A Conversation About the Reimagined Trailblazer Community

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On this episode of the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we’ve got Jessica Langston, Director, Trailblazer Community, and Emily Hudson, Director of Product Management at Salesforce. We’ve launched a new and improved version of the Trailblazer Community, so we wanted to go over all the new innovations that will help you get better connected.

Join us as we talk about everything that went into the two-year process to create the Trailblazer Community relaunch, the new features they’re most excited about, and our revamped mobile experience.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Jessica Langston and Emily Hudson.

The Trailblazer Community, reimagined

We’ve just launched a new, reimagined Trailblazer Community. Says Jessica, “we’ve heard that people wanted a more integrated experience—they’re both learning on Trailhead and they’re connecting with Trailblazers in the community, so what better reason to bring it together?” There are new features, a new look, and an improved mobile experience. “We’re so thrilled to usher in a new chapter for the community,” she says.

“This has been in the works for over two years now,” Emily says. They started meeting with Trailblazers two Dreamforces ago to find out what was working, what was annoying, and what they wished it could do better. They ended up building everything from scratch in order to give you the reimagined experience you see today.

New Features to get excited about for the Trailblazer Community

As far as new features Emily is the most excited about, the first is the Today page. It’s a personalized dashboard with your Trailhead points, your ranks, community activity, recommended next steps, “basically your dashboard to start your day and your relationship with Salesforce,” she says.

There’s also the Learning panel, which shows up on any question or topic page and pulls in Trailhead learning that corresponds to the topics being discussed. Finally, the entire experience is built for mobile, native for IOS and Android, with all of the core Trailblazer functionality. It’s no longer necessary to rely on Twitter to connect with folks at live events because you can’t use the Trailblazer Community on your mobile device.

Topics have also received an overhaul. They’ve essentially broken down the barrier between Categories and Topics so now they’re all just Topics, but really they’re tagged conversations. People can follow a topic, so any new posts will show up on their feed and they can answer a question or find out about something they’re interested in learning more about. 

The future of the Trailblazer Community

Moving forward, Jessica, Emily, and the team are looking to bring this improved experience to all the different ways admins connect with each other. For one thing, they want to make it easier to find and register for groups in your area and then collaborate asynchronously within the group.

Topics are also going to get more features, with guided learning, documentation, IdeaExchange ideas, and third-party content about a particular subject to make things easier to find than ever before. When you want to learn about something, you’re not first thinking about content type or which website it’s on, you just want to learn more, so bringing everything together makes it easier to navigate than ever before.

“Now more than ever, enhancing our online platform for Trailblazers to connect is so important,” Jessica says, “we’re seeing such high engagement so it’s nice to break down the barriers for the online platform and make it mobile-friendly—it’s a game-changer.” And if you have any new ideas, be sure to drop them in the IdeaExchange under the Trailblazer Community topic.

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Full show transcript

Gillian Bruce: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast, where we talk about product, community, and careers, to help you be an awesome admin. I’m Gillian Bruce and today we are talking about the brand new and improved, beautiful Trailblazer Community. Yes, folks, if you missed it, there is a brand new, online Trailblazer Community experience. It was launched just before Trailhead DX. And if you haven’t checked it out yet, you need to do so because we are going to talk today about the process behind that redesign, behind the relaunch, and talk about some of the amazing innovations that really are going to help you as admins, get better connected, especially in this digital-first era. This is huge, huge, huge.
So, we have our guests today are Jessica Langston and Emily Hudson. Jessica leads up our Community Engagement Team and Emily was the product owner for this Trailblazer Community experience. So without further ado, let’s welcome Jessica and Emily to the podcast. Jessica, Emily, welcome to the podcast.

Jessica Langston: Thank you. So, excited to be here.

Emily Hudson: Thank you.

Jessica Langston: We’re thrilled to be here.

Gillian Bruce: Well, I am always excited to have two amazing ladies joining me on the podcast to talk about some cool new technology. And we’re talking about something pretty exciting today. Jessica, you help lead our community team here at Salesforce, and I would love for you to introduce this incredible thing that our online community is using now to connect and interact and learn from each other. Tell us a little bit about why you’re here.

Jessica Langston: Yeah. I’m so excited to be here and really, it’s been years and years in the making, but we launched our new, re-imagined Trailblazer Community last week. We are so excited and it’s really thrilling because it was shaped by the feedback of our community, which we often do. And we heard that people wanted a more integrated experience. They’re both learning on Trailhead and they’re connecting with Trailblazers in the community. So, what better reason to bring it together? So, now we have that as an integrated experience with Trailhead and the Trailblazer Community. And new features, it’s mobile, it’s fabulous, it’s beautiful. So, we are just so thrilled to usher in a new chapter for the community.

Gillian Bruce: It is totally a new chapter. I think that what the community pre this revamp pre this relaunch, hadn’t really gotten any love in a big way, for quite a while. I remember, God, I think it was probably seven-ish years ago when we were first building the Admin Relations program, and I think that was the first new iteration of this awesome online community, as we created groups and it was great, and then it hasn’t changed at all since then.

Jessica Langston: [inaudible].

Gillian Bruce: So, it’s pretty exciting to see such a huge advance and improvement in the functionality. Now, Emily, you were the amazing product manager on this project. Can you talk to us a little bit about some of the big things that you and your team were able to bring to life?

Emily Hudson: Yeah. Definitely. And I hear you about not changing it for a long time. This has been in the works, this new, re-imagined Trailblazer Community, for over two years now. We started meeting with Trailblazers two Dreamforces ago and just asking questions, “What’s annoying about the current experience? What’s the Greenfield experience in your mind? What do you want it to be able to do? How should it work? What are the core flows that you’re most interested in?” And we just collected all that, did everything from scratch. So, it took a very long time to build a completely different, modern UI, broke down the barriers that we had in the backend.
So, basically, a long time coming, we’re super excited that it’s finally out there and the community deserves some major love and some major renovations. So, the three things that I’m most excited about first is the today page, it’s the personalized dashboard. So, everyone should go to trailblazer.salesforce.com and log in, and it’s personalized for you. There’s a banner on the top that shows your time zone and the current time of the day, which is fun. It has your Trailhead points and your ranks, community activity that you recently added, community activity from your followers, recommended next steps for learning. Basically, your dashboard to start your day and your relationship with Salesforce. So, I’m really excited about that. It just is bringing a whole nother meaning to engaging with the community and with Trailhead and just starting your journey. So, super pumped there.
I also love the learning panel. So, now on any question page or topic page, we have related learning, which pulls in automatically Trailhead learning that corresponds to the conversations that are happening. So, if a lot of people are talking about Lightning Web Components and using that hashtag and that topic, we’ll pull in learning that corresponds to that. So, people can proactively start learning about Lightning Web Components. So, we’re connecting the dots, which people were really excited about, we got awesome feedback about that part.
And then, also third, that it’s mobile. We had a whole two other development teams that we were working with. Chelsey Smith is the PM, who did an awesome job. And we built a completely custom mobile native apps in iOS and Android with all of the core Trailblazer Community functionality there. So, those three things get me really pumped up and it’s again, a long time coming. I think it’s been received very well. Everyone’s very excited about it. And the developers are really pumped to have made some things, this cool, happen. Yeah.

Gillian Bruce: Mobile alone, I think, makes everyone cry tears of joy because I mean, Jessica, you know this, especially in the before times at events, right, that was one of the most frustrating things is that we had to use Twitter because you just could not get to the Trailblazer Community on your mobile device.

Jessica Langston: That’s right. Yeah. And I mean, it makes my job, my team’s job easier. It’s really amazing and I think just changing the way that we operate and really getting that more real-time dialogue because people can do it on the go.

Gillian Bruce: Yeah. And Emily, I mean, the way you were able to connect all of the things, right? I mean, we have so many great ways that we interact with our community and the community interacts with each other, and your description of connecting the learning, giving a today experience of a home base really, in the community experience, those are huge. And I mean, working on it for two years, I can only imagine all of the feedback and all of the input you got from our community.

Emily Hudson: Yeah. Yeah, I’m sure people were sick of hearing from me too, after a while. I was like, “Hey, you signed up for that one session a year ago. I’m back with more questions.”

Gillian Bruce: Never. Never.

Emily Hudson: Definitely, we got a lot of customer feedback throughout, it was really fun too, just to hear specific stories of, “I really just want to be able to jump in and do this quickly.” Or, “I’m really stuck today on how I can customize this thing.” So again, also we have a massive backlog now of tons of ideas from our Trailblazers throughout the years, that we definitely want to do. This was just the first iteration of getting it out the door. But I think the launch itself is basically, multiple releases in one, just for all the goodness that we’re bringing. So, it was exciting.

Gillian Bruce: Well, congratulations to you and your team. I know it was a huge feat and yeah, I bet that backlog is just waiting for you. It’s just ready to go.

Emily Hudson: Oh, yeah.

Gillian Bruce: So, Jessica, can you talk to us a little bit about maybe some of the love and reactions and things that you’ve seen from the community?

Jessica Langston: Yeah. I mean, honestly, the launch day was one of my favorite days, probably in my tenure at Salesforce. It was just so fun, so exciting, so positive. I think people have been waiting for this, to be able to really touch it, feel it, go in there and use it. It was just thrilling. And we saw people engaging in all the groups and sharing the love on Twitter. And it was just super exciting and just a great launch. I mean, it was overall super positive and that was really fun to see.

Gillian Bruce: So, one thing I’d like to talk about, we are on the admins podcast, so we are talking to the admin audience, which I know relies very heavily on the Trailblazer Community. Now, Jessica, you briefly mentioned about how this will change the way that your team works, essentially, whose job it is to help the community do what they do and be awesome and stay connected. Can you talk to us a little bit about maybe some of the overarching how you see this playing into the admin universe, awesome admin land as I call it. The role of the community has always been huge, but this new relaunch, what are some things that you’re excited about helping them change or helping them get better?

Jessica Langston: Yeah. I think it’s definitely going to be a game-changer in how people collaborate. And I think especially in groups and within topics, but even in addition to that, we do love our community groups and we have amazing admin groups all over the world. And this is just the first iteration, but we’re really trying to make that experience even better, because right now, even to go register for community group meetings, that’s going to be a separate experience, but we are looking to bring that even closer together. And that is really exciting and near and dear to my heart, is just making it easier to find groups in your area, register for the events and then collaborate asynchronously within your collaboration group. Bringing that whole community experience together, I think will be super exciting, especially for admins because I know that they love going to group meetings and connecting and learning together.

Gillian Bruce: Not to completely co-opt and probably misspeak about some of our corporate branding, but this is like the admin community 360 in some ways.

Jessica Langston: I like it.

Gillian Bruce: I’m going to get in trouble for saying that, I’m sure. So Emily, you gave an overview of your top three big things. Jessica just mentioned topics. Can you give us a little bit more insight into how topics play into this new experience? Because from my perspective, it feels like topics are going to be so much more powerful and easy to use in this new community.

Emily Hudson: Yeah, definitely, topics are going to be the bread and butter for engagement, I think. So, for those of y’all who used the old Trailblazer Community, you’re familiar with the answers tab, which had the question categories and the left-hand side. And then, there was the separate collaboration tab and that had all the group posts, but you couldn’t ask an official question on that tab. And you could hashtag topics, but they were unrelated to the question categories. So, what we did here is we broke down that barrier between the question categories and topics, and now they’re all just topics.
So, we have featured topics that are Salesforce managed and we’re defining what those are. There’s filters, so you can find which ones make sense. And then, there’s customer-created topics still, but basically topics are a way to tag conversations that are about the same subject matter, so similar to Twitter hashtags. And then, basically, a product could be a topic of, “Hey, everyone who’s asking about #LightningWebComponents, I have a question here and I need someone to help.” So, then other people who are interested in it or experts on Lightning Web Components would follow that topic, see your question show up in their feed and be able to respond. And then, everyone is able to benefit from that question and answer interaction because topics are public and topics show up on the feed of everyone because they involve the questions that are asked.
So, it’s basically, for brand new users coming in, it’s intuitive, it makes sense. There’s one way to ask a question. When you’re asking a question, you can add a group, if you want to say, @mention, “Hey, developers of Detroit, check this out.” You can also @mention a specific Trailblazer’s name or you could add a topic. So, it basically just makes it really streamlined to get what you want to say, to the right audience, and topics are the way to connect everything across the whole community in a very easy to tag way. And the future of topics … I’m going on and on because I love topics. The future of topics-

Gillian Bruce: It’s a topic we can never get tired of it, so keep going.

Emily Hudson: Exactly. The future of topics is really powerful too, because topics, because right now they’re just a way to tag conversations and they’re this standardization of categories that people are talking about, we’ll be able to apply Trailhead learning to those topics too. So, that guided learning that’s about the exact same information as a topic, all of that can show up in one place. And then, also eventually documentation, help articles and IdeaExchange ideas and other third-party content that’s about that subject matter, we can pool all that together and have it live in one place and connected. And it’s basically just a way to break down the current barriers we have and streamline what people are looking for.
Because at the end of the day, Trailblazers know they have a question about something or want to learn about something and they have that something in mind, they’re not first thinking of content type or website. They just want to learn about Lightning Web Components. And then, once they’re there, they can read a blog, read a documentation, ask a question, follow someone who’s an expert on it, see who the top leaders are, all of that can happen once they’re within that world. So, I’m really excited about what topics can unlock in the future.

Gillian Bruce: Oh, that’s so, so awesome. I’m already happy. I’ve been poking around in there and it’s just, the topic thing is, it’s game-changing because you have these parallel experiences, as you mentioned, right? You’d have the answers forum, you’d have the collaboration tab. It was all over the place. It was great, you could still get really great information, but it was all very siloed and separate experience. Yeah. Thank you for pooling that together.

Emily Hudson: Yeah. And it was actually, like you said, it was effective. People were using it. We have a lot of interesting metrics about how it helps people maximize their use of the Salesforce platform and become a leader in their areas. But think about how much more it could do, now that it doesn’t have this clunky onboarding process where you have to be like, “Oh, I can’t ask a question to a group, I have to do this there. And I have to send someone the URL of a question I asked, instead of @mentioning them.” So, all of these just restrictions and limitations and stuff were gotten rid of in this new release. Yeah, really excited about that and what this can unlock for all the admins out there, all the new users, the experts, everyone who’s engaging with the Trailblazer Community.

Gillian Bruce: Love it. Love it. So Jessica, the Trailblazer Community experience has been more important than ever in the last year-and-a-half. Can you talk to us a little bit about, maybe some things you’ve been seeing from the community about stuff that they’ve been using more or things that you think will be especially valuable in the new era that we are all living in and that digital connection is really the main connection these days?

Jessica Langston: Yeah. I mean, I think you definitely nailed it there. I think we’ve all pivoted a lot to virtual and our community had to do the same. We actually were running a largely in-person community, where people were meeting at local coffee shops and different meeting venues just to host their meetings. And when that all halted, it was a quick pivot to try to switch to all virtual. So, I think we are definitely seeing more engagement, both on the online platform as well as what’s been really interesting to see is, people are still hosting virtual meetings, but people are joining meetings all over the world, which is pretty fantastic. So, we’ve seen a lot more of that cross-pollinization between people joining meetings in India or someone who’s in India, joining a group in the US. And it’s broken down those barriers that were previously just created by just geography, right?
You don’t have to fly to go to a meeting in another country. So, it’s been really fascinating to see. And I think now more than ever, enhancing our online platform for Trailblazers to connect is so important. We couldn’t have really planned that, but it really is the best timing because I think now we’re seeing such high engagement. So, it’s nice to also further break down the barriers for the online platform and just making it mobile-friendly. Again, it’s a game changer. And I just anticipate that with this new launch, we’re going to see those numbers continue to climb.

Gillian Bruce: Yeah. The timing couldn’t have been better. So good thing, Emily, you started working on this two years ago, so that we could get it now.

Emily Hudson: Yeah.

Gillian Bruce: So, I am sure that there are many people listening that are currently right now in the community, poking around, playing around. If they have feedback and more ideas for you, Emily and your team, what’s the best way to submit those?

Emily Hudson: Great question. There is an IdeaExchange category where you all should go and submit your ideas there and then upvote each other’s ideas. And we’ll be monitoring that and see which ideas bubble to the top. If you go to the IdeaExchange, it’s inside of the one called Your Trailblazer Experience, and then you’ll see the Trailblazer Community category. So, ideas.salesforce.com and then Your Salesforce Experience and Trailblazer Community. If you see anything that’s broken or anything, we also have a topic in the Trailblazer Community where you can go and ask a specific question or report a bug. And that topic is called I think, Trailblazer Community Help. Is that right, Jessica?

Jessica Langston: I think that is right.

Emily Hudson: Okay.

Jessica Langston: Nailed it.

Emily Hudson: Looking now, but yes. So it’s, Trailblazer Community Help will be your place to ask specific or log certain bugs or tweet at me or at Jessica Langston. I am opening up a Pandora’s Box there, but we’re here and excited and want thoughts and feedback and all that.

Jessica Langston: Absolutely.

Gillian Bruce: Well, y’all heard it, just hit up Jessica and Emily, if you have things that you would like to see.

Emily Hudson: Oh no, what did I do?

Gillian Bruce: They just have a very short list of things they’re working on. So, sure, they’ll bump yours to the top of the list.

Emily Hudson: Okay.

Gillian Bruce: Well, seriously, Jessica and Emily, thank you both so much. This is such a huge innovation. It’s going to help admins and our Trailblazer Community just immensely. I mean, just being able to log in from your phone, are you kidding me? That’s game changing. So, huge thanks to you and your teams. I know you’ve been working so hard to get this done. And behalf on admins everywhere, I very much thank you for your hard work.

Emily Hudson: Thank you so much for having us.

Jessica Langston: Well, thank you, Emily.

Emily Hudson: Yeah. And everyone. This has been a massive, cross-team effort, across tons of teams on team Trailhead. So, we’re really excited to be able to share it with y’all and hopefully you enjoy it as well. And thank you for having us and letting us talk about it. I love talking about it.

Gillian Bruce: Well, don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll be back next time you do a new release.

Emily Hudson: Perfect.

Gillian Bruce: So, we’ll hit you up. You’re not allowed to go anywhere. I know how to find you both.

Jessica Langston: Absolutely.

Gillian Bruce: Well, again, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast and we will check back in with you for that next huge Trailblazer Community release.

Emily Hudson: All right. Sounds good. Stay tuned.

Gillian Bruce: Thank you so much. So, huge thanks to Jessica and Emily for taking the time to chat. It was so great to catch up with both of them, hear more about the Trailblazer Community relaunch and all of the incredible innovations. I mean, gosh, Emily and her team worked so hard and I loved hearing about the long, two-year process that she and her team took to really gather all the feedback and really make this new experience and design it from scratch, which is amazing.
So, couple of things I wanted to highlight from our conversation. First of all, I love that Emily outlined her top three features that she thinks are the coolest parts of the new work community. That’s that today experience, right when you log in and you can see where you’re at, see all of your stuff in one place. That related learning capability, so now instead of having to go hunt on Trailhead and paste the badge that you think would help that person who asked the question, it’s going to pool all that related Trailhead learning right there within the experience, to make it super easy to get what you need and to help, but you help each other.
And then, finally mobile, oh my gosh, I am so happy about this. I have been wanting this forever. You can now access the Trailblazer Community on your mobile device. Huge and awesome. So, make sure that you log onto the Trailblazer Community, check out these new innovations. Also, topics are awesome. Topics are really going to make it so much easier to get everything you need in one place, ask the questions, answer the questions, find the related discussions and learnings. And if you’ve got an idea for more things you’d like to see added to this new experience, which I’m sure you will have some more ideas, as Emily mentioned, go to the IdeaExchange and you can definitely submit your idea there.
Or, as both Jessica and Emily called out, you can just reach out to them on Twitter and we can put our ideas up there. And I think if anything else, definitely give Jessica and Emily some love, because this was a huge, huge effort. And I think it’s really going to make a big difference for everyone in the community, myself, you, listener, anyone who is doing anything with Salesforce. This is just such a better experience in order to connect with each other around the world. So, check it out.
As always, if you want more about how you can be an awesome admin, check us out at admin.salesforce.com, where you can find blogs, events, videos, and yes, more podcasts. If you like what you hear on the podcast, let us know. We’d love to hear what you think. Leave us a review, whether that’s on Apple Podcast or you want to drop us a note on Twitter, that would be awesome. You can find myself @gilliankbruce. My co-host, Mike Gerholdt, @MikeGerholdt. And if you want to give our guests today, some love on Twitter, you can find Emily @EmilySFDC, and Jessica is on Twitter @LangstonJessica. So, super easy to find them, give them some love, say thank you for this amazing new Trailblazer Community experience. And with that, I hope you all have a fantastic rest of your day and I’ll catch you next time in the cloud.

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