Tag Archives: Online Community

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

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

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

Evolving to Social Business (and beyond)

Most organizations are well into the process of incorporating social media into their day to day business – and many are starting to wrestle with the challenges and opportunities of being “social” over the long haul: the resource commitment, the necessary changes in leadership and culture, and the responsibility to engage in  conversation, collaboration and community with customers, prospects, partners, employees and other stakeholders.

Many rubrics have emerged over the last few years to try and provide a context for the transformational phenomenon that is partially expressed by social media: Enterprise 2.0, Open Leadership, Social CRM, Social Business… the list goes on. By listing these terms, I don’t mean to dismiss any of them. I like and find value in all of the concepts I’ve listed – I love Charlene Li’s book “Open Leadership“, and find a lof of value in the recent discussions about Social Business, especially Stowe Boyd’s writing on the subject, and particulalrly, his defintion:

“A social business is an organization designed consciously around sociality and social tools, as a response to a changed world and the emergence of the social web, including social media, social networks, and a long list of other advances.”

With all of the good thinking and conversation happening around the topic of business transformation via “social”, I do feel like we are all describing different parts of the same elephant. I would propose the larger context – and the north star – for social initiatives is really about Sustainable Business. Think more Senge’sThe Necessary Revolution” than Open Leadership (which is still important, but a component).

A Sustainable Business (or organization) is a business that creates generative (net-positive) value in the form of:

  • Social Capital – Stakeholders are engaged and help shape the business, products and policies.
  • Financial Capital – The business is profitable.
  • Ecological Capital – The business has a net-positive impact on the ecological resources it uses.

How does “social” fit in to the concept of Sustainable Business? At least 3 key ways (and there are many more, this is a big topic).

  1. Stakeholder Engagement: Connecting to customers, prospects partners and employees has never been easier or more impactful than today, via social technology. Social media, online community and collaboration tools offer a high bandwidth and near-real time opportunity to communicate, discuss and share. Further, managed properly, social tools allow organizations to communicate and manage relationships at scale.
  2. Leadership and Culture Change: The process of adopting social tools, like hosting an online community or offering support via Twitter, is a forcing function for culture change in an organization. Business culture has to evolve to have an honest dialog with customers and prospects, and leadership has to support this honest dialog, or the investment in social tools won’t pay off.
  3. “Social” is Generative Asset: This is the key point – social sites, online communities and collaboration spaces, when done correctly, produce net-positive value in the form social and financial capital. Claiming ecological capital is a bit of a stretch here, but one could argue that the impact of conversations and  collaboration online vs. in-person favors online from a positive impact perspective.

In short, I’m proposing that we collectively acknowledge that there is a larger and more important context for the activities we generally refer to as social media, that the call to action around leadership and culture change is rooted in creating sustainable businesses, and that the term “Sustainable Business” may be a more helpful way to describe the macro trend we are collectively involved in.

I would love to hear what you think, and discuss via comments.

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:
http://clswest2011.eventbrite.com/

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.