Customer Showcase February 2024: Ginger from Anaplan

Hello Vanilla Community! My name is Ginger Anderson, and I’m the Sr. Program Manager of Community/Content at Anaplan. I’m excited to be a guest on the blog today to take the opportunity to share more about our Community. We migrated to Vanilla in January 2023, and have over 80,000 members. We are just ending our fiscal year, and are proud to see over 6 million pageviews, over 3 million unique visits, and over 10,500 posts and comments this year!

With Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought it would be a good time to talk about my LOVE for content, and APPRECIATION for our top Community users and our programs associated with those topics. My job — in addition to managing our community and being the Vanilla “expert” — is to source blog articles and other content to keep our community fresh and learning opportunities plentiful.

Our community’s focus is to help our users find answers related to using Anaplan, share solutions, learn about how to best use our platform, and connect with other Anaplan users. In addition to discussion forums, the major way we do that is through our Community blog. In 2023, we published over 100 blogs and over 60 of those articles were from our external users (vs Anaplan employees). Last year for our blog, pageviews were up 27% year-over-year, visits up 37%, unique visits up 68%, and comments up over 60%. I know how hard it is to get people to contribute, so today I am sharing tips on how we achieve so much outside participation. Like many communities, this is where our top users come into play! 

Superuser programs

We have three main groups of “superusers”: 

  1. Community Bosses (our community superuser program): This group consists of our most engaged users and we have a points value they have to meet to be invited into this program. As a part of the “Boss” program, they are invited to give feedback on initiatives, invitations to special events, receive Anaplan swag, and given first pick at special content offerings and events.
  2. Certified Master Anaplanners (people who are certified in how to use Anaplan): These folks are our external experts! Several of them are also in the Boss program. Our Certified Master Anaplanners have gone through several levels of Anaplan training; this is the highest achievement. In order to re-certify each year, there are activities and training required — many of them related to our community.
  3. Internal experts: Our employees are another group of active contributors, and we couldn’t be successful without their participation! Many of them enjoy community interactions and sharing their knowledge to help our users succeed. We encourage certain teams to include it in their official annual goals, and are in the process of adding an internal Community Boss program to bring some gamification and fun to their work. 

Content offerings

Being a Community Boss or Certified Master Anaplanner requires a certain level of participation each year. We offer a variety of options to meet everyone’s preferred engagement style, and we know that these are all offerings our community members find a lot of value in. Here are our top five most popular content offerings:

  1. Content creation (blogs): A lot of people like to write, but don’t know what to write about! I always have an ongoing topic list available, or I jump on a call with them to learn more about them, what they are proud of or passionate about, and how they are using Anaplan. From there it’s easy to find something unique about that person, their story, a project they worked on, or specific knowledge they have and I encourage them to write about one of those things.
  2. Events: We offer opportunities to be on a panel, give a presentation, join a roundtable convo, etc. These events could be on new features, learning sessions, case studies, AMAs, or specific themes the community requests. A lot of times, we’ll match a superuser with an internal expert and have them host a learning session — having two different experiences/perspectives is helpful.
  3. Podcast: Our podcast episodes showcase the variety of talent in our ecosystem, and each unique career journey. No matter where some is in their professional life, we like to hear how they have evolved, lessons learned, and how they use Anaplan. 
  4. Video tutorials: Our superusers love to show off their work, or teach others tips and tricks. We have a few series, such as our ‘How I Built It’ series (show and tell) or ‘Did You Know?’ (short videos teaching an aspect of Anaplan).
  5. Community Challenges: Superusers can engage and receive points based on their participation level in our challenges, including the option to recap the challenge into an article/resource. Often times if our super users jump into one of our challenge discussions, others quickly follow.

Our superusers, combined with the above content offerings, are how we have such robust content variety! The above groups consist of over 300 people for our Community to tap into for content (and that doesn’t include the employees). We are a big company and community, so I’ll be the first to admit this makes it a bit easier for content sourcing. If you’re just getting started in community-building, start with the goal of 1-2 blogs a month. Find the most engaged people, someone with great knowledge of your product, or someone who has an interesting story/job. Approach them with an idea — it can be as simple as “would you answer a few questions about your experience with [idea/product]” — and turn that into an article.

The future

One of my goals is to make it easier for people to submit articles. Vanilla is not a content management platform and I don’t expect them to be! But I would love to see improved moderation capabilities added to the roadmap. Currently, we have the ability to turn on moderation for a category, but the only options are to approve/deny the post. I would like to be able to edit it before posting, and then schedule the post for publication. My goal before publishing an article is to make the author look as good as possible; this often means I do light editing and help with spelling and clarity.

As I look at content for our community in 2024, the goal isn’t more content. It’s diverse voices, creating additional ways for people to learn and share, and identifying topics that can help address the most common questions our support team deals with. 

Now I want to hear from you! What are you doing that’s successful? What haven’t I considered? Let’s chat — I’d love to set up “coffee/tea chats” with other Vanilla advocates to get to know you!

P.S. Happy Valentine's Day!

Comments

  • GingerAnderson
    GingerAnderson Vanilla Ice Cream

    @HollyR Love the micro-content initiative! Can't wait to see that unfold and follow your successes!

  • BrendanP
    BrendanP HLV Staff

    Really love these insights. We all know content is so key to the success of the community but you've outlined some of the key strategies you're leveraging to drive that content. Also having that content come from fellow community members provides that extra layer of authenticity that can be hard to match when it's only coming from the blog on the website.

    Also really interesting stats in terms of what you shared about the increased activity with the Blog, is there anything you think contributed to that specifically?

  • GingerAnderson
    GingerAnderson Vanilla Ice Cream

    @BrendanP Thanks for your comment!

    Regarding the blog activity, we did add the featured collections widget to the community homepage mid-year, to better showcase those articles, versus just showing it in the "announced" list. I also encourage the author to post it in our company LinkedIn group, share it on their socials and tag us, and if their company is willing, have their company page share the article too. All those things definitely help! We're seeing a steady increase in traffic coming to the community from LinkedIn.

  • I would like to be able to edit it before posting and then schedule the post for publication. My goal before publishing an article is to make the author look as good as possible; this often means I do light editing and help with spelling and clarity.

    @GingerAnderson - While we wait for features that can help achieve what you're looking for, what do you think about editing the post after it's published?

  • I also think the '3 Questions' approach is a wonderful idea. Please keep us in the loop!

  • GingerAnderson
    GingerAnderson Vanilla Ice Cream

    @PiperWilson Thanks for the reply! My current process involves having people send me their article for review in a Word doc, and then I send feedback/edits and create the post for them in a general community account, and I work on it there, and once published I just change the author. That way I don't have to rush my edits/changes, and if I need to run changes by them I don't have a live post out there. 😀

  • @GingerAnderson - That makes a lot of sense. One thing to note: if a member is subscribed to that category, the email notification of the new thread will show you as the author. When the members come to read the thread, they'll see the author you edited as the owner.

    That seems like a minor price to pay in order not to spoof a member.

  • GingerAnderson
    GingerAnderson Vanilla Ice Cream

    @PiperWilson Yep! I actually publish from an account called "Anaplan Community Blog" - so the alert says "Anaplan Community Blog published a post" and it's less misleading than have everything come from me. Then once someone clicks, they can see the true author. 😀