Tag Archives: community management

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?

ReadWriteWeb Guide to Online Community Management

I was lucky to get a review copy of the new ReadWriteWeb Guide to Online Community Management, which was just released this morning. I was also interviewed for the report, so you can find tidbits from my experience sprinkled throughout the report.

My favorite thing about this report is that it isn’t just a PDF document, it comes with a companion site, the Community Management Aggregator, which provides great ongoing resources for people interested in community management. It has a custom search engine for the best community management content along with 3-10 new community management articles per day from some of the leading community management practitioners. I’m already finding great content that I hadn’t yet discovered on my own throughout this companion site. It also has other useful tidbits including OPML files with lists of great blogs, links to Twitter accounts for the top community management thought leaders, and more.

The report is also really interesting. It contains basic information, discussions about whether you really need a community manager, return on investment for your community, job descriptions, dealing with difficult members, interviews and more. The report also has plenty of links to other content, links to reference materials, and other pointers to great content. You can also download a free sample section of the report to get a better feel for the type of content being included.

The whole package is priced at $299. You can learn more about the report on the ReadWriteWeb Guide to Online Community Management page.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Recent Links

Here are a few interesting things from this week that I wanted to share …

Troublemakers, trolls and a very trying week « Online Community Strategist

FeverBee: A Stranger In A Big City

Shizzow’s Social Location Service Marries ‘Where’ with ‘What’ | Epicenter from Wired.com

Fly away! Be free! Shizzow launches from Portland nest in preparation for SXSW Interactive » Silicon Florist

It’s Time To Start Thinking Of Twitter As A Search Engine

You can find my links on Delicious.

Online Community Manager: Yes, It's Really A Job (Slideshare)

Earlier this week, I did a blog post with this name on WebWorkerDaily talking about community management as a profession in preparation for my presentation at Oregon State University this afternoon.

The presentation covers several topics related to community management careers:

  • Defining Community
  • Community Manager Jobs (examples, job description and skills required, salaries)
  • Guiding Principles and Best Practices

Several people have asked for the slides, so here are the ones I’m bringing with me to the presentation. As always, I may take it in a different direction depending on the questions from the attendees, but at least this gives me something to deviate from.

Jan. 28th in Corvallis: Community Management & Yahoo Pipes

I wanted to let people know that I will be in Corvallis, Oregon on Wednesday to present at 2 different events. I might also try to arrive earlier in the day, so let me know if you want to meet with me while I am in town.

Online Community Manager: Yes, It’s Really A Job
Wednesday January 28, 2009 from 4:00pm – 5:00pm
Kerney 112, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon
More details on Upcoming

Online community managers are being hired in more and more companies and organizations. In this presentation, I will talk about how communities are managed and why companies need community management. I’ll also provide some specific job requirements and skills that community managers need in order to be successful.

Corvallis Beer and Blog with Yahoo Pipes

Wednesday January 28, 2009 from 5:00pm – 7:30pm
Cloud 9 Restaurant and Bar
126 Sw First Street, Corvallis, Oregon
More Details on Upcoming

I will be there to talk about Yahoo Pipes and other things related to online communities and social media. Mainly, it is an excuse to hang out at another successful Beer and Blog!

A big thank you to Lance Albertson and Tim Budd for coordinating all of this!

Online Community Culture Research

Yet another great research report coming from Bill Johnston of ForumOne. The topic of his latest report is Online Community Culture. 75 people participated in the study, so the sample size is fairly small, but is what you would expect from a niche survey of people managing online communities.

The study found that the most important factors in establishing and maintaining a community’s culture include:

  • Quality, up-to-date content
  • Clear objective / value statement
  • Strong moderation / facilitation

My past experience managing communities leads me to agree wholeheartedly with the findings that these three factors are critical for having a healthy community culture.

  • Communities without great, relevant content tend to wither away as participants decide to spend their valuable time in communities with higher quality content. The culture gradually disintegrates as key people leave. When I have spent some extra time creating content and encouraging other people to create great content, the community activity levels and culture seemed to show improvement.
  • A clear objective / value statement for the community keeps everyone working toward the same goal. My worst experience managing communities came from an environment where there was disagreement among the top management at the company about the value and objectives for the community. It was impossible to build a community culture without a clear objective / value statement.
  • Strong moderation / facilitation helps keep the community clean and on track. Members don’t want a community full of spam or other worthless content.

I encourage you to read the entire blog post about the Online Community Culture report (or the entire report if you are one of the lucky people with a subscription). The blog contains additional data points, quotes from the survey comments, and a great analysis near the end of the post.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

What Motivates Participants to Engage in Online Communities

Many of my past posts have talked about the benefits of having a community for a company or organization. However, I have not spent enough time talking about the benefit to the participants in the community. It has to go both ways. A community will only be successful if the participants and the sponsoring organization both find value in participating regularly in the community.

A couple of recent interactions with people prompted me to write this post.

Last week, a reader of my blog, who works with a community in the travel industry asked me this question:

What’s your idea about the other side of the coin? Why should customers participate in online communities created by companies? What benefits do they get?

I also had a conversation on Monday with someone in the health care space who was struggling with whether or not to build an online community for their new site when other, similar communities already exist. Part of our discussion centered around why people would participate in their community and what value would the members receive that they were not already getting from other communities in their industry.

There are no easy answers to this question, and like many questions about community management, the answer depends on the situation; however, it boils down to a question of motivation. What motivates people to participate in your community?

Online Community Motivation
What motivates people to participate in your community?

The tricky part is that people are motivated in many different ways with complex interactions between motivations. For example, I might participate in a social media community as part of my work as a consultant because I think it will have long-term financial gain for me; however, I might be friends with many of the other participants and also participate for social reasons and because I have fun doing it while also feeling like I’m learning something.

Usually one of these motivations is the primary reason that a person comes into a community as a first time user. As a community manager or the organization sponsoring the community, you should focus on a couple of reasons that people might be motivated to participate and make them clear when you promote the community. Getting people motivated to visit the community for the first time is half of the battle.

It is also important to look at why people participate in your community and see how you can help get people more motivated to continue participating in the community over a significant period of time.

  • Can you make it more fun? more social?
  • What can you do to help people develop their skills and learn something new?
  • How can you recognize the status of top contributors?
  • Can you tap into their passion for a topic?

What motivates people to participate in your community? What do you do to help make sure that people stay motivated to participate?

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Rewarding Community Members

I spend quite a bit of time talking with clients about incentives and rewards for participation in their community, especially when they are launching new communities. I offer quite a few cautions against offering monetary incentives, because in my past experience, they tend not to be effective. This is especially true for communities where the members are technologists, since people working in the technology industry are already well compensated in most cases.

However, I hadn’t really spent much time thinking about the psychology behind it until I read a particularly interesting short post by Richard Millington. He suggests sending them a fruit basket:

Imagine I sent you a fruit basket for writing a brilliant comment.

How would you react? Happy?

You might mention it to others. You would write more brilliant comments. You would feel appreciated, it’s a great feeling.

What if I paid $20 into your PayPal account?

It’s just become work.

How much will you charge next time? Will you work less if you don’t get paid? Will others now want to be paid?

Money makes communities implode. So send flowers, fruit baskets, chocolates and invitations to special events. Surprise gifts bring out the best in people, money brings out the worst.

(Quoted from FeverBee)

The point here isn’t that a fruit basket is the right reward for excellent community participation, but a little bit of creativity goes a long way toward finding interesting ways to reward participants while staying away from monetary rewards. What kind of small gifts can you send people just to say thank you for doing something nice in the community? What is something exclusive that you can offer someone as a reward that they can’t get elsewhere? I know one person who often wears a t-shirt that is only given to people with commit status for this particular open source project. He’s proud of having special status within the community. You should think of ways that you can reward people with special status in your community that will make them proud of having achieved it. A special t-shirt or other ways for them to display this special status can help reinforce this reward.

It is worth spending some time thinking about creative rewards for community members. What rewards have you had the best luck with in the past? Have you ever had a company reward you in an interesting way for your participation?

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Gail Ann Williams on Community from Love@First Website

I’m spending the morning at iSite’s Love@First Website Conference here in Portland.

I was impressed with Gail Ann Williams’ presentation about building online community. She was an early participant at The WELL and is currently the Director of Communities at Salon.com.

Here are my raw notes from Gail’s presentation. In other words these are my notes about her words (not my words), so hopefully, I managed to get most of it right with only a few typos.

What do we mean by community anyway?

  • Interactions and relationships: people who know each other very closely and are in your network along with the people who are loosely connected to each other. These connections are the most powerful part of community.
  • Complexity: people are members of multiple overlapping communities.
  • Continuity over time (which used to mean geographic proximity): our sense of place comes from the continuity and culture that is built over time. As the community evolves, they really become stakeholders in the community and feel like they own the community as much as the company and the developers own it.

What are your goals?

Always go back to the goals of the community. What are you trying to do and what do you want to accomplish? Salon found that allowing comments on articles started to build another community for Salon outside of the forums. These new members were interested in a community around the writers, but weren’t interested in the forums and were really a separate community that couldn’t be integrated with the other communities at Salon.

Set expectations

Being clear, upfront, and honest with your users, especially when you are making a big change, can help community members understand the reasons behind the change. They will also be more likely to support the change if they understand the reasons and have some time to vent about it.

Understand newcomer dynamics

Welcome newcomers in a friendly way, but don’t be overbearing and creepy about it. Existing community members tend to develop an insider / outsider mentality, which makes it very difficult for new people to engage in an enjoyable way. Community managers and other members need to be available to remind existing users that they were once new and that new people can become valuable members of the community and eventually become friends.

Spammers, Trolls, etc.

It really takes a lot of time to manage these annoying people. You can put some things in place to reduce spam and trolls (email verification, real names, etc.), but ultimately, real people need to jump in and moderate. Employees can clean it up, especially if you can get users to report the issues. Even when people don’t use it very often, the report abuse button might act as a deterrent to potential spammers who know that it will get reported quickly. Spam becomes a bigger issue on low volume sites, since the spam is more visible. Trolls are an interesting issue. They can be just trolls, but sometimes it can be a result of deeper personal / mental issues.

Collecting info at registration

Amazon has a good model. You can leave reviews with minimal information, but you can also be validated to get the real name designation. In general, ask for the information that you need to function as a community along with some information about why the information is needed. Add just enough of a barrier to reduce the spam, but not so much that people won’t want to join.

I only captured a few of the best points during the presentation, but it was great to hear from someone who has been continually participating and managing communities since the very early days of the Internet.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

How to Get a Community Manager Job

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a similar post, but from the opposite side: Hiring a Community Manager. This week, I’ve received emails from several people asking about how they can become an online community manager. I thought it would be a good idea to write this post for people who want to be hired into their first community manager job.

Start by reading the Hiring a Community Manager post. It has many links to blogs about online community management, the role of the community manager, community research, job boards focused on community manager positions, and much more. It will also give you insight into the thinking that employers might be doing when selecting a community manager.

There are a few things that you can do to build your expertise in community management to improve your chances of getting hired. They fall into 3 main areas.

  1. Participate. You can build a lot of expertise by participating in existing online communities as a user. Find something that you are passionate about (restaurant reviews, happy hours, guitars, underwater basket weaving, whatever), and find a community of people with similar passions. Participate in a couple of these communities, and post regularly. Use the experience as a member to see what works well and what doesn’t, and think about how you would make the community better if you were responsible for it.
  2. Share Knowledge. Take what you have learned and share it with other people. Start a blog that is focused on community management, and share what you are learning. Do research on other communities and blog about what you find. If you want to expand out past writing, you could do video / audio podcasts or other various methods to communicate about what you have learned. When you begin interviewing for community manager jobs, you will have a nice base of information to share with prospective employers, and the blog should have a prominent place on your resume.
  3. Volunteer. Help a local non profit organization build an online community and be the community manager for that new community. This could be an online community of volunteers or an online community related to the purpose of the organization. Nothing demonstrates your abilities as a community manager better than a working example that prospective employees can see in action.

I’ve focused on what I think are the 3 most important things you can do to build your community management skills. Jake McKee has a couple of good posts on this topic as well with a few more ideas, including sample courses for college students to take:

I know that quite a few community managers read this blog. What do you think? Is there something more important than these three things for someone wanting to break into the field? What would you suggest?

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts: