How Miro's successful product-led community gets shaped by a product people love

An interview with Marina Perminova, Online Community Manager at Miro

Hi there! 👋 Today we’d like to share with you an interview with Marina Perminova, the Online Community Manager over at Miro.

Marina explains how Miro’s community got started and how she got to run it. She shares their methodology for involving the community when it comes to shaping the product, delivering support, and how it aids the creation of marketing assets.

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About Miro and Marina

Miro is an online collaborative whiteboarding platform that enables distributed teams to work together effectively. Applications range from brainstorming with digital sticky notes, to planning and managing full agile workflows. It’s a fast-growing company that is obviously thriving even more due to the whole COVID situation. They raised a significant amount of funding this year and have more than 10 million users all over the world.

Marina is Online Community Manager at Miro. She started out as a Customer Support Representative but was so passionate about helping people and showed such an amazing level of empathy, that she got the responsibility to lead the community efforts.

At what stage of the company did you start an online community and why?

We’ve been thinking about building the community for quite some time. Most obviously after our rebranding from RealtimeBoard to Miro in March, 2019. We really wanted to empower our users, our customers, our partners, and ourselves to do incredible things, learn from each other, and be even more successful with Miro.

Around that rebranding period, we also started to plan the Distributed 2019 event, our annual virtual conference on visual collaboration and remote work, and we gathered the participants in a separate Slack workspace. It was meant for introductions, announcements, and some early discussions before the event. This catalyzed our efforts of bringing people together a bit.

Aside from the marketing side of our company, we realized that bringing our users together from a support perspective could be really beneficial. During my work as a support agent, we realized it would be great to talk to more people to understand their use cases and also create a safe place for them where they could share use cases and help each other out. For the company that meant a potential way to scale our support efforts a bit better.

We eventually united as both marketing and support to start this bigger initiative of building the community. We started researching and comparing online community platforms that we could use.

I had my own realizations on creating a space for our users to share their experiences, but to be honest, I didn’t even know it was called ‘community’

In that process, my manager also saw my passion for people, that’s why they handed me the responsibility to get it off the ground. I had my own realizations on creating a space for our users to share their experiences, but to be honest, I didn’t even know it was called ‘community’ :) It eventually opened a whole new world to me.

So, Miro online community was publicly launched in March, 2020, and I really enjoy building the Miro community, talking to customers, creating this space for them. It’s great to be sort of in-between customers and the business, representing the voice of the community.

What platform(s) do you use to run your online community? What are the pros and cons?

We briefly used Slack as a way to bring people together for Distributed 2019, but then started researching for more dedicated online community platforms with a robust set of tools.

We eventually decided to go with InSided. We had a lot of different requirements coming from different stakeholders internally, and we eventually went for InSided because they could cover most of them. They have quite a simple and intuitive interface, it’s very much customizable to unique community needs and branding, and covers some fundamental parts like moderation tools, gamification, SSO, and integrations that we wanted to have with Zendesk, Salesforce, and Zapier.

I don’t see major cons at this point. Just a note – sometimes HTML/CSS skills are required to customize something – it may be a drawback for less tech-savvy people.

How do people find out about the community? How do you make sure it keeps growing?

A decent part is organic. Because of the nature of our product and how you can apply it, people are looking for solutions, best practices, different use cases, or inspiration from others.

Of course, we do put effort into bringing the community to the attention of people through a lot of channels. We promote it through the product itself in the special guide on the board that points users to all the resources we have. It’s also promoted on our website, help center, and through our newsletters and social channels.

How do you keep your community lively and positive?

First things first - we should understand what content our community members actually want or need. And one of the best ways to go about that is by simply asking them :) Just ask what they find most engaging or interesting, what they prefer to do in the community, and what their vision on the perfect online community is. So, community discussions, surveys, polls, or interviews can do the trick.

Sometimes, other Miro employees throw in a question or spark a discussion. But what I found out is that most members love a great discussion topic initiated by other community members. Not just a question, but something where people share their own experience, and then end it with an open question to the whole community.

For me, it’s really important to see and understand what things really engage our members, and then make sure these interactions are highlighted in the right places and invite others to join the conversation.

I then flag great community content for the marketing team, so we can potentially repurpose it for customer stories, case studies, or other marketing efforts outside of the community.

I keep track of those successful threads. If this thread has a lot of use cases and a lot of people are sharing their experiences I then flag such promising community content for the marketing team, so we can potentially repurpose it for customer stories, case studies, or other marketing efforts outside of the community.

The product team might discover new pains or needs from our customer base, which I then sometimes use to pose a question in the community to learn from it and drive engagement at the same time.

It also comes from really knowing the product. I’m an avid user myself and have a tight relation with product development. The product team might discover new pains or needs from our customer base, which I then sometimes use to pose a question in the community to learn from it and drive engagement at the same time. That tends to work quite well.

As for the atmosphere in the community, it is mainly positive. People are welcoming and easily approachable. We call our online community a safe space for all Miro users, and from the very beginning, we have the Community Guidelines and expect members to adhere to them.

I think the general success of our community is thanks to the product dimension. If people love the product, they tend to be active in the community, and they want to give back. And then having the chance to be close to the people that created the product they love, is really special and enough of an incentive. No matter how great we would do from a community perspective, if people wouldn’t like the product at all, I guess there would be no chance for us getting such loyal community members.

How do you involve your community in improving your product?

We involve our community members quite a lot! Within the community itself, we have an ideation section called Wish List. That’s the place where community members submit their ideas and upvote them. So everyone in the community has a chance to help make Miro better by sharing their ideas for product improvements.

Thus, we have a rating of top-voted features. I highlight those to the product team on a monthly basis. We use a benchmark now to determine whether an idea is popular. That threshold is currently set at 50+ votes. If those ideas align with Miro’s strategy and vision for the product, they may be added to the backlog – we don’t promise that though.

To fasten the process of sifting through ideas, we share guidelines on how to effectively submit an idea to the Wish List. We have special statuses for those ideas as well, so members stay informed. We just distinguish ‘ideas’ and ‘delivered’ currently, which at least shows the things we’ve shipped based on the community’s input.

The product team can browse the online community on their own to find feedback on the functionality we want to improve or update, and to find relevant users for research/interview/beta.

Also, we leverage the community to get feedback on our new features – there’s a connection between our changelog and a relevant community thread with the announcement. It allows us to understand if our users are happy with the update/release and fix minor issues that people report.

In any case, this wish list and the whole online community is one of the most valuable channels of product feedback.

One piece of advice you would give to anyone that is building out an early community around a software startup:

Good question! I’d say that if you want to start a community, you should definitely understand why you are doing this, what success looks like and what value it should bring to the company/business/product.

Your favorite tool that helps you better run your community, if any?

Apart from the platform we picked, I heavily use Miro (of course:)). With our public editing feature we can easily embed boards in the community threads and members can contribute. Additionally, I do brainstorming, planning, analytics, and almost all documentation in Miro.

Your favorite article or book as a community enthusiast?

I really like Get Together, a book by Bailey Richardson – it’s not particularly about online communities but in general about the ‘sense of belonging’ which is critical in whatever community you’re creating. It’s definitely one I revisit from time to time and that helps me navigate while we build out our community.

For newcomers in the community space, I’d recommend checking out the CMX blog, Feverbee blog, and Vanilla webinars.

Where can people find out more about you?

The easiest way to find me is through LinkedIn. I’m always happy to connect and exchange any experiences on this topic.

Thanks for reading this issue 🙏

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✌️ Cheers,

Gino, Frank, Steven, Lennart