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TKChat: Building Communities, with Jane Bozarth and Mark Oehlert

Mark Britz is introducing the first TKChat at #astdTK14 on the topic of “Building Communities”. Armed with our 2 experts Jane Bozarth and Mark Oehlert it’s time to find out how to make those communities work…

To get the ball rolling @britz asks Jane and Mark to first clarify the meaning of “community”. What does this word mean?

Managers think of communities as another channel to force content top-down onto employees. Others are trying to create teams and better teamwork. But according to our speakers, community is really about purpose and common needs and objectives. With free will, people get together to share and make things happen. When you get started with building a community, you need therefore to first find that shared sense of purpose.

How do you get started with building an organisational community?

Oehlert says that the very first thing to do is to see what is already going on in the organisation. Does the community already exist? Learning people don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Take a look at the organisation and see what communities already exist. Then ask yourself: “How can we better support that?”

See also “Analysing and Evaluating Informal Social Networks

Once you are ready to go, it is important to be clear about the added-value of creating (or formalising) the community. If you can’t iterate the added-value of the community to people, they won’t use it.

See also “Answer the 3 most important questions to convince your audience

What are the keys to making things work with a community?

First of all, Jane says that we must not just use the tool that comes with the LMS because it comes with the LMS. Look to see where people are currently getting in contact with each other and go there.

Secondly, realise that it’s not because you build it that they will come. Community building takes time. People are not going to be hyper-active with their sharing and asking just because you made a new tool.

This leads to the third point: Community management takes time as well. Someone needs to be there to stoke the fire, to encourage people and to show (online) community best-practice.

How can we encourage people to start using community tools, share and narrate their work?

Start by finding out what is going wrong in people’s jobs, where they have troubles and how community activity could help. This will give you a way in and direction for content-sharing.

It would be easy to say that the community doesn’t work just because the culture isn’t ready. Any ideas?

Despite the fact that young people obviously dig sharing in communities, that doesn’t mean that other people don’t. Oehlert says that everyone is in some kind of community. Maybe not online, but somewhere they are talking with like-minded people, whether it be on a mum-sharing site, a local town community organisation or elsewhere. They do know the value of a community and they probably know how to use one. We just need to get it working at work…

On the other hand, Jane adds that if your organisation doesn’t share already, having a online community is not going to make it happen. First work on breaking down silos and getting people willing to share.

Should we be controlling how communities function?

Mark Oehlert’s first response is that you have to let the community grow in an organic way. If it moves in one direction and that brings value, let it be. And even if people start sharing less business-valuable content, they are still sharing.

Secondly, it is important to realise that the new community tools we have today are not the issue when it comes to control. Control issues have always existed. If you have email or telephone, you have the risk of people sharing things in ways they should not. These new tools might make content sharing faster or larger (hence the risk is bigger) but if you had this “under Conti,” already and if people were professional, honest and useful already, they will be on the new tool.

To finish this answer, Mark Oehlert adds that the best way to help things go in the right direction is to “walk the talk”. Share the things you want to see shared. Act the any you want other people to act.

Should we have a big funky roll-out for the new tool?

Jane Bozarth says this approach to kicking off a new community tool is dangerous. If you are going to start, start small and build it up. Look for people who have the community spirit and ask the to get involved. Start with content and sharing around something useful, so that when other people come to the tool they will find good content. This will encourage them.

How can you create the best user-experience?

Don’t just implement the tool you bought. Think about how people want to interact with the tool. Take the time to customise menu possibilities … after you get lots of feedback from the users about what they want!

What should we be measuring in order to see if the community adds value?

If you did the first step well (defining purpose) and if you have a good sense of business acumen then you should already know what you should be measuring. In addition to the usual things to measure (traffic, content and continuity) try to think about what the managers are thinking about:

  • What new innovation did we get since we started all this?
  • What problems have we solved?
  • How has our business grown? Are we seeing better results on the bottom-line?
  • Good chat!

    Other pieces of mine that might be interesting…

  • Online Community Management Tips and Best Practices
  • Use Yammer to Get Personal Value From Your Business Network
  • Making your Yammer Community Work – An Interview with Allison Michels
  • Thanks for reading
    D

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