Get Together

Creating a radically safe, welcoming space online 🏳️‍🌈 Shana Sumers, HER

Episode Summary

An interview hosted by Bailey and Maggie with Shana Sumers, Head of Community at HER social app, the largest community and dating app for LGBTQ+ womxn and queer people. We talked with Shana about how the HER community has pushed Shana as a moderator, role model and leader, and how she supports superusers to take on moderation roles in the community.

Episode Notes

“Ask your community: What they want to see out of the company to make them feel supported? I don't do anything until I talk to the community or reach out to them or say, ‘What do you want to see next? And then I make that a part of my plan.’” - Shana Sumers

HER Social App is the largest social community and dating app for LGBTQ+ womxn and queer people. Unlike other dating apps that tend to end the user journey when people find a partner, HER is also a place for users to return to for queer friendship and conversation.

Shana Sumers is the master behind the community at HER. She started as an ambassador of the app and now serves as the Head of Community, helping launch and grow it to over five million users worldwide.

She also co-hosts her own podcast, Bad Queers. And she worked as a music therapist for 5 years before joining the tech world, which influences her approach as a moderator. 

On the podcast Shana shares how she doesn’t do anything without consulting her community first and how she has gone about making difficult decisions on the HER social app forums, where people would list their dating preferences that were sometimes phobic. 

Highlights, inspiration, & key learnings:

[0:45] Intro to Shana and why the Get Together team is excited to interview her

[3:23] About HER and how Shana got involved on accident

[4:50] Creating space for LGBTQ+ womxn and queer people 

[6:44] “This pride is different” - highlighting intersectionality of community

[9:26] “There is always more you can do” - taking ownership of inclusivity

[11:40] Serving as an outwardly facing leader and creating accountability internally for leadership

[14:50] Company's Shana admires for taking accountability in 2020 - Ben & Jerrys and Rihanna’s Fenty

[17:37]  Separating your platform from your work identity and managing personal life as public facing figure of your company

[19:45] Transformative moment with members 

[21:15] Decision making *with* the community and sourcing ideas

[22:39] Supercharging superusers and revamping moderators program 

[24:40] Moderating difficult conversations

[28:45] Writing and updating community guidelines 

[30:38] Why language matters and other learnings from background in music therapy 

[32:40] Behind the scenes of Bad Queer podcast, "a show for people who feel like they came out of the closet and got placed in a box"

[36:00] Creating talking points for community forums 

[38:06] Shana’s wish for the world ✨

👋🏻Say hi to Shana and learn more about HER social app + Bad Queers

✨Learn more about our correspondent Maggie Zhang on her blog, Commonplays.

📄See the full transcript

This podcast was created by the team at People & Company. 

🔥Say hi! We would love to get to know you.

We published GET TOGETHER📙, a handbook on community-building. 

And we help organizations like Nike, Porsche, Substack and Surfrider make smart bets with their community-building investments.

Hit subscribe🎙 and head over to our website to learn about the work we do with passionate, community-centered organizations.

Episode Transcription

Note: This transcript is automatically generated, and there may be some errors.

I don't do anything until I talk to the community or reach out. Talk to them or say, what do you want to see next? And then I make that a part of my plan. 


Welcome to get together.

Speaker 1: Our show about ordinary people, building extraordinary communities. I am your host, Bailey Richardson. I'm a partner at people and company and a co author of get together how to build a community with your people. And I magazine get together a correspondent and each episode of this podcast, we interview everyday people who have built extraordinary communities about just how they did it. How did they get the first people to show up? How did they grow to hundreds, maybe thousands, more members today we're talking to Shana summers. She is the head of community at her social app, which is the largest community and dating app for LGBTQ women and queer people. That means she's the one tasked with making an intersectional, welcoming, inclusive space on the internet. She also co-hosts her own podcast, bad queers. And cool fact, she worked as a music therapist for five years before joining the tech world, which we'll share more about in our interview.


Speaker 1: Maggie, tell me, why were you so excited to interview Shayna? So I heard Shana speak at comm summit, which was a virtual summit for community building and she revealed her talk literally the night before in reaction to the black lives matter movement so that she could focus on talking about how to address racism and support diversity in our own communities. So I thought she had a really valuable message to share, and I was excited to interview her and learn more about her journey working on her social app. Absolutely. The space that they're building is aspiring to be about as radically inclusive as I've seen any tech product, try to be out there. So I love that you brought Shana and tell me, what's one thing that you learned from her today. So Shayna doesn't do anything without consulting her community. First, she, in this episode talked about a difficult decision on the, her social app forums where people would list their dating preferences, but state that they didn't like trans people or didn't like black woman and her team.


Speaker 1: Wasn't sure whether these statements were phobic or just stating personal preferences, but instead of taking down the comments right away, Shana decided to let it play out on the forums and let the community react. So sure enough, the community started calling out the posts for being disrespectful and then Gina was there and they needed to be removed, but it was really important that you let the users decide. And I thought that was just really cool and inspiring to learn. Yeah, let the users decide and let more context and input come out as well. And so hard on the internet when all you see is a small line of text to understand everything that backs it up. And I love how Shayna, I think sounds like she took some of her experience as you know, a therapist into these decisions. All right, you ready? Should we in Shana? Thank you so much for joining today. I heard your talk on comm summit and thought it was really powerful. Just the way you're talking about how you use the, her platform to also support the black lives matter movement. And I thought that was a really important message to bring in, especially with this podcast, being about community building, hope to focus a lot on that. Could you share what is the, her social app for those who don't know, what is the community look like and what were your personal motivations to join?


Speaker 3: Her is an LGBTQ plus dating and community app for women trans and non binary folks. Our community is there for people to just come into a safe space and be unapologetically themselves, whether it's looking for dating or whether it's looking for friendship, events, things like that. The thing that makes us a bit different is that we have the community side of the app. And so while you can still swipe on profiles and get your data on, you can switch over to our community side, which is similar to Reddit thread or a Facebook group, and can join based off of identities and interests. And they can be social there with a global LGBTQ plus network, which is super fun. I got involved with her kind of on accident. I applied to be an ambassador for them while I was getting my master's degree. And I ended up doing a bunch of blog content and I was studying for a whole different degree program. I was previously a music therapist and I just continued doing work with them over the years. And that just grew to me, recruiting for events to come on and did social media for a while. And then I got a surprise job offer. And I was like, you know, when else is this going to happen? So I jumped at the chance and here we are today,


Speaker 1: You're what we call a hand raiser. You raised your hand, I'm ready, I'm available. And I would like to do this with you. I support you. I love it. You're the spice of life. Awesome. I want to ask a quick question about her. How come you guys have the community component? Like not a lot of dating ish vibe.


Speaker 3: The spaces do that too. I know. I mean, first of all, most of them have just a shit ton of money to be able to be like, you know, we're just going to make it a separate product and we're like, no, we're going to keep them in house. So a lot of the dating apps, obviously their goal is to get you to meet your person and get you off of the app. And we want you to meet your person and then come back with your person and meet more of the queer community. There's very, very, very little spaces for LGBTQ plus women or trans folks or non-binary folks to go and feel safe and just go physically to a space. So we wanted to create that virtual space for them to be able to come and interact as they would in person, like nothing can replace in person experiences, but then that's why we have the events component as well, so that we can bring them together and say, Hey, get off the app, come over here and then connect back with them on the app. And it's a beautiful, full circle thing. So that was the drive for launching the communities. Yeah.


Speaker 1: And so you're the one that's tasked with making the intersectional, welcoming, inclusive space on the internet, which is something that a lot of female queer spaces have not. So


Speaker 3: I'm, so not that it's a big challenge. I was like, Tom, from my space has nothing on me. That's what we're doing.


Speaker 1: Yeah. It's interesting because I feel like so many dating apps, their successes, how many people delete it because once you couple up that's that with this diverse community, I found it really inspiring how you also are supporting other communities and movements. For example, recently our CEO, Robin posted this pride is different, which emphasize the intersectionality between pride and black lives matter. Her articles point was to show ways you can take action within the, her community to protect black lives on social media. All the recent posts have been about supporting black businesses, mental health resources for the black community. So wondering if you could talk more about this and why that's so important to be supporting, right?


Speaker 3: Yeah. It's one of those things where it's important to support always. And we have driven that path to make sure that we are telling diverse stories and by letting people that wouldn't normally be highlighted, but highlighting the intersectionality of the community, especially going between it being pride month and this all coming to heat for black lives matter. And I think the narrative continues to be a work in progress. When we've been posting, we are highlighting trans women of color. We are highlighting black queer people and black core businesses and everything that we're trying to do right now, while we would have done that in a more expansive way where like, yeah, we need to hone in right now. We need to be that support and companies need to naturally start putting that into their day to day schedule and workings and just thought process honestly.


Speaker 3: And the one thing that does miss though, is with the black lives matter movement, we're okay to lean on a lot of support for cisgender black men in cases like born as a male, identify as male, and everybody's pretty comfortable with it. But then you hear the story of Ayana Dior, who is a black trans woman in Minneapolis who was out protesting for George Floyd. And she ended up getting jumped by a group of black men. And so then it becomes another discussion of where does your queer identity fit into your black identity? And that also needs to continue to be explored. And we want to make sure that that voice is out there and that we are continuing to support that movement, which is why we leaned into the whole, you know, this pride is different. The history of pride is diverse. The history of pride is intersectional and that story needs to continue to be told last year.


Speaker 3: It was so funny because we had discussed how pride had just become this corporate event that they could put some checks to and throw some rainbows on it and keep it moving. And this year is finally the discussions that need to be happening. We're getting back to the root of what pride was and black lives matter intersects with that a lot because that's how pride started was a riot. And that's how black lives matter started was right. And so that's the conversation that we believe needs to happen. You know, I'm queer, I am white, but I'm queer. And you start to realize how much of marketing, how much of branding, how much of communication is not directed


Speaker 4: Towards you and both of you guys are not white. So I'm sure you've also experienced that on a racial perspective, but companies are really bad at being inclusive. There's a history of mass marketing. Like we're going to just market to the biggest group or the group with the most money. And that tends to be historically straight white people in this country. So what we have is a template of people who suck at it. And you know, you guys are really at the front of being inclusive and pushing that forward as a company. What have you learned about how to be inclusive?


Speaker 3: The first thing that we've learned is there's always more that we can do. We talk about it a lot and it may not be in as explicit of a way as we're talking about it right now, but there's always room for improvement. As long as you're able to own it. One of the times we made a bit of a booboo on one of our posts. We were editing and missed something and people clearly called us on it. And one of my staff was like, well, what do I do? And I'm like, hold yourself accountable. Let them know. People want to know that you're like, Hey, okay, we did that wrong. Here's what we're going to do to make it better. So many companies are afraid of saying that they've done it wrong because now it's staring them in the face. And so there's so many companies that are too afraid to say anything which doesn't help.


Speaker 3: And there are too many companies that are like, I'm just going to say this because it's the trend right now. And that doesn't help. People are starting to see through the BS. And so they need to start taking action. That's one of the things that we're trying to do on the backend of what our company is building. So while we're putting the message out on social media and in messages and in the events that we're hosting, that's just one step out of a mountain of things that we can do. So what is the next task that you're going to do? You're going to start to look at your employees. You're going to start to look at how it's working inside your day to day offices. How is it looking while you're remote right now? And places are slowly starting to open up? What type of environment are you going to provide to your staff, into your community?


Speaker 3: When you come back, I've continued to tell people, especially when businesses start to say, Oh, this isn't really our issue because we talk about this specific thing. And it's like, no, you have black people in your community. First of all, you have LGBTQ plus people in your community. Second of all, you have POC in your community. So this becomes a huge issue because you have those identities that are being affected right now. So by saying that you're going to not say anything or not support shows that you are very complacent with what's happening right now. And you're not willing to take the steps to move forward. And then you're going to lose that talent. And your competitor is going to gain that talent.


Speaker 4: What I'm also hearing in there is just that you're close to your community, right? You're hearing them, you're listening to them and you're responding. I think a lot of groups end up with too much space between them and the people that they're serving.


Speaker 3: It's definitely. It's true. Cause is that the point where people know to tag in the communities, if things happen where some grenades that's great and some days I'm like, please, please. I'm not talking to somebody else, but I'm the person. So yeah, everything that I do within position from the community space to social media, to our customer support now to our podcast, I'm outwardly facing. So there's no way that I can ignore anything that anybody's saying. So I'm the person who's answering in the DMS. I'm the person who hops into the community and comments on the fact that you have a really great shirt on today. And now that we've started to do a bunch of virtual events, they start to actually see me sitting behind this computer screen. They're like, Oh yeah, you're real. So now I'm getting even more engagement. And that's why we knew that we had to make such a quick transition into this as well, because I'm talking to these people every day.


Speaker 3: If we continue to not provide any voice or any support they're going to let me know, and they're gonna let me know very quickly. And that's an accountability that we have to hold ourselves to as well, because we are so committed to our community. I think that's one thing that makes her different, like Tinder, you don't know who is running, what or doing anything else, same with Bumble, but you come to her and if you know who our CEO is, you know, who is running events, you know, who is in charge of the community. And that's a really nice differentiator that we have amongst other dating communities. Yes.


Speaker 1: So regarding accountability, you sounds like you're so close to your community, that they're able to always call out anything or to share their sentiments for companies that maybe are not as close to their community or is not engaging with them as much. What advice do you have for them to also hold themselves accountable internally?


Speaker 3: Yeah. Well, first they need to kind of take a look around and if they see a lot of people that look like them as CIS white people, then they need to quickly start to make a change and start to reach out to their networks to make this work. I always say, don't target your one black friend or your one queer friend and try and get them to answer all of your questions because they're tired writing work. Hey,


Speaker 1:  like, check this out your horse. Let me know if this looks good,


Speaker 3: But start to build into your network and bring people in to point out stuff, ask your community what they want to see out of the company to make them feel supported. I don't do anything until I talk to the community or reach out to them or say, what do you want to see next? And then I make that a part of my plan companies also just need to own their bias and be like, we're going to try, we're going to do this. We're gonna make some mistakes, but here's how we're going to hold ourselves accountable in these spaces and start to change that legislation within your work changed your leadership team, change your board. Don't just sit and highlight months. You can't just celebrate black people in February. You can't just celebrate queer people in June. Start to make it an all year round thing, learn about different cultures, implement that into your work, but also implement that into the customers that you're working with.


Speaker 3: The brands that you're working with, the events that you decide to throw and pick an area, start, go be very open about what you're doing and then start your next area. I think everybody gets overwhelmed by this because they think it's like, we have to change everything right now. And it's like one that's not possible. It just doesn't work. And then it becomes a mess. And then you get back to square one because it's overwhelming. Just pick a spot, start there, get the ball rolling there, then move on to your next spot and then keep it going. It's one step at a,


Speaker 4: Are there any companies that you think are doing a particularly good job right now of holding themselves accountable?


Speaker 3: Yeah. Out of big companies. I think Ben and Jerry's has definitely been one of the best ones because they've actively called out steps that they have been doing what they've been doing over the last four years, what legislation they want to talk to. And even though it is black owned and Brent Rihanna's Fenty kills it, that their message has always been bringing people in and talking about stuff. And there's no hesitation behind what they do and who they're talking about. And if at any point somebody talks about one of their models in terms of styling or this isn't beautiful. This is a Victoria secret, then it's like, okay. Yeah. Not cause we're not


Speaker 4: As amazing fierce. Yeah. Didn't she also shut down the store like shoe people couldn't buy Fenty stuff for a few days. Yeah. She was just like, hire principals.


Speaker 3: She's about it. And like, that's literally what I feel like companies need to do. They need to absolutely just be about it. And if you have to go through a few days of discomfort, that's some of these other big tech companies are not doing it or they say they're doing it. And their ERG is doing a great job, but then everything else is not as great as it is.


Speaker 4: I saw someone tweet back at a company that tweeted out a guy stand with black lives matter statement. And they're like, Hey, could you just post a photo of your executive team?


Speaker 3: It has been the theme. I think I saw a post like that, but on LinkedIn. And I was like, Oh my God are people trolling on LinkedIn because I'm here for it. And this is the day that I have been waiting for is companies posting these blanket statements. But if you're going to make that statement, then you have to follow up with here's where we're going to improve. And so when they are like, yeah, I posted a photo of your executive leadership board, then you're like, okay. Yeah, cool. Do that. And then let them know the changes that I'm going to make with that because everybody already knows it's easily. Google-able like, you gotta fix it. And you gotta work from the top down.


Speaker 4: Well, really no. Right. I think some part of being white in this world is being blind to things that other people go through that you don't have awareness of naturally. And it's part of the burden that people of color deal with is people like me, not knowing small realities and big realities of your lives. And I think it's foolish to think that you could really serve a group of people without having them building the company, building the organization, building the product with you. There's a gap that having a whole exec team of white people is never going to be able to understand that gap. You are a very public part of her people in the community. Know you, people on the outside of the community know you, how do you manage being like such a public face for the company? How does someone who is a community leader keep themselves emotionally buoyant and good and not kind of public and professional in between space?


Speaker 3: Yeah, definitely a mix of buoyancy and then forgetting how to swim for a hot second. And then floating just appears out of nowhere type thing. I was actually having this conversation with one of my coworkers to discuss that. And it's kind of a mix. Like it's amazing to have a platform to be able to voice what's happening, be a voice for a marginalized community that I am a part of very much so like the intersectionality of being a black or a woman is definitely important. And I love being able to take that in and taking people's thoughts and listen and go. And I appreciate the fact that I have a therapy background to be able to go and like take these in because I feel much more confident and better speaking out about it. But it's also really hard because people look at you and they remember previous branding or things that they feel like we're missing, or they have this assumption that we're making big money.


Speaker 3: And it's like, Oh no, we're a startup. There's 10 of us on the team. But everybody thinks that we're just swimming in money. So why aren't we doing more? And you're not doing enough and you're not being black enough or you're not being here for the queer community. And it's a mix of, Hey, you're doing a great job, but Hey, when things go wrong, I try to keep it separate. But it's definitely hard because it's like, it's an attack on my identity and it's attack on me as a person. So it's definitely a moment where I have to improve the self care area of that because everybody's going to have opinions. Everybody's going to troll. I handle it some days like Chrissy Tiegen. And I handle it some days like Taylor Swift. And it's not great when it's tailored to this level. So


Speaker 4: The analogy is there. Yeah. Like Chrissy Tiegen is a boss


Speaker 3: Stuff and I'm just like, yeah, I have to go between both or sometimes I need to just tap out and it's not easy, but it is definitely still rewarding at the end, because then when you do see the people who appreciate it, where you do see the people who feel seen by that statement or by that actor by that event, and you're just like, great, this is what made it worth it.


Speaker 4: Is there anyone that stands out to you that you remember who you feel like their life has been really affected by being a part of the, her community or someone that you've met and conversation you've had?


Speaker 3: Yeah. So we did a rebrand in May, 2018. Before we did that. Like a couple of months before we hosted a photo shoot, all of our branding, all of our stuff is all people who have used the app and we have 50 or 60 her users in this big old photography studio that somebody lends out to us. And we got to sit and just chat with people all day about their life and their story. There's this one woman who stuck out to me and I continue to keep in touch with her. Cause she came and she would talk about like her coming out story and how the app helped her with that. And then a few months after the photo shoot, she was like, yo, you're never going to believe this. I've met the woman of my dreams on the app. There's such a cute couple. And they got picked up by some modeling agency and then her and her girlfriend moved in and she was like, I'm going to be with her forever. And it's because of you and wow. And it's so fun to watch that journey with people. It's awesome to be able to build those relationships.


Speaker 4: Yeah. It seems like the ultimate success story featured in photo shoot finds love, gets modeling.


Speaker 3: Nothing really else up there. As far as I know, like you did it. I don't know that wedding is about to be . So, because you're meeting so many people in person, you also are probably getting tons of emails, social media, reach outs, DMS, et cetera. How do you manage all the information overflow? Do you have a team that helps you? How do you have time to get to everything? How does that all time is made up at this point? We're in, we're in quarantine where there's time is all made up. Yeah. It's just kind of like a pick and choose type thing. What we're working towards. If it fits what we're working on, if these sound like good ideas, the thing that our team has done to switch it up has we've made all of these suggestions, very public. So in our Slack channels, we make sure that we don't keep as much stuff to the DMS.


Speaker 3: We try to keep it in the open spaces so that when we're working on something like you could have completely forgotten about it and somebody else would be like, Hey, did it, that person write in that thing and it fits into this topic. And you're like, yes, thank you. Thank you for having that. And then it allows it to stick out for other people. So we've definitely put more information forward facing. I've been doing a lot more where I can just go back and collect the receipts of what people have said. So I do a lot of posts in the community now of just general feedback of, Hey, what events do you want to see? What new stuff in the community do you want to see and fully just put that into a doc and share it with everyone. And yeah, that's kind of what we do is just make sure it's like document it, keep it in the open. Make sure it's shared


Speaker 5: 


Speaker 3: Hey yo, Hey Kevin Wynn here, they get together. Podcasts is a project by people in company. That's a small strategy company that I started with your main podcast, host Bailey and our friend, Kai. Although communities feel magical. They don't come together by magic. Whether you want to connect super fans, breathe life into an online group, or bring a remote team closer together, figuring out how to structure any community. Building investment can be disorienting. You know, where do we start? What are the common pitfalls? How do we avoid going too far in the wrong direction at people in company we've coached orgs like Nike Porsche sub stack and the Surfrider foundation on how to make smart bets to start and sustain communities, bringing people closer together in this way. Isn't a short term strategy. It's a longterm play that can transform a company across the board. If you lead an organization and have a hunch that there's a group of people, you could be doing more with building, with call us so we can help you get started. You won't be able to turn this on at a moment's notice, it's an investment. So if you're seeking a trail guide to give your team the best chance at sparking a community, reach out to us at people in company, we do sprints labs, coaching and would love to chat. You can find


Speaker 5:  with everyone.


Speaker 1: And then for your community, like the forums where people are talking, I saw that you also lead a community of moderators. How does that work? How do you train them? How do you find them? Can you tell us more about that program?


Speaker 3: Yeah. Our moderators are basically the equivalent of our super users. So they're already in the app all the time, talking, engaging reporting. So I try to find those people that I start to see a lot. We did the revamp of our moderator program. We did a big call out for people. We had them fill out a few questions. And then I got on a ton of video calls to meet with these people. And then we did a big onboarding with everyone, shared all of the information, train them, took them through a bunch of documents on how to recognize fake accounts, how to drive conversation, what to do. If you see conversation escalating, here are your tools. And then we put them in the app and let them fly free. We have them in a Facebook group. They have access to myself, our head of product and our CEO.


Speaker 3: And then they can each chat and feed off of each other. And I post updates and everything in there. Now it's a more individual basis. I have the moderators suggest people that they see are doing great and engaging. They will report them to me. And I will get on a quick 15 minute call with them. Chat, ask questions. It's like a minimized version of the big onboarding I did because the other moderators that we have are at the level that I don't need to train them anymore. They know what steps are happening and they're able to answer all of the questions. So I don't need to, they're active. They know what the guidelines are in and out for moderators that are going above and beyond. I send them surprises when we used to be able to go out, they were on the VIP list for all of our events. So a mix of grassroots recruiting, major recruiting, anything to bring them together as much as possible to kind of like train and put them on the same page, get them for their tools and then let them fly free. We currently have about 73 moderators all over the world. We mainly have them in the U S and the UK with sprinkling and Australia and Asia and a few other parts. They're an amazing group of people who are just really dedicated to the app. Yeah.


Speaker 1: Wow. And there's 5 million people using the app, right? So 73 moderators, like they must be doing so much.


Speaker 3: Yeah. Thankfully not all of those millions of people have found the community. So it's not as overwhelming.


Speaker 4: Are there any particularly hard decisions that you and the moderators had to make as a team about what was okay or not? Okay. On the platform that you could talk about?


Speaker 3: Oh, absolutely. That's a daily conversation. One of the big things that we have to work through is when it crosses the line between, this is your preference to, this is phobic. We've had a lot of discussions where some people blatantly come in and they're just like, Hey, this is what I'm looking for. I'm just not interested in trans people. And you're like,


Speaker 1: So I'm talking about this. Doesn't feel good.


Speaker 3: Okay. Let's figure out how to manage it and do that. Or somebody would come in and be like, yeah, here's my type, but I'm really not interested in black women. And you're like, this still doesn't feel right. And they're just like, no, it's just my preference. I'm not being racist or I'm not being bias. And there was a bit of back and forth with some people where they're just like, no, they're just trying to say who it is. And other people were like, no, this is blatantly disrespectful and should not be in here. There was a couple of months of back and forth about it. And there was a lot of points where our moderators would be like, we should just immediately take these down. And I was like, no, actually leave it up. And let's see how people respond. And that would lead our decision.


Speaker 3: And as they continued happening, we continue to have threads where people would call them out. And then as the discussion continued, you realize that it was very much a bias or like an internalized phobia that they have. And I was like, cool. We've now seen the trend. We went out, we did an unofficial test and we're able to make the decision of, we see that, then it needs to go and we can start to DM them and say, Hey, we'd appreciate it. If you put what you are looking for, as opposed to what you're not looking for, we're trying to provide an inclusive environment. And we want people to feel welcome. And some people come back and snap and do whatever. And I'm like, well, those people don't belong to the community. And I have gotten very cutthroat with some of those things happen. It's a very freeing opportunity to be able to do that.


Speaker 4: Thank you for sharing that. I feel like that is somewhere in between the line of stuff that maybe flies in a dating context and not in a community context and appreciate that you let the behavior play out to see more, instead of immediately shutting it down past experience. When I was working at Instagram, I remember similar hard decision around teenagers cut themselves on Instagram. And we had to talk to a lot of therapists about that. And there's two opinions about it. And one is that sometimes people can find help by expressing themselves. Maybe they don't have someone in their immediate family sharing this in some ways is possibly finding help. And then for some people they're glorifying it and it's just like a topic.


Speaker 3: Yeah. I know. I know that, right.


Speaker 4: Yeah. But it's like important to see the context around that to make that decision and understand how does this play out outside of just like one comment or one post. I have to look at this and holistic way and then understand someone's intentions, which can be hard.


Speaker 3: Yeah. And again, the joys of being very grateful for my therapeutic training, because that was similar, how much of it is attention seeking and how much of it is a cry for help? The LGBTQ plus community, especially with queer youth, have some of the highest suicide rates. And we had to be very cautious about the way that it was going to move forward. And because of my training, that was one that I very quickly just made the decision myself, where it was like, Hey, moderators, you are not trained to have to deal with this. And I do not want you to go home and lose sleep over the fact that couldn't connect with this person or anything like that. So I immediately made the switch to our guidelines and made the statement of when you see this, remove it, but be sure to DM the person, our guidelines, because at the bottom of our guidelines, we have resources.


Speaker 3: If people need help for different issues and we have it available for different countries and things like that, we are a dating app and we are not a mental health app. And so while we have self care resources and mental health resources in there, we're providing these for you to be able to take action for yourself. That was one where I didn't want to wait for that to play out. And so then there's those decisions that you have to kind of make as well. But again, the background training, very grateful for paying attention to my psych classes. This is great.


Speaker 1: Can you talk more about the process of defining these community guidelines? I'm sure they probably evolved a lot over the years, especially based on situations you're seeing live. So what does that look like now?


Speaker 3: Yeah. I'm forever checking other groups, community guidelines in, I take that from a mix of going on Facebook groups that are specific for the LGBTQ plus community, especially with dating ones. Oh man. They write out some of the best ones and they fit what's needed for our audience. So I always look to companies and groups that are very similar to ours and what they notice. And I'm like, man, I see all of these behaviors in our app. I wonder if other people are seeing it. And then I happen to other groups and they see it and I'm like, yes, this is great. I'm glad I'm not the only one. And some of them I go in and I'm like, I don't see it. So what in your guidelines makes that work? So I'm constantly checking every couple of months. Is there a better way to phrase this?


Speaker 3: Is there a more explicit way to phrase this? So it's a lot of sourcing, a lot of already being on the ground and having a pulse on which communities are active for the community that I'm overseeing. And while there are areas to be specific, there is the joys of kind of guidelines is like being able to figure out where your gray areas and what stuff is like. This is absolutely no, this is a hard stop, but I can be kind of gray here. So then that leaves an opportunity for discussion, but also for us to put that line of at the end of the day, her and any of our moderators are at Liberty to do what we want within our guidelines. You want to leave that there because there's some of those people who are like, well, I didn't do exactly this. And you're like, are we children? This is what a child does when they're trying to get out of eating something or we do have open-ended stuff. We do have specific behaviors that we will not tolerate. Our zero tolerance policy is very specific. Our nudity policy is pretty specific, but it leaves a little bit of gray area. Our behavior policy, how you're going to engage with people is definitely along those lines. You've met


Speaker 1: Your background in music therapy several times and how that's really been a really good lifesaver for some of the conversations. I was wondering if you could talk more about that. What are some core things that it's taught you that's really helped with community building today?


Speaker 3: Yeah, I think the best way to start with that is to say what music therapy is because people will just be like, I have music therapy. I listen to my friends. That's great. That's not what music therapy is. We didn't train for all of this to have you listen to the radio. So music therapy is utilizing music interventions to work with people with different levels of disabilities to accomplish their non musical goals. We are trained in instruments. We're trained in voice. We are trained in all the music reading, but we're also really trained in psychology because we're going into spaces where we're working with people with substance abuse and mental health or developmental disabilities or physical disabilities, memory loss, things like that. With all of that training, I mainly worked with adolescents with emotional behavior disorders and kids and adults with developmental disabilities. So I saw all sorts of things.


Speaker 3: I did have a brief moment with substance abuse and addiction, which was actually really incredible. And I really enjoyed it. I'm sad. It was so short, but being able to engage with so many people in different areas who work you to different levels of frustration, to so many different levels of excitement because of how they worked. And you had to be aware of your language, you had to be appropriate. You had to understand that things that would not trigger one person could trigger another person. You had to be inclusive in your language. And so that prepared me to be able to go out and like continue working in a community space because I'm taking those skills and doing it in the same way. But also when I think of certain guidelines that we're doing or pieces of content and things like that, somebody will say a sentence and I'm like, Ooh, think about the person that may have done this. And for an everyday person, who's just going about life. That's not something that you're going to think of. And just because of my experiences, I can take a different lens in what we're doing or how we're talking or what language we're using. So it helped to help.


Speaker 1: Yeah. I'm also curious you have the social media, the community forums, and then you're also working on a podcast, bad queers. How does that help you stay connected with your community? And what has the reaction been like for that,


Speaker 3: To think that bad queers provides the voice that her was missing. People get to see us in a very limited scope. You know, you're chatting to me in the community or you see our CEO, Robin speak at a conference, but it's all limited. And it's not in everyday spaces that our community typically is. We try to show up as much as possible, but we're not there to take the spotlight. We're just trying to be there to make sure that the community feels supported. And so having this podcast gives us the chance to speak on a lot of different issues that we have these conversations in office, but we don't get to put them out into our brand a lot, but it fits so with bad queers, it's basically under the understanding that a lot of people came out of the closet and they got put in a new box of stereotypes that they don't really belong to or don't fit, but they don't know how to escape it. And it allows us to discuss how kind of seriously


Speaker 1: The LGBTQ plus community takes themselves


Speaker 3: And just encouraging people to relax a bit, you know, like we just get to go and we're highlighting everything queer. So we open with a queer urban dictionary where we're just providing definitions. Any highlights.


Speaker 1: Do you want to share it with us right now? This is where the conversation derails.


Speaker 3: Oh gosh. Our favorite one is diet stud. That's a good one. Like diet said where it's basically like a person who appears and presents as more masculine, but it's very in touch with their feminine side.


Speaker 4: Oh, Oh my God. I know those. I know those people love that.


Speaker 3: So we got like, got a diet style and then we lead into a everyday like LGBTQ plus news because that never gets highlighted in mainstream media. For some reason, people take our advice, but we give advice, not just on relationships, but all sorts of experiences from do I want to have a label to my girlfriend calls me this and I really hate it too. I'm thinking about you hauling with this girl that I've been talking to and COVID-19, and we're like, no, stop it germs. And all of that to our favorite segment, which is our unpopular queer opinion segment. When we post our unpopular queer opinions on our Instagram for the podcast, it's fun. It's super fun to see how many people agree or disagree with it. And it's like, yeah, that's kind of our point of that whole segment is that nobody has to be one way, you know, and then we finish off with like shout outs to people that people should know about or businesses people should know about or amazing actions that people should know about. So it's all highlighting the queer experience, but it's high so well into her because that's what we're trying to put out there with everything that we're doing. And then this is just another way to be more tangible and more accessible to the community. And it gets to sit and hear us just talk like we do every day, except now we're recording it.


Speaker 4: We did a community building project once for an organization that was just focused on women and people identify not as male. And it was so interesting. Like a lot of the communities that we work with usually have a shared passion or like a cause less of just an identity. And you have so many different types of people within this label of like you belong on her. It sounds like what you guys are doing really well through the podcasts. And the forum is like giving people permission to have conversations. What have you learned about doing that for such a big category of people? How do you guys decide what talking points you want to put out there for your community? And


Speaker 3: Thankfully I'm slightly obsessed with pop culture and what's happening in the world. So that helps a lot because I know where to find this information and I know where to find what people are talking about. But the best thing is that I always collect receipts from wherever I go, the community is my best pulse. Like anything that people tag us in or post or talk about. I'm like, man, what are the people talking about this week? And I can literally just go and hop in the community and check four or five of 20 some communities and be like, Oh, okay. Yeah, this is trending. Or yeah, people do kind of care about this. So let me go learn more talk about it.


Speaker 4: So you're pulling topics from like the forum.


Speaker 3: Absolutely. Yeah. And when we were even just like planning for podcast stuff, that was the same thing. Like I got the title of it from watching the last episode of the L word generation Q when Alice was talking to Roxanne gay and she was telling her like sob story that she shouldn't have been telling because she should've been talking to Roxanne. And then she was like, Ooh, does that make me a bad queer? And I was like, that's it, that's it name, title? And just went through that. Like I like, what do people feel bad about? And I'm like, a lot of people feel bad that they don't know the whole LGBTQ plus alphabet. It's huge. You don't need to memorize all of it. What else do people feel like they're missing? They're like, I never hear about queer media. Everybody loves advice because one of our most popular things that we post in the app is like, here, we're giving advice. People eat that up. So I'm like, yeah, we have to do an advice segment. And then I was just like, we have to do unpopular queer opinions. And my coworker was like, absolutely, we have to have something that makes people be like, come in welcome. Yes. And then we'll just kind of like hit them with that.


Speaker 1: Cause they're like, Oh, we liked you so much.


Speaker 3: And then I say something and they're just like, what's the amount of text messages I get on a weekly basis now has highly increased from


Speaker 1: You're just so likable. They can't hate you even if they wanted to with your opinions.


Speaker 3: Well, I'm usually the one I'm usually the one or I'm the one that's like extra passionate. Cause it's a nice balance. Chris is super chill and then I'm very like, what's in, that's how we work it out. So it's


Speaker 1: So final question. We usually like to ask people what our listeners can help with. Like any challenges on their mind when they're thinking about what's on your mind right now.


Speaker 3: Yeah. So I did talk about how our moderator program is working right now, but I am also in the process of switching it because we are revamping our community topics. So if anybody has any resources or discussion around changing topics in your community and either like getting rid of some and bringing in complete new ones or rebuilding out a moderator program, I would love to hear about it.


Speaker 1: Great. Specific question. Awesome. Why are you trying to switch up the topics?


Speaker 3: Just again, requests from the community. They have things that they want to be talked about and the things that I've noticed have worked better, have been more specific topics in the communities. We have over 4,000 submissions of communities that people want to see. So we're putting them together and we're gonna give them the spaces that they want to meet and connect in. I think the best way to go about it is to get rid of some of our ones that yes, people engage, but it's not as much engagement and not as much quality. Like people don't know what to do in there and give them spaces where they can feel confident to come in and start conversations. So that's what I'm after. They're just like new communities. I'm like yes. More quality engagement. Right.


Speaker 1: Okay. Awesome. Thank you so much for making the time sharing so much insight. I definitely learned a lot, so yeah, really appreciate it.


Speaker 3: Yeah. No thank you for having me. This was great.


Speaker 1: If you're interested in trying out her social app, you can learn more. We are or check them out on Instagram, her social app. If you want to hear more of Sheena's voice, you can also search for her podcast, bad queers. Trust me. You do want to hear more of Shanda's voice. You can find out more about us people in company and the work that we do with organizations, helping them get clearer on who their most important communities are and how to build with those people. By heading over to our website, people Also, if you want start your own community or supercharge one, you're already a part of our handbook is Hafael visit. Get together to grab a copy. It's full of stories and learnings from conversations with community leaders of all types like this one with Shana and final thing. If you don't mind, if you enjoyed this podcast, please review us or click subscribe in your podcast store. It helps these episodes get out to more folks curious about community building. Awesome. Thank you for listening. Thank you.


Speaker 5: