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JD Dillon on Breaking Down Silos to Release Organisational Potential

First things first: JD just saved my conference. My first iteration of “Practical Use of Social Media for Formal Learning” was at 10.30 this morning. At exactly 10.10 my computer battery announced it was going to run out. And yes, I had left my US adaptor in my hotel… across the road… …again. Just before it actually did die, I got everything onto JDs computer and all went well. So thanks!


So we know JD is useful, but what does he have to say about breaking down silos in an organisation to create better sharing, more sociability and more learning? When an organisation changes and grows, how do you keep people up-to-date, talking, asking questions and passing on their expertise?

His first reflection was to make an internal Wiki. His mission was to get away from individual department owned silos of protected information and centralise things. His tool of choice was “Confluence” because in addition to the classic Wiki style, people could create forums (fora?), comment and like things. If it’s good enough for Facebook…

Confluence brought some changes that JD is proud of by creating a better flow of meaningful information. And gradually, it started to change the way people thought about “social learning”. This is what JD says about making it actually happen…


First of all, you need to get some content online, so that when other come online they can see the value. If there is nothing there, people won’t see the value. In Kaplan, this consisted of 2 main approaches: 1) JD himself did some regular writing and 2) specific early-adopter-types were also (slyly, on the side) asked to get on there and add something.


Secondly, don’t assume that because people can add stuff that they can add stuff. The platform might be there, but people may need help getting skilled in sharing. For Kaplan, JD took the “BT Dare-to-Share” approach of setting up a webcam, inviting in subject matter experts and asking them questions. That created initial content for the platform and also helped people to see how it was done.


Thirdly (linked to point 2): Use video. YouTube is the success it is because video works. If experts have messages to share about how things work, this can be shared first with video. Of course, it can be supported by workflow processes, technical documents or SOPs (standard operating procedures). But the entry point of video is more user-pleasing.


Point four: Try, try, try. Don’t assume that whatever you planned to do to set up the social community will work. Just get on their and try something. But then measure the results. See what people read and what they don’t. Measure the number of hits a video gets. See what they like. See what they commented on. If it works, do it again. If it doesn’t, try something else.


Next: Build on formal learning experiences you already have to get the informal social learning ball rolling. If you have a training happening, use a platform like “Confluence” to create some discussion after the classroom moment. Make that part of the training process and you just created some content, as well as getting people active on the tool.


Useful links:
-> BT Dare to Share (video):
-> Enhance Training and Other Formal Learning with Social Media:
-> Online Community Management Best Practices and Tips:


Thanks for reading
And thanks to Kluwer for sponsoring my trip


ASTDTK14: Experimenting and Engaging to Create Effective Learning

As the days distance me from Las Vegas and the ASTD Techknowledge Conference, the eternal presenter in me is looking for the message, the one big takeaway, the answer to the 3 most important questions: “What is the point? What do you want from me? What’s in it for me?”

My answer today is that learning effectiveness is all about experimenting with learning initiatives and engaging the learner…


Both innovation and even real knowledge come from experimentation

In the opening keynote at TK14, Jeff Dyer told us that one of the keys to innovation is experimentation: We have to try new things if we want to get new results. If, as Donald H Taylor told us in Brussels last October, “the goal of learning is to be … agile enough to keep up with an ever changing environment”, then we need to stop throwing traditional training solutions at our business problems and approach things differently: Using open “what if?” questions and associative thinking, we must create hypotheses for the causes of business problems (and their solutions) and then set about designing new learning experiments that can test the validity of those hypotheses and lead to effective results. This approach to dealing with problems is key to any science or research process. But the learning function is not often seen as science and research…

Rueben Tozman said we must start by thinking about business in the same terms as our customers … and then define data models that tie behaviour, processes and learning activities to bottom line results. Based on those models, we can create data-driven-learning initiatives that can truly assess the situation and improve it. Too much of what we do in L+D (particularly training) is either unmeasurable or unmeasured. At the best, we can only say how people reacted to a training, but we cannot say that performance issue “X” is due to reasons “A”, “B” or “C” or that “A”, “B” or “C” can be resolved by specific (and effectively measured) learning initiatives “1”, “2” or “3”. While the rest of the business reports on almost everything, learning stumbles along on hope and faith.

To help us out, things are changing in the world of learning measurements. The traditional LMS and its “who followed what training” statistics will be replaced with advanced learning record systems, using experiential APIs like Tin Can, that could link pretty much any learning or performance activity to a data model that provides real insight to the learning profession.

And so my first conclusion is as follows: Know what makes the business run, be open to something new and be able to design data-driven learning experiments to assess effectiveness and really improve performance.


When it comes to creating something new, think “engagement”

Technology conferences tend to focus on new approaches to learning; TK14 was no exception. Starting with quite basic “enhancement strategies and tools” like QR codes for training, video learning initiatives and social media for formal learning and moving past transmedia storytelling to more granular MOOC-based learning strategies or attempts to gamify the learning experience, the thin red line of it all was “engagement”.

Amy Jo Martin kicked-off TK14 day 2 with a message about engagement and sentiment: “What connects people to you is not what you do, but why you do it”. * Extrapolating, I thought about why learners engage with other learners, materials or specific formal initiatives: They do it because they want to improve, to find solutions, to get good at something and because they “dig” it. In all our efforts to support this, we need to keep that basic engagement alive.

* This week, the London Learning Technologies Conference was opened by Brian Solis, known for his message about “the secret ingredient to engagement: empathy” and the importance of the user-experience.

Jane Bozarth and Mark Oehlert said that learning communities exist everywhere and our job is not to convince people of their value, but rather to convince them to see the value of “formalising” community activities at work using specific platforms (like Yammer or LinkedIn) and more open sharing or learning narration. If we start small, think big and move fast (Oehlert – video) with community activities, we can create a river of information flow that has real value for the organisation.

What really stood out for me (and kept me awake at night!) was the unique and numerous possibilities of mobile, as outlined by Chad Udell. Coming to Vegas as a mobile learning cynic, I was thinking only of more boring e-learning delivered on small screens. Leaving, I am convinced that since more-and-more people love to play with their phones and phones can do more-and-more things, there are real opportunities to engage and create learning effectiveness. Bring on the mobile revolution!

What did I miss at TK14 on “engagement”? Augmented Reality. I am running my own experiments with Aurasma for training, orientation exercises and onboarding experiences and I know that David Kelly shared his experience with Google Glass at LT14uk. I am sure that in the future such tools will allow us to shorten the distance between the learner’s own reality and more layers of knowledge, skills and future enhanced performance. Fingers crossed for ASTD ICE 2014 in May…

Either way, my second conclusion is simple? Let’s find better ways to make the learning experience awesome, natural and effective.


Experimenting and engaging – that is the message for me from ASTD TK14.


See you next time!




Online Community Management Tips and Best Practices

This post delivers advice, references and best practices for the major steps of online community management: Objective setting, branding, workload, user-types, engagement strategy and measuring success.


For the purposes of this post, the definition of “online community” is “a virtual community that allows members to communicate and share in various ways via an online platform.” If that’s what you are interested in, read on…


Define the objective/s of your online community

Before you start working on your own community, consider:

  • What is the general sense of your community? What is it designed to achieve? Define a general purpose. For example: “Sharing best practices around project management” or “a one-stop shop for all managers to get references and support for their activities”.
  • According to the Socious post “How to Set Online Community Goals“, online metrics are business metrics. Your online community goals should reflect the greater purpose of what you are trying to achieve with your business. Generic community goals include “learning”, “sharing”, “creating involvement”, “brand loyalty”…
  • What are the specific goals for your community? How will you know you are being successful? Create SMART goals.
  • There are plenty of free-to-download resources like this one that will help you to well define your goals.


How you are going to brand and “sell” your online community?

A brand is defined as “an idea or image of a specific product or service that consumers connect with”. To create a connection between the goals of your online community and the people who are using it, you have to “think brand”.


Don’t underestimate the work of the community manager

According to experienced community managers @rhappe and @jimstorer, simply building an online community will not ensure success. There are “8 habits of highly effective community managers” and these must be continually accounted for in order to get results:

  1. Get obsessed with knowing your audience
  2. Create a sharing culture
  3. Constantly maintain relationships (with the right people)
  4. Dedicate resources to the community
  5. Talk about and integrate your community elsewhere
  6. Leave room for members to participate how they want to
  7. Seek out balance between “value” and “engagement”
  8. Constantly measure, evaluate and re-position


Understand different user types and build relationships with the right people

It is important to know some things about how people interact on communities and define well the different roles of your own community. Not everyone uses online communities in the same way.

  • Engage the other 100 with the golden triangle (read lower), conversation, reward, gamification and lots of love. They are providing the meal for the other 300!


8 things to do when starting your online community

If you are starting up with a community, consider the following actions:


Actively encourage participation in your community

If your community is already active, use the following strategies to encourage participation:

  • Remember the golden triangle of networking: Ask, give and thank. (The following 4 points give more detail…)
  • Ask questions to solicit information. Good context-driven open questions are likely to work best and if you give an opinion in your questionm this already gives people something to “reply” to.
  • Make requests from the community. Ask for support and resources? (“Who has an idea on…?” and “Can anyone help with ….?”)
  • Share things yourself. (Do as you would be done by!)
  • “Like” and “rate” things that people add. One study on “The Role of Status Seeking in Online Communities” says that informational gift giving is strongly driven by status and status-seeking. When people share and give advice, they look for recognition. They like to know that what they have added has been seen. A little bit of “like” goes a long long way..
  • Plan time in to your work week for community management activities. Remember that online community and social media management takes time. Failure to invest time= failure to achieve.
  • As @ifdyperez says in the “7 Point Community Manager’s Checklist” you must keep up with the trends. Make sure you know what is going on in and around your community. Perhaps its not relevant today, but it may be relevant tomorrow…
  • Continually cross-fertilise across other platforms and communications. Blog-posts, new updates, FAQs and other community content are great for those who are already looking at your online community. But those who are not yet present on your platform must be encouraged to go there. Find them where they are now and push traffic to your online community. Tweet. Share on Facebook. Send an email. Sow the seeds…
  • Remember that the information flow keeps flowing. If the half-life of a tweet is only 4 minutes, it is because there are so many twitterers and so many tweets. When I visit a successful community page on Yammer, I find the latest news or flow of updates. If people are regularly adding things, then whatever was posted a day ago has already disappeared down the list. So remember this: If it is worth sharing once, it is worth sharing again.
  • Contextualise information. Your members are present because they see added-value with regard to their own situation. Whatever you share must make sense to their situation. Think before you post. Remember the “only 3 questions that count” and add user-relevant context to your post so that people can immediately see how it relates to their own situation, needs and goals. Get more information on this idea in this post from Harold Jarche on “Sense-making with PKM”.
  • Moderate conversations actively. If people are going off topic, tell them. If people don’t reference an article well, ask them where they got their information from.
  • Don’t over-control activity, but don’t be afraid to tell people when things are going wrong. Leave people freedom, but don’t forget that its your job as community manager to keep things working well.


Measure the success of your online community

According to the Blue Kiwi Software Company, everyone knows what a successful community looks like: Active members share things that encourage other members to come back and get more active and there is a shared sense of purpose and longevity of activity.

If you want to keep your community relevant, useful and motivating, you must regularly measure how things are going… ..and adapt accordingly:

  • Don’t forget your goals (see above)
  • In a previous post of mine, I talked about the importance of traffic, relevance and continuity in social media activity
  • Blue Kiwi says measuring online community success is done in 5 ways: Views, new contributions, reactions, sharing and “value”
  • If you need help to measure these things, ask the community developer (or your IT department) – they can surely help


If you are already managing an online community, take a moment to review how you feel about all the above topics. Are you comfortable? What works? What doesn’t work? Where do you need help?

Maybe you can share a comment here?


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Good luck!


Community Management Training (French)

A short overview of the “community management” training programme I created for French speaking government organisation….


Objectif de la formation = « Savoir comment gérer efficacement une communauté afin de la faire vivre »

  • Une prise de conscience de temps, ressources, enjeux et « best practices »


Une offre de formation créée sur mesure et focalisée sur vos besoins

Les participants ont besoin de conseils d’un expert et attendent une formation « classique ». Cette offre propose une expertise externe sur le sujet, tout en prenant conscience de vos besoins réels, ainsi que la situation de chaque participant. Pour cette raison, la formation est un mélange de théorie, discussions et exercices dans le cadre d’un « strategic training workshop ».

Avant la formation

  • Les participants seront invités à compléter un questionnaire via . Cette démarche a pour but de connaître leurs propres perceptions sur la situation existante (ce qu’ils trouvent facile, difficile..), ainsi que de rassembler d’autres informations supplémentaires (quelle communauté, quels utilisateurs…)
  • Chaque participant est invité à étudier à l’avance deux ou trois courtes références sur le sujet, afin de pouvoir profiter au maximum du temps « en classe »
  • Le formateur se présente et explique en quelques mots le contenu et l’approche de formation via vidéo (YouTube)
  • Les participants sont invités à compléter une étude évaluative du succès de différentes communautés et à partager les résultats avec DAN STEER

Pendant la formation

Approche = workshop « stratégique »

Après leur formation, les participants doivent bien agir pour bien gérer leurs propres communautés. Etant donné leurs différents objectifs ainsi que leurs situations existantes, il sera important d’adopter une approche stratégique. Pour cette raison, la formation même suivra l’ordre nécessaire pour créer de la stratégie, en 4 parties :

  1. Définition de l’objectif des participants / communautés
  2. Définition de la situation existante en comparaison avec l’objectif en prenant compte des différentes possibilités d’une communauté «online »
  3. Recherches des opportunités et actions prioritaires à mettre en place afin d’attendre l’objectif
  4. Création d’un plan d’action

Ceci n’est en aucun sens un coaching de groupe. Pendant chaque étape de la formation, le formateur offre son expertise, des conseils et les connaissances requises afin de savoir comment gérer efficacement une communauté pour la faire vivre. La discussion est néanmoins utilisée comme un outil pédagogique afin de partager les attitudes et stimuler de la motivation.

En suivant cet ordre, chaque participant partira avec un plan individuel à mettre en place.

Ce qui suit donne une idée à titre indicatif de différents sujets abordés lors de la formation. Les idées sont présentées dans l’ordre du workshop stratégique décrit ci-dessus.


Première partie = Définition de l’objectif

Théorie :

  • Que veut dire « communauté ?
  • Les objectifs « SMART »
  • La marque d’une communauté (« community branding »)
  • Le rôle du gestionnaire de la communauté
  • Les clés générales du succès

A définir / discuter :

  • Quel est le sens général de votre communauté ? Que voulez-vous pour les membres de votre communauté ?
  • Quels sont vos objectifs?


Deuxième partie = Définition de la situation existante

Théorie :

  • Quels sont les indicateurs d’une communauté « réussie » ? Quels sont les 3 points-clés à mesurer ?
  • Exemples des communautés réussies (et non réussies)
  • Le « chiffre de Dunbar » et ses utilisations
  • La « pyramide d’engagement » et les différents rôles dans une communauté
  • Votre audience, ses besoins, son comportement et ses habitudes

A définir / discuter :

  • Les résultats actuels de votre communauté
  • Votre situation actuelle en tant que gestionnaire de communauté : temps disponible, attitude…


Troisième partie = Recherches des opportunités et actions prioritaires

Théorie :

  • Comment motiver de l’activité et le triangle d’or d’une communauté
  • Création de trafic et « cross-pollination » sur différentes plateformes (on + offline)
  • Techniques de modération
  • Création et gestion de contenu on-line en fonction des besoins et des envies de différents profils/membres
  • Création et gestion d’évènements (on + offline)
  • Votre propre niveau d’activité
  • Les différents défis et comment les surmonter
  • Actions régulières à prendre

A définir / discuter :

  • Choix d’options à implémenter
  • Quelles fonctions utiliser dans votre propre outil


Dernière partie = Création d’un plan d’action

Pendant cette partie de la formation, chaque participant est invité à décider formellement ce qu’il va faire, comment et quand. Ces promesses pour « aujourd’hui », le court et long terme sont documentés afin de former la base d’une évaluation concrète de la réaction, de l’apprentissage, de l’activité et des résultats des participants.

Après la formation

L’apprentissage ne se termine pas à la fin de la formation.

Après la formation, un email est envoyé à chaque participant avec des références et ressources liées au contenu discuté.

Pendant les semaines qui suivent la formation, les participants sont invités à :

  • Evaluer la formation en termes de leurs propres réactions et le contenu fourni – ceci est fait via
  • Partager :
    • .. leurs propres réactions via un groupe fermé LinkedIn ou sur le site *
    • .. des exemples d’actions prises ainsi que leurs résultats.

* un exemple d’un « mur » de ce site peut être trouvé ici :

Sur base des réactions des participants, les actions prises et les résultats obtenus après la formation, DAN STEER reste ouvert à la possibilité de faciliter un coaching de groupe plus ou moins 3 à 6 mois plus tard.



If you are already managing a community, think about how you feel about all the above topics. Are you comfortable? What works? What doesn’t work? Where do you need help?


Good luck!

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Emma Williamson talks “Online Community Management”

Many companies are getting on the social media train, thinking about how different online platforms can help to create better internal and external collaboration, branding, knowledge sharing etc… In the social hype, mistakes are made and lessons learnt. Sometimes it helps to have a little help…


For this post, I interviewed Social Media Strategist and Community Manager Emma Williamson for her thoughts on how to manage an online community. Emma has spent the last few years helping to build one of the UKs most successful online “parenting-community” platforms. She is now working with the one of the UK’s fastest growing IT companies to help create a meaningful social-media presence. You can find Emma’s full bio at the end of the post…


What got you SO interested in social media, Emma?
I became interested in social media when on maternity leave with my first child. I joined a well known UK baby forum and got involved with moderating comments on the site. As a result of my experience in this area I was approached by to join the team and be responsible for managing the online community. As luck would have it, they also wanted some help with their social media so I threw myself in to learning on the job and built a successful brand across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (achieving YouTube partner status).


When you talk about online communities, what do you mean by “community”?
A community in the online sense is any group of people brought together on a social platform by a common interest or goal, be it related to parenting, politics, music, sports or so on. A community will usually have it’s own set of rules and a hierarchy of membership. Whereas neighbours or friends may converse on the school run or in coffee shops, members of an online community interact through social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


What would you say are the keys to successful community management, online or not?
A successful online community is one that is inclusive and evolving. It is welcoming to new members, and supportive of old and new alike. It has a set of guidelines or rules which are adhered to by the community. It’s a place where people come together for something they can’t or don’t get in ‘real life’.


What advice would you give to new community managers to first get the ball rolling and then create real engagement of members?
New and old community managers alike shouldn’t be afraid to get stuck in and engage with their community members. Whilst of course it is important for managers to make sure the community is running smoothly, it is also important that they are seen as a PART of a community and not just the enforcers.

Most communities have a number of hot topics – new community managers should familiarise themselves with the popular and controversial topics of a forum or platform as internet law has it these topics will come up time and time again.

But most importantly, community managers should develop their own voice and personality. Yes they have to toe the party line, but members will respect that they have ideas and opinions of their own.


Last question: What problems have you encountered in your work as a community manager and how did you overcome them?

As a Community Manager I’ve been lucky to oversee largely harmonious online communities however from time to time I’ve had to quell the odd uprising or deal with a particularly nasty troll or faker. I’m always taken aback when something or someone seriously disrupts an online community but as time passes people forget the upset and normal service resumes. My advice in these situations is support your community members, deal with trouble makers discreetly and move on.


Emma Williamson is a Social Media Strategist and Community Manager.

Her social media experience includes three years and counting as the Community and Social Media Director for, the world’s first video based parenting website. She is also working with IT Supplier Kelway UK Ltd to develop and deliver a fully integrated social media strategy across five major platforms, including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Emma is currently building a website to support her social media consultancy, SoMeForYou.

Married with two kids (three if you count the husband) and based in Hove, Emma is a BA Hons English Literature graduate with a passion for cheese, sci-fi and Mulberry handbags – not necessarily in that order…