Category Archives: Online Business

Culture, Change and Faith: Achtung Baby & Social Business Transformation

File under: slightly off topic but personally meaningful.

Disclosure: I’m not a massive U2 fan. With that said, Achtung Baby is one of my all time favorite albums. It is a transformative recording from a band that had, to date, been cast as a folksy and righteous rock and roll band from Ireland. Achtung Baby is a product of the band intentionally losing its established identity, giving themselves time and room to explore (albeit contentiously), and birthing an almost unclassifiable masterpiece and subsequent co-opting of mass, and particularly, electronic media as part of the album experience.

vertigo

In 2011, From the Sky Down was released to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the album. The film takes the band members back to Berlin to talk about the creative process of recording Achtung Baby, and in the act of creation, remaking the band.

One of the most insightful moments in the film is at the end, when Bono sums up the intention behind the Berlin sessions and the album. It is at once terrifying and inspirational:

“You have to reject one expression of the band, first, before you get to the next expression,” says Bono, “and in between you have nothing, you have to risk it all

I LOVE this. Applied personally, it is a call to action to grow, explore and transform. Faith in your instincts, talents and abilities bridge the gap between what you are and what you can become, and help hedge the risk.

It occurs to me that most organizations are in a similar state today – business models, culture, internal structure – basically most everything needs some level of transformation to thrive in the new increasingly connected and empowered market that is emerging globally.

How many will have the will to reject the “current expression” of the org?
How many will invest in the work needed for exploration and transformation?
Most importantly – how many will find the will and purpose to risk it all?

We will find out in the very near future.

ps: I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Berlin in 2011. I have to admit that I was not looking forward to the trip, but I wound up falling in love with the city and its energy- including the vibrant startup scene. I posted some of my pics from the trip here:
shots from Berlin

Attributes of Thriving Online Communities

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 11.19.39 AMI got my start building online communities in 1999 with the launch of TechRepublic.com. We grew from a cold start of 0 to 2 Million members in less than 2 years before being acquired by Gartner – it was an insane ride.

I was first asked the question of (more or less) “What makes a thriving community” during the first few months of our growth, and frankly, I didn’t have a good answer at the time. I was primarily focused on designing the site, rolling out new features (like one of the first peer networks in the space), and tweaking architecture. One night when we were working on what was essentially a Social Q&A feature, I checked into our forums to look for inspiration and ideas around how people typically ask technical questions. What I stumbled into was an exchange in the forums about configuring Windows NT for a very specific enterprise environment. Probably 100 in the entire world were capable of having a meaningful conversation about this topic, and we had attracted 10 of this. For TechRepublic at that time, a thriving community meant attracting the most knowledgeable IT Pros in the world, and incentivizing them to share and participate.

I’ve asked myself the “what makes a thriving community” a lot over the years, especially when my practice takes me into a new domain. What worked at TechRepublic in ’99 and Autodesk in 2001 wasn’t necessarily the same criteria for the large NPO communities and collaboration spaces we did at Forum One, or even the range of communities we built and nurtured at Dell.

I was asked to think about the question again last week, and I put together the following list. Given where brands generally are with their social and community efforts, I feel like this is a good and succinct list – by no means comprehensive – but directionally correct.

Attributes of Thriving Communities

Attribute What it looks like to host: What it looks like to member:
Shared Value Business value in the form of answers, content, connection, expertise, & advocacy. Value in the form of answers, content, connection, expertise & access.
Shared Identity Members rally around, inhabit, and shape community brand. Helps birth and shape community brand.
Vibrant Participation Visible, regular and quality member participation and contribution. Regular Host presence, contribution and facilitation.
Community Leadership Defined rank and reputation model; extending management to members. Meaningful ranks and status; clear paths to achievement and privileges.
Quality Content Content base growing and evolving to most valuable state. Contribution, curation and feedback to evolve content quality.
Expertise Community attracts and develops SMEs. SMEs from host are regular community participants; opportunity to learn & develop.
Culture of Trust Culture of openness and civility. Members air grievances respectfully. Feel connected to host, part of governance & free to provide critical feedback.
Elegant Experience Mature community & social tools, fantastic UX, committed roadmap. Easy to participate and contribute, needs-driven features.
Growth & Responsiveness Base follows growth curve of brand / product. Base guides features & policy. Steady influx of new & quality members, participation in community governance.

 

What would you add?

An Update on the Online Community Unconference 2013 #OCU2013

ocu2013_2

I wanted to provide a quick update regarding the Online Community Unconference that we are putting together in Mountain View on May 21. It has been an amazing experience to reconvene the “community of community managers” that were first brought together during the period Forum One hosted these events, and inspiring to see the new members of the community: both practitioners and organizations that are embracing the art and science of building and sustaining online communities.

We are currently just shy of 100 registrants, with a target of 200. We have an amazing group of organizations and industry experts registered, including leaders from:

  • Answers.com
  • Autodesk
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Brandle
  • Ebay
  • George Lucas Education Foundation
  • Google
  • Intuit
  • Lithium
  • Mozilla
  • Netbase
  • Ning
  • Salesforce.com
  • SAP
  • WestEd
  • Wikia

and many more.

We will also be joined by independent practitioners, industry analysts and authors that are deeply invested in and knowledgable about the community space, including:

The OCU is shaping up to be a fantastic day of learning, sharing and networking. If you haven’t had a chance to register, you can find more info here:
Online Community Unconference 2013 Registration

I hope to see you all on May 21st at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View!

 

Announcing the Online Community Unconference 2013 – We’re Back!

ocu2013_2

File under: blog posts I never thought I would be writing – but excited that I am.

It’s been an interesting journey to get here (and I’m certain it will continue to be), but I’m very pleased to announce that we will hosting the Online Community Unconference in Mountain View, CA on May 21ist.

You can register here. <

The Unconference planning team is rooted in the #OCTribe meetup and is made up of me, Kaliya Hamlin, Randy Farmer, Scott Moore, Susan Tenby, Gail Williams, Rachel Luxemburg and Maria Ogneva. Our plan is to closely follow the successful format of the Online Community Unconferences that ran from 2007 – 2010 in the Bay Area and New York that I produced when I was at Forum One – specifically:

  • Personally inviting key professionals in the industry to ensure a knowledgeable and experienced group
  • Adhering to the principles of Open Space Technology to ensure a quality event experience & maximum content – no filler / no talking head keynotes and no recycled presentations that you’ve seen from “noted experts” at other conferences. This is about real professionals having real conversations
  • A great location in the Computer History Museum
  • A commitment to document the proceedings  – see an example of the Book of Proceedings from the OCU 2009.
  • A fun and collegial environment

I’ll have more details as we get closer to the date, but the key things for now are:

  • Registration is open now with early bird rates @ $85
  • We are currently looking for a modest amount of sponsorship (feel free to email me)
  • Our hashtag is #OCU2013
  • We hope you can join us on 5/21!

And lastly… its nice to be back :)

#CMAD 2013 and Sharing Some Appreciation

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 6.42.43 PM Today (ok, technically tomorrow) is Community Manager Appreciation Day, or #CMAD. As I mentioned before, Jeremiah Owyang will be tracking the global celebration via his blog: 4th Annual Community Manager Appreciation Day: Jan 28, 2013 In my last post about #CMAD, I encouraged everyone participating to “find there own A”:

I originally chose to support #CMAD because I believe that most organizations are underinvesting in and not properly prioritizing the role online communities can play in their marketing, sales and support strategies. I see #CMAD as a way to raise the visibility of the role of Community Management in addition to a whole lot of gratitude for Community Managers being passed around.

My “A” is still appreciation, but I wanted to call out a handful of people in the industry who have really helped shape my thinking about Community Management, and consequently, my career in the industry. Specifically, I wanted to acknowledge:

Howard Rheingold: @hrhreingold
Howard is one of the true pioneers in the space, and if you are unfamiliar with his work, you really are missing key pieces of the foundation of the Online Community industry. Howard’s work in and impact on the space is incredible, from his seminal book “The Virtual Community“, to his early participation in The WELL, his book on mobile social Smart Mobs, and his recent work in social and collaboration including classes at Stanford. A brilliant man and a gentle soul.
What I specifically appreciate: Howard laying the foundation for an objective conversation about online communities and collaboration.

Amy Jo Kim: @amyjokim
I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Amy Jo Kim in real life, but I consider her book “Community Building on the Web” on of my best Community friends. The book is almost 7 years old, but still remarkably useful in day to day practice. In particular, I find her definition of online community as the one I always go back to:

My working definition for community is a collection of people who have come together for some common purpose, interest or activity, and who are able to get to know each other better over time.

Excerpted from this great interview with Nancy White.
What I specifically appreciate: Amy writing the first book on online communities that was both strategic and practical.

Randy Farmer: @frandallfarmer
Continuing the list of pioneers with Randy Farmer, one of the first Community Architects and also an expert in Reputation Management Systems. I first got to know Randy in 2007 through the Forum One Network events that I developed and hosted with Jim Cashel. For me, Randy has consistently been one of the smartest, most pragmatic, and most helpful voices in the online community industry. We’ve worked together personally on a couple of projects, including an RMS project for Dell’s Communities.
What I specifically appreciate: Randy’s guidance and advice as the industry transitioned from Virtual Communities 1.0 to Social Media and beyond.

Joe Cothrel: @cothrel
Joe Cothrel is Chief Community Officer at Lithium (disclosure, Autodesk is a customer). Though not as widely published as the previous folks that I have mentioned, Joe is truly one of the smartest strategists and practitioners in the industry. Joe was another connection that I made via Forum One events, and I’ve always found his opinions and feedback valuable. Joe is particularly great at brand communities and the organizational issues and opportunities with online communities.
What I specifically appreciate: Joe’s advice and feedback on the best ways to create value with brand communities, and how to describe that value.

Jeremiah Owyang:@jowyang
No #CMAD list would be complete with giving a shout out to Jeremiah Owyang. Although Jeremiah covers many parts of the Social Business spectrum, we has consistently tracked, reported on and researched online communities and the role of community manager throughout his career. Jeremiah has been supportive of many of my personal community building initiatives, including my early Online Community Roundtable meetups and Forum One Unconferences. Jeremiah continues to study the value and impact of online communities and the fact that he continues to steward #CMAD is icing on the cake.
What I specifically appreciate: Jeremiah’s ongoing interest in, and quality coverage of, the Online Community space.

How about you?
Who is on your list? Who are you most appreciative of on Community Manager Appreciation Day?

PS – Looking forward to seeing Bay Area folks at the #CMADSF event on Monday night.

Supporting Community Manager Appreciation Day #CMAD

Screen Shot 2013-01-13 at 7.14.57 PM

First established in January of 2010, Community Manager Appreciation Day (#CMAD) is held on the 4th Monday of January to celebrate the role of Community Manager. The celebrations range from small acts of gratitude, like thanking a staff community manager with a note, to major events and meetups all over the world.

Jeremiah Owyang, the event’s creator, is tracking all of the activity on his blog here:
4th Annual Community Manager Appreciation Day: Jan 28, 2013

San Francisco Happy Hour on 1/28
I am helping organize a San Francisco happy hour on the evening of the 28th at District Wine Bar. The event is free, but you must register and RSVP here:
Community Manager Appreciation Happy Hour – San Francisco

Google Hangout from the folks at My Community Manager
Tim McDonald and the team at My Community Manager are hosting a hangout on Google + all day on the 28th – more info at:
My Community Manager G+ #CMAD Hangout 

Again, Jeremiah is doing a great job of tracking all of the activity across the globe via this blog post.

Find YOUR own “A” in CMAD
I originally chose to support #CMAD because I believe that most organizations are underinvesting in and not properly prioritizing the role online communities can play in their marketing, sales and support strategies. I see #CMAD as a way to raise the visibility of the role of Community Management in addition to a whole lot of gratitude for Community Managers being passed around. With that being said, I have a couple of suggestions for celebrating #CMAD:

  • As a baseline, acknowledge the community managers on your staff with thanks and perhaps a small gift
  • Thank a community manager in one of your passion or hobby communities
  • Thank those you have learned from in the space – I threw a shout out to Amy Jo Kim, Howard Rheingold and Joe Cothrel… and I will continue to add to that list on the run up to the 28th
  • Think about how we go beyond “appreciation” for the CM role next year – should it be Advancement? Acceleration? Let’s ave this discussion during the year!

As I look back on my 14 years in the space, I am encouraged by the progress in tools, practices, programs and professional network… but we still have a long way to go! I look forward to seeing Bay Area Community Managers at the Happy Hour on 1/28.

Presentation: Developing the Next Generation of IdeaStorm

These are my slides from the Intranet Reloaded Conference in Berlin on April 17th. My presentation was on the evolution of Dell’s IdeaStorm open innovation community.

Serendipity: A Key Theme for 2012

Serendipity sure seems to be a key theme for me in 2012. First, I was on a panel at SxSWi with a few very smart folks titled “Get Lucky: Create Serendipity to Spur Innovation” – Panel organizer Rawn Shah posted a great recap post here: Serendipity and Innovation at SXSW .

This week, I’ll be having a conversation with Thor Muller about Permeable Organizations and the role of permeability in harnessing serendipity to create value. Thor just put the finishing touches on his upcoming book about serendipity with Lane Becker titled “Get Lucky: How to Put Planned Serendipity to Work for You and Your Business“.
In Tuesday’s session we will be discussing:
- How to find and develop brand evangelists
- How to uncover hidden customer needs to drive innovation
- How to meet the needs of different business stakeholders, while leaving room for serendipity
- What it means to have a successful community in a sales-driven/product-driven or customer-centric culture
- How to design effective programs that serve different community goals
I also plan to grill Thor about the book :)
The session is on April 3rd at 11am PDT – this is a free event, and you can register here:
How to Succeed as a Permeable Organization
I hope you can join us!

Announcing “Community Secret Sauce”: a Panel Discussion Feb 1st in SF

Join me next Wednesday, February 1st, in San Francisco for the “Community Secret Sauce” panel discussion. The event is part of the #OCTribe  meetup series that Susan Tenby hosts, and these events are always a fun and informative time.

Joining me will be Thor Muller from Get Satisfaction, Rachel Luxemburg from Adobe and Gail Ann Williams from Salon.com & The Well. We will each be sharing “Secret Sauce” examples for online community success. The first part of the discussion will be panel-based, then we will shift gears and solicit the best secret sauce ingredients from the participants in the session. Our goal is to walk away from the evening with a nice list of ingredients for Community Managers and Strategists to use in their day to day practice.

More details on the #OCTribe Meetup site: RSVP here (Registration Required).

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