In the last episode of Talk Commerce for 2022, we speak with Rani Mani, the Digital Media Customer Communication Lead at Adobe. We talk about all things community and why some companies get community wrong.
Rani Mani is deeply passionate about making customers successful and harnessing the power of customer feedback to improve the overall customer experience.
Rani does this at scale over social media and is constantly looking at new and exciting ways to pinpoint areas where companies are making it especially difficult to do business with them.
Rani is skilled at working with cross-functional teams across the company to figure out ways of reducing customer effort. In addition to being keenly interested in reducing customer effort, she is equally schooled in strategies for providing exemplary support over social channels and cultivating and nurturing community engagement so the company can be a community-driven business.
Links from the Podcast
Brent: Welcome to this special New Year’s Eve version of Talk Commerce. Today I have Rani Mani. Rani, tell us your role, what you do daily, and maybe one of your passions in life.
Rani: Yeah. Hi Brent. So my day-to-day at Ajovy is telling the story of our individual customers, so predominantly our customers using Creative Cloud. I’m incredibly passionate about doing amazing things in the world just because people are truly changing the world. Adobe happens to power that, so that’s been super satisfying to be a part of.
Brent: We met through the Adobe Insiders Program in 2019. Can you believe that? At the Adobe Summit, right? Or Yes. Yeah. So we met right around that time. And you are no longer with that group, so you’ve moved on to a group, but you’ve so graciously been involved in our little mini insider group that you’ve so kindly come on to the podcast today.
Rani: Oh yes. No, there’s no way that I could be too far away from the group with so many friends, and it’s so much more about the people than anything programmatic about the program. So yeah, I thrill to be here, Brent.
Brent: Good. Thank you. Before we get into our content, I think one of the things we’re going to talk about is community.
Brent: You have graciously said that you would participate in the #freejokeproject, so I’m just going to tell you a joke, and all you have to do is say, should this joke be free, or can somebody charge for it at some point? All right, here we go.
Brent:What's a sea monster's favorite food, Fish and ships. #FreeJokeProject @ranimani0707 Click To Tweet
Rani: Yeah, I think that should be free, Brent.
Brent: Thanks. I was going to preface it with that. Most of my jokes are not worth saying, but free is very liberal. Thank you so much; all right. Community in our green room, you just mentioned briefly about that it’s sometimes community gets lost and how people do community is lost.
Brent: Can you expand on that?
Rani: I think people lose sight of the fact that community is all about the individual, right? And what’s in it for them, what makes their heart sing, and how they can band together to support and share with one another. That it’s not meant to be transactional.
Rani: And a lot of companies, and even individuals, even nonprofits that I see trying to rally the community, make it about other things other than the individual. And I often wonder Brent is it not the most obvious thing that the community should be about the people that are in it? And why are we making so much of a big deal around the cause?
Rani: or the corporation or whatever the external thing is, as opposed to diving into the people. Because I feel like once you dive into the people and they are loyalists, and they’re bound to one another, no matter what the thing is, they will stay intact. Which I think is a real testament to how our insider program.
Rani: I could come in and out of it. Adobe may or may not be a part of it, but I feel like that group will forever last. Now the way we’ve set it up, I feel very confident about that because you are all so connected to one another that it’s a real thing of beauty to watch.
Brent: Yeah, I like what you said about not transactional, and I think leaders in positions that look for ROI want to figure out how can this transaction give us value.
Brent: And I think that’s the first mistake anybody would make in building community. Maybe just tell us a little bit more about how you feel and what you think about it being about the person. How focusing on that person helps build community. Cause some might think that’s backward like it should be focused on the community.
Brent: But I agree with you that it is about the people in the community and focusing on each of those. People help the community to become stronger.
Rani: Yep. I feel like there is no community without the individual, and a community happens to be the sum of multiple individuals. And so, to me, the most basic attack.
Rani: Adam of that community is individual. So I need to not. I need to. I want to focus on who you are, Brent, and what makes you sing, right? What lights you up and what are you trying to do in the world, and how can Adobe and how can I be a part of that? And how can this community assist you in that, right? Like when you start with that premise, it’s a win-win for all.
Rani: But I feel like it’s no different, Brent, than anything in life, right? Whatever it is that you’re doing in life, if you don’t start with the individual and what does success look like to them and what gets them out of bed today, and what are their hopes and dreams like, how are you going to get to the heart of anything if you don’t start at that very basic level of the person?
Brent: The flip side would be that some company wants to create community, and they want the community to be about the company, and then everybody loses focus on the people in it because there’s no common bond between the people. It’s all just the company and the.
Brent: Whatever they’re trying to do is driving that community. Where organically community should be built because people want to participate in it,
Rani: And the company should and can be a part of it. Like I feel like our Adobe Insiders Group has and will continue to do Somers results for Adobe, right?
Rani: I feel like this group does amazing things on behalf of Adobe and is very quick to defend and promote and all of that, for which Adobe is incredibly grateful. But in the event, Adobe was to ever step out of that community, I really firmly believe that, Because you all have established such a bond, and there are so many connective tissue threads within the group that, it’s really wonderful.
Brent: Part of the way I got into the Adobe community was through Magento, an Adobe acquisition. And I can say that the Magento community operates in a similar fashion, where the community really is the driver of everything around what the corporation would like to see, but there’s no oversight from some big brother saying you as a community have to do this.
Brent: And I like what you said about, they’ll do somersaults over it cuz they’re passionate about what they’re doing right. Like everybody in the community is passionate about some aspect of what they’re in it for,
Rani: right? Everybody gets something slightly different, and there is no overarching you need to attend this many meetings, and you need to tweet this many times.
Rani: And I very purposely left it that way. Because I just felt like there were many, much bigger things that bound us together as people. That would have a much greater staying power than providing some arbitrary structure like that,
Brent: Talk a little bit about the difference of how we can help to tell each of our own stories rather than a company story.
Brent: As a community, does it really help the community to tell the story about the company, or does it tell, is it help the community to tell the story about individuals who are in the community??
Rani: I don’t see it as a mutually exclusive thing. If you think about it, Brent, our community does both, right?
Rani: Our community gives the name and faith, and personality to the Adobe logo, as you tell different things that you’re doing using Adobe products, it’s your story, but ultimately gets wrapped up into Adobe story as. , right? So I feel like both need to happen for it to be a really compelling, memorable story.
Brent: I can remember in Magento Imagine the last one was 2019 and then the Adobe Summit followed up. But during that, we got Adobe Rush as a free gift for attending blah, blah blah. And I remember sitting there in that Adobe. I attended one of the Adobe Rush specific like there was some kind of a tutorial event or some
Brent: kickoff event and said, Hey, this is what it actually does. And I did CR I, and I remember him creating a short video during the session that said, Hey, I’ve made this while multitasking in my Adobe Rush session on Adobe Rush using Adobe Rush. And then, I published it by the end of the session.
Brent: I think it just, that kind of gives to how we can be passionate about a product and also promote a product while doing a product and sitting in listening about a product. I don’t know where I’m going with this story but was true. It was still fun.
Rani: Very true. But not all products and services lend itself to that, right?
Rani: Adobe is in an absolutely unique position to have such an iconic brand and so many products that are within the fabric of our culture that, it lends itself to exactly what you’re talking about.
Brent: It’s not as exciting to say, Hey, I’ve created an integration using Adobe io. While I was doing my Adobe IO session, and now I can, oh my gosh, make AEM talk to joking.
Rani: Adobe covers, or for the people who are part of what do you call it, washing machines or dryers or, like I, I often, when I first started the group, I was like, this is criminal that I get to do this because, It’s how Adobe set up and what we offer the world, it’s, I feel like people clamor to be a part of it.
Rani: So it’s just, it’s such a natural, dare I say, easy thing to mobilize the community around.
Brent: If you could speak a little bit to how. How you see the storytelling and if there’s anything different. Is there a magic sauce in the Adobe community, or is it something that is just inherently good because the community is building what the community’s building?
Rani: I think the magic sauce is the people, right? Like the love. If any individual within the group were to pull back or new people came in, the ethos would be different. And that isn’t to say that we don’t always welcome or look for new people, but I think there’s something very special about the existing.
Rani: People within the community and the amount of time you’ve all been together, the kind of hopes and dreams and struggles that you’ve all shared. You’ve been in some of our happy hours, Brent. And we get very up close and personal, right? We’re talking about deaths and marriages and divorces and Custody battles,
Rani: We talk about some really milestone real hearts stringing kind of things, and so that kind of vulnerability and that kind of connection with one another, it’s very much driven by the people.
Brent: The key to a good community is just what you were saying about it’s not just about some one thing that there are so many aspects around that. And we all have our own lives, right? And our own lives contribute to the community.
Brent: And whatever we do in our lives helps to build that community and make it stronger. And then, maybe you could speak a little bit about it. each of us in a community has a strong point. Each of us has one little aspect that adds to it and makes it a really strong community.
Brent: How important do you think the diversity in that community is?
Rani: When I think about diversity, I think about it more than just ethnic and cultural diversity, right? I’m thinking about it as diversity of thought, diversity of backgrounds. Perspective, and that’s so important because we don’t. How boring would it be if we’re all like one another?
Rani: There have been things brought up and new and innovative ideas that have been offered due to the diversity. And we’ve all benefited from it. That’s why I’m so impressed with you, Brent, that in addition to being a part of the Magento community, you still took that leap of faith and became a part of this community that, at first, I’m sure, felt like a bunch of doorknobs, right?
Rani: Because there was no one. Product or one campaign, or one, anything that bounds us together. I brought a group of people together, and my ultimate question was, are these decent human beings? Oh, and of course, who happens to have a decent social footprint who are doing new and interesting things in the world of digital experiences?
Rani: But my ultimate criteria was, Are these people that I admire enough and feel comfortable enough with that I would invite into my own home and expose my four kids to, right? That was my ultimate criteria. And without exception, every single one of you that’s part of this group, it’s a resounding yes to that.
Rani: And so it’s been a great thing, right? We’ve just got a really good group of people. . Like not just the passion, but the level of goodness of the human being, right?
Brent: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And for the kid’s thing, I’m worried more about the community members and my kids, like they’re exposed to my kids because, never mind.
Brent: Yeah. Gonna, I was going down the, a bad joke path there, . Yeah. And I guess when I was thinking about diversity, I wasn’t necessarily thinking. Cultural and ethnic, but that is a good part of it. It is important in a community for people to have different strong points.
Brent: And, I’m part of the commerce community, which gives me a different view on things. And now, for me personally, what I’ve learned from, going to the Adobe Summit when it was live in person, but then attending the virtual ones, was that there’s so much more to the whole experience that a customer would have using something like Adobe, you’re using any kind of platform that we can all become better people or even better in our own personal roles that we’re doing because we’re exposed to this diversity in what everybody’s doing.
Brent: So there could be one person who’s marketing, and there’s one person who’s data or commerce or whatever, like we all get together, and we talk. I think that’s as important in that community as the community itself.
Rani: Yep. No, I agree. I agree. And the ethnic diversity has been a real treat as well because, Adobe really stands for,
Rani: amplifying and elevating the diverse voices that we represent in the community, right? In terms of our customer base. And so that was important to me as well, that we had that right mix of cultural and ethnic diversity within our group because, ultimately, perspective is made up of who you are and where you come from, right?
Rani: And so we, we have a real nice mix of that within our group as well.
Brent: Yeah, absolutely. And just want to applaud you for helping us to tell our stories in the community. You helped me quite a bit. To be able to tell my story to the community.
Brent: And I think I have a blog post out there somewhere. Anyways, it doesn’t matter. That’s hard to hear. Yes. No, there
Rani: is. And it was a beautifully done story as well, Brent. In fact, we should link to that from Oh yeah. This podcast so that people can see it because I, and this. The premise of who Adobe is, we believe that everyone has a story to tell.
Rani: And whatever we can as a company, given our products and services, whatever we can do to empower and enable you to tell your story, then we’ve done our job.
Brent: That’s awesome. Rani, we’re quickly running out of time. I know we wanted to target 10 to 15 minutes. A as we close out the podcast, I give a guest the opportunity to do a shameless plug about anything.
Brent: What would you like to plug today?
Rani: Yes, I would love to plug a nonprofit organization in the Bay Area by the name of Project Hired. I’m a very proud board member of the organization, and the organization is, Focused on providing advocacy and providing employment services for the disabled community.
Rani: Disabled people makeup one in four people in the world are disabled, and unfortunately, disabled people are woefully underemployed. And so this organization. Provides counseling and guidance and all sorts of services to help individuals with disabilities get employment. I would love for the audience to take a look into Project Hired and participate with them in any which way that you feel inclined.
Rani: Obviously, during the holidays and going into the new year, we’re always looking for donations. And donations don’t always have to be in the form of money. It can be volunteering. It can be if you’re a part of a company that has open jobs that you would like to do some matchmaking with our clients, that would be incredible.
Rani: So many different ways to participate and to give.
Brent: Yeah. Thank you for that. And incidentally, I just did an interview with a company that does sim something similar. It’s called John’s Crazy Sox, and they hired a disabled individual in there, and I don’t know what the percentage is, but it’s large, that’s one of their missions, and they talked a lot about the mission of whatever the company is, has to reflect what their customers are wanting.
Brent: And I feel as though Adobe does reflect. In itself and with the employees and people like you that help to promote causes like this and help to amplify their voices. Yes.
Rani: Yes. No, most
Brent: Definitely. Rani Mani, thank you so much for being here today. It’s been such a pleasure talking to you, and I wish you a very happy New Year.
Rani: Oh, a very happy New Year to you as well, Brent. Thanks for having me.
Brent: You’re welcome.