Tag Archives: Online Community

Community Leadership Summit West 2011

I’m planning on participating in the Community Leadership Summit West on January 15th in Daly City, CA. The CLS West is an Unconference  that aims to connect online community practitioners in person to discuss, share and learn.

The Unconference is being organized y Van Ripper and will be facilitated by Kaliya Hamlin.

To register for the CLS West, please go here:

ps: The topic, format and facilitators may look familiar to those who participated in Forum One unconferences – just wanted to underscore the fact that I am not helping organize this, only participaitng. With that said, i think it will be a very productive and fun event.

Announcing Community Chat!

I’m pleased to announce that tomorrow, Wednesday October 13th, Thomas
Knoll (@thomasknoll) and I will be kicking off a weekly podcast:
Community Chat!
Every Wednesday at 12 Noon PT, Thomas and I, plus a special guest,
will talk about the building, managing and growing healthy online
communities.Details for tomorrow’s show:
Title: Episode 1 – Community Chat Kickoff!
Time: 10/13/2010 03:00 PM EDT
Episode Notes: The kickoff episode of Community Chat! Bill Johnston
and Thomas Knolls will be discussing the premise of the Community Chat
podcast with special guest Randy Farmer. Will also be getting a
preview of Blog World Expo from Check Hemann.

You can access the show (and archives) here – http://bit.ly/cmtychat

The tag for the podcast, and subsequent discussions is #cmtychat.

Back to Basics: The Community Strategy Team & Goal Definition

This post is part of an ongoing series about developing an online community strategy. As a reminder, all posts will be tagged #ocb2b

Define Business Goals and Objectives
As I mentioned in my previous post, the recommended first step in developing (or refining) your organization’s online community strategy is to answer the question: What are you, as an organization, trying to accomplish? I acknowledge that this is a simple, but loaded, question. Answering the question of Organization intention is 1/2 of the equation for a successful community strategy. The other half of the equation is understanding community member’s needs and predisposition, which I cover in the next post in the strategy series.

Generally, an executive taps a strategy lead to help develop online community initiatives at an organization. In some cases, the strategy lead actually rises out of the ranks to propose direction to the executives. In both cases, there are two essential roles:

  • Sponsoring Executive: The C-level or SVP that is the champion of community & social media in the C-suite. This is often the CMO, the VP of Marketing, or VP of Support.
  • Strategy Lead: The person charged with directing strategy development from kickoff through launch or annual engagement planning.
  • Said another way: The Sponsoring Exec has the financial and political capital to fund the community initiative, and the Strategy Lead executes research and planning necessary to create the community strategy.

    Next, the Strategy Lead forms a core team to facilitate discussion with the extended stakeholders around the following topics:

    • the intention in engaging the community;
    • the potential value the organization hopes to create for itself and its customers;
    • the risk associated with engaging, including worst case scenarios;
    • the overhead, including headcount, budgets and staff time;
    • the level of readiness to participate, and the required culture change to be successful
    • Identifying and Engaging Internal Stakeholders
      The current definition of stakeholder on wikipedia describes the role of stakeholder as “… a party that affects or can be affected by the actions of the business as a whole.” Given the inclusive nature of many social media and community efforts, an argument could be made that everyone in the company is a stakeholder in the strategy, and in a sense, that is true. In order to actually get work done, you need to trim the list a bit, down to relevant and representative stakeholders that represent key roles and departments affected by, or expected to contribute resources to the community.

      A list of likely internal stakeholders includes:

      • Marketing: Representatives from brand, field and demand generation;
      • Web Team: User experience, analytics, content and technical / development resources;
      • Product: Product management, product marketing;
      • Support: The manager of any existing support forums, knowledgeable, as potentially a representative from technical writing;
      • HR: HR representatives to help develop participating policies and guidelines;
      • Legal: to develop policies and guidelines, as well as terms of use;
      • Process: Kickoff, Work Sessions, Interviews and Synthesis
        So, how does all of this actually come together? I’ve used the following process on the job at my former employer Autodesk, as well as in our services practice here at Forum One. The process starts with a kickoff meeting, continues with individual interviews with key stakeholders, includes follow up working sessions with a core team, and concludes with analysis and synthesis of all of the inputs by the Strategy Lead.

        Kickoff: A meeting is convened by the Strategy Lead, and usually includes the Executive sponsor as well as key internal stakeholders. The group is generally no more than 5-7 people. The kickoff usually lasts 2-3 hours, and covers:

        • Project scope, participant roles, and communication protocols;
        • Review of the current state of online community and social media activities (if any);
        • Discussion of potential goals for the community strategy, related to organization’s mission and annual goals;
        • Potential sources of value from online community engagement, including qualitative and quantitative measurements;
        • Recent customer research and/or feedback;
        • Existing customer community touchpoints & activities (blogs, facebooks groups, etc)
        • Possible Inluencers / Lead users in the community ecosystem (bloggers, Twitter pundits, etc)
        • Discussion of additional stakeholders to involve;
        • Discussion of potential risks;
        • Stakeholder Interviews:
          After the kickoff, interviews with key stakeholders are held to take a deeper dive in to the questions explored in the kickoff meeting, and also to give the stakeholder “airtime” to state requirements, explore ideas and express concerns. The interviews can be done face to face or over the phone, generally last between 30-45 minutes, and are conducted by an interviewer, with backup by a note-taker. Depending on the size of the extended stakeholder pool and the complexity of the project, I generally try to do at least 8 stakeholder interviews. As an augmentation to the in person interviews, I’ve also done an online survey for stakeholders that is based on the interview script. This is a good way to reach a wider audience and get a large set of quantitative and qualitative data.

          Work Sessions:
          In addition to the kickoff, there are generally 1-3 work sessions to review and refine key points from the discussion in the kickoff meeting. These additional working sessions are a great place for brainstorming potential community features and engagements, and to discuss examples of online community and social media from competitors, leaders in the industry, or shiny object examples outside of your industry. The outputs of the work sessions are analyzed in the Synthesis phase.

          The outputs of the kickoff, working sessions and stakeholder interviews are analyzed by the Strategy Lead, and summarized in to a working strategy brief (typically a word doc). The key elements of the brief generally include:

          • A statement of purpose or intention for the online community strategy;
          • Business goals for the online community initiative, ideally showing support of organizational mission and goals, and with initial metrics of success;
          • Key findings from the stakeholder interviews (which will have informed, and ideally support, the two points above)

          • Next Up: Member Needs Analysis

            As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, the Organization’s goals are half of the equation for a successful community strategy. The other half is obviously assessing the needs and predisposition of the community. In the next post in the series, I will talk about how to find and solicit feedback from potential (or current) community members, and what to do with that information.

            Posted via web from Social Architect

            Announcing – Back to Basics: Developing an Online Community Strategy


            The topic of online community strategy is one of the things that occupies a large chunk of my mental cycles. I’ve written about a pretty basic process and framework a few times over the years, and I think the baseline concepts have held up well. You can read a couple of relatively recent posts here (I’d love to hear your thoughts):
            How to Develop a Community Strategy
            Holistic Community Strategy

            Why am I Doing This?
            I’m very passionate about the opportunities that online communities and social media bring to the table, and I’ve had my fair share of real world experience (10+ years), but the primary reason I want to write this series is pretty simple:
            Organizations are still challenged with setting strategy. From our efforts with the Online Community Research Network, we still see that only about 25% of our participant organizations have a comprehensive community strategy in place.

            Over the next few weeks, I will explore the following topics, offering my own opinions and insight, data from our ongoing community research, as well as other relevant content from experienced community-building professionals. I’ll also try to post as many templates that I use (or can borrow), where appropriate. In short: I’ll be posting, you will be adding to the discussion, and we will all (hopefully) be making our day to day community practices a little better. I hope that sounds like fun :-)

            The Topics
            The topics, which generally follow my strategy development process, will be:

            1. Goal Definition:
            How to assemble an internal stakeholder team and facilitate definition of business goals for the community.

            2. Member Needs Research:
            Processes and techniques for engaging community members in a process of discovery and conducting member “needs” research.

            3. Social Media Ecosystem Research:
            Methodology for conducting a discovery exercise of the relevant parts of the social web to find out where your community (or potential community) is already working and playing.

            4. Designing an Online Presence Architecture (with a hat tip to Chris Brogan):
            Factoring the goals of the business, the needs of the members, and the opportunities in the social media ecosystem to create a presence architecture that maps out where to focus engagements.

            5. Engagement Planning:
            How to develop content & activity plans for the community, including
            –Where: to engage (home, outposts)
            –Who: responsible party
            –How: specific activity
            –When: frequency of activity
            –What: expected outcomes (prototypical metrics!)

            6. Community Platform Selection:
            Guidance on how to select a community platform, along with recent ratings for major platforms.

            7. Management & Moderation
            An overview of the important and evolving role of the Online Community Manager, building an online community team, and best practices on moderation.

            8. Metrics & Reporting
            What metrics to collect, what they tell you, who to report them to, and how often.

            9. Policy Creation & Roll-out
            How to develop community and social media policies that fit your organization, and how to deploy them.

            10. Governance
            Creating a governance structure in your organization, keeping exective stakeholders informed and engaged, and achieving the right balance of of inter-departmental communication and guidance.

            11. Superusers / Elites
            A review of the best superusers programs, with a focus on process, identification and incentives.

            Again, I would LOVE your feedback on the topics above. My goals is to write an article a week over the next 12-14 weeks. Each article will be labeled “Back to Basics”, and will be tagged #ocb2b

            Posted via web from Social Architect

            The Real-Time Web: A Short Reading List

            A recent series of articles from ReadWriteWeb has spawned discussion here at Forum One of what impact the “real-time web” will have on online communities. Those conversations continue, but I wanted to share our short list of selected readings on the topic from the last 12 months.

            Ken Fromm wrote the series of articles about the real-time web, and they can be found here:
            The Real-Time Web: A Primer, Part 1,
            The Real-Time Web: A Primer, Part 2,
            The Real-Time Web: A Primer, Part 3

            In the articles, he describes the collection of activities that describe the emerging Real-Time Web:

            As with other recent waves of innovation (Web 2.0 and cloud computing, for example) there is no single definition of what the term “real-time Web” means. As a result, it is used as a catch-all phrase for a number of developments underway. At this point, we can identify that the real-time Web…:
            1. is a new form of communication,
            2. creates a new body of content,
            3. is real time,
            4. is public and has an explicit social graph associated with it,
            5. carries an implicit model of federation.

            Other recommended reading:

            Google vs. The Real-Time Web
            O’Reilly: The Real-Time Web

            Real-Time Web Summit
            Forum One is working with ReadWriteWeb to promote the Real-Time Web Summit in Mountain View on October 15th. I’ll be there – will you? You can register here. Price is $195 until October 8th.

            Online Community Summit 2009

            logoWe’re just about 2 weeks away from our 8th annual Online Community Summit in Sonoma, CA, on October 8-9. We have a fantastic speaker and session line-up that I’ve detailed out below.

            If you’d like to attend the Summit and you’re a senior online community or social media practitioner, please go here to request an invitation. There are limited tickets still available.

            Please note: We restrict attendance of platform and service vendors to those sponsoring the event. If you would like information about sponsoring, please email me.

            Check out the event site here for more information.

            We have a great group of folks coming, including: Answers.com, Apple, Autodesk, Inc., Cisco, CNN, GlobalGiving, Moshi Monsters, Edutopia, LinkedIn, American Legacy Foundation, SEGA of America, Time Inc. Lifestyle Digital, WestEd, TripAdvisor, Dell, Executive Networks, Inc., Microsoft, REI, Care2.com, Stupski Foundation, The MathWorks, and more.

            Event Schedule:

            Thursday, October 8th

            8:00 – 9:00: Registration / Breakfast

            9:00 – 10:00: Introductions & Welcome
            Bill Johnston – Chief Community Officer, Forum One Networks
            Joi Podgorny – Head of Community, Mindcandy

            10:00 – 11:00: Session 1 /Turning to the Crowd: Ideas and Contest Sites
            How can you generate great ideas and enthusiasm for your organization at low cost?
            Session Lead: Anil Rathi, Idea Crossing
            Session Lead: Ryan Wilson, XPrize

            11:00 – 11:30: Break

            11:30 – 12:30: Session 2 / What You Need to Know About the Mobile Communities Revolution
            As mobile usage explodes, the importance of mobile communities is increasing dramatically. We’ll review experiences from Obama to Armani to the American Cancer Society and demonstrate the coming wave of change that will impact your organization.
            Session Lead: Kevin Bertram, Distributive Networks
            Session Lead: Miles Orkin, America Cancer Society

            12:30 – 1:30: Lunch

            1:30 – 2:30: Session 3 / Social Marketing & Advertising
            Communities and traditional forms of marketing and advertising have historically acted like oil and water. Progress is being made by innovative organizations that involve the community in feedback, permission-based programs and even advertising creation.
            Session Lead: Paul Levine, Current.com
            Session Lead: Bruce Smith, Answers.com

            2:30 – 3:30: Session 4 / Break Out Sessions

            3:30 – 4:00: Break

            4:00 – 5:00: Session 5 / News Communities
            While the importance of PR and marketing hasnʼt changed, the ways to influence major news sites has transformed radically. Weʼll discuss the news landscape and what it means for your organization.
            Session Lead: Lila King – CNN.com
            Session Lead: Chris Tolles – Topix.net

            Friday, October 9th

            8:00 – 9:00: Registration / Breakfast

            8:00 – 9:00: Community and Good Ideas Demos (open podium)

            9:00: Introductions

            9:00 – 10:00: Session 6 / Social “ME”dia: Employees as Advocates
            How does an organization combine employee passion with social media tools to meet organization goals?
            Session Lead: Erika Kuhl, Salesforce.com
            Session Lead: Lucia Willow – Pandora.com

            10:00 – 11:00: Session 7: / Break Out Sessions

            11:00 – 11:30: Break

            11:30 – 12:30: Session 8: Operationalizing Social Media – Reshaping the Organization
            As social media and community programs move form short term, tactical engagements to longer-term business strategies, organizations must transform to take full advantage of the possibilities. Hear about the topography of the “social organization” from our panel of experts leading the charge to transform their organizations via social media.
            Moderator: Rachel Makool, Makool Consulting
            Panelist: Larry Blumenthal, Robert Wood Johnson
            Panelist: Dawn Lacallade, Solar Winds
            Panelist: Jordan Williams, REI

            12:30 – 1:00 Conference Close and Wrap up

            Some of the current attendees include community and social media practitioners from leading companies including: Apple, GlobalGiving, Autodesk, Inc., Leadership Corps, Moshi Monsters, Edutopia, LinkedIn, American Legacy Foundation, SEGA of America, Time Inc. Lifestyle Digital, WestEd, TripAdvisor, Dell, Inc., Answers Corporation, Executive Networks, Inc., Microsoft, REI, Care2.com, Stupski Foundation, and The MathWorks, Inc.

            #OCTRibe Topic: Valuing Participation in Online Communities

            Note: This is cross-posted from the Online Community Report.
            I’m pleased to be kicking off the 2nd topic in the #octribe discussion, following the kickoff topic of “Influencers” by Gail Williams two weeks ago.

            How OCTribe works

            Write something tomorrow (Tuesday, July 28), tag it #octribe or tweet it as #octribe, and your post will be linked from the recap page. Moving forward, each 2nd Tuesday and 4th Tuesday of the month, the call and the recap will be hosted on the site of another one of the bloggers in the loosely defined OCTribe group. This conversational project is just starting, so please join in!

            The Topic: Valuing Member Participation and Contribution in Online Communities
            Admittedly, this topic is a bit of a double edged sword: Assigning financial value to online community member participation and contribution.

            On one hand, a community manager could can paint a compelling portrait of value for internal stakeholders by determining a financial value to member participation (assistant moderate, guiding discussions, welcoming new members, etc.) and assigning value to member contributions (support forum posts, tutorials, reviews, feedback and ideas).

            On the other hand, if an organization were to make the valuations of member participation and contribution public, it would likely set off a firestorm of debate about member compensation, legal boundaries around “volunteer opportunities”, and ultimately, force the host organization to account for true cost and true value of the activities and content created in their online community.

            It seems clear that it would be useful for organizations to have at least notional values for member contributions and participation. What is less clear is how (if at all) to talk about this value with the community, and how (if at all) social capital is exchanged for financial capital in online communities.

            The questions I would like to explore in this #octribe series are (feel free to pick one, all or explore your own!):
            • Do you currently assign an internal financial value to member contributions and participation?
            • Do you use an assumed value as part of your communities ROI reporting?
            • Do you account for social capital in your system of accounting for online communities?

            Reading the following article from forbes (2001) spawned the “participation value” question for me. In the article, staff writers sketched the value of the cost savings AOL benefited from via their volunteer program.


            “How much has AOL saved by using volunteer labor during the past nine years? That’s not an easy question, and with AOL involved in litigation, the company is not eager to furnish the answer. But even with the most conservative numbers available, we estimate that by using volunteers AOL escaped nearly $973 million in expenses since going public in 1992. That poses the question: Would AOL have thrived-or even survived-on Wall Street without free help from volunteers during its first seven years as a public company? Not likely.

            The many jobs that volunteers have performed for AOL would be compensated at a wide range of hourly rates in the labor market (see story). To be safe, we used a conservative figure of $15 per hour-about equal to that of a security guard-as the median salary for today’s AOL volunteers. We adjusted the hourly rate backward using an annual rate of inflation of 4% (historical note: Inflation hasn’t been as high as 4% since mid-1991). For the purpose of the model, each volunteer is assumed to have worked 10 hours per week, 50 weeks a year.”

            Please note that I am including the article because it is one example of valuing member participation.

            So, to wrap up:
            • Please post your thoughts on valuing member participation on Tuesday, July 28th
            • Tag the posts and any related tweets as #octribe
            • I’ll compile a wrap up post that includes all tagged posts by the end of the week

            If you have any questions, please email me.