With Great Passion Comes Great Responsibility, featuring the Splunk Trust with Eric Grant— EP003

Eric Grant, Community Manager for Splunk, sits down with us today to discuss how the SplunkTrust started, evolved, and now helps active members of the Splunk community be “geeky in all the right ways.” Giving those who help Splunk great benefits and a positive identity is very important to Eric, and he details exactly how they accomplish that.

Today we are talking with Eric Grant, Community Manager for Splunk, who manages the advocacy program SplunkTrust. Eric shares with us the importance of building a team you can count on and trust, and how he was surprised at just how much people would do when asked. Eric gives great advice for those looking to start their own advocacy programs and gives us some behind-the-scenes insight on what makes SplunkTrust members the vivacious, raucous, and fez wearing “ubergeeks” that we know and love. Listen in as he describes how they took a community that was already there, and shaped it to be the SplunkTrust. Eric inspires us as program managers and leaders to have the courage to ask others for help, along with finding the right people, tell them to keep doing what they are doing, and ask them for even more, with providing great benefits and recognition in trade!

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Key Takeaways

[1:20] Today we are talking with Eric Grant, Community Manager for Splunk.

[3:30] Eric started in program management and release management. He has been at Splunk for 5½ years. One of the responsibilities he had during that time was running the beta programs for their enterprise product. He enjoyed user perspective on the products — both the praise and critiques of upcoming releases. When an opportunity came up to work on the community end of things, he saw it as a great way to get more involved with customers.

[5:04] Being part of the Splunk culture, and knowing the product and the customer base, helped him transition over to the community manager position.

[6:46] Their annual conference has been held for 8 or 9 years, which is a great way for customers, partners, and employees to get together. That led to an online community of a large number of these people, who started communicating both professional and informally on an IRC. They have something called “Answers,” where they have over 80,000 questions posted by customers and partners, with a quick turnaround time of answers within 20–30 minutes, and 70% answered by other customers. They have 90 user groups around the world.

[8:03] SplunkTrust is an MVP program, grown out of consistent contributors from customers, app developers, etc. This was to thank them for what they were doing, to empower and encourage them to do more. The goal was not to set specific quantitative hard numbers, but just to see what it could do.

[10:08] They had some qualitative goals when starting the program, but it’s hard to set up quantitative goals. It’s challenging to get wrapped up into hard ROI before you know the outcome.

[10:55] The initial goal was to help with customer success, which is why it was in the support organization, and that stays as one of the top goals of the company.

[11:34] For people starting a program, Eric recommends to look for the people that are already passionate and championing your company. The initial membership was picked by an internal team, plus support and sales engineers, product engineers, etc. They looked at who the most helpful people were, in the programs that they already had going. Once they identified those people, they looked at their attitude, availability to participate, and ability to represent Splunk well.

[14:42] Some keywords that Eric describes Splunk culture as: snarky, irreverent, geeky. IT admin and implementers are highly represented. The group is geeky people who enjoy hanging out online with other geeky people!

[15:39] SplunkTrust is known for their cool T-shirts and swag. Some people say Splunk is a T-shirt company who happens to make software! They wear Fezzes as a unifying symbol along with a pin that signifies the year of the program.

[17:41] There are two SplunkTrusters that Splunk hired, and the community still wanted them in even though they now work for the company. The program is split up primarily between professional service consultants and customers.

[18:31] This is the second year and there are 30 members which include the two Splunk employees.

[22:40] Some of the other benefits of the SplunkTrust program include rewards and ways they can promote themselves and Splunk. Free training and certification through Splunk education courses, free pass to annual user conference— .Conf, Fez, pins and capes. Presentations on products are coming up where they can share their thoughts, and virtual conference sessions where they present to a public audience.

[24:45] ROI is difficult to measure, but one way is support case deflection.

[30:41] They do want to grow the program, but want to do it slowly, in order maintain the tightness of group identity. If it continues to grow larger, they may start segmenting and subdividing the group into service type categories, or industry vertical categories, rather than just growing it, which fragments and loses cohesion.

[35:10] Eric was surprised at how much the group would do, when not even asked. Brainstorm all the possible things program members can get involved with. Then let community members help define the path after that.

[35:50] Sometimes it can be difficult balancing the journey of the program and passion of the SplunkTrust members with what is optimal for the company’s long term goals. It’s a delicate balance to satisfy both.

[36:42] Eric has been blown away by the strength of the identity and interest level of the program. They expect it to keep growing by 75% in the next year.

About our guest, Eric Grant

Eric Grant is the Community Manager for Splunk. In that role, he manages Splunk’s local User Groups, the SplunkTrust MVP program, and the realtime chat service. Eric has been at Splunk for five years and previously served as a Program Manager and Release Manager for Platforms, as well as running Beta programs for Platforms. Eric serves on Splunk’s the Open Source Standards committee, sits on the Onboarding Steering committee, and helps guide Splunk’s culture as a Values Ambassador.

Eric has spent his professional life melding technology, education, and collaboration. He started life in New York, got some degrees in Information Systems and Political Science from CMU, and then started working in enterprise software, learning and development, and edutainment software in Austin and New York. Then he came to Stanford for a Masters in Learning, Design, and Technology, and fell in love with California. Since then, he has worked in high-tech classrooms, educational foundations, government tech, and several educational startups. Prior to working at Splunk, Eric was about to go to Libya to roll out a citizen participation technology, but then the citizens revolted and he decided to stay here.

Eric lives in San Francisco and enjoys motorcycling, camping, skiing, fostering rescue dogs, and eating too much cheese. Eric also volunteers as a first responder at Burning Man just about every year.

Mentioned In This Episode

The Influence Marketing Podcast is brought to you by the Influence Marketing Council, an industry council for B2B brands who innovate in influencer, advocacy, and community marketing. Your hosts, John Mark Troyer and Kathleen Nelson Troyer, are co-founders of the IMC. The Influence Marketing Podcast is part of the research program of the IMC. For more information, go to influencemarketingcouncil.com.