Tag Archives: community

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?

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.

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.

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

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!

Next Online Community Roundtable: 12/16 at Yahoo!

The next Online Community Roundtable is Thursday, December 16th, at Yahoo! in Sunnyvale, CA.

I’ve been hosting the Roundtables since July of 2005, gathering community and social media strategists to discuss real world problems, opportunities and techniques to create successful social strategies.

The format is conversational – the first hour is social, and the next 2 hours are a facilitated discussion about topics the group surfaces during the social hour.

If you work in the online community field and are in the neighborhood on the 16th, I encourage you to join us.

Please RSVP here:
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=170458606318864

Announcing Community Manager Appreciation Day #CMAD

Last Friday, Jeremiah Owyang had a simple question: Is there a national day recognizing the work of Community Managers? The question spawned a conversation, which spawned a proposal for the day of recognition:

That day is today. Happy Community Manager Appreciation Day!

Every fourth Monday in January will be Community Manager Appreciation Day.

Community Managers have a challenging and exciting role. One the one hand, they are called on to be the personification of their organization to the online communities that they manage. One the other hand, they are also charged with being the advocate for the community back to the organization. Sort of like a benevolent double agent :) The role of the community manager is evolving quickly as well, and we are starting to see the “swiss army knife” aspects of the role mature in to distinct roles on the community team: community product manager, moderator, internal community manager, social media manager, social ux designer, and many more disciplines.

We should take time to celebrate the folks doing the hands on work of shaping, supporting and nurturing online communities.

Background about Community Manager Appreciation Day from Jeremiah’s blog:

Now, Recognize A Community Manager, Every 4th Monday of January
While we agree with common manners to always thank someone after they’ve helped you, just take a moment to pause.. and think. Why would someone willingly go through the above mentioned challenges? Because of their passion to improve the company, and help customers have a better relationship.  In many cases, a genuine ‘thank you’ can mean more than a yearly customer satisfaction survey. Take the time to recognize and thank the community manager that may have helped you while you during your time of need.
If you’re a customer, and your problem was solved by a community manager be sure to thank them in the medium that helped you in.  Use the hashtag #CMAD.
If you’re a colleague with community manager, take the time to understand their passion to improve the customer –and company experience. Copy their boss.
If you’re a community manager, stop and breathe for a second, and know that you’re appreciated.  Hug your family.
This isn’t just about a single role, but a bigger trend of making product and services more efficient, and thereby our world a little bit more efficient and sustainable.
I happily endorsed this proposal along with the following community leaders Jeremiah pulled together over the weekend:

Connie Benson, Rachel Happe, Jake McKee, Sean O’Driscoll, Lane Becker, Dawn Foster, Thor Muller, Amy Muller and Jeremiah Owyang.

Online Community Platform & Vendor Research

This is cross-posted from the Online Community Report blog.

The Online Community Platform and Services Satisfaction research report was published in March of this year as part of the ongoing efforts of the Online Community Research Network. The intention of the research project was to provide insight about customer attitudes towards online community platform and service vendors, particularly around satisfaction. Further, we wanted to explore the unmet needs in the online community platform and services market. The study had over 200 participants, and we gathered data on all major commercial and open source online community platforms, as well as feedback on custom built platforms. Key highlights from the research are covered in the slides below.

The full Online Communities: Platform and Services Satisfaction Report can be purchased here:
http://store.onlinecommunityresearch.com/oncoplandses.html

My SxSWi 2010 Panels – Please Vote (Because My Mom Can’t)

Please Vote!

Please Vote!

It is that time of year again… SxSW Panel Picking!!!

I have two proposals this year, and I would appreciate your support for either or both.

Panel #1:

What community and social media metrics are organizations tracking?

Bill Johnston, Chief Community Officer for Forum One (that’s me), will present and then lead a discussion about best practices with community & social media metrics and reporting, based on 4 years of ongoing research and data from thousands of participants on the topic. This session will dive deep into the topic of online community and social media metrics and reporting to explore:
• The role of community strategy in shaping reports
• Specific data sets that should be included in community and social media reports
• The limitations of native community and social media platform reporting
• Report design, distribution and frequency
• Stakeholder satisfaction with current community and social media reports

And Panel #2:

Where the Hell Are We In the Evolution of the Social Web?

Social media practice and implementation is a dynamic and volatile subject that effects all functions in a company from the obvious (product, support, marketing) to the not so obvious (hr, operations). Hear from 5 seasoned social media practitioners (plus YOU!) about where we are on “the map” of social media adoption and practice, and where we are headed. The mood will be lively, the panel bright eyed and prepared, and the audience smart (and involved).
Questions Answered:
1. Where are organizations on the social media adoption curve?
2. What departments should be involved with online communtiies?
3. What online community and social media metrics are organizations tracking?
4. What is the level of satisfaction with community and social media efforts by stakeholders?
5. Is ROI important?
6. How is the “static” organization web site being impacted by social?
7. How will online presences evolve?
8. What role will employees play in expression of brand online?
9. What’s on the horizon for online presence?

Check out this panel of Awesomeness! I’ll be joined by:
Aaron Strout – Powered
Jake McKee – Ant’s Eye View
Shawn Morton – Nationwide
Sean O’Driscoll – Ant’s Eye View

Online Communities: Surviving & Thriving – Part 3

Cross-posted from the Online Community Report.

This post is the third in a series of blog posts exploring our recent research into the effect of the down economy on Online Community and social media programs. In this post, I’d like to focus on the advice that the research respondents gave for thriving during the downturn, and what key resources they are relying on for advice and support. Keep in mind, this advice comes from community managers, executives and social media strategists (not analysts or observers) who are currently in the trenches dealing with issues firsthand.

First, A Bit of Background
We’ve been tracking the economies effect on community and social media programs since late fall of 2008. For background, I would recommend reading (or re-reading) the first two posts in the series:

Online Communities: Surviving and Thriving in a Downturn (Part 1)
My initial thoughts, from October of 2008, about the mounting pressure from the economy on community and social media programs, and suggestions for social media strategists and community managers on how to best navigate the issues.

Online Communities: Thriving in the Downturn (Part 2)
A post the highlighted several key findings from our Online Community Research Network project conducted late November and early December of 2008 . The intention of the study was to get a broad look at how online community programs are fairing within organizations in light of the recent economic changes. As noted in the previous post, we saw plenty to be concerned about. We saw layoffs, budget freezes and cuts, and in some cases program abandonment. But, we also saw a lot of data to be optimistic about including the fact that the majority of respondents reported continued support of their community activities, and in some cases, increased support.

Advice & Support
One key piece of information we were seeking in the study was what advice would the practitioners we interviewed give other peers? In the research survey we asked: “What advice would you give to your peers in regards to thriving during a slow economic period?”

Respondents gave varied advice to peers in regards to thriving during the down economy. The most common responses were related to streamlining their resources / costs and focusing on bottom line objectives.

The top pieces of advice that respondents wanted to offer to their peers in helping them thrive during an economy downturn are to:

  • Focus on Bottom line Objectives (15),
  • Be Creative (9) and
  • Offer Value / Uniqueness (8) and
  • Don’t Give Up / Stay the Course (8)


Graph: Categorized responses to the question: “What advice would you give to your peers in regards to thriving during a slow economic period?”

I’ve included some of the key respondent quotes, categorized below.

1. Stay Focused on Bottom Line Objectives:
“Focus on objectives that impact the bottom line…and on those easiest to quantify (e.g., self-serve support via community reduces our support Cost Per Incident by >50%)”

2. Be Creative – Work With the Constraints, Not Against
“With a reduced headcount in your organization, your (external) community power users become a critical resource, and more so than before, in helping other users. Recognize and reward the behavior of helping other users.”
“You have to be creative. Now is the time that truly inventive things can come about.”
“Embrace change and make yourself an asset to all departments, not soley content creation and UGC.”

3. Offer Value / Uniqueness
“Community professionals have the most valuable resource of all — we know our members/customers/users the best. Emphasize that knowledge whenever you can.”
“Make sure what you offer provides value to the customer. Encouraging peer-to-peer support in the community will reduce the need for extensive staffing – Remind decision makers what a bargain online communities are when compared to similar in-person activity.”
“Do the math and show your Management Team the ROI regarding community staff. Build a volunteer program (which should happen regardless of economic times). Keep in mind that people turn to each other, their communities, and entertainment in tough economic times.”
“Feature community content that pertains to the economy; ask for personal stories and conversation and offer community a place to share and solve financial challenges (e.g., online coupons, budgeting, creating handmade gifts; portfolio info), with contextual links to community message boards, blogs, polls, etc.”

4. Don’t Give Up / Stay the Course
“Continue to make decisions based upon your overall strategy, even within economic constraints, rather than just based upon economics. It’s possible to get clever and get more ‘bang’ for your buck. So focus on the long term.”
“Stick to your core. Analyze what you do best that differentiates yourself from competitors and focus on improving community features that tie into that”

The Most Important Resources
As part of the research project, we also asked respondents to rank a series of resources based on their personal sense of the value of the resource. Data below is from the question “How important are the following resources to you personally in ensuring the survival of your online community during a slow economy?”


Graph: Ranked responses to the question: “How important are the following resources to you personally in ensuring the survival of your online community during a slow economy?”

It is no surprise that access to support from other peers (read: other practitioners) and relationships with other Community Managers and Strategists ranked the highest.

The final report has been published to our Online Community Research Network members and research participants.

The full report (~45 pages) includes all collected data, charts from the date, and all write in responses. The full report expands on the content above, as well covering specific budget items that will likely be affected in 2009, tactics that community executives are employing in the downturn, and peer advice on thriving in the downturn.

The full report is also available for purchase here.