2023 Customer Awards: Upwork - Best-in-Class: Community

2023 Customer Awards: Upwork - Best-in-Class: Community



Company: Upwork

Company background: Upwork is the world's work marketplace connecting businesses and talent to unlock their potential.

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 Khoros community. What is the use-case and purpose of your community (support, enablement and learning, marketing awareness, customer success, driving sales, product innovation, etc.)? Has the community charter evolved since its launch, and if so, how?

Relationships and people are at the core of our business. Our Community team is essential to ensuring that the needs of the talent on our platform are heard and met. It’s been approximately 14 months since we ‘relaunched’ our Community, going from primarily a support forum, to unleashing the full capabilities of what a Community team & Khoros can do together. In the past year, we've expanded our Academy, Groups, and Events programs, we've become more closely integrated with our Product and Support experiences, while also testing how Community can drive revenue for the core business.


2. How did the community get brought to life? Was there executive/business/stakeholder buy-in? What was the process to gain this buy-in? How was cross-functional support and organizational adoption achieved?
In the past 18 months, the Upwork Community has gone through a large transition. This has allowed for a more engaging and interactive experience for community members, with a stronger emphasis on collaboration and knowledge sharing. Throughout this transition, the community has remained steadfast in its commitment to providing valuable resources and support to freelancers and clients alike. Major focus areas over the past year have included enhancing user experience, expanding the breadth and depth of available resources, and fostering a sense of community and belonging among members.
One of the most notable initiatives has been the Academy, which provides valuable training and resources to help freelancers succeed on the platform. Through this program, users can access learning paths, courses, interactive modules, videos, one-on-one coaching, and more. Our Academy is home-grown, built entirely out of the magic that is the Khoros Community platform. Having launched to the general public about a year ago, we’ve now had over 50,000 members go through at least one learning path, with growth continuing at a rapid rate, with great results (see below!).


Gamification and badges are another exciting development, allowing users to earn recognition and rewards for their contributions to the community. We've created badges that coincide with our learning paths, activity throughout Community, as well as holidays and special occasions. We send out on average ~100,000 badges a month, and have used this opportunity to engage with our users through customizing the emails that go out for each badge. Many of our Academy badges will provide suggestions in the email of what steps the user should take next for example.


Groups are a crucial component of the Upwork Community, enabling individuals with comparable interests or objectives to come together and interact. We’ve launched well over 100 groups, 30 of which allow users to interact in their native language. These groups serve as a platform to connect with like-minded people, share ideas, and engage in meaningful discussions.


Community Events at Upwork are a set of live and custom event programs that allow freelancers to engage and learn in real-time and build long-lasting relationships. Our virtual educational events with tailored content for different customer segments are focused on providing actionable best practices to increase success on Upwork. Community-focused events build and nurture community through experience sharing and networking.
"I heard stories of persistence, resilience, and great talent. There was idea sharing and peer-to-peer encouragement and lots of enthusiasm. I am really looking forward to interacting more with Kenyan freelancers at our next virtual Talent Huddle"
They also include virtual peer coaching sessions for top talent and virtual or in-person meetups for local communities. Localized events give freelancers the opportunity to learn and engage with fellow local talent in their local language, helping them to form their network and grow their careers. With ~200 events hosted, ~40,000 attendees, and an average NPS of 70, it’s been a huge year.


We’ve become much more closely integrated into our Support experience this year. We’ve launched our Known Issues and Workarounds section, allowing users to quickly get back up and running when they run across an issue. Our Support team now directs users to here when an active issue or ongoing workaround persists. We've also integrated our platform status widget into Community, and even integrated Zendesk help articles directly into our Community search, ensuring our users will get to the right spot, regardless of where the content may be hosted.
We’ve launched a Community Contributors program. We get dozens of submissions a week from users who would like to have their content showcased in our blog.  We created a simple workflow within Khoros for users to self-submit content, and our content team will review, provide feedback and edits, and move forward with publishing the content when ready.


3. What were the results? More revenue generated, a reduction of costs, improved customer experience, more innovation, etc.? Tell us how Khoros helped you achieve those results. Please include quantifiable metrics if possible.

We take immense pride in our Freelancer+ program, which has been a subscription service for years. Recently, we had the chance to innovate and expand the program, introducing six new features centered around community and collaboration. These features include access to an exclusive group, personalized 1:1 coaching, expedited learning opportunities, and monthly exclusive events. With the introduction of these features, we witnessed triple digit growth in our subscriber base. The new and enhanced Freelancer+ program has been rolled out permanently, so that our users can continue to benefit from these exciting features.


When our platform rolled out an updated pricing this year, Community was front and center. The announcement was in our Community Announcements section, with an extensive FAQ continually updated to support this major change. While this brought much feedback into our forums, through a lot of content and planning, we came far in under what was expected for support volume.


Within our Academy, we’ve seen tremendous results in how users have become more successful after going through our learning paths or coaching. These results have had a significant impact on the earnings of our Freelancers. As Upwork, our mission is “...to create economic opportunities so people have better lives has taken us so much further...”.  Our Upwork Academy built on Khoros has allowed us to do exactly this with over 50,000 users.  With improvements across the board as users interact throughout Community, we saw an 18% increase in the likelihood of landing a contract within 90 days for talent who completed an Upwork Academy learning path, and a 10% earnings bump in the 30 days post-cohort for coaching.


We also have focused on expanding tools to help our freelancers. One of these include our rate calculator, helping freelancers calculate what to charge. We're looking to expand these interactive modules as we move into the back half of 2023.


Improving the efficiency of our moderators has been top of mind. While our traffic into Community has doubled in the past 18 months, we’ve actually been able to promote members of our team into expanded roles (engineering, analytics, leadership), while for the most part keeping up with our volume. Some of the improvements we have made to accomplish this include building our an enhanced moderation toolset. This allows our moderation team to see all incoming topics, additional information on users, and even an entire Q/A system for our leadership team to review and provide feedback to the team on how they are doing.


We're also testing new Gen AI capabilities such as using ChatGPT to help provide the initial draft of messages, and integrating Coda.IO to improve workflows of our team members. We have a lot of predefined replies in Coda, so we pull the list of those into a search box for our mods to quickly find and paste. With ChatGPT, we can summarize each response so it's unique. It's a lot of early learnings as we understand the full impact GenAI will have the future of Community.



Special Thanks: NA

Case Study Opt-In: Yes

Incredibly proud to be a part of this awesome team that has figured out unique, creative ways to solve for common community challenges and expand on out of box components in Khoros.


Can't wait to see what is in store for our excellent community over the next year!