Category Archives: Community Management

Reflections on Community Manager Appreciation Day

Today was the third annual Community Manager’s Appreciation Day, or #CMAD. The intention of #CMAD is to raise awareness about the role of the Community Manager, and to recognize the hard working women and men who support this role for their organizations. Jeremiah Owyang originally proposed the idea for #CMAD, and has been very active in evangelizing and supporting it since launching 3 years ago.

I was had the privilege of joining Connie Bensen, a colleague on the Dell Community team, for a fantastic Google+ hangout today to talk about the evolving role of the Community Managers. the following folks participated and the video follows below:

+Bill Johnston, Director of Global Online Community, Dell;  <that’s me :)
+Jeremiah Owyang, Partner, Altimeter;
+Connie Bensen, Sr. Manager Community, Dell;
+Lionel Menchaca, Chief Blogger, Dell;
+Amy Muller, Chief Community Officer & Co-Founder, Get Satisfaction;
+Mark Harrison, Community Manager, Google Earth & SketchUp;
+Patrick O’Keefe, Author of Managing Online Forums / iFroggy Networks;
+Jim Storer, Principal/Founder of The Community Roundtable; and
+Vanessa DiMauro, CEO, Leader Networks.

Based on the G+ hangout, and subsequent conversations, I was encouraged by a number of things today:

  • The global community of community managers is alive and well. I saw hundreds of CM’s participating in the #CMAD hashtag via twitter and on Google+, and had Community Managers from all over the world reach out today.
  • The spirit of the day was generous and inclusive, with lots of shouts out to CMs all over the world.
  • The day surfaced a lot of great questions that the industry is struggling with, including where and how the Community Manager role (and related team roles) should evolve, how community management changes by online touchpoint, and how to deal with burnout in a very high-touch and sometimes emotional role.

My key hopes for next year (#CMAD 2013):

  •  That there is a more integrated approach to Community-building, as part of most organization’s social business efforts. Specifically, I hope that Community Management is seen as a role, as well as an intention (to form and nurture a network of relationships).
  • That we (as a community) will have developed mature social team structures, with specific roles and resources, robust enough to support a range organization types.
  • That we will see rich and diverse educational opportunities for Community Managers (and other social team members), coupled with mentoring opportunities.

As someone who has championed the value of Online Community building for most of my career (at least the last 12 years of it), I am very proud of where we are as an industry… but I also feel that we have much work ahead to fully realize the opportunities that online communities present to our respective organizations and stakeholders. I look forward to continuing the conversation with you all every day, including Community Managers Appreciate Day 2013.

Using Unconference in the Enterprise – Manifesting Social Business

My theory on Unconferences (and other participant-driven events) is pretty simple: put smart and passionate people in a room to talk about a common cause with some light facilitation and good things generally happen. Along with all the great knowledge-sharing and network-building that typically happens, an Unconference can be one of the key catalysts for the culture change needed to evolve to a more social business:  a day of suspended organizational hierarchy, authentic communication (no PPTs), collaboration, learning and relationship development.

I’ve been a huge believer in participant-driven events since I started hosting Online Community Roundtables in the summer of 1995, and I was first  introduced to the concept of an Unconference by Jim Cashel of Forum One a couple of years later. I went on to work for Jim and host a series of Unconferences about Social Media and Online Community. When I came to work at Dell, I saw an opportunity to do an Unconference series as a compliment to our social media training and strategy development efforts.

At Dell, we’ve hosted 5 SMaC Talk Unconference events globally, with locations including Dell HQ in Round Rock, TX, Bangalore, Xiamen and London over the last 18 months, with thousands of Dell employees representing most departments and all levels in the organization participating. Michael Dell even came to close our very first Unconference event – we are clearly invested in the format as an organization.

When I facilitate the events, I promise participants two key things:
1. They will leave the event with a long list of new ideas to put into practice immediatly, and
2. They will leave the event with an extended network of practitioners to collaborate with, learn from and gain support from in their day to day efforts.

Agenda Wall from Dell's Summer 2011 Unconference in Round Rock, TX

So, what is an Unconference?
An Unconference is a participant-driven event, where the attendees actually create the agenda. The methodology to create and facilitate an Unconference is drawn from Open Space Technology – a methodology first developed by Harrison Owen and subsequently shaped by the global community of facilitators.

An Unconference (or Open Space event) differs radically from a traditional conference in a number of different ways, including:

  • Attendees are responsible for creating the agenda
  • Speakers and sessions are not pre-programmed (although they do relate to the Unconferences theme)
  • The agenda is malleable – sessions can be suggested or changed throughout the day
  • After the agenda is set, the day is self guided – attendees are personally responsibility for getting the most out of the day

So, how does this Unconference thing work? The intention of the Open Space format is to remove the constraints and restrictions of “normal” conferences and to allow maximum creative thinking.

One of the most amazing parts of the day is the topic selection process. At the start of the morning, any attendee who wishes can come forward, announce a topic, and claim one of the ~50+ open slots on the grid.

Attendees announce session topics

Announcing topics - image courtesy of Forum One

The agenda begins to form

Image courtesy Forum One

Within about 35-40 minutes the grid fills up with topics

Image courtesy Forum One

Once all the topics are announced, we begin the Unconference sessions. The agenda grid plays the role of gathering place and ideamarketplace throughout the day, as attendees come back to the agenda to check for any updates, changes, or new sessions.

How can Unconference be used in the Enterprise?
Unconferences tend to be very effective when there is a large group of knowledgeable people struggling with a complex problem set. Although we’ve primarily used Unconferences for discussions of social media and social business, other likely topics in a large enterprise could be Sustainability, Change Management, Product Development or Brand re-engineering / relaunch.

The Net: An Unconference (using Open Space Technology) can be a great tool for your organization, bringing together diverse groups of people to collaborate and network around common organisational goals. Participants will leave the event with new ideas, new energy, new connections and shared vision and purpose.

Further Reading:

Open Space Technology - By Harrison Owen

OpenSpaceWorld – A community about Open Space Technology

Slides from my Dreamforce 2011 session “Embracing & Sustaining Your Community Ecosystem”

Slides from my Social Business Forum Keynote – #sbf11

Evolving to a Social Organization: 5 key things in 10 minutes

Do your Online Community / Social Media initiatives need a living trust?

stepsIt is no secret that there is a lot of turnover happening the social media industry – just take a peek at the regular “People on the Move” updates on Jeremiah Owyang’s blog. This is only going to get worse as more organizations adopt social media, organizational structures change, the economy improves, and people in social roles mature (or burn out).

One key reason I bring up the growing churn in the industry is this: Social media and Community programs suffer when staff turns over… especially when that staff is the senior leadership that helped make key platform, policy and program decisions, or community managers that have built relationships with large swaths of the community.

I was talking about this with some folks at the eMarketing Summit in Portland last week, and the concept of a “Social Media Living Trust” surfaced.  What if, as part of the requirements for social strategy & governance, senior leadership had to create a living trust document that outlined:

  • A look forward: The 3-5 year strategic plan, with assumptions about market conditions, platform, staffing, funding and performance metrics.
  • A look backward: The rationale and history behind key decisions like: platform, policy, team structure, personal, etc.
  • An overview of most active / impactful members & subgroups
  • Naming the person / team that would succeed the current team, and assume stewardship of the community / social program?
What components of the “living trust” am I missing? Would this be valuable in  your organization? Would it be viable? I’d love to discuss via comments,  or use the hashtag #smoclt on twitter.

Slides: Building Sustained Community Engagement: from eMarketing Summit Portland

Community Management as Stewardship – and Happy #CMAD!

stew·ard·ship
: the conducting, supervising, or managing of something;especially : the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care <stewardship of natural resources>

In the run up to Community Manager Appreciation Day, I’ve had a lot of conversations about the evolving role of the community manager. One topic keeps surfacing during all the conversations, no matter how varied the duties and perceptions of the role may be: that of stewardship.

Contexts, duties, community purpose, member demographics, and many other variables can be unique to each and every online community , but one thing remains the same – the role of someone to care for the network of relationships over the long haul… and hopefully to leave the community in a better place than it was when that particular community manager started to engage.

As we honor all of our Community Managers today, I would encourage you to think about the concept of stewardship as it relates to the work of community management – the intention to care for the network over time. The commitment required, and the long-term value inherent.

To all the Community Managers out there: Happy #CMAD! You are all doing important and impactful work. You rock. Thank you.

Online Community Roundtable – now Online Community Tribe

Howdy Folks – you may have noticed a name change to the Online Community Roundtable group. What’s up with that?
The primary motivation was to give a home to all the great activity that has sprung up with community managers and strategists around the #octribe tag. The tag sprung out of a conversation that Randy Farmer, Gail Williams, Kaliya Hamlin Scott Moore and I had in the summer of 2009 about a way to connect the emergent community of community practitioners – we discussed many things, including a regular blog-based discussion. It is pretty amazing to me that the #OCTribe tag was the thing that got traction.
The second motivating factor is that good friends Rachel Happe and Jim Storer are trying to build a business around the “Community Roundtable“. They’ve gotten a great start, and I don’t want to confuse folks with similar labels.
Has the intention of the group changed? Not really – I would love OC Tribe to be an aggregator of community best practices, high value events and a place to post key resources and jobs. To that end, you will notice a growing list of folks being added as admins for the group. Admins are charing some sort of regular regional meetup for community pros.

So, that’s an overview of the name change in a nutshell. If you have any questions, please let me know!

Update: I found Gail Williams original post about the origin of #octribe:
Are we a Tribe?

 

Community Manager Appreciation Day: 1/24/11 – #CMAD

Monday, January 24th is the second annual Community Manager Appreciation Day.

Jeremiah Owyang kicked this off last year by suggesting we take a day every year to celebrate and acknowledge folks who work as community managers and related roles like community strategist, community support, customer outreach… basically, anyone who has the job of reaching out to customers online and building and growing relationships.

How can you participate? If you work with or employ a community manager, or if you are a member of an online community – let your community manager know that you appreciate what they do. Nothing elaborate – a note saying “thanks” will most certainly be appreciated. If you are a community manager, come celebrate! There are tons of local events happening on Monday – I’ve cribbed a partial list from Jeremiah’s blog (be sure to see his post for the most recent list):

Physical Events Around the World (from Jeremiah Owyang’s blog):

I’ll be celebrating at the Austin event. If you are going to be there, please say hi!