A Community That Helps: Talking Point and the Alzheimer's Society UK

A Community That Helps: Talking Point and the Alzheimer's Society UK

CMX Connect Host Spotlight

Serena Snoad is one of our incredible CMX Connect Hosts. Working on a team of three, Serena helps organize, plan, and host these community-centric, in person events in London, UK. On top of being a CMX Connect Host, Serena works as an Online Community Manager at the Alzheimer's Society UK. She manages Talking Point, the online community where people can talk about the realities of living with dementia.

Here's an interview with Serena, our Hero Host in London.

How did you get your start in community management?

To be honest, it happened by accident! I spotted an opportunity to set up a social media presence when I was working in Public Relations for a nonprofit. Back in 2008, nonprofits were just starting to use social media to communicate and build community in the UK. My favourite part of building a brand community was facilitating a space where our supporters could connect with each other and share their experiences. I got really interested in online community management and haven’t looked back since.

Before that, I spent several years on various forums as a member. Confession time – when I had writer’s block at college and couldn’t face my dissertation, I spent a lot of time discussing politics, literature, and music on online communities. It’s funny how an activity I initially thought of as a hobby gave me knowledge that’s become so useful in my current role!

What community(ies) do you manage?

Dementia Talking Point is a place where people can talk about the realities of living with dementia. The condition can be incredibly isolating and difficult to deal with, so we provide a space where people can discuss the highs and lows of their lives anonymously. We’re seen as a key support service at Alzheimer’s Society.

I lead the service and manage three teams of people (staff and volunteers) in six countries. A lot of my job is about overseeing the safe operation of the community, whilst also improving, promoting and evaluating the service, and contributing to wider information and support projects.

"It’s challenging work and emotionally demanding but I know that the work we do makes a difference to people who often have little support elsewhere." - Serena Snoad.

Outside of work, I have a blog about community management for nonprofits called the Good Community I also admin a community of practice for people working in those communities and organise meet-ups where we can share experiences, ask questions and get support.

What need does your community fulfil for its members?

Isolation is such a huge problem for people affected by dementia. Our number one aim is to reduce isolation by connecting people who can support each other.

We also empower people to know how to deal with dementia – enabling people to share practical advice and signposting them to information and support available online and offline.

Do you have a great story from your community you like to share?

When I think of how powerful Talking Point can be, I think of Sarah. She found out she has dementia by a note that was handed to her in the doctor’s surgery. She had little support from friends or family so she started using Google to ask questions, and found our community. By connecting with other people she felt supported and made friends. This gave her the confidence to try new things, like take up crafting and photography. When travelling alone, she would log in and let people know and they would offer her support and help her find her way.

What has been the hardest part about building the community?

Getting people to understand why we do what we do. Sometimes people can be so focused on metrics and budgets, or set on seeing online communication as a marketing activity.

"The work of community building is not really about hitting targets or getting people to do things – it’s more about facilitating a space where people find value and the organisation gets value too." - Serena Snoad

How do you invite people to join/advertise the community?

We have flyers, we provide community content for our twitter channels, write features showcasing the community for our magazine, identify people who would share their story for articles and videos, and run two small paid promotional campaigns online.

This has helped to embed the community into the wider offer. We try to put the voices of our members at the heart of how we promote the community whenever we can. Knowing we make a difference to people inspires others to join and get that same value.

What excites you most about being a CMX Connect Host?

There are so many great communities with teams based in London and some great conversations happening - often in industry silos, like the one I admin. The CMX Connect events are a great opportunity to bring people together and to build a network where people are not only getting to know each other but sharing and solving problems, learning new ideas and making their communities even better. Good communities make the world better.

CMX Connect could not be possible without the incredible power of Connect Hosts like Serena. This extraordinary team of people are building and growing community offline and IRL. Join the team and bring CMX Connect to YOUR city! Apply to be a Connect Host!

What to read next:

You can find community everywhere. Eat Out Madrid is a community built around a shared love of food! Read about how Madrid's CMX Connect Host, Valentina Ruffoni built a thriving community from the ground up. Eat Out Madrid: How a whole Community was built around Food.

About Author

Beth McIntyre

Community & Events Marketing Manager at Bevy! Passionate about building our community and connecting with members. When I'm not writing for the Bevy Blog, I'm writing about my global travels!

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