2022 Customer Awards: Upwork - Best-in-Class: Community

2022 Customer Awards: Upwork - Best-in-Class: Community

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Company: Upwork

Company background: Upwork is the world’s work marketplace. We serve everyone from one-person startups to over 30% of the Fortune 100 with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential. Our talent community earned over $3.3 billion on Upwork in 2021 across more than 10,000 skills in categories including website & app development, creative & design, customer support, finance & accounting, consulting, and operations

Contact: Stan Gromer

Title: Director, Community

Related URLs: https://community.upwork.com/

Kudos Category: Best-in-Class: Community

1. Describe the organization's objectives in launching a community. What is the use-case and purpose of your community? Do you use your community for support, enablement and learning, marketing awareness, customer success, driving sales, product innovation, etc.? Has the community charter evolved in any way since launch?

The Upwork Community was initially founded as a Support community when the merger of two companies formed Upwork. For most of its existence, the Community has remained focused on providing support - Up until October of 2021, Forums were the only part of the Community platform we had been leveraging. Over the nine months since, we've transformed the Community in endless ways. Our Community team consists of our Community Platform team (Content, Forums, Groups,  Technology, and Operations), Events (Local events, Community-wide events, larger conferences), and our Upwork Academy team (On-Demand content, Upwork Skills Certifications, & Coaching)
As we grow the community to become a space for all, we are focused on enablement and learning; product innovation, education, and acceptance; a dedicated platform for our customers to share their stories and advice. We will continue to help customers with general support needs as we track support deflection, bug fixes, and workarounds. Looking forward, we aim to track customer acquisition and growth.
Our mission is to activate, elevate, and amplify our talent community through a content-driven platform where they can network, learn, and grow. The Upwork community will drive engagement, brand awareness, and aid talent onboarding. Community will help build trust, allow talent to engage, and foster connections with like-minded peers, top talent, and Upwork—spanning every aspect of driving a successful freelancing business.


2. Tell us about how you are using your community and how you made it happen. Did you get executive/business/stakeholder buy-in? What was your process to gain this buy-in? How have you achieved cross functional support, added stake-holders and increased organizational adoption?

Working in the product organization, we grew the team focused on cross-functional support and collaboration. With a leader in a VP position, we can access the company's leadership team and provide transparency and visibility into what programs and projects we are launching and why.
For company buy-in, we align our strategy and goals with the company's big-picture objectives. In doing this, we can show how and where community ties into different overarching goals, whether monetary, awareness, or retention-based.
Below are just a few of the ways we are using Community to push the company forward:


A consistent complaint from users was the difficulty in finding the content they were looking for. With that in mind, we built a taxonomy using Associate Products as Category hubs for common topics throughout our company and platform. Using standard tags that corresponded to Associated Products, we created libraries of information throughout the Community that will auto-populate content as it is created and tagged. We then used custom tags as audience identifiers to better serve content to the right person. Lastly, we implemented labels at a local level to help with navigation within each section.



After launching our first contributor program in late Q1, we have seen over 60 members join our group and 5 unprompted submissions in less than two months. Additionally, we have grown traffic by 108%, MoM, since expanding our topics relevant to best practices for the platform and trending work and career content. Since revamping our product updates content and formatting to meet the needs of multiple audiences, we saw a growth in views by 85% MoM.



We've launched almost 40 Groups (Group Hubs) that range across four pillars identity, impact, interest, and industry in roughly six months. Our Local groups far outpaced the growth we initially forecasted, with thousands of users joining after our initial round of invites. We're getting ourselves in trouble for increasing support ticket volume; Users are so excited they can't wait for their own country to launch and keep asking for updates on when they will have their own space.


Additionally, with the support of dedicated group guides, we've seen an increase in positive engagement across the platform. All of our groups are run by volunteers, a mix of internal Upwork staff and community members. They have been such a valuable resource in helping launch so many groups in such a short amount of time.



We've launched the first-ever Upwork Academy, built entirely on the Khoros Community platform. Having dealt with the unconnected experiences most organizations have between their Community and Learning experiences, we were determined to get this right. Each step of the journey is tracked inside of Community the same as any other user activity, with users awarded badges upon completion.  We talked a bit how we built this here and here.
Within the Academy, users can take one-off courses or entire learning paths. Our learning paths include dedicated courses, articles, videos, and activities to help further understand the course material. We are working on personalization and recommendations based on courses completed and areas visited within Community. 

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We'll soon be launching gamification within Academy, including badges, ranks, and roles impacted by your progress in Community. These completions will also soon provide a more personalized experience. 



Within Academy, we also offer Coaching Cohorts. These leverage Group Hubs, usually time-based for a few weeks to months, where users will often interact together during the cohort. Some cohorts are for brand new users of Upwork, some based on specific skills or improvements, and more. These cohorts are all led by members of our Academy team. These spaces have received excellent feedback from our members, and the Group Hub functionality has allowed us to quickly test many different concepts and ideas to see what works.



Our forums made up the entirety of Community until October 2021. In Q1, we expanded our forum strategy to include a support-focused forum. Our moderator team provides more hands-on support within this dedicated forum, allowing them more time to respond to our other forums.




We've just kicked off using Khoros Events in our Community. We are using these a bit creatively at the moment, and we are using them as a way to organize years of past events. We've had events take place over Webex, Zoom, and various platforms, and we're now aligning the experience within Community.


In Q3, we'll be making significant changes as we integrate Bevy into the overall experience, combining the best capabilities of multiple platforms while having a singular experience entirely hosted on top of Khoros.


With the help of some incredible internal teams, we set up and utilized the bulk data API—enabling us to have a granular look at the data between the Khoros platform and Upwork's platform. With this access, we quickly built out reporting, such as traffic and engagement, which helped us begin to investigate the impact Community has on our freelancers.



While we're still early on this part of the journey, we've shown that those in Community deliver more significant results than those not in Community. 
Utilizing the bulk data API, we set up some creative alerts to proactively deal with bad actors in Community. For example, we monitor anyone sending more than 5 PMs daily and send an alert to our moderator team if that occurs.

3. What were the results? Tell us how it impacted your customer experience or the outcomes you seek as a business. Please include metrics if possible.

One significant metric we are tracking is an increase in diverse locations and languages among users—which can be attributed to our location-based groups launching this past quarter. As a global company, we're excited to see our user base continue to grow worldwide and look forward to expanding our language capabilities. In a matter of months, we have launched 6 local groups with over 1000+ members, with many more planned.

We're also tracking increased searches with results and registered visitors, which correlates with our growth in support deflection savings. Our Traffic in Community has gone from years of flat growth to rapidly increasing as we revamped our Community, turned on new functionality, and started reminding our users that we existed!


Surveys in Community have had a significant impact on the data we are collecting monthly. They have also enabled us to track our NPS score, which has continued to trend in a positive direction with the continued changes we have been implementing.
Support deflection has always been a major component of our Community, and using the commonly provided.