From Productivity to Gaming: Why Notion Taps Into Different Creator Communities to Maximize its Reach to Consumers

Taylor Masket
Taylor Masket
Sep 26, 2023

If you’re an organization freak like us, then you’re going to love this episode of Earned. Conor sits down with Lexie Barnhorn, the Head of Influencer Marketing at premier productivity platform Notion. The app, valued at over $10 billion, is an industry favorite thanks to its collaborative and endlessly customizable nature. Notion has earned countless accolades, including a 2022 Webby Award for best productivity and collaboration software, as well as a spot on CNBC’s Disruptor 50 list of 2023.


We start the episode by diving into why Lexie joined Notion after championing the platform at her previous company, Curology, and hear how working in the scrappy startup world allows her to stay at the forefront of fast-growing businesses. Next, Lexie explains why Notion taps into various niche creator communities to connect with new audiences, before revealing how the company’s “test and learn” approach to channels like LinkedIn and TikTok is vital to its success on social media (#Notion has accrued nearly a billion views on the platform). Lexie then shares her advice to young professionals looking to jumpstart their careers, and emphasizes the importance of taking risks and joining companies you believe in. To close the show, Lexie, an outspoken Swiftie (literally same), speaks to why she believes Taylor Swift is so successful, and how companies can utilize her marketing strategies to fuel success in their own businesses.

We’ve included a couple of highlights from the episode below, but be sure to check out the full video above, or tune into the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts!

spotify-podcast-badge-blk-grn-165x40 apple podcasts badge-1 EN_Google_Podcasts_Badge

The following interview has been lightly edited for concision. 

“Almost everyone has a computer, and my goal is to have the Notion app on every computer”: Why Notion Partners With Creators Across Every Niche Community, From Productivity to Dungeons & Dragons 

Conor Begley: Let's talk about the creators for Notion. You guys are not the typical model for where influencers or creators have historically been leveraged. So how do you think about the creator program? Who are the creators for Notion? What drives success for you guys in this space?

Lexie Barnhorn: At Curology, it was always very clear who our target [demographic] was, but at Notion, there are just so many niche communities on the internet, and there are a lot of people who use Notion.

When I started at Curology, no one had ever heard about Curology, so a lot of my day was trying to convince people to use the product and to learn more about it. Whereas now, I reach out to different influencers and they're already using Notion. They've already heard of it. They're already down to work with us. So it's a lot easier. I do have that advantage, thankfully, because we have such an amazing product.

So our creator program spans across every social media platform. Something I hadn't done previously is partnering with LinkedIn influencers to promote our B2B and our AI product. And I will say, I think LinkedIn is a very underutilized platform.

I've had a lot of fun working with these creators and seeing the views these posts get. I saw a stat the other day that 70 million people are on LinkedIn, and only three million of them are actually utilizing the platform and posting. There's a lot of ability for your posts to get such insane reach. So that's been really fun. I don't think LinkedIn influencers would have worked for Curology, unfortunately.

Conor Begley: Well, honestly, I think they can. Kory Marchisotto, the CMO at E.L.F., she's pretty active on LinkedIn. You have to think about who signs up for LinkedIn. It's somebody who's typically very invested in their career. They're probably a higher-income earner, or if you're in the beauty industry, it could be somebody who’s the head of purchasing. So the people you're reaching are more than likely more impactful on a per person basis as well. So I actually think consumer brands can be successful there. It's different, it's more like industry marketing than consumer marketing, but it's also a little bit of consumer, too. So I love that. I love LinkedIn too. I publish a lot there.

Lexie Barnhorn: I think it adds a lot of credibility to your brand. I see a lot of beauty brands like Supergoop! and Rare Beauty with different execs posting their events. And I think by seeing that on LinkedIn, and seeing what the brands are doing behind the scenes, it really does add credibility. So I think, like you said, any brand could potentially be successful on LinkedIn.

So that's been one big takeaway—LinkedIn influencers are the way. I'm a huge fan of the platform, but we are on every social media platform: YouTube, TikToK, Twitter. We're on every social media platform we can be on. And a lot of that is from asking the creators what they're active on, and where they think a Notion push could be successful. So I rely a lot on them.

The program also spans across every niche. We have the productivity niche, which is more our bread and butter, and those videos do really well. But when I think about it, almost everyone has a computer, and my goal is to have the Notion app on every computer.

There are so many niche communities that we've partnered with, and I've met so many amazing influencers that I probably never would have found otherwise. If I had to sum up our creator community in one sentence and try to capture it all—which would be very hard—I would say it spans from productivity to students, to entrepreneurs, to business professionals, to the TikTok aesthetic “girlies,” to Dungeons & Dragons users, to chess players, to documentary producers. The list goes on and on.

I've worked with so many different creators, so I actually don't try to limit myself because I've constantly been surprised by the results. [There have been times when] I guessed something would do okay, but then I'm blown away once the results actually start coming in for a very niche creator, because they have their communities, they know what appeals to their audience better than I do at the end of the day, so I've been surprised a lot. It's been a lot of fun.

“When you have a set-in-stone strategy, you're setting yourself up to fail, because [TikTok] changes every single day”: How Notion’s Test-and-Learn Approach Drives Success on TikTok

Conor Begley: So let's talk about TikTok. I was observing what you guys were doing and was really impressed with it, both in terms of the reach that you're getting, but generally just the style and the approach that you're taking. It’s very customer-first, very culture-first. Talk to me a little bit about how you define your team's approach to TikTok. What's working there?

Lexie Barnhorn: I'm a big fan of TikTok. It's one of my favorite platforms. I'm probably on it way too much, which helps with our strategy in a way. But I think a lot of our approach is, we really don't think too hard about creating a set-in-stone strategy. I feel like that's where a lot of brands can get it wrong.

I know a lot of social teams have their posts planned out months in advance, which works for platforms like Instagram and Twitter. But TikTok moves so fast, and some videos you thought were going to get millions of views and break the internet end up totally flopping. You have to be okay with that.

I look at it as a test and learn channel. It's a fun channel. If we end up doing something that works well and resonates, that's a bonus, but we don't really have a set-in-stone strategy. I think when you do have a set-in-stone strategy, you're almost setting yourself up to fail because you can't look too far in the future—it's changing every single day. I also feel like it's a platform where you need to meet the viewers where they're at. You can't do anything too overproduced. You can't really plan it out because those things stick out like nails on a chalkboard. When I see an overproduced video, I scroll past it as fast as I can.

Our approach at Notion is to be a part of the conversation and [insert] ourselves in [content] where it's so seamless that you don't even realize it's from a brand. We're just giving you valuable information. We like to hop on trends that we find relevant to the product.

I think our most-watched TikTok was an idea that I had at my desk, showed our social media manager, filmed in five minutes, and posted it. It got like 1.8 million views. We didn't expect it to get that many views, but we were like, let's just put it up and see what happens. And TikTok is one of those platforms where I think you actually can delete videos and people won't notice. So we look at it as our fun channel, but we try to give people valuable content. So we do work a lot with our education team to figure out different tips and tricks. We're always looking at what's happening in the conversation about Notion right now. What can we jump on right now?

I really do look at TikTok as the next search engine. Our goal is to target these secondary keywords. So if someone searches “productivity” or “organization” or any other keywords, we want Notion to show up. So we try to go after those niche communities and secondary hashtags.We're not trying to just go after #Notion.

What's so unique about Notion is the customization aspect, where one person shows their setup and someone finds it super aesthetic so then they want to show off their setup. So it really creates a trickle-down effect where people are always wanting to insert Notion and insert their own workspaces.

And a lot of our best ideas were actually crowdsourced [from people at Notion]. So it's test and learn. It doesn't really have a strategy. I get asked [about our strategy] a lot because people are always interested in how well we're doing on TikTok. I think because we're not focusing too heavily on it, and because we're really just trying to give people valuable content, we've been so successful and the users are really resonating with it.

Keep up with new episodes of Earned by following the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts, or subscribing to our YouTube channel. To catch up on our previous episodes, featuring leaders from brands like Revolve, K18, Instagram, and Roblox, visit our Earned Podcast page.