Tag Archives: SWOT
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”.
- Why would users come to your online community? Can you answer the only 3 questions that count?
- Answer these 12 questions to define your brand
- Consider a creative brainstorming session with the owners or sponsors of the community
- Think about the different brand elements outlined here
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:
- Get obsessed with knowing your audience
- Create a sharing culture
- Constantly maintain relationships (with the right people)
- Dedicate resources to the community
- Talk about and integrate your community elsewhere
- Leave room for members to participate how they want to
- Seek out balance between “value” and “engagement”
- 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.
- According to @charleneli there are different levels of user engagement in an online community. If you have 400 people subscribed on your community, you can expect to see nothing more than “watching” from about 300 of them.
- 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:
- Do a SWOT analysis of the current “pre-community” situation. This will help you to identify priorities for your start-up. Use my favourite SWOT questions and consider my “10 ideas to do SWOT well“.
- Have a look for LinkedIn groups on “Online Community Management” like this one: “Online Community Management Best Practices”
- Follow a training course like the ones from FeverBee
- Speak with potential users and find out what they need and expect from the community
- Look at the different functional possibilities of your tool and map them to the needs of your audience
- Identify potential early adopters and encourage them to get involved. In any change process, there are different types of people you might meet: Idea-creators, early-adopters, followers and settlers. Identify the people who like to try new things and start with them.
- Create a pitch to show the benefits of your community
- Communicate the existence of your online community via other platforms (cross-fertilisation)
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?
Or subscribe to my blog for future updates.
Schizophrenic decision making
When it comes to making well-rounded business decisions, a little bit of schizophrenia goes a long way. If you work on your own or need to make decisions on your own, schizophrenic considerations might make things a little easier ..and possibly more effective.
This morning, I have been faced with a lot of planning decisions. There I was, lost in my agenda, trying to decide how to use the limited time available in the year ahead. As I went through my planning, I was automatically making choices based on one unique variable: “Revenue”. Fortunately for me, my wife caught me at it and asked: “What are you doing? Are you only playing ‘Chief Financial Officer’ today?”
Working by myself. I am in fact responsible for all roles, decisions and types of work: HR, finance, business development, sales, innovation… If I get stuck in one of them, it is always to the detriment of another.
If I were working in a company, there would be a management board to make decisions; if I was on a project team, we might decide together. Everyone would come with their own “2 cents”, defending their own territory and striving to achieve their own goals. If the team is good, the company or project does well.
Why not use the same principles for your own work? Or if you work alone, like me, for your own company?
When faced with a decision to make, first list all the different points-of-view (or thinking hats) from which you might see things.
Today, I have decided to approach planning from the following points of view:
- “Financial” – Which choices will maximise my revenue for 2013?
- “HR” – What will develop my strengths and talents as a worker?
- “Business Development” – What will help me find and develop new clients, products and services?
- “Employee Satisfaction” – What will make me uber-happy in my job?
- “Customer Service” – What will give my existing customers the best experience?
- “Family” – What will get me home more, picking up the kids from school?
For each of those points-of-view, do your usual contemplative behaviour or try some of these techniques:
- List your positive and negative reactions to the options
- List potential outcomes of the options you are contemplating
- Take a walk
- Use some kind of numbering scale to rate options
- Phone a friend, ask Twitter or consult a group LinkedIn
- Research on the Internet
- Try one of these “30 Ideas on How to Make A Difficult Decision” from @TinyBuddha
How you actually choose will not be changed doing all of the above. But your decision will be more informed and more rounded. More schizophrenic. And the potential outcome may be quite different to just doing “more of the same”. Try it. See what happens.
Want some more ideas?
- See my post on “10 Ideas to Make The Best of SWOT Analysis”
- See my post on “How to Make (Group) Decisions”
- Follow me on Twitter
Thanks for reading
Feel free to leave a comment!
6 more cool SWOT questions to identify opportunities
I’ve already written 2 posts about SWOT questions and SWOT process. Read them first. This post delivers a few more cool questions for discovering opportunities. I heard these at the Innovation Cocktails meeting organised by @karpusj last year in Brussels….
4 commercial questions
2 other questions for any process
Voila! Simple, to the point…
4 quick sure ways to screw up strategic thinking + action
If you want more ideas on creating strategic action, read my other blog post.
This is about how to get it wrong!
4 simple ideas to keep in mind….
Not taking time to think things through
When I ask people how I should best get ready for an IronMan, they always reply “Train”. But in my working schedule, I don’t have time and if I DID train, it would surely lead to divorce and that would make every even harder (for the IronMan) …as well as decidely less nice.
I know training is not the answer here because I’ve done my SWOT and I have been thinking about my position. I am tackling first-things-first (liberating time by improving business …. THEN training)
Stubbornly sticking to the plan or just never reassessing your position
Strategic thinking is not something that happens once a year. By definition, it is about linking your current position to a mission. Since your current position is ever-changing, this means that strategic thinking and action must be a dynamic process, rather than just setting a bunch of rules to apply in any situation in the coming 1,2,3 years.
Not thinking things through before acting
I see a lot of great promises made in training rooms by people about how they are going to tackle leadership and teamwork situations. On paper it looks really good.
Then I give them a task to work on. As soon as I do, everyone forgets what they said about “taking the time to assess position” and “assigning roles based on competences” and “creatively looking for new resources”. They just start doing stuff. One of the biggest tips for strategic action I can think of simply to SLOW DOWN.
Not seeing and seizing opportunities when they are there
One of the by-products of not slowing down is that you don’t tend to see things for what they are. The more quickly we treat our situation-assessment, the more likely we are to just filter all the new information through our existing ego-filters and come to the same conclusions as usual. To be really strategic, its important to look at things from different angles and be open-minded. In this way, we are likely to see a lot more opportunities.
Follow me on Twitter
Leave a comment
Creating Strategic Action in 4 Steps
This blog post has been written as support for homework for participants from my training on “Creating Influence”.
…but the exercise described below is an excellent approach to defining strategic action for any mission you may undertake.
First, let’s describe “strategic action”
How is strategic action different to normal action? It considers one’s current position in close relationship to the mission. In this way, strategic action is focussed on high level priority-driven steps that are more likely to get us to where we want to be.
Example: Suppose I want to complete an IronMan race. I might be inclined to imagine that swim-training is the best action to undertake. But if I first do a good strategic positioning exercise, I might realise that my priority is in fact to first develop my business offer in order to earn more more so that I can liberate more time for training. If I don’t do this, I will have to a) squeeze in training in an already busy schedule and b) end up paying divorce costs due to marital negligence 🙂
Ready to think strategic??
STEP 1: Start by defining your mission
There is no sense in doing a positioning exercise if you don’t know what you are trying to achieve.
Example: If I ask you if I am strong, depending on what objective you imagine me working on, you may come up with completely different answers…
When defining your mission, be sure to use quality goals. Read my other blog post on PERSONAL goal-setting for some starter ideas..
STEP 2: …then assess your current position
One of my favourite tools for doing this remains the SWOT analysis. A good SWOT will give you ideas on recurring themes for improvement. Note: I said a GOOD SWOT !
- Read here for some of my favourite SWOT questions
- …and here for some tips on how to be complete in your general approach to SWOT
Another tool I really like regarding personal influence is the network influence-grid proposed by Jo Owen in his book “How to Influence“. He suggests that for all the people in your network, you need to assess them in terms of whether or not you have a good relationship with them and whether or not they have power (to help you in your mission). A network influence-grid therefore has 4 quadrants…
When the people you know are mapped out in their relevant quadrants, you will better focus on people who are realy useful (top-right) or think about how to better leverage the existing relationships you have to get what you need.
STEP 3: Now, look for priority areas for action
I find that if I have done a good job of assessing my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, when I look at the results there are recurring and linking themes. These are the things to work on. Don’t worry about action yet, just look at which things seem to come back and back.
For example, in my last SWOT exercise I saw that:
- My network was very complete
- …but that I wasn’t using it well enough
- I have great references for training work
- …but never ask for referrals
- There was an opportunity to better develop my own client base
An obvious priority strategic action: Leverage own network.
STEP 4: When your priorities are clear, plan baby steps
I am finally reading “Getting Things Done” by David Allen right now. One of my clients said it was a great book, but I thought: What else could there be to learn about priority management? In the first 10 pages I had my answer:
Turn unmanageable TO-DO lists into “next concrete action” (baby-steps) lists.
In the scope of our exercise, this means asking 2 questions for each of the priority strategic actions noted previously:
- What would be an ACCEPTABLE outcome?
- What is the NEXT CONCRETE ACTION you need to take?
If you’ve followed the 4 steps ahead, you should have some good ideas to get moving with.
Thanks for reading 🙂
Please leave a comment
…or visit www.infinitelearning.be
Leadership resources from a recent Kluwer training
Having just completed delivery of a 4-day Leadership Training with @KluwerOpleiding (thanks @MiekWouters for the chance to have a small group :-)) I thought I’d share the email stream that built up from me to participants over the 4-days. Loads of references here…
References DAY 1
- Here you can find a list of leadership competences outlined by previous trainees
- Check out the film from Al Gore’s ex-speech writer Dan Pink on the DRIVE wall
- To see a list of ideas from previous trainees on how to bring FLOW into the organisation, click here and click here to see all their references from the FLOW wall
- If you would like to read my thoughts on P.E.R.S.O.N.A.L goal-setting, check this link
- See what google’s VP for HR says about people management skills
- Remember ROWE?
- For book references, check www.shelfari.com/dansteer/shelf
- 7 Habits
Homework / Preparation DAY 2
- Do the exercise found on this web-page
- Have a look at this webpage (wall) http://www.wallwisher.com/wall/leadership-drive – please add something of your own – a reference, link, comment or idea about DRIVE
- Fix 1 SMART objective concerning your development as a leader
References from DAY 2
- Get some more information here about Albert Mehrabian who told us about words, intonation and everything else
- The problem with 1-way communication
- …and 3 tips if you are obliged to do things 1-way
- I told you that you would care about why I see Citroen Xsara Picasso’s everywhere…. read here to see why
- I found this link for some information on seating politics and room dynamics – I’ll let you judge the quality of info…
- For more information about Sun Tzu follow this link. To read “The Art of War”, follow this link – position is the key to strategy!
- Check out Charlene Li’s book “Open Leadership” which discusses the key issue of giving up control when allowing people more freedom
Homework in preparation for DAY 3
- Think of a problem you have (professional or personal). This will be used in day 3. You will be asked to state your problem and ask for help…
- Think of a difficult communication situation or difficult person you have had to deal with (personal or professional)
Here are the references from training DAY 3
- “Coaching for Performance” by Sir John Whitmore for more info on how and why to use the GROW model
- Check out my blog-post of my favourite SWOT questions (used during reality/options assessment of GROW) and tips on how to use SWOT
- 10 things you can learn from David Brent about performance evaluations
- 2 additional references about performance evaluations
- Meritocratic performance management systems: A short article on how some people feel about it
- Another idea on performance evaluation process: APOP (Annual Piece of Paper)
- Here you can find some info on PAC ego-states
- Book references can always be found on http://www.shelfari.com/dansteer/shelf
- Coaching for Performance
- TA Today
Homework in preparation for DAY 4
- Prepare a 1 minute presentation of yourself – anything is fine, we just need some data to use for a feedback exercise, so no stress!
- Please think about additional topics to cover in group coaching session in the afternoon of Day 4
References DAY 4
- Here you can get a lot more information about Jef Staes and Red-Monkeys
- Read this blog page for notes on what leaders can do to bring change to the organisation
- Read what Dummies has to say about giving feedback
- Read about logical levels – interesting to use in coaching..?
Hope this was interesting
Leave a comment!
My 21 favourite good SWOT questions
The first step to doing SWOT well is asking good questions. Don’t know what questions to ask? Read this post.
SWOT is a great and simple tool for analysing your current position in order to define strategic action. In this post, I first outline the meaning of strategic action and then list 21 of my favourite SWOT questions to help you with your own SWOT analysis.
Creating strategic action starts with knowing your position
According to Sun Tzu, the Chinese military general who penned “The Art of War”, understanding your current position is the key to creating good strategy. According to Stephen R Covey in “The 7 habits of highly effective people”, if you don’t begin with the end in mind (define a clear mission) it is not possible to understand your current position and therefore not possible to put first things first and create strategic action and priority-based action. Linking these ideas to the usage of SWOT, we can say that you cannot know your strengths (for example) unless they are measured in relationship to some goal, mission or objective. When asking “How strong am I?” we must first ask “For what?”
So – if you want to use the following SWOT questions to analyse your position, start by defining your mission well. If you’ve already done that, read on and answer each of these questions, thinking of your mission statement at each moment…
- What makes you better than others (for this mission)?
- What actions do you do well?
- What are your competences? What knowledge, skills and attitude do you have that can help you?
- What do other people say you do well?
- Why should you of all people undertake this mission?
- What could you improve in order to achieve this mission?
- In what ways are you not efficient?
- What don’t you do well?
- Where are you incompetent? What knowledge, skills and attitude are you missing?
- What should you avoid doing?
- Why shouldn’t you undertake this mission?
- What real opportunities are present today?
- What is going on around you that seems to be useful?
- From which recurring tendencies can you profit and how?
- What could be done today that isn’t being done?
- What is missing on the market?
- Who can support you and how?
- What are the negative tendencies in play today?
- What obstacles do you face in your mission right now?
- Who might cause you problems in the future and how?
- What is the competition doing that might cause difficulties for you?
Not enough? Read my other post: 6 more cool SWOT questions to identify opportunities
When I do a SWOT, I like to take a little time alone to get started, but then try nonetheless to include others later on (my wife, peers, a team I am working with). Here are 2 more references to help you do a great SWOT:
- Remember the Johari window: Other people may have insights on you and your environment that you don’t.
- 10 ideas to make the best of SWOT analysis
Once the initial SWOT is done, it’s time to start thinking about actions, solutions, priorities etc…
..want a simple idea? Check out my post on “2 questions that seem to set me free” or read about “Creating Strategic Action in 4 Steps”
Follow me on www.twitter.com/dan_steer for more learning and development resources.
Subscribe to this blog on with your email address (top/right)
Share with others!