“When you growth hack with incentives, you erode authenticity” 🗯 Laura Nestler, Duolingo & Yelp


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By People & Company, Bailey Richardson, Kevin Huynh, Kai Elmer Sotto, Maggie Zhang, and Mia Quagliarello. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

“Community is not transactional by nature. Humans seek to connect on a deeper level. They're looking for validation or for support or for something bigger than themselves.

Now that community is such a buzzword. Everyone wants it and they want it quickly. We have more levers than ever, and they work. But when you growth hack with incentives, what you gain in volume, you erode in authenticity.” - Laura Nestler

In 2007, Laura Nestler responded to a Craigslist ad that “was either as sketchy as it sounded or her dream job.” Fortunately, it was her dream job with a little startup called Yelp.

She started as the community manager in Portland, Oregon, and would go on to spend a decade with the company refining their community playbook and living in cities all around the world, launching Yelp communities in new markets.

Now Laura is the Global Head of Community at Duolingo, a platform that hundreds of millions of people around the world turn to to learn a language. Before COVID, Duolingo users were hosting thousands of in-person language circles around the world each month. Laura shared how she did over forty iterative tests before Duolingo landing on this shared activity.

Highlights, inspiration, & key learnings:

  • “Protect the source.” This guiding principle at Yelp ensured the community was a central focus.
  • Community doesn’t happen through growth hacking. Social incentives are different from business incentives.
  • The role of a community manager and executives are to tell the story of a community's value.
  • Test and test again. Get something out there and make sure you are not solving for a personal bias. Laura tested and iterated on 40 events before they landed on Duolingo’s language circles.

👋🏻Say hi to Laura on twitter @LauraNestler.

📄See the full transcript.

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