EP 21: Turn “Members” into “Heroes” with Pantheon

Tessa Kriesel is the Developer Outreach Manager at Pantheon and is incredible at turning normal users into passionate advocates. We broke down how she is building, scaling and measuring the growth of her community while making sure she is giving value back to that community.

Tessa took a standalone slack group and transformed it into the “Pantheon Heroes” which focuses on elevating Pantheon’s community. She explained it’s all about relationships when it comes to developer outreach but building the platform for having that relationship is key since you can’t personally chat with 1000’s of people a day. Here is a breakdown of some of the most effective methods that Tessa used in her program to grow the community:

User Missions- Each user decides how they want to contribute with “missions”, each “mission” is based around a certain area and members can suggest new ones that don’t exist yet. This gives each member a “role” essentially, whereas before you might not know what to post about you now have a topic to help take the mental load off of contributing.

Points- They have gamified their contributions by offering points to people who contribute to that community. The community can then use these points to buy things like shirts, pantheon sites, access to the team and more.

Metrics- While there are many areas Tessa could optimize she focuses on Users, Missions, and Influence to drive meaningful results. The specific metrics she looks at for users are retention and participation in the Pantheon Heroes platform. For metrics around the missions they track the points-based system. Behind the scenes, they have values that associate to specific mission categories that help them better understand when missions are helping to grow revenue & retention on the Pantheon platform. The final area they optimize is Influence, they work to break down how valuable it is to Pantheon if a user posts on a blog, social media or elsewhere about them. They don’t care how many followers they have, per se, they care more about the engagement of your followers and audience.



[0:00:03.8] DA: Welcome to the C2C Podcast. I am your host, Derek Andersen. After holding my first event in 2010, I went on to create Startup Grind, a 400 chapter community based in over 100 countries. Along the way, I discovered the greatest marketing tool of all time, your customers. Yet, I couldn’t find anyone sharing how to build a community where people could experience your brand in person or at scale.

On this show, we talk with the brightest minds and companies on the planet about how to build customer to customer marketing strategies and create in person experiences for your brand and customer before your competitor does.

Today we’re talking to Tessa Kriesel who is the Developer Outreach Manager at Pantheon. Pantheon is a website operations platform for Drupal and WordPress. On the show, Tessa will share how she created the Pantheon heroes program for the community. Her point system that’s made her community incredibly active and engaged and the metrics she tracks to help increase revenue and retention. Take a listen.


[0:01:10.3] DA: Tessa, what was the catalyst that started the Pantheon community?

[0:01:14.3] TK: I'd say our catalyst was our very first community platform, Slack, which was started using about five months before I stared at Pantheon.

I do know that one of the main drivers with Slack was to create a space where our power users could communicate with one another to grow and evolve their use case on the Pantheon platform. Pantheon provides many different developer tools and resources. How each person decides to use them is entirely up to them.

The more the people can kind of network and talk to each other, the better and the more successful that they’ll be.

[0:01:38.0] DA: We use Slack as well at Startup Grind for all of our organizers and our power users. The thing that I think’s been great about Slack is sort of a catalyst for communities. You can just get going on it right away, right?

It also has this sort of ongoing stream of information but it’s just the idea of like, I want to do this when I hear that and I sort of get this feeling of like, somebody just decided to go out and do something and make something happen and so they setup Slack and got it going.

Is that kind of how it started or do you know if it was a different for you all?

[0:02:10.8] TK: Yeah, Slack was – it really was just kind of a way for all of these folks to be able to talk to each other. The nice thing about slack and kind of the thing about our community is that we’re very developer centric and so it is the one tool that everyone’s going to have on, well, most everyone, is going to have on anyways and that’s kind of one of the things that build the community is like grabbing the toolset that that person already has available to them and kind of slowly getting them introduced to that community.

Because if it’s not something that they’ve got in their day to day kind of subset tools then it’s very easy for that community to kind of disappear in their mind because it’s not front and center for them. Multitude of reasons there but also it’s really easy to just pick it up and start a community with it.

[0:02:49.2] DA: Talk to me about developer outreach. What does it mean to you or to the company?

[0:02:55.6] TK: Yeah, developer outreach, I think in general, in my opinion, what it means is it’s really all about relationships and kind of the relationships that you create. Developer outreach happens to be two words that are in my title of developer outreach manager and for me, it really fits into that like building that and growing and creating those kind of networks and those people that you spend that time with.

I think in terms of developer outreach, it can really apply to a number of different spaces like it can comply to a developer advocate who is giving a presentation in creating new relationships with that audience or it can apply to someone like myself who is in a role – which is my primary responsibility that is actually build and grow and measure the success of Pantheon’s external outreach programs.

In both worlds, we’re both building relationships by creating a platform where that can learn and grow within and in my opinion, I feel like that’s what developer outreach is, just being there and fostering those relationships.

[0:03:46.6] DA: You have the Pantheon Heroes program. Can you explain how it works and what it is exactly?

[0:03:51.7] TK: Yeah, I would absolutely love to talk about that. The Pantheon Heroes program is something that’s new for us, something that has been in the works for almost a year now and really super exciting and something that has kind of brought in and promoted to be able to build the Pantheon which is awesome. I don’t even know where to start because there’s so much I want to share about it but kind of starting at the beginning.

It didn’t really take me long to see that our users were really passionate and open source in general, they are just a lot of really passionate people developers, contributors, kind of anyone involved. That passion really spreads beyond them just talking about the platform. We had users who were giving meetup and conference presentations, writing blogpost, creating code examples, you know, sharing some of their knowledge and love for our platform out with the world and I felt that it was a void on our part that we were not embracing their contributions or supporting them to do more.

Of course we were answering questions or helping them or building relationships with them as we saw them, especially my team specifically as the developer relations team but not having a more formalized platform to do that, I felt was a void.

The Heroes program was built to do exactly that. The idea was that we could help evolve and grow the open source spaces that we exist in so that’s WordPress and Drupal. Also support and show appreciation to our users. Those who are really kind of contributing back also.

Our Heroes program is a multi-tier advocacy program where heroes can self-select missions that they want to contribute to or they can suggest their own missions based on areas of interest and excitement. Missions are essentially activities that a hero can get involved and it might be things liking, sharing or creating social posts, it might be writing code examples, delivering a conference presentation.

Contributing to technical documentation, you know, you kind of name it, it just depends on that need that we have or the need that the hero really wants to get involved in. Heroes are supported through each mission as well as appreciated through a points-based system. My goal while creating this program was it should also be very relationship driven. I’ve joined a few different programs, I’ve been a part of different communities, I’ve done some things in terms of like an advocacy angle. I didn’t always see that personal and that deep relationship and I felt that that was something that wanted.

I really wanted our program to be set aside from the others as I wanted to create those relationships. Although there is a kind of gamification angle to our point systems, there’s always a person who that they’re communicating with and that they’re working with and I think just about every one of our heroes knows me on almost a personal level just because we really strive to build those relationships, can use those points to purchase swag but also purchase kind of other benefits.

You want to have dinner with our CEO? Cool, that’s something you can do. However, we do try to provide benefits to all of our heroes through product reviews or professional development, creating social events, we have a lot of fun social events. Free Pantheon sites, access to our team and just any other custom benefits that we create or come up along the way. We have one hero who’s not interested in swag, he doesn’t care about public speaking classes.

He’s into the roadmap reviews but the thing that he really wanted is he really wanted to go to Layer Con and it was like cool, you did this awesome contribution for us like here is a Layer Con ticket that we bought for you just to show our appreciation for their contributions.

[0:06:51.1] DA: I love that this sort of organization of having it planned and structured but also the flexibility to really serve one to one I think is really powerful and you know, ultimately comes down to these are all individuals with individual needs and trying to help them and different people have different needs and sometimes it’s fit in the box and sometimes they don’t, right?

[0:07:11.0] TK: You're, absolutely, for sure.

[0:07:12.3] DA: How do you identify these people to become the heroes and what are common characteristics that they share?

[0:07:19.4] TK: Yeah, I think in the beginning, some of them kind of – you know, I can tell you right now that when I have been at Pantheon or when I had been at Pantheon for a few months, there was a few people that really stuck out but we really have three core requirements for the program and those are you must love open source and the open web, you must love helping others and you must love Pantheon.

The word love is where we kind of differentiate that. You can like open source, you can like helping others but you really need to love all of those things and be very passionate about them. Our founding group of heroes were actually asked to join the program and those invited were the ones that prove that they truly value the Pantheon platform. I guess those are the ones that really stuck out as I kind of evolved my relationship and role with Pantheon and started to meet people in the community.

Each of them had created their own blog post, those presentations are really done some of those example things I’ve mentioned on our platform already. Our founding heroes really helped us shape the program, they were very helpful in providing feedback and helping build out what we are at today.

Now that we’ve launched the program publicly, Pantheon users can self-select to join the program and so what they do is they complete an application when we’re processing those applications, we consider those three core requirements as well as their experience with the platform.

Other things that we consider is how they treat other people. At the end of the day, Pantheon is a really amazing culture and just in terms of like company culture, employee culture, everyone is just awesome and trustworthy and helpful and really nice and so, we wanted our heroes because they’re going to be contributing to these missions and in some ways, be a public facing person for Pantheon.

It was really important to us that their fields were representing us and that they were representing us in a positive way.

[0:08:54.7] DA: And ultimately, how do you measure the success of the outreach program?

[0:08:59.6] TK: So that’s actually been something I’m starting and been evolving but what we have landed on now is we’ve got a points-based system that’s awarded to our advocates or our heroes based on how long the task will take. So let’s say that if it is just a quick like retweet mission, they will get one point because anything that is less than five minutes they will get one single point for that. However if that social post is something that we really want to share.

For example, we were just nominated as one of the best workplaces. So we’ve got a social post around that and so that post might get a little more points because it is really important for us to share that. We are doing a lot of outreach and a lot of hiring right now and so that retweet is very valuable to us. So it is a point based system that is a little bit automated but also really taking into consideration the ROI or what the actual attribution number is around that actual mission. And how important that is to Pantheon as well as how long it takes that hero to actually complete that mission.

[0:09:51.1] DA: And what types of metrics do you look to grow? What are the core KPI’s that you are looking to grow?

[0:09:57.7] TK: Yeah, so for our advocacy program, which is the Pantheon Heroes Program, we look at three different metrics. The first one is members, how many advocates do we have and what does that actually look like. We are tracking things like retention and participation, how active are they, how much do they get involved in the community and what do they provide to the value of the program in our community as a whole.

The second one is around our missions. So within that kind of missions and metrics, we use that points-based systems that I referred to and like I said, behind the scenes we add some values to associate that specific mission category just depending on what it is we’re doing. We’ve also got some opportunity attribution numbers that we use behind the scenes like if someone is providing us a sales case study, is that more valuable than if someone provides us a conference presentation talk.

So just kind of using those values that we’ve got for that kind of sales retention and things like that to figure out which of these missions are more valuable and then we can utilize that point system externally and internally. So the hero C points is like a way for them to gain those points, to gamify and allow them to use them. We see it as a way and very easy to come up with metrics to be able to track their activity and how that’s helping Pantheon.

And then the final metric that we look at is influence and so the metric digs into their influence outside of our communities. So outside of anything that is Pantheon created. So if the hero posted something on our blog or social media, how valuable will that be for us. We don’t care about how many followers they have. We care more about the engagement of their followers and their audience. So if they create a blog post or they give a conference presentation.

And let us say that they are doing that maybe in the WordPress space, if most of their followers are inside of WordPress or even half of their followers are inside of WordPress and they are engaging with that post that is much more important to us than if they’ve got thousands and thousands of followers. So just utilizing those tools to be able to track their influence and what they are bringing outside of our communities.

[0:11:44.4] DA: We love to help really everyone across the whole spectrum. So I think people that have existing communities are going to get just a ton of insight out of the things you share about the community. I love to just switch here for a minute to communities that are just getting started and if I am just starting from scratch what do you think would be the first steps that you would take to get the community off the ground and get it going?

[0:12:09.8] TK: Yeah, I think at the end of the day you really have to decide what your reason is for creating that community to begin with. Is it to provide a helpful resource for users to gain knowledge from each other? Are you creating a level of trust between your product and your prospective users? So they come in and they see this thriving community and they are like, “I want to be a part of it.” Because who doesn’t want to be a part of a place that is full of great friends.

You know, what is really the reason that you want to build out that community? And start to think about that, I think beyond that is really evaluating what your community looks like from a user standpoint. For me, it was very developer focused and it still is but we want to make sure that we also are expanding to be beyond developers too but I am a developer myself or at least started out as a developer. And so for me, it was super easy to relate to them and so that makes it a little easier too.

So if you are focusing on one different type of kind of user, thinking about what they are doing in their day-to-day, what things that they’re interacting with, how they feel about things and we talk about Slack and how Slack is a part of a developer’s day-to-day most of the time and so thinking about things like that if you’re working with a content strategist, what are some tools that content strategists use and really trying to integrate that into your community.

I think that is probably like integrating with those tools. Also join a community of community creators, kind of difficult to say there but be a part of it. Like listening to this podcast and listening to other podcasts or being a part of other communities, community roundtable is a really good one. CMX offers a bunch of really awesome communities. I am in a Facebook group that is really great. Try to find those other communities that you can join and be a part of.

And really spend the time to get to know those people like we invited our founding heroes into the heroes program, it was very enlightening. I thought that there would be a lot of people that would really like, really I wouldn’t say expensive tech but like Airpods or iPads or like Xboxes kind of swag like that and it turns out they really don’t necessarily all care about that stuff. What all of them did truly care about was being a part of the product and a part of that product roadmap and providing vision and feedback on the product. So get to know your community members and what they actually say that they would enjoy doing.

[0:14:14.4] DA: These were such greate tips and community roundtable and CMX are great places for people to start. I think 10 years ago when we started building our community, I don’t know. It is just that nobody was really doing what we are doing. So for a few people, I was friends with them and I’ve reached out and try to get their help but there is so many resources now, right? There is so much out there and there is so much attention around the industry that you shouldn’t have to learn all of these mistakes on your own. Those are great tips. All right, what is a community, as we close here, tell us about a community that you admire that maybe we should follow or look into so we can learn more about what a great community looks like?

[0:14:54.7] TK: Yeah, I would say and this one is new to me but the amount of time that I have been exposed to it and I really love it is Indie Hackers. So I found out about Indie Hackers because Courtland, one of the founders was on an online conference that I attended last week called WorkSesh and so kind of curious like I have heard of Indie Hackers but I have never actually been to their website and their community is awesome.

So when you get there, the landing page is like their community forum. You can upvote different posts, you can communicate even reply to them but not only that there is a lot of other pieces where it is a really – it is very obvious that that website is community centric. You can go over and you can look at all the meetups that they have. So oftentimes I have seen a lot of organizations use meetup.com, which is a really great tool but it doesn’t export out well into a website.

And it is really hard to manage all the different meet ups and doing that. So it seems like they really got their meet ups listing down. I really like that you can submit articles. They’ve got articles from users so bringing in those community members that you’ve talked to and being able to actually see what your fellow users are writing about and what they care about. It is just awesome and it looks beautiful. Like what I would say is more of a front end dev, I really enjoyed the way that it looks and the way that it functions.


[0:16:05.3] DA: Thank you so much for listening. If you like the show, please leave a review wherever you listen to this. If you like to see more about how to create your own event community, go to bevylabs.com/pod. Again, that is bevylabs.com/pod.


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