Priime is a photo editing app available on iOS and OS X, and I’ve been a part of the Priime team as their community manager for a year now. Being a community manager is something I’ve never done before, but I feel extremely lucky to be working alongside such a talented team of four others on a product we all believe in and use. We’re a small team, but we’ve grown in a lot of ways in product and community; the growth has been incredible to witness.
Before working at Priime, I was already a loyal user of the iPhone app after attending the launch event that they hosted, and I was hooked onto the app from then on out. As someone who was in the Priime community before starting this role, I knew I had an exceptional task ahead of me. Priime’s cofounders, Andrew, Arthur, Joe, and Loren, have dedicated countless hours of work to create a stunning product, utilizing their own knowledge and wants as photographers to deliver something unique and powerful to the photography community. While they churn away at developing amazing products, I view my role as community manager as one that empowers people to use and be proud to use our product.
As every product is unique, every community behind that product will also be unique, which presents new challenges in growth and scale.
Defining the Priime community
When I talk about the Priime community, I’m not only referring to our die-hard fans or followers on social media. A community should be inviting and inclusive, and we consider the photography community as our audience. Before Priime, we were all shooting alongside other photographers, going to meet ups, and engaging in the community, so we see the Priime community as a place for people to get together and share a common love for photography.
Priime hosts gallery events, photography meet ups where we take photos together (also known as photowalks), and open office events that are open to all photographers of varying skills. I’ve found that we have plenty of people in our community who are die-hard Priime users, but there are also people in our community who, despite not being as actively engaged in our product, will still show up to all of our events and recommend us to others which makes them crucial to our community as well.
Building off the large photography community, how do you build and foster a sense of community around your product specifically?
Here are some key lessons I learned from building Priime’s community over the last year:
Interact with your online users meaningfully
This seems simple, but it can’t be said enough. Thanks to the immediacy of the internet and social media, you can observe how different people are using and reacting to your product in real time. If you’ve created a great product, there’s a good chance your users are already raving about your product and fostering a sense of loyalty around it. Combing through hashtags or searching for your company name across social media is the easiest way to keep a pulse on how people are using your app.
When users edit their photo with Priime, they usually post their photo using the #priime hashtag across social media, mostly on Instagram. I set aside time every day to skim through and catch up with what our users have created or said about us online. I reply to photos that stand out to me with either meaningful feedback, a conversation starter, or a note to thank them for using Priime. I’ve seen some companies utilize the same copy and paste response when interacting to their users which is cringeworthy. While it’s impossible to respond to everything, it’s important to communicate often with your users in a genuine way especially starting out as a company. When people feel heard, they continue to help contribute more feedback about the app.
Today, we’ve closed in on over 100,000 photos posted to the #priime hashtag on Instagram after a little over a year of Priime being live on the App Store.
While the number of photos, comments, and tags are tough to keep up compared to a year ago, I still put in time to converse with people. As a company, we proudly showcase work that our users have created with the Priime app on our website, blog, and social channels.
In person is always better
Online interaction and feedback are crucial, but I always aim to meet with the community in person if possible. Pick video or FaceTime calls over voice calls or emails. Early on in this role, our CEO Arthur Chang told me “As a community manager, if you’re always in the office on your computer, something’s wrong”, which always stuck with me.
This means that I’m often grabbing coffee with photographers who are in town, hopping on video calls with other community manager to swap tips, planning and hosting photowalks, attending photography community related events, inviting people to our office, or traveling to other cities to host photowalks and events. Simply put, reaching out to our community to have face time with them helps make our team and our product more real and relatable.
Work with people and brands that you believe in
Creating a solid foundation of a community can be difficult at first. At Priime, we’ve selected brands and photographers based on the quality of their work plus the audience they draw in. Our photography filters that we offer are developed by professional photographers — we call them our Style Authors — who are the foundation of our community and are all-around awesome people that we’re really proud to work with.
In addition to working with photographers who align with our ideals and mission, we’ve also worked with brands and companies, such as Everlane, to develop photography styles.Along with creating a clean aesthetic in the photography that they use, Everlane also does an incredible job of keeping their community engaged by being open and transparent. Consequently, this helped bring incredible people from their community to overlap into ours.
We’ve also partnered with San Francisco Travel, who help connect both San Francisco locals and visitors to events and businesses in the Bay Area. San Francisco Travel actively engages with their social media audience and creates a sense of community through great photos, especially on their Instagram (@onlyinsf) and through their hashtag #AlwaysSF. As a company that values photography and inclusiveness, San Francisco Travel has been essential in helping us host photography related events around the city and helping us bring great experiences to the photography community.
The Power of Community
As a community manager, my greatest successes happen when I can convince people to try our products and make them feel like they’re a part of something awesome. I know I’ve done my job well when people really enjoy the events we put on, hang out with new photographers that they’ve met through our events, or learn something new about photography through us. Of all the success stories I can think of over the past year, my favorite one is about Carl Maynard.
Today, Carl is easily one of the most active users in the Priime community. He found out about Priime through Everlane when we launched the Everlane styles a little less than a year ago. On Instagram, Carl (@carlnard) started to have a heavy presence on the #priime hashtag, posting photos every day.
When I found out he would be visiting San Francisco, the team invited him to shoot sunrise and to come visit our office. (Again, if you can meet with people in person, always do it.)
By meeting in person and keeping the communication open, we’ve gained so much valuable feedback from Carl and his friends who use Priime. He helps make our app better by inviting people to our app, spreading the word about Priime in all of the photowalks he hosts in DC, creating his own #priime_DC hashtag for the Priime community in Washington DC, and showing people how to use the app. His #priime_DC hashtag is at over a thousand posts now, and by our count, he’s brought over 100 people to install our app.
Carl is just one of our many community stories. When you multiply out that impact through the Priime community, the reach starts to become immense. Not only has Carl helped us create a better product through our interactions with him, but our relationship with him extends far past just the Priime app; we’re proud to genuinely call him our good friend.
What we do
At Priime, we want to make the photography community feel even closer and build something great for them. As it’s only been my first year, how I’ll approach this role will change as our products change and as the community continues to grow. For now, that means planning events, combing through social media, or hunkering down and looking at brainstorms and ideas and figuring out how people will react to what we build.
But sometimes there are days in the office where evening rolls around and the five of us peel ourselves away from our screens, check the Mount Tam Cam to see what the fog looks like, group text our friends to see who’s free, and chase golden hour to shoot sunset together from Marin.
And then we edit those photos with Priime, of course.