Interview with Muhammad Fikri, Head of Community Management Bukalapak
Let us open this post with one question. Why is Community Management essential for eCommerce ?
If you had the chance to read my story #TyasDigitalProject and listen to my interview with Bangwin about basic internet communication then the understanding might have been established. Why I really put forward digital community management as an important influence on any digital and social media activities. The concept of social media will always be my fundamental reason why we need to understand digital community.
Quoting Bangwin “Social media is a user based tool. When user become many it grows into a community. That is why, managing the many users on social media is similar like managing a community or through community management approach.” Abang Edwin is a online business consultant also an expert on digital community.
As a translation to the above quote, I would put take any digital business model to synergies face to face with the people who is using those products, those people on social media who has the same liking and are making conversation about the product are the representative digital community of the product.
Any similarity with multiply.com ? Well according to Fikri, Bukalapak is a market place. Social Market Place. Bukalapak does not sell things and our performance will be determined by the good experience between buyers and sellers. Our business model is to bridge between buyers and sellers at Bukalapak.
What a pleasure and lucky for me, one of my former staff members from PSF’s digital and social media team, Muhammad Fikri is now the Head of Community at Bukalapak. Bukalapak is one of the biggest market place that are influence by social commerce similar like multiply.com in those time.
That is why I approach him to share his point of view and story on implementing Community Management at Bukalapak.
Let me share you on this short interview here.
Hallo Fikri, how are you ? Thank you having an interview with me. First things first, can you share a little bit of your community experience background please?
My experience on community was built from early on in life. From elementary I had boy scounts and on that early years being a scout my spirit in being a part of that community was awake and build upon. Because as part of the scout community we are taught to on how to be a leader and be led by a leader. Both important skill set to take part in any community activities. Sometimes, we see there are so many activists that were reluctant to be call upon as leader. However there has to be a leader no matter what right ? So the understanding and the exercise was fundamentally necessary.
My participation on scouting organization continues till I was in college. I was the chairman for UGM Scouting Committee 2006-2007. And another important thing being a part of a community was “contributions”. So my contributions were community service. Helping out a village outside Yogyakarta, its sorta like KKN mini or a community service program, we start with problem assessment, that review what do we have, what can we do, learn how we can contribute and measure the impact of what we have done. And that is what I mean on the important of skill set to be used till now.
Your experience on Community Management is quite a lot. Could you share your participation, in what industry and also your contribution on each of your experience ?
Since I am passionate in writing I’ve also established network with the blogger community. In Yogya I was a part of Cah Andong community of Yogya-nese bloggers with names like Ndorokakung, tikabanget and many more has been good friends ever since.
Originally I am from Palembang, therefore I am also a part of the Wong Palembang blogger community and in Jakarta with the Jakarta Blogger Community.
With this I gain nationwide network. It really paid off as I moved to Jakarta. My network was already established and become easier for me to get work opportunities, freelancing and side jobs all from the blogger community. Including a part of the Social Media 10 years from that that time I become a part of the pioneers of digital networks.
Me being me, always single and passionate to know more, learn more, I also took part on Rotaract building common interest in helping youth through education.
On June 2013, I was invited by US Embassy to participated in Global Service Leaders’ Inspiring a Culture of Service program in the US for two weeks. Given the opportunity I met with people in volunteerism and service-work in Indianapolis and Chicago as well as joined in an international conference on Volunteering and Service in Washington D.C. That experience led me to believe that the community building we progress here are more advance because of the nature of the people of Indonesia. And I had the chance to share.Having those experience and because I like to take part of some community movement, I believe I am a community person. You could say I am self-proclaim as a community person but I am. I associate with so many people, I this case a social butterfly hahahahahha. People would say, oh Fikri, he’s all over the place. On every event. Essentially that sense of community building DNA is inside me. And I see everything from a community sense of perspective.
As a community person I know the nature, I understand the people, understand why and what’s in it for me that makes people active, the objective and how people come together.
Okay, please share us your personal understanding about Community Management. The fundamentals.
To me, community management is a way or an influencing way like as part of marketing. If we are to reach a certain objective one of the way to strategise from marketing is through community approach.
As it is an approach, we must approach through listening, sometimes to be humble means being at the same level of understanding like being a friend, humanise a brand or a company.
When we are a part of a company we would understand there are stakeholders that we need to accommodate for example users, buyers, sellers and so on and there are also some functions within the organisation such as marketing, customer service with their own roles and responsibilities. Through community approach, we can share suggestions and inputs towards both sides. As friends we can share attention to the users and feedbacks to the company. As long as there are no transactional trade involve in the process and just influencing for the betterment of process and in then we could divert the solution to Customer Service for instance.
The success factor determine on Community Management would be in overcoming problems and challenges of the company’s face. A militant means “die hard” supporter for the company that open heartedly, without any hesitation or pay and any condition willing to help for the needs of the company. Evangelists. That could be one level indicator success rate on community management.
To grow and make evangelist is certainly not easy. Needs process and will be tricky since it cannot have any transactional factors. Sometimes there will come perception on free vouchers or get opportunities on discounts services but of course that cannot be.
So would you say it is important or vital for any business to get in digital use influence community management ?
It is very important. Because we manage people. People who uses our platform. And it will be a long term investment. The result might happen after 3 years. However, progress each year can be reviewed. Bukalapak is a data driven company we have our measurements metrics between the community management programs and the results benefited for all pelapak (sellers) at Bukalapak.
How to measure will be determine of course based on the business model and the industry. In terms of bukalapak automatically numbers of transaction is the main goal. Secondly how active we have been will also be an element of factor.
For us how we measure effectivity on each city is also very important uniquely for Indonesian nature we always need to meet up. However, we are active engagement online, if we do not meet the “sense of belonging” will never not happen.
How many attendees, equals how many new store.
How many complain, how many traffic, numbers of comments, and so on.
Those numbers of people on each occasion will be manage by each functions of the community team. So yes, there are divisions of functions, all established by needs and findings along the way. In this case, those new people entering bukapalak needs to be coached and who’s going to do it, in Bukalapak we have our engagement team with sets of responsibilities one of them is to make sure whatever effort we have done will leads to the goal of the company.
The key is to find a common interest between the member of the community and the company’s goal. And the most important is to know why people would be loyal or what we call the “sticky-ness effect”.
But also, community management can also minimize that sense of corporate point of view for Bukalapak. We don’t necessarily gives solution. But we build that bridge to those who might have that ability in the company.
For Indonesia, might have something to do with our culture difference and how we communicate ya Fikri ?
You are right. Different city, different ways. Bali and Manado will have a total different approach. In Bali meetups in consider rare since they have so many custom tradition activities all around the clock. What become accustom or habitual living should be consider in measuring the quality and quantity success rate.
What are the challenges met on a daily basis. Can you give examples and how to overcome those challenges ?
Challenges in terms of managing a community are mostly finding leaders. The community leader or the evangelists. As you know the character of each province is very different from on to the other.
And of course there are some rules of the games that one leaders and their members have to commit. Anybody can of course enter another same community like Bukalapak but not the leader. Remember, no transactional activities. Nobody gets paid.
So just like any other community development we empower each community city or region to develop themselves. We assist and support knowledge every step of the way, but the executions is in their hands. They have the power. Bukalapak can only contribute. Empowerment, encouragement and contribution. That’s the essence !
Note. The basic understanding on community is that those who come together are those who has the same the same liking, has join similarity and understanding, but the most strongest bond of community are the ones who has the same circumstances or fate.
Okay let’s get to the understanding between Digital Community and Community Management do you think there are any difference ?
No difference. We manage people like we manage a village. If we look from Bukalapak perspective, what is the actual reason that someone wants to be a part of Bukalapak community ? Because fundamentally they are a group of traders or merchants. They have the same interest.
“Bukalapak has always been committed to support MSMEs. And want to always be a part of the growing support in Indonesia. To be a part of their growth, to give a platform, a medium to learn and improve their knowledge, their ability not for Bukalapak but for their own prosperity. Bukalapak wants to be a part of them as they are a part of Bukalapak.”
We want to be able to give knowledge that benefits on their performance online selling at Bukalapak. If their performance increase, it will of course impact their welfare. When “what’s in it for me” are answered, it becomes easier for us to take that relationship wherever we want.
So when it comes to business we use community approach in order to maximize their attempt in doing better and gain profit. But do not use the marketing strategies on approaching them. If it was marketing there are always transaction that leads to how many do we need to budget and how do we calculate into awareness or reach or perception or leads. But in community results are more long term for any quality or quantity measurements. For short term is by using community approach, we reduced problems, gain understanding, productivity, feedbacks for our products and of course loyalty.
How about joint collaboration between Community Management and Marketing. What kind of teamwork would you do ?
The Community management division is under merchants’ departments. Therefore, we are marketing department’s stakeholders. So we collaborate based on brief to marketing on our agenda activities. However, there are times when marketing has their own agenda or activities and they would ask support and collaboration is usually done as a team.
Community has so many branches and can be an influence in so many ways so sometimes our BOD would seem confused. Hahahahahhaha. Questions would raise like why are you all over the place, what’s your North Star Metric ? For example, we can be the bridge between the sellers and our product team that could help develop new features or get instant feedbacks. That is one KPI. KPI on optimising a product development. Another example is complaint to Customer Service for our priority seller from the Bukalapak Community.
May I understand how many are the registered online sellers are your member of the community ?
We have around 2,2 million registered online sellers on Bukalapak. The member of Bukalapak online sellers’ community has not reach 5% yet. We give priorities to those are members, yet there are layers of benefits based on how active the members are. Those who are not active will not get the list of privileges. However, they are influencing other members. (smile). We manage people.
If it was a machine there are automation, there are AI and other learnings.
But in community management, is about relationships.
My division, the community management division including me is 19 staff.
With 4 function, Program, Partnerships, Content and Engagement.
Program ; are to develop the curriculum, standard, gamification system, developing the bible of community management, making blue prints or we call it the center of learning.
Partnerships ; as a bridge to our stakeholders and also support.
Content ; for any needs and necessities content and postings that has access to our sellers.
Engagement ; build relationships, coaching, follow up to other functions and so on. We divide the team based on regional and our interaction could go deeper like coming to weddings, birthdays, so it is not online online relationships.
Essentially through time the functions were identified based on what we see on the field. All the needs were answered based on what we mapped out each year through performance review.
We talked about sellers community at bukalapak. How about the buyers ? Have you manage their relationships yet ?
Yes, this year (2018) we start doing engagement activities. But that’s on the Marketing Team main responsibilities now.
I think our readers would be thankful if you could share what are the list of competencies must haves as a Community Manager. What makes them the capacity to be a good Community Manager ?
For me communication is the most important element of all. That is why so many PR people would fit in quite well. But what does it take is mostly to be a social person, outgoing, have an open mind, have compassion and flexible to fit in everywhere since there are basically no standard people you will need to establish relationship with. You will meet with all kind of people. You will need to always find yourself as the middle man between the community and the company. Be the glue of any crisis management, marketing activities, you would also need to understanding branding and much of writing.
For those who wants to start learning digital community through community management what can we do ?
Well, here at Bukalapak we are always open for internships. But usually it is based on needs.
To me the best learning is to be a part of a community. Join in whatever community based activity you want, it is up to you. It doesn’t matter. The importance is to understand how it feels to be a part of the community and how you can contribute. That way you will understand exactly what it means to manage a community.
Lastly, give us a quote that you use to reflect Community Management.
“ Learning community management you have to be part of the community itself. “ my own quote.
My point of view, Bukalapak quite eminently want to make sure the experience of the users is progressively getting better. I believe through this interview it shows that community management gives a valuable contribution as part of the sustainable growth of Bukalapak.
Thank you so much Fikri and Bukalapak. Really appreciate the sharing. Wishing huge success. I look forward to see more in the future. Always do good ya !
So, what do you think readers ?
Lastly, eCommerce Facts.
Back to Tyas eCommerce Project post #1
Update. Podcast Version.
click on pic to listen
For more episode Mindshift Podcast click to,
Or use keyword Mindshift with Tyas.