Carrie Melissa Jones is one of today’s top experts on creating thriving, online brand communities. Since the early 2000s, she has helped build communities with organizations including Google, Patreon, and the American Medical Association. In 2016, Salesforce named her one of three experts to follow in community management. We recently sat down for a brief interview. Here is some of our conversation.
Tell us your name and a little about yourself.
My name is Carrie Melissa Jones. I’m a community strategist, researcher, and consultant. As a kid, I was awkward and painfully shy. When I got to high school, my father gave me a hand-me-down computer and plugged it into a modem, giving me access to the worldwide web. Quickly, I discovered online communities and the power of finding a place where you belong—digitally or otherwise. Years later, the job title “community manager” came into popularity, and I realized that’s what I’d been doing all along. Now, I teach others how to do this ever more important work.
What exactly does your company do?
My company, Carrie Melissa Jones, LLC, helps people create community. Said differently, I work with individuals and teams to gather people critical to their success. My team offers strategic consulting, training, technical implementation support, and online learning. I’ve had the honor of advising organizations from the American Medical Association to Google to the Elizabeth Warren presidential campaign to Glossier in my career.
What were the biggest challenges you have faced, and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge I continue to face is helping business leaders shift their mindset from thinking of community as a “nice to have” to understanding that it’s table stakes for companies who aspire to exist in the next 20 years. And, no, that doesn’t mean they should launch a Facebook Group.
What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?
Don’t mix up your self-worth with your work. A lot of people will make a lot of assumptions about your value and character based on how you appear, your credentials (or lack thereof), and where you come from. You break that harmful cycle by refusing to do that to yourself. I wrestled with this lesson time and again while writing Building Brand Communities.
Who are your biggest influences and people you admire—and why?
Brené Brown has had a significant influence on my work. She teaches that vulnerability is the key to a joyful life. It’s also the key to building relationships, cementing community bonds, and creating trust. Through her work, she reminds others that we are all human and imperfect, which creates space and grace for healing in a very broken world. I’m also inspired by the kindness of my family from East Tennessee, the positive attitude of Dolly Parton, and the wisdom and poetry of Maya Angelou.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful toward who helped get you to where you are?
There are dozens of people who helped me get here (the acknowledgements section of my book is rather comprehensive!), but my coauthor, Charles Vogl, helped us not only complete a book that will change the world but has also advocated for me throughout the process. It makes an enormous difference to have an ally to your success.
What do you see as your greatest success in life?
Writing Building Brand Communities is the greatest success of my life so far. It distills what I’ve learned from 10-plus years of building communities online and offline, but it also shares wisdom from dozens of others who came before Charles and me, in addition to those who have worked alongside us.
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