Whenever we make investments in organizations, we need a business plan that makes financial sense. With social and community initiatives, that is required but often not sufficient. Why? Communities take a long time to gestate and mature before they start to realize their potential – certainly more than a quarter which is how a lot of large organizations are managed these days. Corporations tend to understand long payoff periods for new products but not for changes to business processes so unless expectations are set well in advance, social initiatives which mostly involve process change, can often be judged a failure before they have the chance to succeed. Because of the long investment period required, business sponsors need to have both the business plan and some faith that when mature, the initiatives will pay off. Getting stakeholders to viscerally understand how social processes and tools impact speed and productivity – both for themselves and for the organization – is critical to developing the faith they need to remain supportive throughout a long initial investment period. This understanding is most often created through a series of ‘Aha’ moments when people grasp for themselves the power of online social environments.
Aha moments will happen organically for people who are participating in online networks and communities but it may take a while. I believe there are also ways to orchestrate these moments for people that will get them there faster, if they are inclined and able to understand them. For social business owners, it’s critical to understand how this can be achieved for various stakeholders. While the best social leaders do this intuitively, we are only just beginning to see the tactic articulated. I’m planning a session at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in November where we challenge a panel of experienced community managers to articulate how they have orchestrated Aha moments for others. In the meantime, I would love to start this conversation and crowdsource your approaches.
For me, my Aha moments came fast and furiously when I started using Twitter in 2007. Because of its ease of use and large network, Aha moments seemed to happen faster on Twitter. Here are some of the revelations I had during that time:
- How I was welcomed to the network had a huge impact. Aaron Strout (@AaronStrout) was the person that finally convinced me to join after a few months of hearing less than interesting uses for it (“my mother loves it” etc.). Aaron is a great host and once he convinced me to join, he took it upon himself to make sure I was introduced around. This was critical to finding some immediate value and feeling positive about the experience.
- Getting the attention of influencers through content they found interesting is important. Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) was generous in promoting my work and that gave me early exposure to an audience I never would have had otherwise.
- I knew quite a few people that were social thought leaders but until I saw them all chatting with each other, I did not know that they all knew each other. Knowing that made me appreciate just how influential they each were and it was a good way to assess others’ influence.
- When watching the network of influential people on Twitter, I could easily spot others that I didn’t know that were also in the sub-network (back when Twitter allowed you to see who your friends were chatting with). I ‘met’ a large number of people this way, all of whom were important to understanding what was happening in the market.
- Knowing most of the thought leaders in the market completely changed the conference experience. At Enterprise 2.0 in the spring of 2008, I met a ton of Twitter connections in person. Instead of standing around at a big industry event looking for people to chat with or walking up blindly to individuals and chatting only to find we had nothing in common, it felt more like a college reunion. This picture of me, Chris Brogon, Loren Feldman, Laura Fitton, and Dennis Howlett taken by Stephen Collins still makes me smile. It was my first time meeting Dennis, Loren, & Stephen and we immediately connected. That conference experience blew my mind because it was such a change from a decade of conference going experience.
- Live tweeting events created much more value around conference content by extending its reach to more people and experiences. I got more out of conferences but I also met many new people because of my (and their) live tweeting.
While those were some of my early Aha moments, I am still having them. Read my previous post on tacit knowledge and communities’ critical role in its development into explicit knowledge (which is what I’m attempting to do here – move what I understand tacitly about Aha moments into more explicit examples that can develop into tactics for orchestrating these moments for others). All of these experiences let me really understand how fast and productive social environments could be. Now, I try and encourage these experiences for others. Here are some of the things I do:
- Welcome and make connections for others
- Encourage people to comment on other blogs and blog themselves
- Encourage people to share some of their personal lives in social environments because it makes it much easier for others to engage in conversation, which is a critical first step to having more substantive conversations
- Point out online conversations that I know are interesting to the individual
- Do simple searches on social networks (LinkedIn, Slideshare, Twitter, etc) for topics of interest to the individual and show them how easy it is to find and connect with others who share their interests.
- Show people examples of how others are doing something small well (i.e. x person tweets really well, watch them)
How do you help others get to Aha moments?
TheCR Network is a membership network that provides strategic, tactical and professional development programming for community and social business leaders. The network enables members to connect and form lasting relationships with experts and peers as well as get access to vetted content.