What Mean Girls taught us about building communities


When it comes to building your community, there are some lessons to learn from the movie Mean Girls. Algolia’s Alex Avritch looks to the Noughties classic to discover what the Plastics can teach us.



What Mean Girls taught us about community building. So, it’s only appropriate that I ask, please raise your hand if you have been personally victimized by Regina George? Show of hands? Cool. Yeah.

That question also helps me know who’s seen the movie Mean Girls. So, for those of you who haven’t, this will be a really great presentation about GIFs and women you don’t know about.

Content to count on

So, first, creating content that people can count on. We’ve heard that a lot today, content is queen, we all strive to create engaging content, hopefully. But how do you make sure that your content engine is running effectively?

So, comprehensive content calendar is something that we found at Algolia really, really helps us. We have a bunch of different teams trying to get information to a bunch of different people all at once. And we found that it really created redundancy in our content and overwhelmed our users with so many newsletters, our opt-out rate was kind of insane.

Knowing what has previously gone out in the past weeks kind of helps you create a cohesive story for what you can move forward with in the future and it’s a great way to know if you’re segmenting correctly or incorrectly. We found out that we were sending some developer-related content to people who are more on our e-commerce sales side and they were just like, “This is not for me, please don’t send me any more updates.”

Creating content cadence

Reliable content cadence. As humans, we all love patterns, they make us feel safe and warm and fuzzy. Creating a cadence that people can count on, really let people know, like when they’re going to hear about certain things, especially if they fall in between two segmentations. With that being said, lastly, no one wants to be ghosted.

It’s not fun to be ghosted, especially by a company, that hurts your feelings. So, people want to know, like every last Wednesday of the month, I’m going to get a cool newsletter in my inbox, hopefully. Let’s see. Oh, yeah. Utilizing the talent of your community. You’re all people who travel all the time, you probably wear multiple hats, you don’t know what time zone you’re in, so it’s really great to reach out to your community members and have them maybe write some content for you.

They have a user perspective that you don’t have and authenticity, especially with content, is what you really want to strive for. I’m just going to jump back really quick. Cool. Next up, be data-driven

Supporting and showcasing

Awesome support equals happy community. Yes, let’s see it. So for this, for myself, I’m not a developer so it was really important for me to dig into our support tickets and be like, “What are people talking about? What do I need to know about? What should I even do for a talk, for content?”

That was really key for me? Get involved with support when you can. I tried it. I think I opened up more support tickets than I answered because I was like, “Please help me. I don’t know what I’m talking about,”but it was great insight to our community.

Take time to celebrate your community. Highlight their projects. Who doesn’t love being appreciated? We all like seeing that our hard work is really being shown off by the people that were doing hard work for. Highlighting projects also helps inspire others to do other cool things. Sometimes people don’t know what they can do a search.

Someone did a cocktail recipe app and someone was like, “Oh, that’s super cool, I’m going to do something in the medical field.” I don’t know how those two were related, but they figured it out and they did something awesome.

Sending some love. The only thing that people love more than being appreciated is free stuff, specifically stickers, I have found. And through small thoughtful gifts, you can really show the people that are hustling for you that you’re hustling for them too.

Make connections and mind your language

Facilitating connections. That’s something that I found to be really, really important. As developer relations or community managers, our job is to bring people together and hopefully, you have more of a passion for bringing people together outside of profit. It’s because we love people and we want to see great people know other great people. So, make those connections.

And host events, bring people together. Be like, “Hey, what’s up? You guys are really great in Nebraska, here’s some other really cool people in Nebraska. Let’s go.”

Encouraging diversity. Yes, I’ll go back to that. Karen is very wise. Start internally. It’s really hard to have a community built around diversity if it’s not baked into your core values.

Knowing what your core values are as a company really helps you exude those when you’re out in the field. And second, address unconscious biases. Even though we try our best to really act with diverse and inclusive intentions in all that we do, it still slips through the cracks. And especially at Algolia, we found that we looked at our job recs. We didn’t have that inclusive language that we should have had. Stuff like penetrating the market.

Like maybe that wasn’t the best word to use. We actually found that changing our verbiage actually really helped bring in more diverse candidates. Also, check out the language of your tutorials and your documentation. Are you favoring one pronoun over another? We were, so we did something to change that.

Be visible. Be different. Be authentic

Reaching out to organizations. Reach out to organizations that aren’t necessarily in tech, do volunteer work, encourage others to do volunteer work.

Use your visibility around the world to spotlight people that are underrepresented. Don’t limit yourself to people that have access to the Internet, like we are about building communities. Be inclusive and create a safe space. For this educational content for all levels, don’t assume that everyone is coming in knowing what you know or they’re intermediate or expert, sometimes you need some very basic content.

And enlist moderators. People naturally want their community to be happy and healthy. So, it’s like the neighborhood watch. I don’t know who my neighborhood watches, but you know, I thank them for all that they do, they keep it hustling. Be conscious of different lifestyles. For us, that was our meetups, we’re all holding them at after 5:00 PM and we realized that that’s not conducive to people with kids or night jobs or classes, so, we held a brunch event called Hot Stacks to make sure that everyone could be included.

Moving on, do something different, and this is where I will leave you. I think we all fall into a trap of “This company did it this way, so we should do it this way.” But not all companies and all communities are the same, so not everything works for everybody. It’s okay to be inspired by someone and it should be encouraged to be inspired by other people.

But remember to create something that’s authentic to you. Challenge yourself to do something totally absurd like breakfast for dinner, I don’t know.

And talking about community really quick, I’m going to plug Algolia, some cool community stats for us. Nonprofit donations, you can see, we’re really big on our nonprofits. Hosted events, we’re at 1:30, I’m not going to read the rest, you can see them there, but the true MVP is coffee with 16,000 cups consumed and counting.

So with that being said, thank you. Enjoy.

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