Growing a Community Organically [Interview With David Berkowitz]

The founder of Serial Marketers shares his experience growing a community of over 3K members.

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Can you imagine a place to connect with experts in your field and participate in vetted conversations without the noise of social media? This is the community David Berkowitz is building with Serial Marketers, an online group of over 3K members.

It’s a place to “tune into conversations that matter and tune out the rest“, where you can learn and connect with colleagues. In today’s interview, David tells us the story behind the organic growth of the Serial Marketers community and the value you can find in it.

Tell Us a Bit About Yourself. What Is Your Background and What Did You Do Before Creating a Community?

I’m a marketing professional who has spent 20 years serving in marketing and strategy roles for agencies and tech companies. I’m used to being in entrepreneurial positions, whether or not it’s at a startup, and I spent a few years working on my own consultancy. My current position is serving as SVP Corporate Marketing & Communications for Mediaocean, the mission-critical platform for omnichannel advertising.

What Brought You to the Position You Are in Now With Over 3K Members?

It’s been overwhelmingly organic, with members referring members to the community. I launched this via a LinkedIn post in July 2018 as one of the first marketing-themed communities on Slack. 

There are two main reasons why we’re still here, growing, and thriving. The first is that it’s an incredible, supportive group of people. There’s very little negativity. I’ve removed less than one member a year for any code of conduct violations, and even that is for behavior that any other social platform would tolerate (and perhaps encourage). 

The other reason is that anything I do with the community is designed around providing value for members, and I think members appreciate that.

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Why Did You Decide to Create Serial Marketers?

I created it because while I thought there are a handful of marketing communities that worked well on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google Groups, there wasn’t a great place for vetted marketing professionals to learn from each other in a more organized setting where you can tune into conversations that matter and tune out the rest. 

Also, to be totally honest here, I loved the name. I had been using the Serial Marketer brand for my consulting and newsletter starting in 2016, and I thought Serial Marketers would be a great name for a community. I waited a couple of years in part because I was worried about starting a community as a vanity project; this had to be about connecting members with each other, not about making use of my network.

What Is Your Daily Life Like and What Functions Do Having a Community Require of You?

I’m a marketing professional, like almost all of the community’s members. To paraphrase the famous Hair Club for Men slogan, I’m not just the Serial Marketers founder, but I’m also a member. When I’m looking to refer people to jobs, get recommendations for service providers, vet marketing technologies, or just meet other great people, I turn to my community.

With the role of managing the community, there’s a ton that goes into it, and in part it’s that there’s always more that can be done. I have help too, like Ellie Rose Almeda who curates the newsletters and a lot of site content and Alastair Marcellan who’s my webmaster. They move a ton of projects forward. Plus, there are so many advisors who pitch in with ideas and some elbow grease.

Which Is the Main Value of Joining Serial Marketers?

I can tell you the value that’s summed up in two taglines that we’ve used.

When I started the community, I used the slogan, “Learn, Try, Share.” It was ultimately about experiential learning and sharing that knowledge. It had a bit of an academic ring to it.

Later, perhaps a year or two ago, I started using a new slogan: Marketers need marketers, too. It’s more emotional, but also practical. Marketers often need each other, so let’s connect the best ones and find more ways for them to find the people who can fulfill their needs.

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Serial Marketers Host Regular Virtual Events and In-Person Meetings in New York. How Do You Manage to Make Your Members Feel Like They Belong, Regardless of Where They Are?

One important factor with the community is that I want to make sure it’s not a homogenous community. I want people with different views about marketing, culture, politics, and other areas to join and feel like it’s a safe space, wherever they’re joining from. There are some values that the community embraces like “love is love,” which may appeal more to some than others, but that’s intentionally creating a space for inclusiveness and tolerance. We have more members joining internationally too and have dozens of countries represented, and I hope we keep building on that.

A lot of it is authentic. I genuinely care about the members of my community. I’m fascinated by the range of backgrounds, and I want to create the kind of space where I’d feel like I belong too. I didn’t go to school for marketing, so I get what it’s like to feel like the new kid who knows nothing and no one. My dad’s family came to America as refugees from Eastern Europe, so my family has a lot of that immigrant spirit that I hope to hold on to. I know what it’s like not to fit in personally. It can be fun to be different, but I get how hard it is, so I’m eager to create as welcoming an environment as possible.

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Can You Share Your Tool Stack to Manage the Community’s Daily Activities?

The tech stack includes Slack at its center along with Mailchimp, Google Forms, and then Zapier connecting all of that. I’ve been a big fan of Upstream over the years for community events. Zoom’s been the most frequent virtual event tool we’ve used. Meetup has been most reliable for live events. Our sites are hosted on WordPress. Our job board is on Niceboard. We have our Academy on Superpeer. We now use Dots for member communication. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things, since there’s so much involved.

What Goal Would You Want to Achieve With SM?

I want to keep sourcing ways to create better opportunities for members. I’d rather create 25% more value for every member in the community than grow the member base by 100%. By creating more value for current members, it will attract the right future members. Having more members doesn’t necessarily create more value though. You have to get the priorities straight.

Keep reading 👉 Are No-Code Automation Tools the Future of Entrepreneurship? [Interview With Joshua Tiernan]

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Sofia Terlesky

I'm an SEO content manager with over five years of experience planning and writing for blogs and social media, helping small and mid-size businesses grow organically. Now, I'm responsible for planning Unita's content calendar—ensuring we are offering valuable content for community builders and founders.