Archive for the 'socialnetworking' Category

Charting a course to community awesomeness!

27 August, 2009

I’m cheating on my blog posts again! But I wrote this for one of my recently kicked off online communities and thought it might be worth posting. What do you think? Am I on the right track? I will be very interested to see how the community members respond.


I have been saying from the beginning of this project that one our key objectives for the community leadership group will be the development of a community charter. The charter will be vital to the community’s success. It is your (the community leaders) opportunity to agree on what you want this community to be. You will make this community into the thriving place that can create opportunities and provide support to yourself or other members. The thing is, this will only happen if you make it happen.

Some questions to think about:
• What is that you think this community stands for?
• Why is it here?
• When we promote it why would people want to join it?
• What can we bring to the community?
• What do you expect your fellow members to bring to the community?
• Most importantly what can you bring to the community?

Now you’ve have think about that let’s look at what this charter will actually look like. The great thing is that every community is unique so every charter will be unique, but I have a couple of thoughts to get us started. First I reckon we must keep it short; we don’t need anything that rambles on for pages and pages (like this post does!). I propose the following three sections.

Community Purpose

An example might be “to provide an environment for North Melbourne supporters to discus the horror of 2009 and how awesome 2010 will be”

The community will…

“Hear North supporters concerns about our list and provide constructive criticism for players that perhaps might seek new opportunities at another club next year”

“Help to generate opportunities for North supporters to car pool to games (and then donate the money to the club to set up a fund to lure Garry Ablett and Lance Franklin to Arden St)””

The community members will….

“Not be too harsh on players who have under performed”
“Will be supportive of other members and provide constructive advice”

Ok so clearly I have been a bit silly with my examples, but I hope you get the idea. Under each section we use bullet points to outline why the community exists, how the community will aim to support or provide value to its members and how the community’s members will provide value to the community.

So what is next?

There is a new tab at the top of the screen called Charter. It simply has the words “Community Purpose” on the page.

I would like as many of you as possible to click on edit on that page and add a bullet point describing what you believe the community’s purpose is.

Editing is anonymous so no one else will know what you have added. Please don’t remove anyone else’s points, just add to them. Don’t be afraid, all ideas are valid, the more ideas we have the better the result.

If you want to comment on this to tell me that the whole thing is a stupid idea, suggest another section of the charter or anything else feel free to comment under this post.

Next week we’ll work on the next section and keep refining over the coming weeks till the leadership group as a whole agree that the charter represents what we all believe this community is about.


Getting them talking

25 June, 2009

Part four in my ‘Getting an online community off the ground’ series. Today I’ll chat about Content.

Over the last week or so, I have blogged about finding great people to join your community, then having a chat with them to encourage them to join the community. In many ways getting them into the community is the easy bit; often people, if encouraged will sign up to an online community, the trick is getting them to come back a few times a week.

The people we have targeted to form the core of the community know their stuff and are eager to participate so we’d best make use of them! The community is all about the members so we can get them to do some of the planning. Ask them to debate the core purpose of the community, ask them to agree on the community’s rules of engagement. This can be confronting, at this point we are releasing some control, we’re no longer producing a product for the market to simply consume, we are letting the consumers shape the direction. While it is scary it will be helpful for a couple of reasons, firstly it will give those core people that you want to hang around something to talk about which is critical to keeping their attention. Secondly it will help them to develop a sense of ownership over the community. Finally it will give us an important insight into the needs of the people we are trying to engage.

It is great to hand the keys over to the community but  it is really important to stay involved in the discussion, this is our community and while we are working to help the community members we are not going to be able to meet the needs of everybody. Get involved in the conversation, talk about the motivations for creating the community and listen to the responses of the community members. If a suggestion can not be implemented, explain why and try to work with the community members to come up with an alternative approach. This is important work, it is laying the foundations that the community will be built upon so we need to get it right.

Throughout this process the most important thing we can do is listen, this will help us to understand the needs of the community, which will help us to identify the content that will bring people back. Understanding the content the community members are interested in will influence, the links we post, which discussion topics or members are featured and what events we run.

Next up – Events!

Who are the ‘right’ kind of people?

16 June, 2009

Part two in my ‘Getting an online community off the ground’ series. Today I’ll look at People.

Yesterday I discussed identifying the purpose for an online community. This is a vital step that will prove to be extraordinarily helpful when it comes to finding the right people to get the community up and running.

But who are the right people?

On the surface the answer to this question is pretty simple, probably something like:

“I want to engage anyone who has an interest in X and Y”

Just like yesterday’s example of a description of a community’s purpose, this  answer is very broad, as a result it will not be much of a help when it comes to building a community, the answer we’ll want to come up with is something along the lines of

“I want to engage with a group of people with a passion for X and Y, people who are looking for others with a common interest to chat with.”

On first glance these two statements may appear to be similar, but there are important differences. The first statement describes the  group of people that are interested in a topic but are not necessarily committed to it and may or may not put any time into it. We would probably target this broader group once the community has been up and running for a while. Many of these people will become great community members but the strike rate will to be low.  If we take a quick look at the 90 – 9 – 1 rule that I blogged about last year,  only 1 out of every hundred site visitors will likely become active contributors, 9 will occasionally comment if something really grabs their attention and 90 will have a look around but keep to themselves.

The second statement describes the group that are the top 1%. These  people are already talking about the topic, they are highly engaged and are looking for new places to talk. If we can manage to bring a bunch of these people together and give them some interesting stuff to do or talk about, we’ll have gone a long way to getting the community up and running.

The next question is how we bring them together, I’ll discuss that in the my next post tomorrow!


Is this blog dead?

16 January, 2009

No it isn’t! I took some time over the Xmas / New Years period to disconnect from the online world for a while (and move house!) but I’m back at work now and looking forward to a big 2009.

I’ve got a quick one for today to kick things off again. This morning  I headed down to Mr Tulk (Coffee Shop here in Melbourne) to attend the inaugural Melbourne Social Media Friday coffee morning . It was great to get along and meet some of the tweeps I have seen and chatted to online in the flesh.

I’m a big fan of blending the online and offline experiences. I had an idea for a big blog post about blending conference delivery after the Social Networking and business conference last year, but it never came together. Maybe it will at some point in the next few weeks. I was a big fan of blending e-Learning and Face to Face training in my L&D days and I think it is still relevant, I reckon you’ll get the most value if you can supplement your online conversations with some F2F ones.

Have a great weekend and big thinks to @KateKendall for teeing this morning up! 🙂

Measuring your impact

9 December, 2008

Twitter rocked my socks again last week. I’ve been evaluating our conference community and was thinking about metrics and measures. I asked my awesomely cool network on twitter what they thought and got lots of good ideas, thoughts and links all of which have been very helpful. (You can see some of the responses here. I’m not sure that this link will work permanently, if anyone knows how to perma-link to this stuff I’d love to hear!).

The prevailing feeling was measuring statistics was not going to give you much of the story. The number of people that joined a network, posted on a forum or friended someone only tells you that the community was active. It doesn’t tell you anything about the value community members took away from the community. Mary Abraham has also posted recently on the question of stats vs experience.

To gain a full picture of the value your network is providing it seems the questions you need to ask are along the lines of:

  • What happened after you left the community?
  • How did information or relationships gained through the community help you?

A quick update to get caught up…

2 October, 2008

I’ve had some sort of virus for the last couple of weeks… I gave in and slept for a couple of days earlier this week and seem to be a bit better (yay!). I’ve got a few things to blog about so I’ll try and get caught up over the next day or so.

Our conference community.

Adoption has been reasonable, we’re still just over a week away from the conference and we have around 80 members. I’m pretty happy with that, it is not huge but it is a good start. The problem is there is not a lot of interaction going on, a lot of people have poked their heads in but are not really saying anything. We’ve got several presenters who are going to run groups and try to kick off some discussions in there, unfortunately due to ‘the virus’ we’re a little behind in getting them all set up. Hopefully it won’t have too much of an impact. I’ll be watching with interest over the next couple of weeks as we get into the conference.

A step into the unknown…

19 September, 2008

A little while a go I hit the publish button on the Conference social network we have been working on for the last 6 months. Exciting yet scary stuff!

To be honest I have no idea how this is going to pan out. We’ve got a pretty good promotional plan, we have  engagement with the conference program and we have several presenters lined up to participate in the network. Still I wonder if it will work. Our audience is pretty conservative mostly accounting and finance types, I get the feeling that will mean they will come in and have a look but probably won’t participate very much. Our corporate blogs are a classic example, while the traffic on this blog is approximately 10% of the average traffic of our two main corporate blogs, I average a comment about every second or third post, where our corporate blogs average a comment  about every 5 – 6 posts.

I would put that down to the fact that most of the comments here tend to come from people who I either know or have interacted with via their own blogs or twitter, but I think there may also be something in the demographic, most of the people who read this at least have an interest in social media. That would seem to make them more likely to fill the ‘critic’ role, than an accountant or finance manager that is in their mid 30’s to mid 50’s (the bulk of our customer base).

It will be very interesting indeed to see if they embrace the concept. I’ll keep posting regularly about how it is going and what we are learning.

Getting into the groove

5 September, 2008

My blog review copy of the book Groundswell arrived this week. I’m just getting into it now but I think I will be passing it on to some friends and colleagues of mine. It makes a compelling case for watching social media in plain English. This line jumped out at me, as it relates to something I wrote yesterday for one of our corporate blogs (which will appear here sometime soon):

“…The principle for mastering the groundswell: Concentrate on the relationships, not the technologies.”

This line sums up the message we have been selling here for the last 6 months. We often use another line from the book:

“Technology is the enabler”

but I think I this line is a little clearer to the uninitiaited.

anyhue more to read….

Building Social Networks and Growing Communities

14 August, 2008

I attended a great 1 day workshop last month run by Laural Papworth (with a special guest appearance from Peter Styles from Red Bubble), which was all about building and managing online communities. Given this is exactly what my colleagues and I are in the process of doing, I was really looking forward to it.

Today I finally got around to giving the team here at work an overview of the session, so I trawled through my notes from the day and chopped them down to a few key points. I figured they’d make a nice blog post.

If you are starting out in the community building process, I would strongly recommend you attend this session if it runs again. It really was a very good day.

Notes by Community Phase


If creating a community always ask, why are you being social? And what are our objectives?
What are we going to provide to a community?  – Why will they join?
What will encourage members to click on a link on your page? What will they get?


Word of Mouth will be the key marketing tool. – Our product needs to be good enough to make users tell other users
Competitions can help to generate interest. They will bring people in the door, content will bring them back
Make network visible, but read only to non-members. People will come back up to 10 – 15 times before they decide to join.


Clear rules of engagement, keep them simple and explain why they are there.

Fires will happen – let them burn out if possible.
Offer to help resolve an issue
Provide a deadline for fire to be resolved – “You have 36 hours to resolve this issue”

Moderators need to be connected to the community and lead by example, this will allow them to understand the context of discussions and block stuff that is truly inappropriate.

Don’t let members dictate how a community is run, that can lead them to think they can manipulate the system to suit their needs

Provide a pathway to make new members feel welcome – show them that it is ok to ask basic questions.

Make it very clear what profile information is visible to the public and what is private

If the community only talks about the purpose you have defined it is not really a community

That’s a big wall…

10 July, 2008

Over the last week or so I have been banging on about moving beyond the early adopters to engage with the second wave. Last week I blogged about value, this week I’m thinking about the barriers that the second wave will face.

I reckon there are a few categories they’ll fall into:

  • The point (or a lack of understanding of)
  • How to do it
  • The firewall
  • The time

Each of these are potentially going to stop people coming into our network but there are some things we can do to reduce the impact.

The Point

This really comes back to the value stuff I blogged about the other day. If we nail how our target market will extract the most value out of the tool and manage to articulate that in a clear, concise fashion; we’re laughing. (simple right!?)

I think Andrew Mitchell’s point (see the comments) about capturing user stories will really help here too.

How to do it?

This is another big one, particularly given our audience is primarily made up of ( I hate to use the term) digital immigrants, that said it is reasonably easily addressed. If our email comms are clear, we put together some solid online demos, offer a couple of webinars and recruit / identify good community leaders, I think we can manage this barrier.

The firewall

Blah I hate corporate firewalls! They are an absolute pain in the proverbial!

I reckon the trick getting around them is to ensure that all of our ‘Social’ tools are under our corporate domain. In all cases we are using hosted solutions so bringing everything in under the one roof is a must to avoid this issue.

The Time

I’ve got two thoughts about this one, first is if we do the value / point stuff right then people will be prepared to make some time for of the community. That said, many won’t.

Second, I think building the first social media attempt around an event will help to bring people in. Conference social networks have had a bit of bad press ( I discussed here) in the blgosphere but I think it may work out well for us. If the audience is thinking about the conference they may be more likely to look at a new online initiative that relates to the conference than they would have been if the initiative existed on its own. It also means that by the time the novelty has worn off our project is winding down and we walk off with a bunch of experience to use when we build the next initiative.

The bottom line is we can find ways around many of the barriers to joining the social network, but really if the audience can’t see the value of it very clearly, they won’t bother.

A final note – The iPhone contracts here in Australia are a complete joke! Bring on Android!

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