5 ways to engage 4M+ members like Atlassian

The Atlassian Community is the place for all their millions of users to be. From firsthand product tips to thousands of annual meetups, here are the top 5 lessons on community engagement we can learn from Atlassian!

What happens when you transport Greek mythology all the way to Australia?

It could be the incipit of a new binge-worthy series, or alternatively, the birth of an Australian tech titan!

In this case, we’ll tell you the story of the latter: Atlassian, aka the name that stands behind industry-leading teamwork software products like Trello, Confluence, and their flagship software Jira (used by fellow giants like NASA and Tesla).

The birth of a tech titan

In 2001, two university students in New South Wales (Australia), Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar, registered their fledgling startup (the name inspired by the mythical Greek Titan Atlas), and the following year, Jira 1.0 was launched.

Atlassian now counts a workforce of 8,600+ employees, 130,000 customers, and millions of users worldwide. And what if we told you all this exponential growth was achieved with a strict no-salesforce model? 

Atlassian's growth strategy was quite unconventional, in fact.

Instead of securing funding like many other startups, Atlassian's founders only took a $10,000 credit card debt to finance their first product. Thereafter, the company expanded its customer base by providing quality software at a competitive cost. 

This was the key to their mass penetration in the market, and it would later ignite a chain reaction of word-of-mouth marketing. Nowadays, Atlassian's marketing and sales still rely on channel partners and Atlassian's own website.

Speaking of which, Atlassian has always invested a lot into research and content marketing - and it shows. Atlassian’s website is a - if not the - virtual goldmine for all things teamwork.

From practical team playbooks to their prosperous online community where all product users can connect, give and receive peer support, get inspired, and build up their skills in the Atlassian tools.

The Atlassian community is a 24/7 engagement machine, and in this article, we'll see exactly what its powerful engine is made of.

Let's dive in!

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Atlassian's headquarters in Sydney, Australia. Image source.  

The place where Atlassian users thrive

In 2020, the Atlassian Community took the #1 spot (next to Salesforce and Apple) on the list of Best Online Communities curated by FeverBee.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg, as in the same year, the Atlassian Community gained 663,000 new members, while in 2021 the community registered 17,6 million total visitors (with 85,000 average daily visitors).

Now, these numbers are breathtaking, and 4M+ members distributed across 160+ groups don't join and stick around for nothing. Do they? 

“Make sure that your community doesn’t become boring,” says Emmanuel Nyame, a community manager at United Nations Foundation with 12+ years of experience.

“You have to always be on top of your game, but as long as you do your research and understand what your members want, you’ll be on the right track!”

"Make sure your community doesn't become boring. Do your research and understand what your members want." - Emmanuel Nyame

Truer words were never spoken, but here’s the question: how do you stay on the right track?

Here are the 5 lessons on community engagement we can learn from Atlassian:

  1. Give new members a guided tour, not a journey into the unknown
  2. Reward, inspire, and support 
  3. Let members be leaders
  4. Events: the more the merrier
  5. Celebrate your community stars 

And for many more practical tips from community managers to community managers, don't forget to download your free copy of the Community Management 101 guide

www.brella.iohubfsUntitled designDownload your free copy of Community Management 101!

Now, onto lesson #1...

1. Give new members a guided tour, not a journey into the unknown 

With its millions of active members distributed across hundreds of groups, the Atlassian Community is massive. 

Joining as a new member can be overwhelming at a first glance, but that's when the community comes to the rescue with prompt step-by-step guidance

New members receive a welcome email inviting them to pick up their favorite groups, introduce themselves in the Welcome Center, share what Atlassian products they use, and they’re also given a direct link to find local groups.

There is no taking for granted new members will jump straight into the community ecosystem, so they're given assistance, directions, and small tasks for a smooth community onboarding

And while we're on the subject of onboarding, new Atlassian product users are onboarded straight through the community. This practice alone has proven to be very effective as these users are two to three times less likely to churn

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 New members are invited to dive right into the community 

However, member engagement is not a one-time task. It's good practice to welcome new members, invite them to join groups, and introduce themselves, but you can't stop there and hope for the best.

"At some point, your engagement will peak and begin to fall,” says Emmanuel Nyame.

“Provide your members with what they want, and they’ll always stick with your community. It’s up to you to spike their interest by creating initiatives that interest them."

But when you manage a community the size of Atlassian, how do you spike the interest of millions of people and keep them hooked for more?

Let's proceed to lesson #2!

2. Reward, inspire, and support 

Interest will wear off over time, and as a community manager, it's your job to find new ways to engage your members, old and new.

"Getting members involved in the conversation and talking with each other is the real winning element," says Kelly Schott, Manager of Community Programs at Pragmatic Institute. 

"Whether it’s using a whiteboard feature or a collaborative tool to get members writing and drawing during a live call, or prompting members to tag a peer in a discussion thread."

So, how does the Atlassian Community engage and retain its millions of members? 

From community challenges and contests to groups ranging from Atlassian products to off-topic discussions, there is a space for everything Atlassian's members care about

Product-centered groups are a wellspring of peer assistance and hands-on learning. Plus, by attending Atlassian University members get a chance to become pros and build credibility within the community. 

No matter the time of day, the Atlassian Community is always buzzing, and all this activity must be rewarded! Something as simple as a virtual token can go a long way. 

There are several types of Community Badges active members of the Atlassian Community can earn by taking different actions in the community. For instance, brand new users immediately earn one badge for joining, while they can win the next one by answering at least two questions from other members.

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Community members can earn badges after completing determined tasks

So, what are the best initiatives to engage your own community?

Virtual badges? Your own online academy? Challenges like Atlassian Speaker Bench? Or contests like the Atlympics?

"Get something out, even if it’s not perfect, as it’s better to see how your community reacts to it," Jason Manion, Director of User Growth and Community at Tallo, explains in the Community Management 101 Guide

"If you want to make something perfect, you risk spending a lot of time on something that your community doesn’t want or need. So get stuff out the door, see how the community reacts, and learn from it for the next project."

Get your free copy of the Community Guide

"Get something out, even if it's not perfect, as it's better to see how your community reacts to it." - Jason Manion

3. Let members be leaders

“Content is essential to keeping your community rolling,” says Sam Mackay, Former Community Manager at Next Games.

"And if you can get your members to create their own content, then it makes your job so much easier."

The Atlassian Community does this exceptionally well with the Community Leader program.

Community Leaders are a selected group of volunteers from Atlassian’s member base. Their mission is to be active moderators in the community and help Atlassian build a fun, lively, and engaging environment for all members.

Community Leaders' tasks include content creation, events hosting, and answering support questions on Atlassian’s behalf.

After all, if you want to engage a community of millions, you're going to need some extra help, and the Community Leaders are prolific, to say the least.

The numbers speak for themselves, as the Atlassian Community Leaders answered 29,000+ questions, wrote 500+ articles, and hosted 750+ events over one year.

"If you can get your members to create their own content, then it makes your job so much easier." - Sam Mackay

4. Events: the more the merrier

“Because an event takes place on a particular date and time creates a sense of FOMO,” says RD Whitney, Founder of Community Leaders Institute. 

“In particular, the potential networking benefit and serendipity of an in-person event create urgency - it’s going to take place with or without your members, and this helps break through the inertia that can be associated with asynchronous networking.”

"Because an event takes place on a particular date and time creates a sense of FOMO." - RD Whitney

The Atlassian Community lives by one rule: there's always something happening, no matter the day, week, or month

And they keep their promise. In 2021, the Atlassian Community hosted a total of 3,129 in-person and virtual events worldwide!

The events are user-led meetups where community members get expert tips, share knowledge, solve problems, and network with other Atlassian product users.

Community Leaders play a big role in bringing these thousands of events to life every year, and the Atlassian Community makes sure they have all the resources necessary.

For instance, Community Leaders are given exclusive access to self-help resources in Confluence, access to Jira Service Desk to request event resources like swag and reimbursements, and they can browse a comprehensive list of event partners.

Of course, with such an amount of annual events around the globe, it's easy to miss something of interest. That's why, the Atlassian Community provides an event page where members can easily search all the upcoming meetups by location, but also by event type and many more useful tags. 

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Atlassian Community meetup, February 2020. Image credits

5. Celebrate your community stars

Communities are nothing without their loyal members, and Atlassian makes sure to celebrate them. 

Every year, the community publishes a Community Year in review report where remarkable stats and community milestones are shared, including stand-out members that have been exceptionally active in the community.

These shout-outs include for instance most group engagement, A+ author, and Top Answerer.

Atlassian's yearly reports also serve as a data-backed testament to everything the members have experienced during the year and what they can expect more of. 

Community yearly reports are an effective tool to build momentum and the comments from the Atlassian community members back this up.

“You made my days at work even better! I can’t wait for 2022 and all the special moments and occasions that we’re going to live on together!”

“The community events surpassed my expectations this year! So much variety! I can’t wait for what 2022 is going to bring us!”

"What a fantastic year filled with so many accomplishments in an otherwise yucky 12 months across the world [...] Thanks to everyone for playing your part and here's to an even better 2022!"

Key takeaways

Registered in 2001 by two university students, Atlassian now counts millions of happy users and community members around the globe. 

And with such a gigantic member base, how can the Atlassian Community guarantee all members stay connected 24/7?

No matter the size of your community, there are 5 crucial lessons on engagement we all can learn from Atlassian: 

  1. Give new members a guided tour, not a journey into the unknown
  2. Reward, inspire, and support 
  3. Let members be leaders
  4. Events: the more the merrier
  5. Celebrate your community stars

All in all, each community is different, and it's up to you to assess your audience and keep their interest level high.

To makes things a little easier for you, we interviewed a group of professional community managers who have revealed all their top tips on how to start, run, and engage a successful community.

Grab your free copy of our Community Management 101 guide today and give your members a community they will never get enough of!

Download the community guide