In March 2020, Covid-19’s arrival altered the structure of many tech companies, and Khoros was no exception. With shifting policies, closed businesses and changing priorities, solutions to address the new landscape had to be swift.
Internally, however, Technical Product Manager Yelena Saar saw order in the chaos.
“We had to think about how this was affecting people — human beings like our customers, their users and our employees,” she recalled. Strategy, marketing and product teams ideated new tactics based on comfort and preparedness for everyone involved. Change is ever the source of friction for companies in times of crisis, but Khoros asked the right questions from the start.
Fortunately, Khoros’s skill in cross-collaboration during Covid-19 lent well to being able to quickly restructure as the market shifted. Employees and the company came together during a tumultuous time.
The display of how Khoros came together to tackle new challenges exemplifies its commitment to a workforce without silos — which also extends to its customers.
“We saw from a lot of customer and internal feedback that [the company’s culture of collaboration] was really appreciated,” recalled Saar. “I've been here almost five years, and that was really one of our biggest endeavors because it required the entire company to collaborate.”
Partnerships Strengthen Success
Khoros was rewarded for its resilience two years later in May 2022, when the company announced a groundbreaking partnership with TikTok, the fastest growing social media platform in recent years.
The TikTok Partnership
As the de-facto social media giant among Gen Z, TikTok presents a sizable and increasingly popular avenue for Khoros customers to expand their user base. Access to the app’s functions within Khoros’s engagement platform such as publishing, analytics and comment moderation means customers can make full use of its place as a partner in the app’s social media marketing specialty. For TikTok, who expect to see 1.8 billion monthly active users at the end of 2022, having Khoros’s customer base leverage the platform undoubtedly contributes to that milestone.
“With such a large project, the level of transparency already infused within the open-door culture at Khoros was crucial in fostering a similarly cooperative business relationship.”
With such a large project, the level of transparency already infused within the open-door culture at Khoros was crucial in fostering a similarly cooperative business relationship. The multi-department partnership became a natural extension of everyday work. In turn, high-profile partners like TikTok receive a supportive environment.
“It was so important that we built this in a way that just made sense,” explained Saar. “The TikTok team was so wonderful in that process working with us. Even today — we have continued to see this partnership blossom.”
TikTok’s willingness to help was a reflection of the vision Khoros hoped to achieve for its employees and customers — one where growth is cultivated through mutual partnership and proactivity.
“Anytime that we’ve needed anything in terms of clarification on API documentation, how features should work or what’s available to us, TikTok is always very quick and supportive,” Saar added. “They might give us details on how something should look, which helps us further inform what we are building into our product.”
Saar pointed out that she was not part of the project originally. Though she always knew she would be working on channel integration as a technical manager, with a focus on social media. The scope of the partnership — being one of the first official partners for TikTok’s marketing partner program — wasn’t something she had expected, let alone sought out. But the work was fulfilling all the same.
“I was always interested in game design,” Saar said. “So this was a great marriage of the technical aspects of the job, and being able to communicate with customers, understanding what they need and how they use products and features.”
Khoros’ teamwork-forward attitude towards external customer work trickles down to nurture those who handle these accounts. As proof of this concept, even though Rachel Chiaffredo — senior manager of marketing programs — was assigned to work on the project, it was also granted based on her interest, something Khoros actively encouraged.
“This past year, we identified a need for someone on our team to work closer with the business development team on partnerships,” she said. “When I raised my hand, my manager said, ‘OK.’”
Despite the now-virtual and geographically fragmented workforce, Chiaffredo was impressed that teams jumped in to help so seamlessly. As partner marketing contact, her responsibilities became more dynamic. There were wider networks to explore, more duties to keep in the air and different teams to consider. The role transformed, but like her professional horizons, has grown for the better.
An Engaged Workforce is an Effective One
Chiaffredo’s past work experience didn’t allow much room for failure, which made Khoros’ policy of work delegation and job experimentation all the more motivating. A problem that presents itself can use multiple people for solutions, and the lack of procedural bottleneck is conducive for innovation.
Chiaffredo recalled a time when a press release and other marketing communications had to be adjusted close to the TikTok partnership launch. With steady hands and cross-functional teams that practiced failure in anticipation of success, everyone involved hopped on a group call and swiftly realigned priorities. “We’ve all been victims of bad customer service, so being able to talk about solutions that we put forth to make that better for people is both exciting and rewarding.”
Like any tech company, the ebb and flow of collaborative work is anchored by tangible results, of which Khoros translates readily through customer feedback. Chiaffredo and the go-to-market team is responsible for informing customers of short- and long-term plans, usually through their webinars. Even in this instance, Khoros’ emphasis on transparency shines through.
The Roadmap to Customer Success
“We usually get an outpouring of positive feedback, both internally and externally,” she elaborated. “It’s really helpful to have an open forum of being able to ask questions and interact with folks.”
For more involved projects like the TikTok connection, the webinars proved essential. The same webinar also offered a POV from a customer who was involved in the beta test and the Khoros strategic services team, who has been working with customers on their strategy for the emerging platform.
Using a new social media channel can be disruptive to clients, so educating stakeholders on marketing functions and nuances better prepares them for innovative strategies. Fortunately, marketing teams have had plenty of practice already establishing strong communication channels with valued partners — their own colleagues.
“There’s a pretty good chance someone’s going to have questions,” said Chiaffredo. “So we have the support and resources to get to the bottom of things.”
Multi-Path Options For Growth
Having held five positions over five years, Saar is no stranger to professional growth. Internal promotions are always welcome, but she understands the avenues for upward mobility to be an understated value in employee retention.
“Anytime you want to do something, just keep your manager in the loop and they can help foster that decision,” she said. “A new project, a new path — they can help in any way.”
Beyond the core framework of internal development plans, Khoros offers a more holistic, personalized approach to climbing the ladder at the company. Beyond the 30-, 60-, 90-day pathing, employees have the luxury of choosing their own career adventures. From LinkedIn Learning and departmental visits to shadowing opportunities with flexible schedules, they can pursue any fascination knowing they are supported from the top down. “The leadership team is aware of what you would like to explore in your career goals.”
“If we don’t try and fail, how can we learn?”
The eased barrier of entry to test out different facets of the company may function as a means to encourage internal promotions, but Saar sees a more simple explanation: Individuals should be made to feel valued and appreciated — like actual human beings. That isn’t limited to just monetary or title-based compensation, but trust in her autonomy as well. Most recently, she was trusted in her work on the TikTok functionality, where the company gave her ownership of a crucial role.
“You can’t walk into a room and tell someone to do something, because everyone has a specific role,” she recalled. “But the transition for me was so seamless, coming into this project and getting all the information I needed.”
By treating staff with the same acknowledgement of potential as its most valuable business partners, Khoros signals to competitors and potential applicants that it places value on people willing to extoll the Khoros statement.
“We see the value of the folks that work here,” Saar added. “These people are important to us; they’ve been the ones championing the Khoros culture.”