What is the purpose of an online brand community, and how does it differ from a social platform or an affiliate program?
One of the biggest challenges faced by brands is the trap of creating a place where people come, grab a perk for joining, and then disappear. In addition, many brands suffer from a lack of cross-functionality, leading to lost insights and lower engagement.
In today’s episode of Community Powered Marketing, Sue sits down with Amanda Allbee of Grubhub to discuss the initiatives they’ve implemented to address these issues and create a thriving and engaged community among Grubhub’s diners.
Hear what went into Grubhub’s decision to build an online brand community that went beyond a simple social platform.
You’ll discover how they’ve been able to create a powerful collaborative and cross-functional environment that combines the expertise of multiple teams and technologies.
You’ll find out why nurturing deeper relationships with your customers and acting on their feedback has become table stakes when it comes to audience engagement and community building.
You’ll also learn how the community you create with your customers can help support forward-thinking initiatives that benefit others in meaningful ways.
Join Sue and Amanda as they discuss the power of an engaged and responsive community and how it can help your brand grow.
Full Transcription: Grubhub’s “Brand Loyalists” Strategy Breakdown ft: Amanda Allbee
Amanda: “… Listening to your community and collecting those insights is table stakes, and that’s why community management exists and that is another huge function of my role. But what Vesta and this community gave us the opportunity to do was to tap into this super valuable subset of our diners and learn from them how we can turn other diners into brand loyalists and just get everyone on their level, like our dream is to have everyone be as engaged as our tastemakers and just opening that feedback loop for them, has been instrumental, just in informing strategy and making optimizations..”
Sue: You are listening to Community Powered Marketing podcast – the podcast dedicated to empowering marketers to unlock the sales potential of their audience through an online brand community. At a time of seismic change, we’ve seen community become the single most important tool to drive customer acquisition, retention, and sales. And companies that understand how to leverage community-powered marketing are really uniquely positioned to disrupt their industry and dominate their market. So, each week, we will help you discover how to cultivate your community, mobilize your brand evangelists and how to build a game-changing relationship with your most valuable consumers. Your audience is waiting.
I’m your host Sue Frech, CEO of Vesta, the single most powerful all-in-one online community building software for brands.
Sue: I am so excited for our guest today. We have Amanda Allbee from Grubhub. Amanda is on the content marketing team, which is part of a larger brand team at Grubhub. She leads strategy for social, content, and community. Amanda will share today the difference between an online brand-owned community and her Social Media Communities like Instagram and Twitter. She will also share advice for getting started and how you can leverage the community to drive the word of mouth advocacy and bring new customers to your brand. Please join me in welcoming Amanda.
Sue: Thanks for joining us for another episode of Community Powered Marketing. I have Amanda Allbee here from Grubhub. Amanda, “thank you so much for joining us today”.
Amanda: Yeah, thank you so much for having me, Sue.
Sue: So, I would love for you to share for the audience just a little bit more about your role. I know you touch and do a lot of things at Grubhub if you could share that.
Amanda: Yeah, absolutely, so I am on the content team at Grubhub and the structure there is, we sit on a larger brand team, but our primary focus is social content and community. We have a lot of influence for campaigns running, cultural impact programs, you know, digital experiential programs among many other things. Social teams specifically like, you know, wear a lot of hats, but first and foremost, I am the community manager for both of our brands, and those are Grubhub and Seamless. So primarily my day-to-day is just, you know, living in our channels, engaging with our diners, listening to them, collecting insights that we use for content ideation and creation, and just sharing product and user feedback on campaigns that we circulate across our organization and give other people on the team insight. They do not have that clear visibility into what our diners are saying in real-time as we do on the social team, so that’s a big chunk of my role. And then fairly recently my role expanded into taking charge of our advocacy community, Grubhub Tastemakers and Grubhub Campus Tastemakers, and working with you and the fabulous Vesta team to build up both of those communities from the ground and grow them into what they are today. So, I have a small, but mighty team, no two days are the same, but it’s been really great.
Sue: So you don’t do much in the day… That is an incredible role description which I love and we have loved working with you and can tell that you are being pulled in a thousand directions, but you’ve really got such a great handle on community, which brings me to my next question. You have the Tastemakers and the Campus Tastemakers on our Vesta platform, but when I talked to prospects or clients, community means so many different things, especially like the digital community, so how would you define for somebody that’s saying, “what is this Tastemakers Community?” How would you define a brand-owned community versus all of the other communities you are managing?
Amanda: Yeah…I mean it is a good question because community is such a broad term and it is really interesting for me coming from a community management background. That’s what I was doing before Grubhub, and then growing into this brand-owned community space of our advocacy community, so it has been a really interesting shift there. You know on Twitter or any other social platform that is public-facing, one singular brand doesn’t own the space, not even Twitter. So, you are constantly fighting to gain more share of voice over all the noise, like all the brands and influencers. And then when you are creating content for a public-facing platform like that you have to be prepared even after you leverage your insights, you do your research, and what kind of content your followers are hungry for, it still may not resonate and that is just the nature of social. But then, you know, if you work on your platforms long enough, you will notice the same people engaging with your content, you know, talking about your brands in a positive way totally organically, posting UGC, and that is where the brand-owned community comes in because you want to give those people the attention and the recognition they deserve like you know, “hey, we were listening to you.” This is a relationship. Even though we are a huge brand and you are one person and I think that is really how we define the appeal of the brand-owned community. I like to think of it as a special little pocket of your consumers that are actually eager to interact with you, and, you know, voluntarily want to provide feedback and constructive feedback too. It is just a space where you get 100% share of voice, you can really harness the power of your community by inviting in your most valuable consumers and just fostering a really strong connection with them.
Sue: I love that…and that is one of the things we always talk about, is that relationship because as you talked about a lot on the social channels, it is important for engagements and obviously for media, but that true relationship can happen in that online brand advocate community. So, I have another question. You just talked about some of the social channels, you’ve got a great presence and I know your team is managing that as well, and all the big guys, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok now, which my kids are loving your commercials all over TikTok and if we ever see it anywhere they just go crazy, so I love it, great job with that. But you’ve got a large customer base, Grubhub’s got a CRM, social media, all these things. But what prompted Grubhub, and I know it was a long decision, but what prompted Grubhub to build this Advocate Community? How did you know you needed one?
Amanda: Yeah, I feel like at first, you might not understand why a brand-owned community is important and I didn’t necessarily either. Especially when you have a huge base of your customers that follow you on social or receive your emails or, you know, we also have affiliate groups, so it kind of feels redundant at first. But it is actually my boss Mandy. She did have a vision that a brand-owned community would be the way in that we can drive loyalty with our diners and connect with them on this deeper level and really just cultivate authentic relationships in a way we haven’t tried before. So Grubhub in general, we’re all about rewarding our diners, you know, whether that’s our perks, which are the offers we give our diners, a Grubhub+ subscription, we love to provide you know really fun digital and experiential experiences, like our Sound Bites concert series and entertainment in general, but we wanted a community where we could provide a really rewarding and holistic Grubhub experience for the people who were craving that— the people who actually wanted to connect with us in that way. And being a part of a brand content team, our goals are always driving positive word of mouth, just getting people talking about us organically, and driving brand love and positive sentiment, so this just felt like a really good fit for a place where we could connect with diners on a deeper level and it felt like the right move to achieve those goals. So, I think you guys reached out maybe a year and a half ago and piqued our interests and we went from there, so it has been a fun journey.
Sue: Yeah. It has been a journey, I love that! And you talked about, you know, there are so many different tools that you are using and there are so many different audiences. So you have got your CRM, paid influencers or social, is there any way that you believe that the brand-owned community and all of those other initiatives can actually complement each other? Because I don’t think it is about a brand-owned community replacing paid influencers. They are both critical and important, and we are not replacing your CRM, but can you just talk about how they might be able to complement each other?
Amanda: Yeah absolutely. I feel like the greatest blessing too with this community is that we‘ve gotten to work so cross-functionally on it within Grubhub and with external partners as well. And we were constantly working to make sure that everything we do within the community, all of our missions, all of our offers, our surveys, are enhancing the work that our other teams are doing here because there are just so many people doing such great work and we’re constantly positioning this to other teams as a tool we can all use to share our goals. I was literally in a meeting this morning where we were just brain dumping and brainstorming, like, how do we expand this to another team’s initiative because we’ve got one purpose, but I found it has been a really awesome collaborative experience and leveraging this community to supplement the work we are doing in other places. So, for example, I could go on and on about the teams that have helped with this, but our CRM team was very instrumental in just the acquisition stage of this community, as you know, helping us create the strategy and driving more diners to Grubhub and then also driving people into the community and then, as you know, we have a separate campus community and my partner, her name is Amanda as well, you know that, who works super close with me.
Sue: Two Amandas. Not confusing. and Mandy your boss— like not confusing at all!
Amanda: We are the A-team but we work super closely with the campus team and that is a great partnership because not only is she just a great person to work with, but her team has totally different goals than mine does. They are very growth driven whereas we are very, you know, upper funnel. We are always trying to drive word of mouth and those top-of-the-funnel goals but we are also constantly working to figure out the best way to achieve both of our goals. I could keep talking about the support we receive from our research team and enterprise team and creative, but it has been a really collaborative, cross-functional experience and we love those programs, so we are just like “wow, we really hit full-funnel every single one of these goals with this one campaign or program.”
Sue: Awesome, yeah I love it. And we have always said: The communities that are most successful are the ones that are integrated into the overall marketing stack, marketing strategy, branding, so I think your team just does an incredible job with that. And then they can tap into it. It is a resource that is there for them so I love that as well. Do you know, and maybe you don’t know this, but I’m just a bit curious. Have you ever thought about building it yourself? We do have clients who say “I just want to build it”, and I say, “we have 11 years of community building (experience) and we are a software company that specializes in that.” So do you have any advice or had you thought about building it yourself?
Amanda: So, that thought is pretty terrifying for me and it is maybe because I am not a tech person. I just feel like, you know, you guys are the experts in that realm and it has been a great partnership and I think it could be a very exciting idea for someone who has that in mind. But I think the best part about this partnership is that you are always willing to take feedback on the product roadmap and functionality and optimizations there. So, if you could be a fly on the wall in all my meetings I have when I’m pitching another idea to a team on how they could use Tastemakers, I always say there is so much we can do here. So, to answer your question short and sweet, I haven’t personally thought about it and I am sure there is someone on the team who has, but that is not my realm so I’ll let the experts handle it.
Sue: Yeah, and you’re already doing a thousand other jobs so that is what I also say. And I know this is not related but you asked for a custom feature for custom fonts and that is being released in two weeks. so I am so excited again. Not related, but it just goes to the point that we do listen to our clients as well and if there are certain things that you want we do try to get that into the roadmap. I know branding was super important so now we have got your custom colors and your custom fonts that will be all ready to go and I think your creative team will be very happy.
Amanda: They’ll be so happy, I cannot wait.
Are you enjoying the show so far? We highlight so many resources and tools in the podcast that it can be tough to keep up, we get it. Look, if it is not obvious already from listening to the show one of the most important strategies for growing a brand community is how you cultivate and incentivize your consumers, and with 10+ years of experience in the activation and engagement of online communities who knows better than Vesta how to do that. Vesta surveyed its own community of one million-plus consumers and uncovered the five personas that every marketer should know about to accelerate brand community building. Understanding what motivates and sparks action within each segment empowers you to foster enhanced engagement and drive results for your brand. To get access to these incentives made easy report revealing the five personas head over to go.vesta-go.com/incentives. Once again, It’s go.vesta-go.com/incentives. Now, back to the show.
Sue: So, I know we talked about advocacy. We call this an advocate community. Were there any other things, key things you were hoping that the brand community would allow you to do?
Amanda: Yeah I feel like I covered, you know, the word of mouth goals and the brand love. That is pretty table stakes. But I think another major goal was to create open feedback with our diners. So, I mentioned previously our advocates have been so incredible about providing feedback to us, but not just feedback just actual constructive thoughtful feedback that we have used to inform strategy and make decisions as a brand and I was actually just speaking with a member of our research team and he was just saying he is blown away by the willingness of our advocates to take our surveys and answer long-form open-ended questions in all seriousness so I think, you know, listening to your community and collecting those insights is table stakes. And that is why community management exists and that is another huge function of my role. But with Vesta and this community gave us the opportunity to do was to tap into this super valuable subset of our diners and learn from them how we can turn other diners into brand loyalists and just get everyone on their level. Our dream is to have everyone be as engaged as our Tastemakers and just opening that feedback loop for them has been instrumental, just in informing strategy and making optimizations.
Sue: And I love that, I mean you can tie that data and their feedback right back to the individual and then, of course, reengage them with personalized content or personalized offers and missions so I love that piece of it. Was there anything unexpected like a positive element or outcome that maybe you did not believe going in and has actually happened from having the community?
Amanda: I feel like I can speak for everyone who has managed this community and built it with you guys that the biggest fear going into it was that no one would join and if they did join they would, you know, hop in, grab our welcome offer to order delivery on Grubhub and then never touch it again. So, I think one of the most exciting and positive things was just the level of engagement of our advocates. Whenever we sat down to have that first community power index meeting and we found out like 78% of our advocates were engaged and active members. I think that just really reinforced our decision that this was the right next step in growing our community and it was working. That number has gone up for our all diner community and it is just really exciting to see that they are continuing to engage and that translates into their loyalty for the brand overall, so really exciting results there.
Sue: Yeah I love that, and I think they got into your team doing it right because there are actually strategy sessions around the community and bringing and leveraging other resources. And I love that you work with your partners too which is super exciting. You talked about the different strategies between campus and diners, what about new customers, you know bringing in new customers, are you feeling that you are able to do that through the community as well?
Amanda: Yeah absolutely, so you know, in the nascency of our communities the strategy was to target our existing diners just because it made sense—they already know about Grubhub, they ordered from us a few times a week and they are likely interested in being rewarded on a higher scale. So, once that was proven to be successful, we saw that big growth in the first month and that was really exciting and then it was our advocates’ turn to recruit and through our welcome mission it’s super simple: Just share your referral link on social, encourage your own network to sign up and we have continued to see a steady growth without many more communications coming from our own CRM and our advocates are constantly generating that UGC for us. I think that when a regular person is posting about Grubhub and someone sees it and there is no hashtag add, hashtag partner, it’s like, you know, I have seen five people post Grubhub and they are genuinely and authentically talking about it and I think I am going to check it out or I think I’m going to check out the community or order from them. So, we have definitely seen an increase in growth there and hopefully, we will continue to do so.
Sue: Yeah I love that piece of it. So advice— In a team thinking about building a brand-owned community, is there any advice before they dive in that you have for them?
Amanda: Yes, this was certainly a learning experience for me, and happy to share my advice because they did get it from some other people who had done the same thing and it was super helpful. So, first I’d say, you know, do your research and dig into your community insights and find out what your consumers are looking for. What would excite them, what would entice them to join your community? Figure out what your positioning is, just to get all that messaging in a good place. It can be a little confusing to explain to people why it is different from just a social platform or why it is different from, you know, an affiliate program. So, I think just getting your messaging really tight is a great place to start. You know, getting key players involved across your organization— I think looping in our research team, the full campus team, and our strategy team was super instrumental in getting this off the ground and really strong at launch. Then, just doing your research into other communities and joining them and getting the full user experience as an advocate helped me get a lot of inspiration and just putting myself in the headspace of the user just to make sure you know… what we are doing is different than what other communities are doing. Figuring out our point of differentiation there and just getting an inspiration, not copying ideas, but it’s great to poke around other people’s communities and see what they are up to.
Sue: Yeah. and I think the recommendation on the research, though is that planned more going in and like you said you spoke with other managers of communities as well, but those that have really strong planning going in again, have a very successful initial launch. So, there is that slow growth like try and tested over months or are we able to hit the ground running and I do think that research component of really understanding and knowing how you want to engage the community, you know, right at the get-go and then, of course, your strategy moving along is, certainly a way to hit that ground running, so I love that recommendation. You know, without giving any specifics are there any initiatives that you are hoping to execute within the community for the back half of this year.
Amanda: Yes, this is timely because we are working on our back half of the year plans and there is so much we can do; I am very excited. Without giving too much away, I think just working on more partnerships and giving our advocates exclusive access to those partnerships in new programs just making it a really rewarding place that feels different and just being a Grubhub diner and just making the experience richer overall. So, you know, whether that is more experiential, whether that is you know really co-partnerships with other brands, or you know, whoever I think that is the vision for the community and we are constantly working towards that, just what you can get just by being a Grubhub Tastemaker and making the appeal you know really exciting for people.
Sue: And I love the exclusivity of it. You know, all you have to do is join; it’s free. So, I do love that idea that is once you are a member, you actually can get better perks and better opportunities, and then, of course, you can have exclusive access to these partners. And then I’m sure the partners must love it too because, again, they are getting access to the biggest Grubhub fans, so they are more likely to order and to come back time and time again, so I love that as well. Before we go into like best in class examples and giving some ideas of what listeners can do, is there anything else that I’ve missed that you want to share?
Amanda: I think we pretty much covered it all. I mean the building stage of this community was not easy. There is so much that goes into it, but just want to say thanks for being a great partner, it has been such a fun experience and very excited for the future.
Sue: Us too We love partnering with you. Okay, so we are at the section best in class without again sharing any results, you talked about not only doing more partnerships, but how you’ve been able to really help your partnerships as well, and like that strategic plan around partnerships, how is the community helped you?
Amanda: So, we are always leveraging the communities to support our larger goals as a brand team and a good example would be some of the cultural impact moments that we have supported specifically to our missions in the community. So, for example, we have a program called RestaurantHER. It supports woman-led restaurants and woman industry, and we partnered with this amazing organization called World Central Kitchen. They help women and families facing food insecurity providing them meals, so during the month of March, our mission was going to support a RestaurantHER initiative and we encourage our communities to share their support, use our RestaurantHER hashtags, spread awareness and it ended up being one of our most successful missions of the year, I believe, so just planning on using this community to support any of our charitable partnerships and driving awareness on our larger brand initiatives I think could benefit both parties for sure and it is just a really great way to support the programs.
Sue: I love that, that is such a great example. You brought up a really good point— the causes and social component of it. Again, the community is not there just for the perks, and if they understand that they are part of this greater purpose that Grubhub has had as well, I think it really gives them the sense of belonging and they really want to be there to help share and advocate. So, I love that example. Just the last question that I have, is there a brand community that you would love to be part of? Maybe they exist or maybe they don’t and this is just more of a personal question and it really goes into sort of the brands that you love and are close to you that are maybe doing it well or a community that may be already exist, but is there a brand community that you would love to be a part of and why?
Amanda: Yeah, so I have been a proud member of the Sir Kensington’s Taste Buds community for longer than Tastemakers existed. So, I just think they do an amazing job. I feel like they create such a joyful experience with the advocates. I just love the look and feel. I think it is so playful and fun and I think they do a great job of giving their advocates the unique experience I have been talking about, you know opportunities that they won’t get elsewhere or so. For example, you know I was poking around, I got an email from them about one of their new recipes with Chef Jules series, and I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, but for those who don’t: It is basically a super fun, like, high energy cooking video of the chef using their products, all their sauces to create recipes and then they are written out for people to recreate at home. So, that is just actually what I have been talking about giving advocates something they can only access within the community. I just think they did a really great job at it, so I love being a Tastebud.
Sue: I love it and yeah for those who don’t know the Tastebud community is on our platform, but I think that they had such a strong purpose that helps also create that sense of belonging, so we love that community as well and I think that you are both doing a great job. So, Amanda, thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate you spending time with us and sharing more about your community, and of course anyone that wants to go and check it out, we would welcome you to check out the Tastemaker’s community, but is there anything else to add?
Amanda: I don’t think so, this was so fun. Thank you so much for having me Sue. I can’t wait to listen to all the other amazing guests you are going to bring on.
I hope you enjoyed today’s episode of the Community Powered Marketing podcast. Make sure to hit subscribe on whichever platform you’re listening on and if you liked this episode, please write a review and share it. This show exists to showcase how brands can unlock the sales, advocacy, insights, potential of their audience by incorporating community powered marketing into their brand strategy. Curious about how your brand stacks up at engaging your audience? We have done 10 plus years’ worth of data crunching so you don’t have to. To see how you rank against some of the best at engagement, advocacy, and insights and to learn more about how the Vesta team can unlock the power of your audience to your community go to vesta-go.com/engagementindex to get your audience engagement index ranking. Once again, it’s vesta-go.com/engagementindex. Alright, that’s a wrap. We can’t wait to hang with you on the next episode.
Amanda Allbee, Senior Marketing Associate, Grubhub
A creative and passionate individual, Amanda has a strong background of working in social media for brands large and small. Through these experiences she’s become an expert in community management, metrics reporting and analytics, influencer relations, content creation + curation, and copywriting. She is dedicated to channeling her obsession with culture, social and digital into her work.
Host: Sue Frech, Founder and CEO, Vesta
Sue has spent her career redefining digital marketing in brand and retail marketing, Martech, and advertising, at brands such as Kraft and Glaxo-SmithKline. She is committed to creating fellow Happy Marketers through Vesta’s all-in-one online community building software, transforming the relationships between brands and consumers with Community Powered Marketing.