Category Archives: community

Olliance Online Community Webinar

This post originally appeared on the Olliance Group blog and is reposted here.

billdawnI am excited to announce that our first Olliance webinar will be on the topic of Online Communities: The “Secret Sauce” for Today’s Competitive Businesses. On November 17th, I will be leading a discussion about defining your online community strategy, best practices for participation, and effective community content planning.

I am delighted to be joined by Bill Johnston, Chief Community Officer at Forum One, who will be sharing some research data and insights about effective online community metrics and reporting along with extending your community using social media strategies.

Attendance is limited, so please Register Now.


Date: Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Time: 11am Pacific / 2pm Eastern
Cost: Free

More Details

Learn how top organizations are incorporating community into their strategic and tactical plans. The adoption of social networks, user forums, and message boards has never been higher, and today’s top-performing enterprises are finding ways to leverage this. The webinar will introduce you to many essential concepts:

  • defining your online community strategy
  • the right and wrong way to engage and participate in online communities
  • running an effective beta program with seeded content
  • effective content planning
  • identifying and implementing an effective metrics and reporting strategy
  • extending your community into a social media presence

Register Now

Demystifying Social Media Tools and Techniques

On Tuesday, I gave a presentation about Demystifying Social Media Tools and Techniques for the PDXTech4Good group organized as part of NTEN’s 501 Tech Club, so the presentation was targeted to nonprofit organizations. It was about a 30 to 40 minute presentation followed by 2 breakouts:

  • Learn more about the tools (Twitter, etc.) with Crystal Beasley
  • Monitoring social media sites with Dawn Foster

Here are the slides from the first part of the presentation, and you can download the full size version from SlideShare if you want a better copy than the version embedded below.

View more documents from Dawn Foster.

Monitoring Breakout Section

In the monitoring section, I shared some of my favorite tools.

Keeping up with industry news:

  • Find any good RSS reader and populate it with the top blogs from your industry. Netvibes and Google Reader are good choices.

Real time Twitter monitoring:

Find shortened links to your websites when posted on Twitter:

Advanced monitoring on the cheap:

  • Yahoo Pipes: More involved tool, but you can do some very advanced monitoring. I have a bunch of video and written tutorials for getting started with Yahoo Pipes.

Learn More About Online Communities: My Favorite Community Resources

People often ask me for a list of my favorite blogs, books or other resources to help them learn more about online communities. I’ve mostly been providing this list to people on an ad hoc basis, so I thought that it was time to create the list here and keep it updated!

There are many great blogs, books and other resources for people who want to learn more about online communities, but I’ve limited this list to just a few of my favorites. I will be keeping this list updated on the Learn More About Online Communities page. I hope you enjoy it!

Online community thought leader blogs:

Good books about online communities

Communities and Organizational Change Management Presentation

In August, I wrote a post about how Organizational Change Management principles could be used to help increase participation in online communities. Bill Johnson asked me to elaborate on that post with a presentation in the Online Community Research Network Roundtable call, and I wanted to share my slides from that discussion here.

Online Community Research and Social Media Planning

As I work with clients to build online communities, I find that external community sites like Twitter and Facebook are becoming an increasingly important part of the overall online community strategy. As a result, I was excited to read the results of Bill Johnston’s recent Online Community Research Network study on this topic. The study looked at how organizations are incorpating external communities and social media sites in their online strategies. Bill posted more information about the results in his post, but here are a few of the highlights.

Twitter and Facebook are the highest priority external community sites for most organizations followed by LinkedIn. This is consistent with what I have been hearing from clients. My clients also tend to ask about YouTube and occasionally MySpace.
Each organization’s business goals for using external community sites are slightly different, but some of the most important goals included:

  • Educate and inform
  • Peer-to-peer evangelism
  • Retain customers / loyalty

The most surprising part of this research is the number of people who don’t think they need a plan for these efforts. I disagree.


It’s important to approach your external community efforts (including social media) with clear goals and some thought (i.e. plans) for how you want to approach each site and how everything fits together. The plan should include objectives along with roles and responsibilities that clearly outline who will update each site, how often, and with what content. Without good planning, your corporate presence is likely to look either disorganized and scattered or abandoned and barren.

I think this helps highlight the difference between knowing how to use communities and social media for personal pursuits and knowing how to engage in them to meet the specific objectives of an organization. I don’t have a plan for how I use social media in my personal life, but I do work with clients to help them put together strategies, plans and content roadmaps for using external online community sites. If you don’t already have a plan for your external online community engagement, you should find someone (internal or external) who has experience building corporate online community strategies and plans to help you get organized. You don’t need to spend months on the plan, and it doesn’t need to be a 100 page document, but you should have some kind of written plan.

Does your organization have a plan for your external community efforts?

Community Managers: How much money should they make?

About a year ago, the Online Community Research Network took an in-depth look at compensation for community managers finding that online community manager salaries are all over the board. A lot can happen in a year, so they are repeating the study again this year. If you are an online community manager, I strongly recommend taking the survey.

To recap last year’s results, you can read my take on why the data looks nothing like a typical salary bell curve.

Kommein released the results from a more recent survey of community managers, and their survey had very different compensation results.

Data from Kommein
Data from Kommein

The Kommein results don’t have the big hockey stick on either side of the chart. I suspect that the demographics were very different between the Kommein survey and the OCRN survey, and I can almost account for the difference by looking at some of the salary influences (technical vs. non-technical, people in junior or mid-level positions vs. executives, etc.), but this is highly speculative. It could also be a factor of the economy, maturation of the community manager as a job, etc.

This is why I am very eager to get the results from the new OCRN survey to see if community manager compensation really has changed significantly over the past year or whether there were enough differences in demographics and methodology to explain the differences in the results.

What should community managers make?

In general, community managers for technical communities (developers, etc.) tend to make more than end user, social communities. Salary also changes significantly depending on whether the role is really more low-end, tactical moderation or something more strategic, like building a new community or revitalizing a troubled community site. Job experience, scope, management responsibilities, location and how well known the person is can also make a big difference in the salary range as mentioned above.

My advice to people about community manager salaries is that community managers should make $50,000 to $150,000 per year depending on the situation. The low end is mostly for people managing smaller online social communities where relatively little subject matter expertise is required and for people doing tactical work (moderation, etc.) The top range tends to include people in higher level strategic positions in corporate environments who head a large organization responsible for the growth and management of multiple communities, or community managers with name recognition or internet celebrity status working in high profile positions as community evangelists.

What do you think online community managers should make?

Online Communities and Organizational Change Management

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently thinking about organizational change management. As I work in organizations with traditional and less web savvy audiences, using an online community is a huge change for some of these people. This is especially true for communities used inside of a company or organization where people are being asked to change the way that they work. It can be even more difficult for employees in companies with very conservative cultures where people are afraid that they will jeopardize their career by saying something that isn’t quite correct or will appear less knowledgeable as a result of asking questions.

Organizational change takes time and effort with a large amount of education and training. People building online communities often underestimate the amount of resistance and fear that can come from many people within the organization. I’ve included a model from one of my favorite change management experts, John P. Kotter, not because I think you should use any particular model, but because I think it has some interesting nuggets of information for how community managers can help people through the change to a more community-oriented organization.

John P. Kotter's Change Process

Stakeholders and Strategy

If you are working within an organization to create an online community that people will be expected to use as part of their daily job, you need to have support from the top. Key leaders within your organization should agree with your strategy and vision for the community and support the effort. If your leadership is resistant, hold off on building or implementing anything until you can get them on board. Sabotage from the top is not going to make for a successful community.

Communication and Training

The communication and training for change of this size is not a single email announcing the new online community or a single training class showing people how to participate. Because some people will resist any kind of change, you will need to constantly communicate and train people taking as much time as you need to bring people around. It can also help to share success stories (wins) when you hear about someone using the online community to do something great.

Ongoing Management and Evolution

Ongoing management of the community should include continued communication and reinforcement of successful usage while also keeping an eye toward next steps. No community or other organizational effort will be implemented without ever changing. As situations change and the community or organization evolves, you will need to make new changes to the online community. These new changes can also require some organizational change.

What are your thoughts on using organizational change management principles for new online communities within organizations?

Transparency and Disclosure

I wanted to remind everyone about transparency and disclosure when posting online. If you work for a company, you should disclose your affiliation when posting about the company online. The people participating on social media sites are smart people. If you don’t disclose your affiliations, people will find out, and it won’t reflect favorably on your company if people feel like they have been misled.

Kohl’s V.P. of Digital Marketing, Ed Gawronski, is the most recent example of this faux pas (described by Augie Ray):

Based on his activities in Kohl’s Facebook community, Ed Gawronski seems to be a big fan of Kohl’s. Two weeks ago he noted, “Less then 4 hours to get a great deal at I just hit the jackpot and saved 30% on some ASICS sneaks. Cost me almost nothing.” And a couple days later he had another scoop for Kohl’s Facebook Fans: “make sure to give your email to I think they give you $5 when you give it in. The deals get even better too. I’ve seen special online promotions every week.”

You might think Ed is just a helpful guy and a big supporter of Kohl’s, except a visitor to the Facebook page outed Gawronski as a Kohl’s marketing executive. In a reply to one of Ed’s posts, the anonymous visitor notes, “Interesting. Ed Gawronski is the VP of marketing for Kohl’s. Masquerade much?”

Quoted from Transparency (or Lack Thereof) on Kohl’s Facebook Fan Page in Experience: The Blog

Keep in mind that open, honest and transparent conversations are the norm for most social media sites. Spend some time thinking about your social media / digital strategy, and think about how your actions reflect on your company. When you are thinking about doing something questionable, ask yourself 2 questions:

  • Would I want my mother to know that I did this?
  • Would I be embarrassed if I read about it on the front page of the Wall Street Journal?

If your answers to either of these questions is anything other than yes, you should find another course of action.

Community Managers and Bloggers: The Face of Your Company

When you are talking about online communities or social media efforts for a company, you need to think very carefully about who you put in charge. In particular, this applies to community managers, bloggers, and the people running your social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) The people in these positions become the face of your company. You want someone who will do a great job of representing your company and who fits well within your corporate culture. In short, an actual full-time employee of your company.

Earlier this week, I ran across a blog post by Jackie Huba about The Intern Trap where she says:

“Would you let a company intern:

  • Man your customer service line?
  • Be your receptionist?
  • Be your spokesperson to the Wall Street Journal?
  • Be the main contact for your most talkative customers?

If not, then why do companies put, or think of putting, interns in charge of their social media presence?”

Quoted from Church of the Customer Blog

This doesn’t just apply to interns, either. I often see companies put consultants, public relations firms, and other outsiders in these key positions. As a result, the face of the company is someone who isn’t even a company employee.

These conversations come up frequently with clients. In general, I encourage clients to put employees in these key positions rather than putting someone from the outside into a role that has so much visibility. This doesn’t mean that your interns, public relations firms, and consultants can’t be involved, but I prefer to see them helping out behind the scenes rather than being front and center. Have them work on your content roadmap for your social media efforts, find data or quotes for a blog post, or provide feedback and suggestions for making a blog post better. Consultants can provide advice and mentoring for your community manager rather than managing the community themselves.

I also think that there are a few exceptions to this rule, especially when you are dealing with very large companies. In those cases, having someone on a contract basis or as an intern step up to help with some minor community moderation can help during times where you need a little help, but not enough for a full-time employee. Likewise, big companies with dozens of bloggers can bring in someone to write a few posts in their area of expertise as a way to add some additional content under the direction of company employees. In these cases, you are bringing someone in as a supporting role, rather than putting them in a position where they become the face of the company.

I’d love to hear some examples if your company has tried this (successfully or unsuccessfully).

Online Community Metrics

This morning, I ran across a list of social media metrics on the Page One PR site, and I realized that I spend quite a bit of time talking to clients about success metrics, but I haven’t spent much time writing about metrics on this blog. In a previous post, I talked about my general guidelines for online community success metrics:

The metrics that you select will depend on your specific goals, but common community metrics include page views or visits, new member sign ups, and participation (new posts or replies). It is easy to go overboard and measure everything; however, I recommend that you pick a couple (no more than 4 or 5) of the most important measurements to use to report to management on your success. You should have an analytics package or reporting tools that allow you to drill down for more details that you can use to help troubleshoot issues and understand the data, but use these as background materials for your team.

In other words, your success metrics are a small number of items that you use to determine success or failure over a period of time. You should measure many other items that you can use as indicators for what works or what doesn’t work, but make sure you separate what you are measuring because it helps you do your job vs. what metrics you are using to determine success.

Now, let’s get more specific. Online community efforts, including social media, can be very difficult to measure. I try to focus success metrics across three areas: awareness, membership, and engagement.


Awareness is focused on getting people to notice your community and visit it to learn more. I typically use a general purpose website analytics package, like Google Analytics, to track visits to the community or page views as my primary measure of awareness.


Membership looks at the people who are paying attention to your community on an ongoing basis. These are the people who take the time to sign up and join the community as members. I usually use the number of new members or the total number of members of the community as the success metric for membership.


Engagement is all about the conversations that people are having in your community and their interactions with other community members. The number of discussions, replies, or comments are typical ways to measure engagement in a community.

While awareness, membership, and engagement are long-term metrics, you should also have success metrics for shorter-term programs that also tie back into your overall community metrics. For example, you will want to keep track of when you do any kind of outreach (online or offline) and watch relevant success metrics for your community both before and after the outreach activity. This additional measurement will help you determine what methods of outreach work best for your community and will determine the success or failure of a shorter-term program.

While the success metrics mentioned above are geared toward online communities, you can use a similar approach for social media efforts. Awareness could include mentions of your company or product name across various social media sites (Twitter, blogs, video, etc.) Membership might include Twitter followers or RSS feed subscribers for your blog. Engagement could include comments on your blog posts and Twitter @replies.

Exactly how you will measure these success metrics depends entirely on your community dynamics, the community platform capabilities, and what activities in the community are the most important for your members. Don’t get too caught up in the examples I’ve listed here. The important part is finding a way to measure all three of these areas: awareness, membership, and engagement. Exactly how you will determine success will probably be a little different for each community.