Todd Nilson

Community Strategist and Founder, Clocktower Advisors

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My Story

Todd Nilson

Community Strategist and Founder, Clocktower Advisors

Experience: 15+ years

Colour: Teal is probably my favorite color. Something about it appeals to me!


Nonfiction: Imaginable by Jane McGonigal 

Fiction: The Invisibles by Grant Morrison

Pets: No pets but thinking about getting a dog soon!

Talk to your community members and find out what they are trying to do, solve, learn, or become.

How did you start into community management? What was your career path across the years?

What a long, meandering story it would be if I recounted the whole sordid journey! Suffice to say that this is career number four or five for me, if you choose to think of it in such terms. To me, they have all been a process of discovery that my work is about helping people to live their best lives by making meaningful choices. I’ve been a journalist, a game designer, a literature teacher, a recruiter, and now a community builder. Community building has become my fullest expression of my ideal goal. My entry to communities was through online games, running discussion forums, wikis, and IRC’s. I started consulting formally around corporate community builds around 2013, though, and have never looked back!

What have been the main challenges of your career?

You can help others to tell their stories, but they have to claim those stories for themselves. That is a hard lesson and one I’ve had to learn again and again as a consultant. It has also been a challenge for me to learn that while I like working with teams, I need the autonomy to run my own show. As a consultant, I have adapted to the approach and adopted the practices of other organizations because I have needed to, but I tended to find them constraining and, sometimes, inflexible. I wish I had started my own business years before I did!

What has helped you develop yourself as a community professional?

Community building sits at a crossroads of many interesting disciplines and skills. I’ve derived some of the most useful materials from adjacent professions (psychology, architecture) and even hobbies (game thinking, game design).

One thing that I have been able to do throughout my career, successfully I think has been to keep recreating myself. I adopt new technologies quickly, experiment, and throw out what doesn’t work. I read voraciously and think about overlaps and correspondences with my own work.

I look for people who challenge me and make be better. I am fortunate to have as friends and colleagues some of the most wonderful, smart, empathetic, and insightful people in the community space, oeople like Ilker Akansel, my outstanding business partner in our TalentLed joint venture, Jenny Weigle, Adrian Speyer, Deb Schell, Jamie Langskov, Mathijs Vleeming, John Summers, Darren Gough, Sarah Hawk, Nancy Kinder, Venia Logan–I could go on and I’m sure that I have already embarrassed myself by forgetting to mention someone!

What's your favourite community platform?

I don’t have a favorite one personally. And my choice for clients varies based on their need.

What is “community” for you?

It started out as a bit of a joke, but I’ve come back to it enough times that it’s something I say with a straight face these days. *Community is all about wooly mammoths.* The idea of a big problem (Flee, or it will trample us all!) or opportunity (I wonder if it tastes good?) living in your neighborhood and what to do about it is what brings communities to life. The littler the mammoth, the less reason there is to come together and act! This is why some branded communities never really get moving. They never figured out what that big wooly mammoth was…

What's one single strategy that you may suggest to increase value for the people in your community?

Talk to your community members and find out what they are trying to do, solve, learn, or become. When you’ve built enough rapport with them, you can start asking them the bigger questions. If you figure out what those big questions are, you will make friends for life and your members will never want to leave.

What would you recommend to those just starting into community management?

There are many wonderful places you can go to get help, advice, and encouragement from the very best community professionals out there. Led by Community is one of those places. I’m also part of the team running a community for community consultants called the Community Consultants Collective ( We’ve got about 80 members worldwide so far and our goal is to support and encourage more and better consultants in our space. Get active, jump into a community, and find that wooly mammoth!

Our notes: You can also join The Hub for Community Leaders right here!