Community management is not often seen as a critical element for your social business strategy. Some organizations may recognize the importance of community management to adoption and consider it at some later point in their planning efforts or, more commonly, after the technology has been chosen or even implemented.
Not all the activity that is happening on your enterprise social network is necessarily happening in a community. Posts, comments, contributing to a wiki, or co-authoring meeting minutes are all signs of a healthy social initiative and do not require community, but the potential is there. The technology can become the catalyst for community, therefore it is vital that you have a community management practice in place that can support this potential and provide necessary stewardship to promote formation of community.
A recent research report from Deloitte in the MIT Sloan Management Review showed three main barriers holding back progress toward becoming a social business:
- Lack of overall strategy (28%)
- Too many competing priorities (26%)
- Lack of a proven business case or strong value proposition (21%)
Conversely, companies who are successful use social business in decision making, integrate it into many functions, and gain solid senior management sponsorship and (more importantly) participation.
I’d like to begin by focusing on number three, as a strong business case is fundamental to creating the level of leadership understanding necessary to create a cohesive social business strategy and for leaders to recognize social business as a top priority.
How a strong program of community management can help overcome these barriers
Start with a clear vision and purpose.
Identify and steward emerging communities to create success stories of business value that can serve as examples of what’s possible. A community manager’s role is to help guide the community to identify or clarify the vision and purpose of the community. What is the community trying to achieve and how will it achieve its business goals? The vision and purpose should be at minimum validated, or ideally defined, by the community as a group. This helps all members of the community feel engaged
in the community purpose and vested in its vision for success.
TIP: Lack of a clear social business vision on the macro scale for your organization should not stop you from identifying clear business cases on a more micro scale for your communities. In fact, the development of these stories of success will help to lay the foundation for the emergence of a more cohesive organizational strategy for social business.
Identify where socially-enabled communities can deliver the most value.
All communities are not created equal. Once you get started with your social business initiative, you may have many eager stakeholders wanting to jump on the collaboration bandwagon. Don’t immediately focus on leadership communities for example, unless they acknowledge the need for them or have already defined a clear vision and purpose. Ensure that someone will lead these communities and that there is not a “build it and they will come” approach to community management. Choosing unwisely where you put your efforts at this stage can cost you in time, resources, and, most importantly, perception.
TIP: Watch out for the well-intentioned requests for amorphous grouping of high visibility stakeholders with no clear purpose for coming together as a community. You are trying to create stories that demonstrate real business value, not high profile failures.
Build competence for repeatable success.
A defined approach to community management creates structure necessary to move from one-off wins to repeatable success. A flexible framework for applying community management in your organization allows you to concentrate on what works and build on your successes. Don’t reinvent the wheel - leverage resources and best practice guidance for community management. But do keep it flexible and think about how your approach will fit within your organizational structure, culture, and ways of working.
TIP: Create a support structure for your community managers. Providing best practice guidance, education, and tips along with connecting your community managers in a community of their own will provide needed support for this role. It also allows you to capture and learn what works best as they apply the community management framework within your organization.
Create a strong case for value.
We’ve all heard resistance from some parts of our business to the concept of social. Even mentioning the word “social” evokes strong negative reactions from some as thoughts of Facebook at work bounce uncomfortably around their heads. Fostering and capturing stories of successful community collaboration that can serve as real examples of business value can have a powerful effect on building recognition of the value proposition for social business. By seeding these successful communities out into the wider network they can serve to stimulate creation of more communities based on these models of success. This can help to tell the story of value and help to gain leadership buy-in and change the overall organizational perception of value.
TIP: Improved perception of business value for social as well as creating a model for an overall social business vision will have the added effect of creating a greater sense of ownership. Build on this sense of growing value by identifying a senior leadership sponsor.
If you don’t happen to be one of the lucky 28% who have already defined your clear vision for becoming a social organization, then think of community management as laying the foundation for identifying and building a more cohesive strategy. I really like Euan Semple’s analogy of deploying “Trojan Mice.” Well managed, successful communities that serve as small examples of success can act as powerful agents of change when allowed to penetrate into your wider organization.