This June really stirred things up for me. The Enterprise 2.0 comprises a numer of interesting areas of Social. I’ll return to some of the areas that touched me most. This time it’s about Communities in general and Community Managers in particular.Here’s the seminar on the subject of “Community Managers: What They Do. How to Be a Great One” here.
This – and a lot of the other seminars got me into reflecting mode: What have I learned myself in those early days of communities? So I’ll list a few learnings from my own acting Community Manager in the early days (history in this case is less than ten years ago, circa 2003 – 2006, pre Facebook). I then belonged to a carreer network by the name of Shortcut.nu. Although still around, Facebook and other networks have taken its toll…
In the year 2002 or 2003 we were allowed to create “groups” that we would run as community managers (but of course the term wasn’t established at that date) and I saw the opportunity to learn some. Out of my seven groups the “Cafeliv” intended mainly for freelancers and others who feel like sharing ideas and thoughts at cafes. Some years earlier I met people working in cafes in The Village of New York. A picture that’s been with me ever since.
What’s a “Community”. Well the word is of course established in the English language, but for us not having it as mother tongue we need to understand the meaning of the word. Wikipedia says this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community – “The term community has two distinct meanings: 1) A group of interacting people, living in some proximity (i.e., in space, time, or relationship). Community usually refers to a social unit larger than a household that shares common values and has social cohesion. The term can also refer to the national community or international community, and, 2) in biology, a community is a group of interacting living organisms sharing a populated environment. A community is a group or society, helping each other.”
They continue: “Since the advent of the Internet, the concept of community has less geographical limitation, as people can now gather virtually in an online community and share common interests regardless of physical location.”
Here are my learnings:
You need a purpose for the coummunity: Why should I join this group? What’s in it for me? Can I help others? What can I expect? Note: The purpose may in some cases be “to meet others” – especially true in freelancing communities as we often work alone. The social part may be a purpose.
You need a direction: What can we expect? Like any company you need a Vision, a Mission, a Strategy – and plans on how to get into action.
You need to know group dynamics: Things happen when people meet. We know that a group with new tasks and/or members need clarity. This means telling the purpose of the group and presenting members at every meeting. More mature group – listen, step in only when needed, coach on activities.
You need to know the effect of Critical Mass: What number of people is needed to get started? To grow? To become viral? To manage over gaps? For a discussion two may be enough, for a party eight or ten? This goes for the community survival as well as for activities. Few enter a group with ONE member. But with ten – and having a good trend? Same thing goes for activities. Time to reveal a secret: Other CMs and I convinced 3-4 menbers to join in at an early stage in the list of events. And it paid off!
You need to be able to see, to be a good host: What great people are in your group? What do they need? And we as a group? Sometimes you need to ignite and create energy in the group – sometimes the opposite is needed, leaving space for others to grow. Moderation may be needed at some meetings: how to get the quiet speak up and the dominant to leave space?
You are not alone: You’re not a great CM if you do everything single-handed: You may need cross connect with other CMs in other dept’s or supporters/SM agents. You can delegate to community members. Cross-meetings with other groups, cross-fertilizing of ideas beteen communities. “Sharing is caring” is really true here!
Your activities need to be known: You may think that you’re spamming – but you need to communicate a lot in the beginning. Once you have the people spreading the word you can start relaxing and moving into feeding phases.
Learn about “the tipping point“: What key people need to be active to reach the tipping point? The tipping point is when things change over that edge. When will most people get an electric car instead of the ones we use today? Another interesting one is when one guy starts dancing wildly on a square. Strange guy… But one person joins in. Then there’s another one. Suddenly a little crowd. Feel the power to let go of your fears? You are reaching the tipping point. The activity probably did it a bit before you. Read more about the tipping point in this excellent book by Malcolm Gladwell.
When it happens – share! Create a feeling of “I want to belong to that!” You may think what happens in your community is known by “everyone”. It’s not! Nowadays you have sooo many channels to share stuff in: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr photos, videos and more!
Stories: get people to tell stories of what your achieve: It’s like in the press: an article is worth 10-20 times the value of an Ad – since someone else is telling the story – support them, push them – when you support an individual or a group – you also market your community. Today, most managers think their work is known troughout the corporation. Mostly, it is not. Share! Again – there are many tools for this today – update your intranet! Make it truly social!
Show results! “Seeing is believing“: Make people share their success!!! Video, pictures, blogs, microblogs, streaming video. Discussions in our communities often flew far. Members got new jobs, assignments – even married and got kids! Again – share!
Encourage, but don’t over-enthusiaze – the victory often takes a lot longer! People joining your community should have a positive attitude – balanced with a realistic expectations.
So, how do these reflections relate to YOUR community? Your intranet? Your workplance? Please let me know!
I’ll return to HOW to do all of this soon…