ShootProof and inSided
User communities 13 min read

ShootProof: Launching a community during a pandemic

Ben Robinson • April 24, 2020

Episode 2 of The inSide Scoop is here! In today's episode we talk to Megan Huddleston, Community Manager at ShootProof, about the launch of their community. ShootProof wanted to get their community started as quickly as possible to ensure their photographers had a secure place to come together, especially during these difficult times.


So, grab a cup of coffee and give it a listen. For those who prefer to read rather than listen, you’ll find a transcript of our conversation here too.

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Dani Juson (00:07):

Hello and welcome to The inSide Scoop, brought to you by inSided. inSided builds customer success community platforms that drive customer engagement, product feedback and ideation and customer self service. The inSide Scoop aims to bring you the latest in thought leadership and industry insights around customer success, as well as everything you could possibly want to know about online communities. Today's episode of The inSide scoop is a Customer Spotlight. We caught up with Megan Huddleston, Community Manager at ShootProof. ShootProof provides online tools that help photographers share, sell and grow, and ShootProof is one of inSided's most recent customers. They actually launched their community in record time; expediting the process as a response to the COVID-19 situation, in order to support their customers better. Let's find out a bit more about ShootProof's customer community, how the launch went, and their experience with inSided.

Ben Robinson (01:18):

Thank you very much for joining us, Megan. We're here today to talk about ShootProof's new community on the inSided platform. It's really great to have you guys and, well, that was a quick turnaround, wasn't it?! How fast did you launch your community?!

Megan Huddleston (01:30):

Well, first thanks Ben, I am really excited to be here. I'm glad to talk to you today. And yes, it was a quick turn around! That wasn't the original intention. We've actually been working on this project for a few months, with the goal of launching in May—and when the international pandemic happened, we realized that our photographers needed a place quickly to be able to access resources and chat with each other and have a place to go online. So we expedited it by about a month.

Ben Robinson (02:06):

Oh, that's really good. That's brilliant. Was that something they came to you with? Could you see the need right away that they were like: "Come on guys, we really need this!" Or... How did you gauge that sort of sentiment among them?

Megan Huddleston (02:20):

They actually didn't know that this was coming. We had an existing Facebook group, and we saw an uptick in the interactions happening in that group and it was between that and “How can we respond?” We knew that we wanted to provide resources, and the best thing that we could do is give a single place to go—like a hub—for all of the resources. The conversation between the Marketing team and the Customer Success team was just like: "Let's make it the community and go fast." And so they came to me and they said, how fast can you move?!


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Ben Robinson (02:57):

And hopefully inSided helped you along the way there as well?!

Megan Huddleston (03:00):

Oh my goodness. Shane (ShootProof's CSM—ed) was absolutely crucial to it happening as quickly as it did.

Ben Robinson (03:05):

Brilliant. Are you happy so far with the launch?

Megan Huddleston (03:11):

Yes, we're really happy. We decided to use SSO authentication from our platform to the community. And so there were a few things along the way where we needed really quick answers and needed our dev team to talk to somebody on the inSided side, and it all went really smoothly. We were able to communicate easily. Yeah, it's been great.

Ben Robinson (03:36):

I'm really glad. So, going further—do you want to just briefly tell us exactly what ShootProof's mission is? What's your product? And specifically what your role is in the company?

Megan Huddleston (03:48):

Yes, sure. So ShootProof's mission is to be the global leader in software e-commerce, education, and productivity solutions that empower every photographer to create, manage and grow the business of their dreams. So it's a very big goal and we are well on our way. So ShootProof, the platform, provides online gallery and business solutions for photographers. ShootProof is a parent company with a growing family of brands. But for instance, ShootProof specifically—since that is who we launched the community for—the online gallery. So let's say you were to have family photos made and your photographer afterwards said: "Here's your link, go online and see your photos in a gallery." It's entirely possible that we would be hosting the gallery and you would never know—the photographer brands everything with their logo, their colors, their pricing. And hopefully you as the consumer would never know that we are potentially hosting that.

Ben Robinson (05:02):

So you're not only an online platform for photographers to showcase their work, but you're an eCommerce platform and people can buy products from you as well? Okay.

Megan Huddleston (05:15):

Yeah. We have partnerships with labs across the globe, actually, where photographers can say: "This is the lab I want to use, and here are the prices, and here's what I'm going to sell to my clients." And so they populate all of that and the clients only see what the photographer has created. It's really fantastic.

Ben Robinson (05:30):

That's really, really brilliant. And so what is your role specifically?

Megan Huddleston (05:36):

I am the Customer Community Manager.

Ben Robinson (05:38):

Perfect. Makes sense. So you guys obviously live and breathe photography yourselves? Is it also one of your passions or do you find lots of people in the company who are passionate about it?

Megan Huddleston (05:55):

Um, I would say 30% to 40% of our company are actually photographers. I am a photographer. So we have a really unique perspective, as a lot of us are consumers of the product that we sell and work on.

Ben Robinson (06:15):

So you’re practicing what you preach! You know, we do that at inSided too—we have our own community. So just going back a bit then, you talked about the Facebook group, but when was it that you really first decided to start the community itself and take it off that social media platform?

Megan Huddleston (06:34):

Yes. So, the Facebook community has been around longer than I've been at the company; at least five years, if not more than that. But in late 2019 we decided we needed more control over the customer experience and we wanted to bring more value to our users, and we saw the way to do that as having a private community on a custom platform.

Ben Robinson (06:58):

Right. And that was also, as you said, largely because you wanted to also store your own content on there, and let people see more of your own content. Right?

Megan Huddleston (07:08):

Right! We didn't really have a way to guide the user through any type of experience in the Facebook community, but we knew that if we had control over the way that a customer experienced the community, then we could bring a lot more value to that experience. So we wanted to be able to host our own content. We wanted to be able to use Single Sign On to authenticate. We do have a closed community, so in order to participate—liking, commenting or creating posts—you do have to log in with an active ShootProof account. It's publicly visible, so other photographers who aren't necessarily ShootProof users can benefit from it, but not participate in it.

Ben Robinson (07:52):

Okay, perfect. And how do you see your community coming into your overall strategy? What happened straight away after your first launch? I know this is a bit strange, given what's going on in the world—but yeah, I'd love to hear.

Megan Huddleston (08:07):

Yeah, well the overall strategy is that we want photographers who trust ShootProof with their business to have all of the tools they need in one place, which includes having tools to connect with each other. It's kind of a funny thing, but when you have 50 photographers in the room, you likely have 50 different business strategies. There's not a one-size-fits-all type of approach to running a photography business. So being able to have open conversations about what works, and encourage community over competition is really going to move photography forward as an industry. So in the midst of this launch, it's been really fantastic to hear photographers say: "All of my streams of income are gone. What are you doing to survive?" It's something that we didn't know was coming, but the conversations that are happening are so uplifting; they're encouraging. There's a lot of positivity around it and a lot of constructive conversation.

Ben Robinson (09:15):

That's fantastic. So the community is like the go-to place for talking about what's going on in the world at the moment, then, with photographers learning from each other on what to do?

Megan Huddleston (09:25):

Yes. So they're learning from each other and their experiences. We had a photographer who typed up his experience, bullet point by bullet point, on applying for all of the loans through the Small Business Association, all of the different programs that are currently available, but also what he's done just with his own expenses—to contact different creditors and things like that—to help mitigate some of the financial burden. And it was so helpful. It's been really, really interesting to see people share the way they have.

Ben Robinson (10:01):

Honestly, it's so uplifting for me to hear that the community is being used in that way already. You know, I just hope that other communities are being used like that as well. It's really good. So, more specifically around the platform, what made you guys choose inSided? You mentioned SSO, were there any other specific features that you were looking for?

Megan Huddleston (10:24):

Yes. So we are also launching an ideation platform; we thought that if we could host the two of those together, that would be a really useful thing—to have a central location for our customers to do multiple things. But honestly during our initial evaluation, we were really attracted to how the inSided team was so responsive and so knowledgeable. We had so many questions from so many different areas of our business—from Customer Success to Support to our Product team—looking at ideation and looking at business updates. And every question was met with an honest answer—whether it was positive or negative, it was honest. Whether it was a limitation of the software or something that was absolutely possible. And we've really been able to work hand in hand with the inSided team to get a couple of features that we really needed, and it's fantastic to see the team respond to me that way. And if something is outside of the current roadmap, that's been honestly communicated as well. And we really value that.

Ben Robinson (11:32):

So you appreciate the transparency and the openness. And I know our product guys work really hard to make sure that they're not sweeping anything under the rug, or not letting you guys know of anything. So that's really good to hear. I'm really interested around the ideation. So the idea is that you're also gonna use the community to collect feedback on your own product and help it to improve as well?

Megan Huddleston (11:56):

Yes. So, it was supposed to be a part of the initial launch, but since we pushed the launch up a month, we kind of came up with an MVP platform to launch with. So we are now working on what we're calling phase two, which includes ideation and product updates. So one of the really important things was the ability for us to pin an answer to someone's idea and have the response from our team be the first thing to show up at the top, which inSided created for us, and we LOVE it! So we're really excited to get that implemented and get our Product Managers on the platform. We are going to pre-populate it because we actually do have a backlog of ideas from our users. So pre-populating it in the next few weeks, getting the Product Managers trained and their moderation for those ideas and hopefully have it ready before the end of this quarter.

Ben Robinson (12:59):

Fantastic that you have a user base that are so engaged; they're already helping each other. I'm sure they're going to have lots of ideas for you.

Megan Huddleston (13:05):

They're already posting things. They're like, "Can we do this?!" And I'm like, "Hang tight!". I actually use the moderation labels to create a label for myself that's 'add to ideation' so that I make sure that the things that they've already added move into that area when it's publicly available.

Ben Robinson (13:26):

Good. So it also sounds like from a company point of view that you've got a lot of players in the community, whether it's Product, Customer Success, you know, so what would you say is the primary business goal of the community?

Megan Huddleston (13:39):

Primarily, alleviate some of the support load through peer-to-peer help—one of the things that really separates us in the photography industry and in the gallery spaces industry is that our support team answers the phone when our users call. So if we can alleviate some of the email questions they get, they can answer the phone more and they can talk to our users one-on-one. So, alleviate some of the support through peer-to-peer help and increase retention in our customers. We want the community to become 'their people'. We want them to say: "These are my people, and this is my space, and these people understand me," and create that inclusive environment where everyone is welcome and they say, "Well, I can't leave, because then I lose my people!"

Ben Robinson (14:31):

Exactly. Right. So you make the community this place where people want to come back essentially. Yeah, that's brilliant. Really good. So more into sort of the nitty gritty then, what would you say are the main KPIs that you're going to start tracking?

Megan Huddleston (14:48):

Yeah, right now since we are a week out since launch, we are currently tracking the total number of our customers that become active users. Since it's a closed community, we're not seeking community members across the internet. We are specifically marketing to our current users. So we're watching how many of our users become active users in the community and the monthly retention. Long term, we're going to definitely be tracking the content that is created by users versus the content created by internal team members in order to watch that critical mass.

Ben Robinson (15:31):

And you can then see the peer-to-peer support percentage on who's helping who and that can really help you guys and help take stress off support as well.

Megan Huddleston (15:41):

Yes.

Ben Robinson (15:42):

Good. Would you say you have any great tips on engagement strategies for other CSMs that are looking into community or thinking about it? Would you say go, go, go?! Or...

Megan Huddleston (15:53):

If you have an idea, try it. You never know what's going to work. You can have an idea and say: "Oh, I think that people will be attracted to this." But until you try it, you'll never know. So, I initially thought that I needed to have a really strict content calendar and were going to post this. And I've realized that just because I create a content calendar doesn't mean that people will be attracted to that content. But if I just have an idea and I post it, see how it goes. Yup. Don't be afraid to try things.

Ben Robinson (16:26):

Cool. It's good. Yeah, it's really good advice. So if you had to just describe the inSided <> ShootProof relationship so far in one word, what would it be?

Megan Huddleston (16:37):

Worth it! That's two words, but worth it.

Ben Robinson (16:40):

We can hyphenate it—it's fine! Right?!

Ben Robinson (16:45):

That's really good. Well I think that's really it. Thank you very much for taking the time today to answer our questions and we're so glad to have ShootProof as a customer. And we're really happy that not only could we help you speed things up, but you know, that sped things up for ultimately your end users, the photographers who rely on you, you know?

Megan Huddleston (17:06):

Yeah, having a space for photographers and connecting with photographers is really a passion of mine and I want to see these businesses succeed. So knowing that the partnership that we have with inSided is going to provide tools for all of these small business owners to provide for their families, their employees and help entrepreneurs see their vision through is just... that's what I love about it!

Ben Robinson (17:36):

That's awesome. Yeah. That's perfect. Thank you very much. It's been really great.

Dani Juson (17:52):

You've been listening to The inSide Scoop. Check out https://www.insided.com/webinars-podcasts for the show notes, and learn more about Customer Success communities.

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By Ben Robinson

Customer Success expert and writer at inSided. Sharing value-driven content that helps customers help themselves.

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