Last week, we presented key findings from our State of Community Management report with Natanya Anderson from Powered. We had an overflow of great questions and so much content it was hard to get everything in so I’m including the slides (the audio recording is here) and my responses to the questions we received from participants that we were not able to fully respond to on the webinar.
I’ve organized the questions by the competencies we covered in the report:
Q: We’re looking to build a community around education and tools that help people use our products, we want to have different access levels for the content and community tools – some free, some materials will require registration and some will be for customers only, how do we create a strategy like this that helps to move people through the sales process while maximizing engagement in the community and fostering community growth?
A: This is a great way to ‘pull’ prospects in while providing value for them at different stages of education. You need to define the qualifiers for access to each group, consider what the value proposition is for members to join each level, and think about content strategy for each tier – they must all be differentiated enough that it makes sense to members. Consider starting with one group and layering on more as you get some experience with the dynamics of your market.
Q: Any insights on encouraging C-level to participate. Thanks.
A: Familiarize/evangelize first, target key execs (based on interest, relevance) and layer your case to them by slowly acclimating them to social tools – for example, send relevant blog posts to them, interview (text/podcast/video) them for a blog, show how people react to them and the post, understand which metrics matter to them, have them write a guest post… The idea is to give them what Beth Kanter calls ‘scaffolding’ by encouraging small steps which push them just a bit more as they learn and acclimate. It takes time but is worth the effort.
Q: How to overcome barriers for knowledge sharing?
A: Any cultural change takes time but I like to think of it as an infection model. Pinpoint and find key influencers who are already supportive of more open sharing of information and acclimate them to new tools and techniques. Like leaders, it may take some time but it is well worth it as they will ‘infect’ the rest of the organization. Also people must have the time, receive recognition, and have familiarity with new tools and processes in order to participate effectively. Think about the ‘What is in it for me’ factor – if that is not there, the initiative will be hard to move forward.
Q: What are the differences between a social media role and a community management role?
A: Scale of network, content vs. relationship density orientation, complexity of business goal or product, integration into the rest of the organization. I’ve written more about this topic here.
Q: Would love to hear a Daily/Weekly checklist that a Community Manager could use as a starting point. Would also like to have a Job Description and ‘what we are looking for’ in a community manager.
Q: What’s the most important thing to consider as you look to formalize a job role around Community Management?
A: Being focused and clear on the expected business goals and reporting structure – particularly if it is not a senior level role… community can result in many benefits to the organization but it’s much easier for the community manager if they have clear priorities. Also understand the offset benefits of community growth so that the new community manager does not face impossible expectations.
Q: What is the most misunderstood aspect an organization makes about “community management”? How differently should a small business consider their role in “community management” from a medium versus large business?
A: The offset investment/reward profile and the resource/programming commitment. It’s often easier for smaller organizations who have a more focused offering and constituent base because their audience is more well defined.
Q: How do you answer the question: “What’s the magic number [i.e. salary]?
A: Like any other functional role, it depends greatly on what you expect and are asking for in a community manager – are they passing out corp information through Twitter, engaging in content-rich dialogue on Facebook, or changing how customer support is done from a strategic/operational perspective? The more responsibilities, the higher the salary. HR departments should be able to provide some guidance. If the community manager reports up to a revenue generating department, the salary is likely also a bit higher than if they report up through a cost center.
Q: What guidance could you give to someone looking to start internal communities within a company as opposed to public customer communities? Any insights into the unique ways to handle internal community moderating
A: In some ways internal communities are easier because the scope of audience is defined and there is a built-in connection between community members but in some ways it is harder because of politics/organizational hierarchy/culture/existing processes. Chit chat is actually an important part of getting to richer collaboration… but hard to justify and sometimes hard to get people to socialize. Articulating a clear goal is important – is your goal expertise location, increased sharing/productivity, innovation, alignment?
Q: What is the best way to get communities to innovate?
A: Innovation rarely happens spontaneously. Defining constraints, using creative exercises/programming, and stretching people just a bit and not too much are all keys to driving innovation. The more complex you want the outcome to be the smaller and tighter knit the community needs to be.
Q: What are the best ways to ensure participation and engagement?
Q: I’m responsible for growing a member community in an association. What advice do you have for activities that attract and engage members?
A: Understand what is in it for the member, how much they can realistically contribute (executives have less time than teenagers for example), and increase people’s ability to engage through easy technology pathways. Additionally, keep official/visible engagement by the community manager to a relatively small percentage of activity – instead reach out via a back channel to encourage members to contribute or respond to things, particularly the influencers.
Q: What is the best way to deal with the velocity of interaction?
A: The programming velocity in a community will set the tone for the velocity of member activity. Determining that velocity should be driven by the business goal – is it a employee community that people are expected to engage with daily or a consumer support community where people will only occasionally log in to?
Q: What is the optimal size of a community?
A: It depends on business goal – for awareness you want as big a network as possible; for market research/innovation a small community (hundreds) is most useful; for internal alignment or expertise location the community should be fairly large (thousands) but not vast.
Q: When initially building a new community, how do you attract and stimulate ‘super users’ who can attract community members and encourage members to be active?
Q: Growing an ACTIVE base of participants – can you share some best practices?
A: Start small with individuals most likely to benefit from the value proposition/vision of the community (the ‘persona’ types you are building your community for) – figure out what drives their interests and give that to them – it will cost a lot more than you are targeting for per member spending but it will be offset by the energy created which will drive membership growth and advocacy later. Use this group to adjust and test until you get the vision and dynamic right. The energy created by these early members will be the biggest draw – and it will set the tone – for your future growth.
Q: What is the most effective (and innovative) tactic to facilitate peer-to-peer engagement within a B2B online community?
A: Motivators for B2B are different – not driven by brand enthusiasm, etc – but by practical values like networking, things to help members to be rockstars at work, get expertise quickly, opportunities to gain exposure – size, programming, content, and velocity will all be different because of this. However, don’t discount using fun or social activities to loosen up the group and create connection – we’ve done things like collaborative online drawing and encouraging members to video blog as ways to get a bit out of their comfort zone and connect with other members.
Content & Programming
Q: We have a new community. What suggestions do you have to populate the community with conversation starters?
A: Build snackable, interactive content with some but not tons of space for open ended discussions… no one wants to be the first person to the party. Also make sure there is content in a lot of different formats (text, audio, video) – as a new community you will learn what type of content is most appealing to your target members. Also don’t forget to add events, chats, and other interactive programming for new members (don’t limit yourself to content) since communities are about building relationships, not just interactive content.
A: Curation is a critical task and value add for a community manager – there is typically too much content so helping to decide what is more relevant for community members is critical. Also there are a lot of aggregation and distribution tools out there to help community managers with this.
Policies and Governance
Q: As community starts to become integrated into cross functional business operations, what are best practices for organizational structure for ownership of the strategy? Centralized or embedded into each dept?
A: We have seen the leading corporate innovators in this space go from encouraging a lot of internal experimentation to creating centralized social groups that coordinate initiatives, define policies, train employees, and act as advisers to business units. Structurally this tends to look like a hub and spoke model or what Jeremiah Owyang refers to as a dandelion model (multiple hub/spoke systems).
Q: With all that can now be done to create groups, etc. with sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, does it make sense to build a hosted community anymore? If so, what would be the advantage of doing so?
A: Like many things in social business, it depends a lot on the business goal – if awareness is the goal public social networks are better suited to outreach but if there is a lot of content being generated that is exclusive to the community – public networks have really poor content management functionality and lack of controls or easy ways to store/version it. I typically think of organizational communities forming concentric rings around the organization – the further away you are from the center the less control you need and as you bring people into the corporate ecosystem, they also need to be more integrated into corporate systems.
Q: What are the top three features customers expect in a shopping community?
A: From what I’ve seen the most common features of social shopping communities are discounts, reviews, and early access to products.
Q: How do I cope with SharePoint 2007 until we upgrade to 2010 or migrate beyond? What are good solutions to sit on top of SharePoint 2010: Jive Newsgator, others?
A: Other solutions that integrate with SharePoint are Awareness, Telligent, Lotus Connections, and Igloo software.
Metrics & Measurement
Q: In such a project, what are the KPI often identified and monitored?
A: Ultimately conversion to the business goal – deals, averted support calls, number of leads, reduced time to close/ramp/find info – but it’s important to understand the behaviors that convert and make sure the behavior funnel is progressing…. i.e. people who fill out their profile are likely to ask a question and people who ask questions are likely to absorb more product marketing literature and those who read more literature are more likely to identify themselves as leads. Executives will care most about the high level conversion metrics but community managers will want to track the behavioral milestones as well to ensure the activity volume that leads to conversion are being hit.
If you have your own perspective on any of the above questions, please share; while we have our perspective, everyone has had different experiences that provide valuable insight.