Céline Riemenschneider: The Empathy-Led Community Leader from Canva

Ana Levidze
April 1, 2024
April 2, 2024

* Welcome to our series celebrating the incredible winners of the 2024 CMX Community Industry Awards! Each month, we connect with one of these outstanding individuals to explore their achievements and give space for the inspiring stories behind their success. This month, we're excited to introduce you to Céline Riemenschneider, the Best Executive Leader of Community Team of the Year!

Ever stumble onto a dream job that felt too good to be true? That's exactly what happened to Céline Riemenschneider, this year's winner of the Community Industry Award's Best Executive Leader of Community Team.

"A friend made me aware of a job posting for a Community Manager at Yelp for Frankfurt," Céline recalls. "I couldn't believe it at first! It sounded way too cool to be a real job, and I just had to apply." Little did she know, this "too-cool-to-be-true" job would become her launching pad. As Céline says, "The rest, as they say, is history!"

Yelp, known for its strong community focus, became Céline's "community school." Fast forward a few more years, and Céline found herself leading the Creator Community for Germany and Austria at Canva

So, how did Céline go from accidental community manager to award-winning leader? Well, it all has to do with her unique approach, centered around a core principle: empathy. And good news for CMX'ers –she details this secret weapon, her Empathy Framework, right here in this article. Read on to find out more!

On Finding Her Community Superpower

But before there was a formal "Empathy Framework," there was a defining moment for Céline. As she describes it, "There was a question that I had to answer for myself: 'What is MY super-power?'" This introspection came during an interaction with a community member. "The topic took up some emotional energy," she recalls, "but I care about each and every member. And I think this is what differentiates a standard community manager from a stellar one: Empathy!"

This realization, coupled with her deep-seated care for her community, became the cornerstone of Céline's approach.  "You have to feel empathy at all times for your members, to be in their shoes and understand what they need, to be able to tailor your efforts to their needs."  And there it was – the Empathy Framework!

The Empathy Framework by Céline Riemenschneider

Decoding Empathy Framework

Engage – Improving Loyalty and Contribution Through Engaging Activities

"Engagement is one of the key elements in a community manager's job," emphasizes Céline. It's the very heartbeat of a thriving community, reflecting the level of connection and participation among its members.  "It's part of our KPIs," she explains, "resonating the health of our community – how engaged our members are."

But how do you cultivate this engagement? Céline recommends utilizing a good mix of activities that cater to diverse interests and preferences:

  • Onboarding, Workshops & Social Calls: Engagement starts with a great first impression.  Céline prioritizes a thoughtful onboarding process to help new members feel comfortable and integrated.  Beyond onboarding, she uses workshops and casual social calls to foster connection. Think of it as creating a safe space for learning, sharing, and building relationships.
  • Building Bridges for Interaction: “Enabling member interactions is key," says Céline, "both online and offline when possible."  In the Canva community, this translates to dedicated regional sub-channels on Slack. These channels allow members to connect with others in their area, potentially leading to real-life meetups. Additionally, she facilitates 1-on-1 interactions, fostering a sense of belonging.
  • Gamified Experiences: A touch of fun can go a long way! Celine incorporates gamified experiences, using "fun games and challenges to spark creativity and competitiveness" within the community. This approach injects excitement and motivates participation, keeping members coming back for more.

Measure – Track Quality Contributions and the Health of Your Community by Setting the Right Metrics

"The challenge with communities," acknowledges Céline, "is that their value can sometimes be difficult to quantify." But with the right metrics and a clear understanding of your goals, you can unlock the power of measurement to assess your community's health.

In the Canva Creators program, their big focus is on expanding into non-English speaking markets. This is why Céline specifically leads the German & Austrian communities. Standard community metrics like member growth and engagement are important, alongside other key performance indicators (KPIs) that contribute to the program's growth.

This focus on template creation highlights a key aspect of measuring quality contributions. By tracking metrics that align with your community's goals, you gain valuable insights into how members are participating and the overall health of the space.

Personalize – For Your Messaging and Communication With Your Members to Be Authentic, Make Sure to Tailor It According to Each Member

Think about it – generic messages rarely resonate on a personal level.  But how do you personalize communication as your community grows?

"It can be a challenge to scale personalization," Céline acknowledges. However, she highlights the importance of persisting in this effort. She offers two practical strategies:

  • Strategic Follow-Ups: Céline emphasizes the importance of giving new members some time to "snoop around" and explore the community at their own pace. However, she also advocates for "following up fairly quickly afterwards 1-on-1." This personalized outreach demonstrates genuine interest and helps new members feel welcome and valued.
  • Honesty & Authenticity: Even automated messages can be personalized to some extent. "Make sure it's a good one, or be honest and mention it's automated," advises Céline. Even a simple acknowledgment of the automated nature, coupled with an invitation for further interaction, can go a long way in establishing trust and a sense of connection.

Advocates – Find Members That Would Be Great Ambassadors

Finding your community advocates is the best thing ever, with no surprise. But how do you identify them?

"It's all about recognizing specific member types," reveals Céline. Drawing on her experience at Yelp, she shares key groups to watch out for:

  • The Influencer: a member that maybe already has a great following and really loves your brand and community.
  • The Social Butterfly: extroverts who enjoy connecting with members & helping them, hosting their own events.
  • The Helper - Helps with member questions, and wants other members to feel welcome.
  • The Nerd - The first one to answer questions, eager for new things, likes to be the teacher’s pet.

Target – Know Exactly Who You Want to Target With Your Community

"In every community," acknowledges Céline, "we all have the same goal: to grow our member base. But achieving that growth hinges on defining who you're targeting." A clear understanding of your ideal members allows you to build a community with a focused purpose, avoiding the pitfall of becoming a sales channel.

"In the Canva Creators program, for example, we target graphic designers and Canva expert designers." This targeted approach allows the Canva team to tailor the community experience to a specific audience with shared interests and goals. By focusing on a well-defined target, they can attract members who are a perfect fit for the community and its value proposition.

Health – Make Sure to Check in on the Health of Your Community

"Maintaining a healthy community is crucial for fostering an engaged and active space," emphasizes Céline. Regular check-ins are essential to identify areas for improvement.  "We track key metrics at Canva," she shares, "like engagement levels and new member activation rates."  However, "honest feedback is equally important," she continues. Céline gathers this feedback through surveys, focus groups, and even 1-on-1 conversations to gain a deeper understanding of the community's health and identify areas where they can make positive changes.

You – The Health, the Advocates, and the Happiness of a Community All Come From You

The final element of the Empathy Framework focuses on "You," the Community Manager.  Just like any community member, your well-being is crucial. "The right Community Manager truly embodies the spirit of the community," emphasizes Céline. They empathize with members, understand their needs, and foster genuine connection.

"Being the heart of the community requires self-care," acknowledges Céline. The constant interactions can be draining, so how do you, as the Community Manager, maintain your own energy and avoid burnout? Celine offers some practical self-care tips:

  • Carve out time for yourself, especially if you are working remotely to have daily habits between focused work and focusing on you.
  • Set yourself tasks and work in a hyper-focused way on them. 
  • Set boundaries, where certain times and days are just for you and you are not constantly on your phone or laptop. Being available 24/7 is draining. 

The Empathy Advantage: Cultivating Communities That Thrive

Empathy isn't just a feel-good approach; it's a recipe for success. Communities nurtured with empathy become vibrant ecosystems of engagement, collaboration, and growth. So, take a page out of Céline's book. Embrace empathy, implement her framework, and watch your own online community grow! 

Ana Levidze
Community Content Manager
April 1, 2024
April 2, 2024

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