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How to Stay Authentic While Growing a Gen Z Creative Community

Mitchell Maynard from Depop at the Community Leadership Summit #2

Mitchell Maynard leads community at Depop, a peer to peer social shopping app with 12 million global users.

In this talk at the Community Leadership Summit #2, Mitchell shares his learnings on how Depop has managed to stay authentic with a small team and huge community.


I'm going to talk a little about remaining authentic whilst growing a creative community. But before we go into that, I just want to give you a bit of a recap of what Depop is and where we're at today;

Depop is an social marketplace. We are mobile first and our app now has over 12 million users worldwide. We're headquartered in London and have offices in LA, New York and Milan. However, and here’s the tricky bit, of over 12 million users, we have a very limited number of staff worldwide that work on the front-line, directly with our community.

Depop is focused on empowering its creative community, but we also want to disrupt the fashion industry too. People join Depop and go on to sell vintage clothing, reselling streetwear, and they even create their own  - but Depop isn’t just those things - whilst people do buy, sell and curate, they also use Depop to inspire and be inspired by others. They then take that online passion and practice it offline, building their own communities in the process.

What does community really mean?

Community is at the heart of everything that Depop is. Community is our lifeblood, our heart and soul. But it comes with a few challenges. In terms of scaling, it's really tricky. When you think about authenticity - it's a lot with over 12 million users. So we pick out our ‘star players’ - otherwise known here at Depop as Community Leaders. We've got Ambassadors too, and what they do is focus on educating our sellers on how to sell more whilst helping us (Depop) to reach more users and grow our global network at the same time.

To give some clarity, Depop is run based on transactions. We take 10% of sales that go through the platform. In return - we're giving creatives a real global community to connect with - to buy from, sell to and be inspired by.

Would you do what you're asking us today?

We’ve spent a lot of time in both the UK and US focusing on our ‘Leaders’ and ‘Ambassadors’ - to grow our network of users via them. Our team of Community Managers meet with these super-users, onboard them to objective-specific programmes and then reconnect with them using communications platforms such as Slack. In the beginning we basically said to our Ambassadors; “hey, these are the things we want you to do as our Ambassadors, this is how and these are the reasons why - go get ‘em”.

So a few days went by, we just didn't really hear anything back. We thought of course, the Ambassadors must be really hard at work. A week went by, and then a month. Nothing. So we went to our Ambassadors and asked them “what's going on guys - where are the results?” The most common answer was; “Would you do what you're asking us today?”.

Make them feel like your wingman

If you wouldn't go out there and be proud to complete these tasks yourself, then why should your Ambassadors? Any super-users turned Ambassadors or Leaders need to feel like they're connected to what's going on at the core of Depop in order to see that they're contributing to the growth of the community. They need to feel like you're supporting them, which means that you don't want to just give them the shit jobs.

We've now started to master this in the UK and US and have begun to expand into new offline spaces. We're getting there with the iteration process, but I think the key thing to remember with scaling through Ambassadors and Leaders is to make sure that the people you onboard and connect with are not only trustworthy but, most importantly, that they truly value the mission that you’re on. The people we trust to help us need to feel inspired in return, they need to feel like your ‘wingman’ as opposed to someone who just works for you. Togetherness is key.

You need to be strong at the core

Gen Z creatives; they're smart. they're streetwise, they're very tech savvy. They want to connect with people in multiple time zones - right now. They long for connection, they want a place to get creative... but they could just choose another app - which is why retaining authenticity is so important.

So, how? We now have processes in place whereby we don't let anything go out to the community unless we've tested it internally first and made sure that it's something that we would be proud to work on and execute ourselves. It’s easy to repeat the same old activities you see across every Ambassador programme - but will they really inspire your users to do their best work? Think outside of the box, take the more difficult route - it’s worth it.

What we must really do is listen and learn with our community.

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