Maker Hunt’s AMA with Alexa Scordato from Stack Exchange

We’re starting our AMA w/ Alexa Scordato. Alexa is a digital marketer who is passionate about connecting people and ideas through new technologies. She is the Director of Product Marketing at Stack Exchange, a network of more than 140 Question & Answer sites, including Stack Overflow, the largest site for software developers. Alexa has over 9 years of experience helping companies big and small understand how to leverage technology to achieve business objectives.

Prior to Stack Exchange, she spent four years as the Sr. Director of Marketing for 2U, an education company that helps top-tier colleges and universities deliver quality online degree programs. Prior to 2U, Alexa worked at Porter Novelli, a global PR agency where she designed digital campaigns on behalf of Fortune 500 brands. Apart from her day job, Alexa is the co-founder of Dipsology.com a site dedicated to educating consumers about noteworthy cocktail destinations and craft spirits. Alexa graduated from Barnard College in 2007 with a B.A. in American Studies. You can find her online at http://twitter.com/Alexa

You can introduce yourself and we’ll get started.

Hi everyone! It’s great to be here. I joined Stack Exchange a little over a year ago after the last start up I was at, 2U, went public. It’s been quite the ride! I’m a marketer by trade, but I spend most of my day hanging out with some of the most brilliant developers in the world.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Stack Exchange, we’re best known for Stack Overflow, which is probably the largest site for developers. We get about 26M programmers using our site each month.

Q. Why did you leave after 2U went public? — Bhavesh Patel

I was at 2U for about four years and scaled a team from 3 to 20+. I loved every minute of it, but I was really ready to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty. There’s nothing like being at a start up building something from scratch. That’s the opportunity I have now at Stack. We’ve had a very developer led culture and very little infrastructure on the marketing side. Over the last year the team has gone from 3 to 11 and we’re probably hiring 15 more in the next 6 months.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about what an average day looks like for you as the Director of Product Marketing at Stack Exchange? Eric Willis

I don’t think there’s such a thing as a typical day for me at Stack Exchange. That’s one of the best parts about working here. I’m in a really dynamic, cross-functional role that has me talking to product managers, developers, designers, and our community team almost daily. A lot of people are familiar with our sites because of Q&A, but we actually have an entire Careers product focused on helping developers get better jobs. That’s our next big challenge as a company. It should be as easy to get a new job opportunity on Stack Overflow as it is to get an answer to your coding questions.

Q. What is your definition of full stack marketer? What’s the skill-set required and why do you think it’s one of the most difficult positions to hire? — Eric Willis

I think a full stack marketer is someone who understands brand, lead acquisition, SEO, social, analytics, tools and technologies…. basically the full suite of disciplines that are necessary to execute a truly integrated marketing plan.

Q. What other verticals do you think could benefit from a site like stack overflow? — Ben Tossell

I think there’s a lot of opportunities for other industries/verticals to benefit from what I’d consider to be “the developer mindset”. There’s a reason why Stack Overflow is so successful — it was built and architected by software developers. We have a really specific way about doing things — we’re pragmatic, we’re honest, we’re transparent, we’re collaborative, we’re all of these things that I’d love for other industries to embrace.

Q. Does focusing on job board for developers means stackoverflow will be even more focused on than other stacks, or do you plan on making job board for others as well? — Olivier

Right now we’re solely focused on serving software developers. We’re practically obsessed! I should print a t-shirt or something… ADIDAS — all day I dream about software developers. We think there’s a really big, meaty challenge in helping the professional world understand how developers should be treated in the workplace. There are lots of recruiters and employers who just miss the mark. They don’t know what it takes to recruit OR retain developers. Unlike other job sites, we think we can really advocate the most for developer candidates.

Q. What are some of your favorite online communities and why? — Eric Willis

I’ve been in a long-term relationship with Twitter since the beginning (hence the username @alexa). I just think it’s still the most powerful platform for hosting global conversations, especially in real-time. I’ve also fallen in love with instagram just because the aspect of curation is really strong. We live in a world where there’s just so much noise and I think Instagram users really take the time to publish the good stuff (In contrast to snapchat, Facebook albums, etc.)

Q. Is there a secret to really creating buzz around a product or site before it launches? — david Diamond

I think having a really strong point of view that you know how to communicate honestly/authentically is key. If you don’t have that story down or you’re forcing it in a way that feels artificial, it’ll never catch on.

Q. What do you think about the use of “community-manager” as a term? Thomas Knoll informed us that’s it not the best way to describe nurturing/supporting a community. That you don’t really “manage” a community.Eric Willis

Community Managers come in all shapes and sizes so I can see how perhaps it’s too ambiguous of a word. Some community managers are focused on engagement, others on customer support, while others are really about acquisition and retention. Communities aren’t necessarily managed, but they do require dedicated resources in order to help them grow and thrive.

Q. I’ve read once that stack overflow has quite different inside communities (those who ask questions, those who want to answer quickly to have karma, those who want to make questions and answer perfectly written). Is it also your job to manage friction among those groups, at SO, and if so, how do you do? — Olivier

We have what I’d consider to be the best community team in the world. It’s a group of about 20+ individuals who are tasked with helping our sites grow and maintaining our relationships with our users. We have hundreds of volunteer moderators who we work with daily and a very passionate and knowledgeable userbase.

Some companies have community managers working within marketing, but at Stack Exchange we have an entire department dedicated to that. We’re a company rooted in community so it’s really important to us that we invest in that function.

Q. I’m the CEO of a website portfolio builder for creatives (both fresh and experience). We bootstrapped our product to launch (about a month ago) and are now looking at options to gain exposure either by growth-hacking; primarily trying to get the attention of writers/reporters to cover the product or to fit the product into their stories (it seems everyone has a guide to growth-hacking now), or with a traditional PR route (albeit using digital media PR specialists).
Spend is an issue, but, whilst growth-hacking is less expensive, it takes a hell of a lot of time away from developing a product. In your opinion do you believe PR can make a difference for startups (especially targeted ones), or do you think there are better, cheaper options to get exposure. Any opinions you have would help! — 
Tim Jarvis

Hi Tim! What’s the name of your site? Would love to check it out. I know lots of people who are always looking for a better way to showcase their work.

To answer your question, I read a great article a while ago from Brooke Hammerling on First Round Review:

It’s worth the read, but my short answer to your question is that PR can be really effective, but only when your story is tight and you understand how it related to your competitors, industries, and the media landscape. It’s so much about cutting through the noise and finding the right message and the right time. I know that sounds so cliche, but it’s really true. We livein a world where everyone’s building Uber for ____. Is that the story that’s going to get someone’s attention? Or is the very specific use case that people relate to on a personal level going to get attention. It’s tough, but worth testing! There are lots of good consultants out there who won’t charge crazy agency fees. Ping me after and I can send some your way.

https://getfabrik.com — we’ve gone for a community-first model of showcasing our creatives in an attempt at gaining attention for the product through their work, which we do on the site and thru our social channels

Q. What do you think it’s the most misunderstood aspect of building a great community? — Eric Willis

Everyone underestimates just how long it takes and how many resources (time and $$$) when it comes to community building.

Q. Who are some of the great community builders and digital marketers that you most admire and why? — Eric Willis

There are so many I’m almost afraid to name some at the risk of excluding others. I’m going to give a shout out to Jenn Pedde who I had the pleasure of working with at 2U. She works for eModeration now which is a global agency helping large brands manage online communities. She started #cmgr chat on Twitter and is just one of the most knowledgeable, kind, and helpful people in the community space. She also is one of the co-founders of thecommunitymanager.com, which is probably THE first site dedicated to community management as a marketing discipline.


Thanks so much for doing the AMA with us. We’ll get this edited and up on Medium soon.

Awesome! Thanks again for having me! Looking forward to getting to know folks in this group.


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