“How much time should we expect to spend managing the Community?” The answer is, “It depends.”I often use the analogy of designing and planting a new garden. You would not expect it to do well if you never watered or weeded it. You may choose to spend 15 minutes a week, or an hour a day. It depends on how much the garden and it’s beauty means to you. You can think about your online Community in much the same way, you will get out of it what you put in to it. That being said, it’s always good to see what other gardeners are doing, check out the yards in your neighborhood to see what’s working, what’s not, and mirror the best for yourself. So, when I think about where would I go looking for information on best Community Manager practices, of course I go to @TheCR and @RHappe for answers. And within 5 minutes of me tweeting today, I was pointed to several links that I want to share. These are fantastic for first timers and for those that think maybe they could be doing a better job with their existing Community. This was the first link they sent. This is a great deck that Rachel prepared and thankfully, Slideshare makes it easy for me to post it here for you to read:
We are frequently asked how to make the online experience more compelling, more engaging. Here are 20 proven techniques that will work. Not all are applicable to all types of Communities. You will get a sense for what will work and what won’t with your given audience. Pick two or three to start with and experiment. Then add a few more. Please leave us a comment below to tell us which ones you picked.
Want more engagement? Be more engaging.
1. Be a Leader
- Cultivate pride and identity in each member so they see that they are a part of something bigger than themselves. You set the tone for the Community.
- Step in and encourage users to interact with each other.
2. Make it easy to participate
- Use multiple entry points. (email, newsletters, intranet, posters)
- Make the Community a regular part of your normal communications.
3. Welcome and Encourage Newbies
- Ensure that new members are welcomed and feel acclimated to the new community. One to one contact from the Community Manager is a fantastic way of building good foundations. Thank your members for performing actions, suggest content they might like or point them towards new activities in order to build long-term engagement.
- Create a Welcome Wagon group that reaches out to new members, including a tutorial movie (Jing) on how to get the most out of their interactions.
- Make sure that the purpose of the Community is clearly articulated for every new member.
- Be very clear about how members can engage and encourage them to start posting and making connections early in the process.
- Post a tutorial on how a complete profile helps them get the most out of the Community.
- Have an Ambassador in charge of highlighting or interviewing new members weekly, then posting highlights in the Dashboard Digest.
4. Create a “water cooler” environment in new communities
- Make your online community a place where people can go to engage in light-hearted conversation with their peers in a non-threatening way. This is an important way for members to establish a comfort level with each other before broaching more sensitive topics. Idle chit chat is an important part of a community and it will take some creative influence to help executives understand that it is a crucial facet of the business case.
5. Interact with your Community
- Interacting lets members know that someone is listening. Make comments in Forums and frequent interactions with Group creators.
6. Post inspiring content
- You created the Community with a business objective in mind and have effectively communicated that purpose to the membership. Your choice in content posts should echo and support those objectives so that the Community reflects it’s purpose and has continuity with your brand identity.
- Set a goal to publish or upload at least 2 new pieces of content a week.
7. Ask questions that matter to the community
- Asking questions using actionable language is recognized as a good way of generating discussion. However, this only works if the questions you ask are relevant to your audience. Take the time to understand what your audience reacts to and then plan around this.
- Make the questions structured, i.e. Do you agree or disagree?
- Make sure you follow up and acknowledge them when they answer the question.
8. Identify and nurture your power users
- Getting together with them as equals and co-conspirators helps bring more volunteers into the fold, because you give them a vested interest in the success of the Community.
- Solicit the Top Posters to moderate a monthly ‘Great Debate’ on a specific topic that they are expert in. (Use Manage to find this information out.)
- Interview the Community Experts. (Use Advanced Search to find them.) Having them actively involved will build engagement and encourage other experts to ask to be interviewed when they see the recognition it gains.
9. Showcase and cross promote UGC (User generated content)
- Be clear on the purpose and desired response to posted content and conversations – it will help members know what is appropriate and feel comfortable contributing. Clarity of purpose will also help you track and measure results effectively.
- Remind people that they can subscribe to a Forum thread so they don’t have to check back in when new posts are made.
- One of the best ways to pull people into a conversation is to let them know that they have an audience. Encourage peers to respond to new content that is posted, particularly if a newer member of the community posts it. Responding as the community manager is OK but it is not as satisfying as a peer response and it can inadvertently halt the discussion because it is viewed as the opinion of an authority figure.
- Curating and showcasing community content energizes and motivates users and can help get new content contributors.
- Feature a Member a Month based on interesting content they’ve posted.
- Post Top Commenters/Posters in the Dashboard Digest or Company Newsletter or other regular communications.
10. Encourage posting of images showing the Organization in Action
- Create a Resource area for photos from around the Organization.
- Monitor most active and give rewards to groups that are most active.
11. Be timely about reviewing UGC
- Make sure you review and comment if needed on Forums and Resources.
12. Reward contributors
- Create a metric that combines posts, group membership, logins, aggregated time spent online into a score and give a monthly prize.
- Run a contest with a random drawing from all posters to a specific Discussion with a great prize. (something from Apple?) When tied to one of the content strategies above, this works at stimulating meaningful interaction.
13. Encourage Robust Profiles
- Regularly review the Most Aligned and Least Aligned reports. (Via Manage)
- Contact Least Aligned monthly to urge them to be more involved.
14. Contextualize the data from the backend reports section of the Community
- Take a look at the Word Selection reports and consider creating Groups or Forum posts that take advantage of this information.
- If you had a group of words: I Need Help With, and I Can Help With, you could easily find the experts who could provide help and solicit their support in a Discussion campaign.
- If you see that Movies are a top interest, create a Movie Lovers Group or a general discussion thread that anyone could contribute to (so they didn’t have to join the group to see what is going on).
- Instead of just reporting on statistics you find in Manage, try to draw conclusions that help your users.
- If you find that 18% of your users say they are Entrepreneurial, use that information to find a way to tap into that resource. See if you can harness that energy in Team Building or New Product Development. Be creative with the information you glean from the network.
15. Use the Marketplace for Promotion
- Create at least ten graphically rich house ads to announce events, special classes or programs. Change them out often to avoid staleness.
- Be aware of the branding and visual nature of these ads and make them engaging.
16. Get more out of Groups
- Create a ‘Getting Started with Groups’ post that highlights best practices.
- Create logical categories for Groups that support your business objectives.
- Talk with Group managers, be cordial and lay out guidelines.
- Regularly check to guard the quality of the Groups that are created. Help them when you see there’s only one person in the group, them.
17. Create an Ambassador Group that meets regularly
- Having a group of interested people who can provide ideas, help promote engagement, and do things like serve as a Guest Editor, and soliciting stories can be a valuable resource to the Community Manager.
18. Create RSS feeds in Online Resources that are applicable to your Community
- Be the first to publish information on industry and related topics.
- Example of an RSS Feed from a Cartographic Blog:
- Here’s how you would return Twitter feeds for Mark Sylvester:
- Here’s how you would return Twitter search results for Community Managers, where the tweets also included links to posted content:
- If you are good at building HTTP strings you can look at this resource to learn more about Twitter:
19. Use the Dashboard Digest weekly email feature strategically
- Pick a day and time that works best for it to be well received by your members.
- Feature Community updates, current conversations to pay attention too, Top Users, Interesting Stories, etc.
- Make sure that it’s easy to contact the Community Manager with ideas to improve the Community.
20. Create an area for Continuing Education and Ideas related to Community
- Use this as an avenue to improve the organizations’ use of the Community while maximizing their ability to Connect, Communicate and Collaborate. Solicit stories, examples, links and ideas that help everyone.
- How to make great connections
- How to write compelling communications
- How to collaborate effectively
21. BONUS Solicit anecdotes about Connections or Collaborations
- Look for stories that are a direct result of use of the Community and highlight them on a regular basis in your Communications.
What do you want to know about your audience that you do not know today? Once you know the answer, what are you going to do about it to improve your organization?We call this Actionable Business Intelligence. Which means they don’t ask a question in the Profile that they don’t already have a plan for what they will do with the answer. This is data driven decision making. Makes sense, right? This is one of the most challenging aspects of the design phase. People don’t know what they don’t know and they don’t know how to ask the right question. It’s a conundrum to be sure. That’s why we are glad we have kept hundreds of these types of questions from sites previously built to help clients during the brainstorming of a new community design. We love this quote and repeat it often
If you want better answers, ask better questions – Tony RobbinsWe apply this by suggesting to clients, If you want to make better decisions, ask better questions and let the answers drive your decisions. Here are three examples of how you might make data driven decisions:
- You are designing an educational program and want to make sure you apply your limited time and resources to creating the most needed courses. If you had asked a question such as: Areas I need help. Then you could easily look at the answers to the question and quickly find the top five items you should focus on, rather than guessing.
- You are putting together a task force to investigate an industry challenge. If you have asked the question: Biggest challenge facing our industry today, you may find that 79 people had said: Government Regulations. You could then invite the 79 people to seed your group instantly.
- You are wanting to best understand the motivation for people joining your community. By asking the question: What do you expect from this Community (see image above from the NEON site), you would have the range of answers and be able to enlist others based on this knowledge.
After talking with hundreds of executives and analyzing research reports and white papers, it is clear that social media is no longer an emerging technology that is nice to have and instead is a solution that businesses must have now. Social media is rapidly being adopted by the Fortune 5000 as well as small and medium sized businesses that are strategically utilizing these proven technologies in their organizations. On the surface, these solutions seem to meet their needs yet how do these companies know if they have selected the right strategies?Companies who want to remain competitive by having a closer connection to their clients and aligning their employees to the mission and vision of the organization are experiencing tremendous value out of their investments in social media. Success in social media is not a technology problem, instead it is a business problem. Here are five critical success factors to consider before you launch the right social media strategy for your organization. If you clearly understand the outcome you want (results) and why you want that outcome (purpose), then creating a list of actions that will make your strategy come to life is easily done.
1. Compelling business objectives
The first aspect that is often overlooked in designing a social media implementation is the actual strategy, purpose and planned outcome. Businesses often forge straight away into a tactical implementation without anything more than, “We will put up a community or forum and our customers or employees will simply show up.”
Thinking about your strategy as a business goal rather than a social one will change the conversation that you have about what the most important part of the social media strategy will be. It is important to visualize where you want your company to be within twelve months and ask yourself the question, “How has my social media strategy transformed my organization?” This is a hard question because in most cases, you may not have developed your strategy – yet. Having a clear and detailed understanding of your business objectives is critical. What does success look like to you? Once you have established that, developing the road map, selecting the tools and the team to get there is much easier.
Question: Do you have a clear view of a social media strategy? Suggestion: Consider having an expert guide you through this process in order to develop the ideal social media strategy that fits your ultimate outcome perfectly.
2. Ideal implementation considerations
One of the challenges to utilizing any new tool is implementation. There are often a lot of areas to consider, many audiences to appease and numerous constraints. When you begin working on your social media tactics, choosing solutions that can offer simple and fast implementation options is very important. If it will require IT resources and a team of people from your company, you may want to consider alternative solutions.Another option is to begin with a pilot, rolling out your social media initiative to a small group of customers or employees first. This will enable you to test, measure your results and make changes before you unleash your strategy to the entire target audience. Ideally, if you can set up your social media solution without having to connect to existing databases, without linking to existing websites, or without having to be concerned about user authentication – at least for your pilot – then don’t. In many cases, it can easily take you six months to understand all of the potential issues that HR, IT and Legal may put forth and this may distract you from executing on the core business objectives you have worked so hard to create. Instead, consider building internal momentum with a pilot program first and then you can replicate your success with a more in-depth integration of the tool or tools throughout your organization.
Question: Have you taken into account the steps you will follow to implement your ideal solution? Suggestion: Ask your vendor what the process is to be up and running with a solution or a pilot within a week.
3. Measurable insight and business intelligence
In developing your social media strategy, you will need to understand the audience that you plan to offer this solution to. This knowledge will allow you to mold your solution to best fit their specific needs.
You may be familiar with the idea of website analytics or statistics. These are metrics that track usage of a website, time spent on pages, and where the visitors come from, for example. Similar to website metrics, it is critical to choose a social media solution where you have the ability to measure the key aspects of your strategic objectives. With the ability to track campaigns and analyze the intelligence you gather, it will be clear how you can best use that information to serve your audience. Having the ability to utilize the business intelligence to deliver insight is not only a key driver of success; it can transform your business.
In order to have insight that is valuable enough that you can make better business decisions, you can start by creating tactics that will yield answers to deliver the insight you are looking for. Great rule to follow: If you want great answers from your audience, you have to ask great questions.
Question: Do you have the ability to access business intelligence about your audience at your fingertips now? Suggestion: That which gets measured, gets done. Make sure you have instant access to key metrics at all times.
4. Engaging user experience
One of the biggest challenges to any social media experience is to create something that captures the attention of the audience in three seconds or less and keeps them coming back for more. If compelling enough, three seconds of interest extends to three minutes of interaction and then into three hours of repeat activity. This is the ideal situation. Think of how many websites you have been to that were slow or poorly designed. Chances are that once you had a negative first impression, you did not return.
Choosing social media tools that are easy to use, visually engaging to interact with and that offer value to the audience will play a significant role in the success (or failure) of your strategy.Understanding how good design helps people use social media will transform how they interact with other users and information. This should be a key objective for you. If you spend significant effort on crafting the other key aspects of a successful social media strategy, yet you neglect design, your efforts will not deliver the best results possible.
Question: Are you offering your audiences a compelling and engaging experience? Suggestion: Impeccable design makes complicated concepts easy to understand and will result in delivering greater value to your audience. Insist on it.
5. Easily communicated ROI
If you follow the steps covered above carefully, you will definitely see results in as quickly as one to three months after implementation. Understand that these efforts take time to grow organically; your initial steps must be nurtured so that they become great strides moving you forward.
To recap: 1. Make sure your objectives are clear that you have a road map to follow throughout the process. 2. Insist on a solution that is easy to understand, easy to set up and maintain. 3. Choose a solution that delivers measurable insight. 4. Select tools that have a high level of attention to design and user interaction.
The return on investment you receive will be directly tied to the strategic objectives you stated at the beginning. Are you trying to communicate better with your customers so that they know more about your products, and as a result buy more? Or are you making sure that your employees can find the right resources at the right time and save hours hunting for experts to help them? With a successful social media solution in place, imagine the thousands of hours saved if you were able to provide this type of information to your audience with just a couple of clicks of the mouse.
“Economic hardship is demanding that we produce more from less. As a result, we’ll need to embrace new ideas and deploy new approaches so we can arrive at new goals.” – May 2009, Deliver Magazine.
Being able to move a successful pilot project to the next step will mean that you can show the business results of your pilot to other stakeholders and clearly demonstrate how it has affected your business. You will have command over these results because you will have taken a baseline measurement at the beginning of your effort and measured it continually throughout the initial phases. This practice of defining your outcome, understanding your purpose, then taking the actions to implementing your chosen social media solution will result in success.
Question: Do you know how to effectively identify ROI from existing efforts to solve your challenges? Suggestion: Focusing on the ROI you want to deliver can change business trajectory of your campaign. Consider your ROI goals early in your planning process.
Do you have the five aspects of a successful social media strategy in place now? Can you afford to not seriously think about what it will take to get started with your own social media strategy?
At introNetworks we understand how daunting this information may seem to you. There are hundreds of choices, different paths you can go down and many people to convince along the way. It is a significant amount of work to take this all into account and develop an ideal social media strategy.
If you feel like you aren’t sure where to even begin, we can help.
Every week we help companies discover and develop their own effective social media strategies. After working in this industry for over seven years, we understand the nuances and politics of putting together and implementing a strategy that will align you with your customers and employees like never before.
We will be in touch shortly to answer any questions you might have as a result of reading this report. Alternatively, you are welcome to reach out to us to explore the possibilities.