Social catalysts to catapult network success

Over here at NewsGator we’re always connecting, sharing and learning from our customer community and encouraging them to collaborate on business issues they face together. For this purpose, we run an online community called eNGage. It’s really our external NewsGator network where the world’s best social business customers (I mean ours, and yes we believe it!) come to learn and play in a safe space.

This week we held our monthly online jam session, where an incredibly passionate bunch of our customers united to talk, debate, and share wisdom on the purpose of social catalysts and how important they are to network success. Here’s what we learned:

The role of the community manager

There’s no doubting that the community manager role is critical in the future of work and collaborative technology. This isn’t to say that a formal “community manager” role needs to be hired (although in my view, it certainly helps). What we’re talking about here is community owners, the person who is responsible for caring for their community and helping it grow. These roles might be formal or not, but either way, our customers all agree that structure or ownership of collaborative workspaces ultimately leads to successful outcomes. And sometimes you don’t even need to find these folks! Community leads often self-nominate into the role because they believe in the new way of working and want to be ambassadors for community success and for social business practices. Community managers are nearly always natural evangelists and usually experts on the topic in the community they manage.

The most successful community model amongst our customers is a federated model of champions, community managers, and catalysts who connect together either online or face-to-face to grow network adoption, share best practices, and educate each other.

This is particularly effective in large and global businesses, as it helps them achieve consistency and scale across their network.

Identifying network catalysts

Whilst they are often self-identifying, a few more traits stand out when seeking social catalysts and network evangelists.

They often know their business well, can think outside the box, are vocal/outspoken, have time to dedicate to the community and demonstrate a genuine desire to use collaborative tools to solve real business problems.

What’s really important is for the community manager or owner to be constantly selling the rewards of the new way of working. “SELL, SELL, SELL!!” as one of our customers said. This pays off when the community members are full of praise and thanks when they see how much incremental changes can really impact their work and productivity.

Rewarding and recognizing

Overall we all agree that long term, the network evangelist should be a role that is included in formal performance agreements. For a lot of companies though, it’s still early days. In some workplaces, the simple pleasure of helping people to do their job better and more efficiently is enough, and for others, the unique learning opportunities and chance to connect with peers across the enterprise make it worthwhile. Most of the NewsGator customers are using the power of social badging and kudos to ensure their evangelist network is recognized and thanked. One of our customers even throws their federated network/community regular parties to celebrate success stories, build off-line relationships and cultivate collaboration amongst the ranks.

Network of hearts

In Daniel Kraft’s webinar, “Survival of the Social” he talks about the ‘network of hearts’ and the social technology evolution being the next phase of communicating and collaborating at work. Previously, we’ve had the network of hands, where we manually joined together to create things. Then we had the ‘network of minds’, where we got together and started emailing and working better and faster than ever before. In this part of the evolution, the ‘network of hearts’, we start to connect, feel, share, and integrate with our work on a human level via social networks and we truly start to collaborate and work better, in a way that is natural to our primal instinct. When our customers come together in our jam sessions, it’s really NewsGator’s network of hearts assembling online to connect — and the energy is always really exciting. Creating a network of social evangelists, catalysts, community managers, or whatever you want to call them, is without a doubt, a pivotal step toward social success — and is your first step down the road of unleashing the power of the network of hearts in your work place.

Let’s continue the conversation. How do you identify and reward your community managers? Feel free to leave a comment, find me on eNGage or on Twitter: @lukesinclair.

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