred Hall of Warriors is pretty much how excited I get about a lot of stuff. Oh, and I will definitely do anything to get to the almond cookie jar. :wink:

Some Resources: (Note - most of these resources center on UX, product, business or marketing personas and journey maps - but it’s easy to apply the information to community)

  • Here’s a great little overview video on creating personas from UX Mastery.
  • This book by Tamara Adlin has some very practical step-by-step instructions on creating personas
  • An in-depth article about personas with comprehensive resources from Smashing Magazine.
  • Here’s an article from NN/g that breaks down one type of journey map. It can help to have guidance, but remember there is no -one-size-fits-all mapping technique.
  • A great blog post by Paul Boag that explains how to run a workshop to gather valuable information for journey mapping.

[27 March] What are you working on this week?
So, what are you working on?