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Today we’re going to talk about how to build a successful communities, or communities of practice (that’s the fancy name).
What is a community?A community is simply an online meeting place for people with common interests to come together and share information. Instead of pushing out information, communities pull people in based on their needs, wants and even desires. Community members choose to be there to learn, network and share. Ideally, a community is their centralized repository for all of the information and experts that someone could ever want about a particular subject.
What makes a community successful? Successful communities are supported by passionate leaders who dedicate their time and expertise to community members by regularly sharing and promoting knowledge. So who wouldn’t want to be a part of a community where like-minded people come together to share interesting insights?
Well, communities are a social medium that require collaboration to work. I think sometimes people get stuck in the old realm where they just expect things to be delivered to them – but again, this is a two-way conversation to make it work – I scratch your back, you scratch mine, but more hygienic. There are a number of reasons that people don’t share: it could be because they’re worried about having proper permission to share information (so, “will my boss let me say that?), or they think they’re too busy to share, or they’re worried that they’ll be seen as not doing their “real work.” Sometimes, they just don’t know where to share or how – so it could be a technical issue. And that’s why a community needs leaders to make it successful – not only to administrate the community, but to help promote its value to potential members.
There are some key positions that help foster the success of a community as part of the community’s leadership team.
The Community Sponsor, or sponsors, essentially have ownership for the community. For instance, this cat might be the sponsor or owner for our “Community of Fish,” because, for whatever reason, he wants to bring fish together in a centralized place... Now, if we were talking about a large corporation, an internal community aimed at employees might be sponsored or owned by the Vice President of Marketing because she wants to have a place for her team to talk about marketing-related initiatives, like new branding campaigns or public relations issues. Or, the VP of Marketing could create an external community aimed at customers who she wants to engage with about their customer service experiences with the company.
The Knowledge Manager has eyes like a hawk for how your communities should function and I act as a consultant to oversee your strategy at a high level by identifying the business priority for your community and provides ideas about how the community should function. the design of your community as well as promotion and awareness; I’ll help you to develop approaches to conversations with your members; I’ll also teach you how to gauge the health of your community; and I’ll connect you to an array of other mentorship and community resources.
The Moderatoris extremely importantas the manager of the community who keeps the content fresh, develops relationships with members, promotes that community and provides metrics about its health. by ensuring there are new topics and conversations added regularly, thatcommunity members are engaged and developing relationships with members and moderators, the moderator shares information, answers questions people may have about the way the community works as well as the content itself, providing metrics about the success or health of the community, which we’ll discuss later, and promotes the community to current and potential members.
So, we know what it is, we know who the leaders are, but what tools will make our community successful?
Blogswill be your primary communication tool. Your blog will serve as the official voice of your community. So what is a blog? A blog is simply a place where you can write about certain topics that pertain to the community, just like a newsletter, but you have the ability to have two-way conversations. For instance, our Community of Fish could have the “Why is that cat always watching us” blog, where our moderator fish would post regular entries about the cat. The other fish, the members of the community, would comment on the moderator’s blogs and each other’s entries in the blog. The other fish might say: “I saw the cat drooling the other day. Gross.” Things like that. They might even upload a photo of the cat drooling – well, if a fish could take photos…and the great thing is, all of the entries in the blog, including the comments, are archived, which is perfect for compliance and records management. It’s really important to keep the content in your blog fresh by posting at least once a month– and it’s a great idea to set a calendar reminder to do so. Apart from our fish example, a blog is a great place to post community updates about certain topics being discussed, events, industry news and messages from stakeholders, just to name a few ideas. You can even attach documents to the blog for people to reference. It’s a good idea to let your members know how to set up email alerts for every time a blog is posted or commented on so they can stay up to date themselves.
Microblogs are another great social media tool to use to help communicate with your community members. A “microblog,” is a mini-blog where you can share information with people in a limited number of characters – so you only have so much space to type a message. You’ve likely heard of Twitter, which is microblog.Your post could point to your latest blog; provide information about an event; deliver a thought-provoking topic or question to stimulate discussion; or share a useful link. Microblogs are also a great place to search for information, like asking for an expert on a certain topic or where you might be able to locate a document. And don’t be forget to recognize the collaboration of your fellow members by saying things like, “Freddy fish, you’re the cat’s pyjamas for posting that link...” Encourage other community members to post to your microblog and sign up for email alerts whenever a new post is made. It’s also wise to let members know that you’ll answer any messages within 48 hours; this ensures a good customer service approach and reinforces that they’ve joined an active community where people care about their contributions, which is important. To maintain a healthy community, you should post at least once a week.
A wiki is another tool for developing out content within your community. A wiki structures content in a different way then a blog, and the moderator has more leeway for using graphics and creating sections for content on a certain topic; it’s sort of like a mini web site. For instance, a wiki can have a home page and then subpages, or sister pages, or different levels of pages for you to sort your information. Blogs are far less malleable. Wikis are a great place to share documents, an agenda, news, and even links to your blog. Wiki posts vary depending on the content focus.
Events – so, you know, we’ve focused sort of online and on your time here so far, but it definitely helps to have real-time or face-to-face meetings with community members. This includes conference calls, webinars, social media jams on your microblogor even face-to-face meetings give your community members a chance to come together in-person all at once and sometimes to put a human face to an online identity. You can discuss industry events, conferences, lessons learned, discuss project summaries or host a roundtable discussion on a subject of interest. A best practice is to hold events every other month. Make your events interesting by inviting guest speakers from inside and outside of the organization. And make sure you include your event in your community’s calendar, including an agenda and a place for members to submit ideas about future events and topics.
So you can see here that most of your online time will be spent on Yammer, but even though the frequency of your blogs and events are less, they will take a lot of time to create, so don’t be mislead by the frequency of communications vs. the time it will take you to make them happen. At least one post to your microblog per week At least one blog post per monthAt least one event - conference call, webinar, or face-to-face meeting - every other month
So where can you get support for your community?
Peer support is really important when you’re running a community. After all, a community is about collaboration, so you need to reach out and share insights with your fellow community managers to get ideas about how to make your community a success for members. There are a number of communities and groups you can join to help you develop, launch and maintain active and healthy communities:Make sure you join and sign up for their email alerts and events, and check out the templates they have to help you with the promotion of your community.It’s also a good idea to see some examples of successful communities where you can reach out for peer support.
So, what is next? What does the future hold?
So, help us evolve! On the technical side, we’ll be upgrading our software, so they’ll be more news to come on that priority and how you can ensure a successful launch. Otherwise, we’ll continue working with our global clients, like you, to promote collaboration, content contribution and knowledge-sharing across the business, aligning with our priorities and strategies. Good luck in your community adventures, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to us or moderators in other communities if you need any further information.I look forward to joining your communities!
Does anybody have any questions?
Thank you very much, it was great to see you here today, and I look forward to seeing your communities!
How to build a successful community of practice
How to Build SuccessfulCommunities of Practice
Communities:Be there to learn, network and share A community is a centralized repository for all of the information and experts that someone could ever want about a particular project or subject.
Successful communities are supported by passionate leaderswho dedicate their time and expertise to community members by regularly sharing and promoting knowledge.
Barriers tocollaborationI won’t share…• I’m too busy• I’ll get in trouble• Playing with social media isn’t “real” work• I don’t know how
SponsorThe Community Sponsor has ownership for the community. For instance, this cat might be the sponsor or owner for our“Community of Fish,” because, for whatever reason, he wants to bring fish together in a centralized place...
KnowledgeManager Sponsor The Knowledge Manager has eyes like a hawk for how your communities should work and acts as a consultant to oversee your strategy at a high level by identifying the business priority for your community.
Welcome to the community!The Moderator is the manager of the community and is responsible for keeping content fresh, developing relationships with members, promoting the community and providing metrics about its health.
Blogs• Your primary communication tool in a community• A place to share your news and updates• Like a newsletter, but allows for two-way conversations and comments Update your blog at least once a month
Microblogs• Use a microblog to share your community’s news, updates or questions within a limited number of characters• Promote discussion, events and ask questions to find experts and information Post to your microblog at least once a week
Wiki• Share broad information that can be developed on many levels of pages, like a mini web site• The web site Wikipedia is an example of a wiki• Attach documents The number of wiki posts will depend on the nature of the information
Events Give your community members a chance to put a face to anonline identity, or even to chat in real-time. A best practice is tohold events every other month. Make your events interesting by inviting guest speakers and thought leaders.
Frequency vs. EffortHigh Frequency High EffortI. Microblog (once I. Events a week) II. BlogsII. Blog (once a VS. III. Microblogs month)III. Events (bi- monthly)
Peer support is really important when you’re running a community.After all, a community is about collaboration, so you need to reachout and share insights with your fellow community managers to getideas about how to make your community a success for members.
Help us evolve! Continue promoting collaboration, content contribution and knowledge- sharing across the business, aligning with your organization’s priorities and strategies. Good luck in your community adventures!