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The Many Roles of an Internal Community Manager

March 9, 2011

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When someone in the communications industry refers to a “community manager,” they are usually referring to someone that can manage the online relationships for a particular brand, using tools like Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. However, over the last few years, a new Community Manager role has emerged – the internal Community Manager, responsible for increasing and maintaining user adoption for social media tools behind the organizational firewall. With the growing ubiquity of Enterprise 2.0 software, vendors and clients alike have come to realize that these communities don’t just magically appear. Along with this realization has come greater demand for people to handle things like user adoption, marketing, and community management – we’re witnessing the rise of the internal community manager.

It's a living

The Internal Community Manager wears many hats

While these positions may sound like the perfect job for the social media evangelist in your organization – moderate forums, write blog posts, garden the wiki, give briefings about social media, develop user adoption strategies, answer user questions, monitor and analyze user activity – the internal community manager actually wears many other hats, some of which aren’t nearly as fun and exciting, and many of which aren’t going to be high on the wish list of potential candidates. Let’s take a look at the many hats of the internal community manager:

  • Referee – When someone posts a link to a political article and the conversation is starts to devolve into partisan name-calling and vitriol, guess who gets to be the one to steer the conversation back toward professionalism and healthy debate? Oh yeah, and you can’t use your admin privileges (the nuclear option) to just “lock” or delete the conversation either because then you’re not community manager, you’re big brother.
  • Ombudsman – When the community starts complaining about the speed, reliability, or accessibility of the platform, you need to be the one to bring up those concerns with the developers and push to get these issues fixed. If a new feature is riddled with bugs, you can’t just toe the company line and say it’s great – you have to be able to offer your honest, unbiased opinion. After all, you’re the advocate for the community, not a mouthpiece for the development team.
  • Party Promoter – Know that guy passing out flyers outside the club you walked past earlier today? Yeah, that’s going to be you. You’ll be handing out flyers, sending emails, giving briefings – anything you can do to get people to come by and check out your community.
  • Comedian You can’t take the ‘social’ out of social media. There has to be someone there who can show the rest of the community how to have a little fun, and the community manager has to be comfortable using humor in a professional environment (no, those are not mutually exclusive).
  • Teacher – Ever try to teach someone to change their golf swing after they’ve been doing it the same way for 20 years? Get ready for a lot more of that feeling. It’s very much like trying to teach someone to use a wiki for collaboration instead of using email. Get used to people copying and pasting the content off the wiki and into a Word document, turning on track changes, and then sending you the marked-up Word document for you to “take a look at” before uploading to the wiki.
  • Inspirational Leader – You will not have enough hours in the day to do everything you want. You cannot possibly garden the wiki, write your blog posts, moderate all of the forums, stay active on Yammer, run your metrics reports and do everything else a community manager is asked to do by yourself. You’re going to need to identify others in the community to help you, and oh by the way, you’ll need to get them to buy into your approach and do the work but you won’t have any actual authority and they’ll all have other jobs too.  Good luck!
  • Help Desk – When the WYSIWYG editor on the blogs isn’t working right, guess who the users are going to call? The answer isn’t the help(less) desk. It’s you. You’re going to receive emails, Yams, phone calls, and IMs from everyone asking for your help because you’re the person they see most often and using the platform. Who are they going to trust to get them an answer – the person they see using the platform every day or some faceless/nameless guy behind a distro list email?
  • Psychiatrist – When that executive starts a blog and no one reads it or comments on it, you have to be ready to go into full out touchy-feely mode and help reassure him/her, manage their expectations, give them some tips and tricks, and build their self-esteem back up so that they will continue being active. For someone who was able to live off their title for so long, getting out there and having to prove oneself with their content again can be a tricky proposition.
  • Troublemaker – Work conversations can get pretty boring – a community filled with blog posts about your revisions to the TPS reports aren’t exactly going to elicit a lot of conversation. You will have to be the one who can start start and manage difficult conversations with the community. Guess who gets the write the blog post criticizing the new expense reporting policy?
  • Cheerleader – When community members use the platform in the right way and/or contributes something really valuable, you need to be the first one to share it as far and wide as possible. You need to be the person putting that community member’s face on the front page and tell everyone else what he did and how others can be like him. You need to be the one cheering people on to give them the positive reinforcement they need.
  • Project Manager – These communities don’t build themselves. You’re going to be responsible for creating and delivering all kinds of reports, briefings, fact sheets, and metrics and you’re going to need a plan for how to meet those deadlines and still engage with the community itself.
  • Writer – Every community platform has some sort of front page along with some static “About this community” type of content. You need to be able to write that content in a way that’s professional yet informal enough that people will still read it.
  • Janitor – When you open up your local shared drive, you’re likely to see 47 different version of the same document, hopefully, with one of those containing a big FINAL in the filename. The old version are good to keep around just in case, but all they’re really doing is cluttering up the folder and making it difficult to find anything. The same thing happens in an online community. People post things in the wrong forums, they accidentally publish half-written blog posts, they upload documents without tagging them, etc. You get to go in and clean up these messes!

Wow – when you spell all out like that, maybe being an internal community manager isn’t such a great position after all. Seems like it’s a lot more difficult than simply blogging, managing user accounts, and coordinating change requests! Before you grab that one guy on your team who has some extra time on his hands and volunteer him for your new community management role, you might want to think about these other hats he’s going to have to wear and really ask yourself if Johnny, your social media intern, is really the right man for the job or if you should hire an experienced community manager.

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The Hierarchy of Needs for Social Media Evangelists

February 15, 2011

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What do you need from your job to succeed? Good salary? Short commute? Work/life balance? Everyone has their own dealbreakers and must-haves – what’s important to one person may not matter to another. These variables differ greatly from profession to profession too. I remember weighing  a competing job offer some time ago that offered a higher salary, but I was the only one they had a budget for – I would no longer be working as part of a team. That, for me, was a dealbreaker because one of the things that I like most about my current position is the fantastic people I work with everyday. Being a part of a team of intelligent, ambitious people I trust and respect has become one of my fundamental needs.

This got me thinking back to my Psychology 101 class and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. According to Maslow, an individual’s most fundamental needs (breathing, water, food, etc.) must be met first before they can begin focusing on other kinds of needs (friendship, self-esteem, etc.). I’m sure my old Psychology professor (thanks Dr. Hull!) would be happy to see that I think Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs also applies to my work, albeit in a modified way.

Here’s how I would imagine the Hierarchy of Needs for the Corporate Social Media Evangelist.

Social Media Hierarchy of Needs

The Social Media Hierarchy of Needs

Physical Needs
These are the most basic needs of the social media evangelist. A salary that is competitive with what other social media managers/directors/specialists are making, the ability to access sites like Twitter and Facebook, and the knowledge and skills to use social media effectively. Without any of these basic needs, I’d think it would be very difficult for any social media evangelist to truly succeed in their jobs.

Intrinsic Needs
Along with the Physical Needs above, intrinsic needs are things that an individual must feel. These needs can’t be met with more money or a corner office, but are met with an individual’s beliefs match up with an organization’s mission. These intrinsic needs include job satisfaction, a shared belief in the mission, and a passion for the work they do. There’s a reason you don’t hear about too many social media evangelists who hate their jobs – because if/when they reach that point, there’s a good chance they aren’t going to be around too much longer.

Empowerment Needs
After the Physical and Intrinsic needs are fulfilled, the social media evangelist looks to fill their need for empowerment and to effect change. Fulfilling these needs falls squarely on the shoulders of the managers. These needs include having the top cover to take risks without fear of punishment, having their voice heard, and permissive policies that give them the ability to rally others to do the same.

Motivational Needs
As an individual’s motivational needs are met, they are more likely to remain engaged with their work and put in extra effort wherever they can. Not because they want more money or a promotion, but because they are doing challenging work that is on par with their abilities; they feel as though they’re making a difference, and because they feel a profound sense of team where they want to succeed not just for themselves, but for the others around them.

Career Goals
Maslow refers to his final need as the need for self-actualization, stating that “what a man can be, he must be.” Similarly, I have Career Goals at top of my pyramid. Do you have the ability to become all that you can be at your current organization? Is there a clear career path? Is there an end in sight that allows you to reach your full potential or is that not possible in your current organization? Being able to clearly articulate your path to answer these questions and achieve your own career goals is the last phase.

Based on my experiences, this is how I would envision a social media hierarchy of needs, but I’m more interested in hearing your thoughts – what other needs are there? Where would they go on the pyramid?

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Drive for Show, Putt for Dough – a Lesson for Enterprise 2.0 Platforms

January 30, 2011

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Stop worrying about hitting the big drive and concentrate on the fundamentals

Ever hear the phrase “Drive for Show, Putt for Dough?”  It’s  time-honored sports cliche that refers to the oohs and ahhs that a huge golf drive off the tee will elicit from the crowd. However, despite all the attention a big drive gets and hundreds of dollars a good driver costs, that shot is used maybe 12 times each round. The real money is made on the green where an average player will take almost 3 times as many strokes. You can make all the highlight reels you want with your 350 yard drives, but if you can’t make a 10 foot putt consistently, you’ll be in the same place I am on Sunday….on the couch watching someone else who CAN make those putts.

I bring this up because I’ve seen one too many Enterprise 2.0 implementation – be it a wiki, a blogging platform, discussion forums, microblogging, or Sharepoint – fail miserably because they forgot to focus on the fundamentals.  They end up being too concerned with the big drive off the tee that they forget to practice the short putts that are needed to truly succeed. Nearly every Enterprise 2.0 vendor out there offers a similar set of features – blogging, microblogging, wiki functionality, profiles, tagging, search, etc. – they all hype up the fact that THEIR platform is the one that can do X or can do Y, that they have this one unique feature that puts them out in front of the competition. Likewise, once these platforms are purchased and installed, the client teams responsible for customization and integration get enamored with all of these features as well. I’ve seen way too many internal launch emails that sound something like this:

“Visit our new website, the one-stop shop for all your collaboration needs. This new website offers all of the Web 2.0 functionality that you have on the Internet, here in a safe, secure, professional environment – blogs to share your expertise, a wiki that anyone can edit, profiles so that you can connect with your colleagues!”

Seeing all this empty promotional language makes me think of my friend who absolutely crushes the ball of the tee. After another monster shot from the fairway, he’s now gone 524 yards in two shots and the crowd is loving it. He then proceeds to take three putts to go the final 10 yards because he spent all of his money on a new driver and practice time on perfecting the big drive.

Unfortunately, Enterprise 2.0 implementations are suffering from this same, all too common problem.

Day 1: After being enticed by the blogs, the wikis, the microblogging, and the rest of the features, you visit the site, you poke around a little bit – so far so good.  Everything looks great.  The design is eye-catching, there’s a lot of great content up already, some of my peers have friended me, and I already found a blog post relevant to my job. This is the best site ever! Enterprise 2.0 FTW!

Day 2: I visit the site again and invite a few of my managers to join as well…well, I tried to invite them to join, but the invite a friend button wasn’t quite working. That’s ok – I’ll try again tomorrow – must be a bug.  I can’t wait to get them using all of these cool tools too!

Day 3: Well, that invite-a-friend bug still isn’t fixed, but everything else is going pretty smoothly…other than the fact that the blogs don’t seem to work in Firefox. I guess I’ll have to use Internet Explorer for those, but that’s ok.

Day 7:  I’ve got a big meeting today with the new VP at this conference we’re both attending – I’ll demo all these new social media tools for him and show him how he can start a blog too!

Day 7 (later on): Damnit! I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t be able to access the site unless I was behind the firewall in one our corporate offices 🙁

Day 14: On my way to a meeting, I was checking out my co-worker’s Facebook page on my iPhone when I saw his latest status update – “OMG – I can’t believe that someone said that about our new HR policy on our corporate blog!!” Intrigued by what was said on the new blog, I try to navigate to our blogs…foiled again!!!  No mobile support….I guess I’ll check it later tonight.

Day 17: Working late on a report again – luckily, I’ve been posting all of my findings to our new wiki so that when I leave for my vacation tomorrow, everyone will have easy access to the latest and greatest data.

Day 18: Disappointed to receive an email on my way to the airport that our Enterprise 2.0 site is down for maintenance for the rest of the day, rendering all of my data unusable to the rest of my team. They can’t wait a day for the wiki to come back up so it looks like they’ll be working extra hard to recreate everything I did last night.

Day 19: &*%$ I’m DONE!!!  Why is this thing so slow?  What does Facebook have 500 million users yet is always up?  Why can I download a movie from iTunes in 3 minutes, but it takes me 25 minutes to download a Powerpoint presentation?  Why can I read Deadspin from my phone no matter where I’m at in world, but can’t access the blog I’m supposed to be using for work?

Sound familiar to anyone? This is what happens when Enterprise 2.0 is too focused on the teeshot, and not enough on the fundamentals of the rest of the game. Features galore that will get people ooohhing and aahhhing, but lacking the fundamentals of speed, accessibility, and reliability that will keep people coming back. If you’re talking about implementing an Enterprise 2.0 platform, before you start talking about all of the bells and whistles you want, make sure that you take care of three very fundamental issues.

Make it Fast – People have to expect anything online to be fast. If I click something, it should take me there immediately. There are no exceptions. Load times for simple html pages (we’ll give multimedia an exception here) should be almost non-existent. I don’t care if I’m behind a corporate firewall or not – if it takes 4-5 seconds to load a page, that’s going to severely limit how often I can use it. If my bank’s site can be secure and fast, why can’t my Intranet sites?

Make it Accessible – Laptops, desktops, iPads, iPhones, Android devices, my old school flip phone, hell, even my TV all allow me to get online now.  I can access Pandora, Facebook, Twitter, and a whole host of other sites from a dozen different devices while on the subway, in my house, in a rain forest, or in my office.  But, you’re telling me that I can only access my work from one kind of computer that’s located in one place? Doesn’t seem to make much sense.

Make it Reliable – There shouldn’t be a fail-whale on your internal work systems. If I need to access some information to do my job – be it a blog post, a wiki page, or a file – I need to be able to access it, with 100% certainty.  If I need access to some data for an important meeting, and I can’t access it because our site is “down for maintenance” or it was accidentally deleted in some sort of data migration error, that’s a serious breach of trust that is going to make me question whether I should be using the site at all.

Concentrate on perfecting the fundamentals before you start getting into the fancy stuff – practice your putting before your driving, learn to dribble with both hands before entering a dunk contest, practice catching the ball before you choreograph your touchdown dance, and make the wiki work in Firefox before you start working on some drag and drop home page modules.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Stev.ie

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Dear IT Guy, Can You Actually Use the Tool You’re Creating?

August 27, 2010

34 Comments

Do the top developers for Google’s Android operating system use Blackberries?  Do the IT guys developing Windows 7 use Macs?  Do the folks at WordPress use Blogger to host their personal blogs?

These are purposely ridiculous questions – wouldn’t the best developers use the actual tools they’re responsible for building?  Wouldn’t they do their job more effectively if they were actually a user of the product they’re developing? Doesn’t the product have more credibility if the people behind it are believers in the product’s features?  Out of everyone, shouldn’t the development team, at least, be the biggest advocates of the very software they’re implementing?  Shouldn’t they be the ones drinking the Kool-Aid?

Unfortunately, IT departments at large companies and government agencies are too often doing the equivalent of developing Android apps at work and using the iPhone at home. Sharepoint developers implement Sharepoint, yet they don’t use it to manage the implementation. The guys installing your organization’s blogging software don’t realize that the “Add a Picture” button doesn’t work because they don’t have blogs.  The team responsible for increasing awareness of your Enterprise 2.0 platform haven’t even created profiles of themselves.

Now, take a look at the official support areas for WordPress, Telligent, MindTouch, Jive or any of the dozens of social software vendor sites.  Notice anything? The developers are often the most active members of their respective communities and they’re using their own software day after day in the course of doing their jobs. If there’s a glitch involved with posting a new comment to a forum, they’re going to be the first ones to see it, diagnose the problem and fix it.

Sadly, I’ve been seeing these situations increase with the emergence of the Enterprise 2.0 and Government 2.0 initiatives. IT departments are increasingly being asked to implement wikis, blogs, social bookmarking, video-sharing, and dozens of other varieties of collaboration software – software they may know how to code, but often have no idea how to actually use.  They’re just told to “give us a wiki” or “develop a blog for me.”  Actually using the blog or wiki isn’t a requirement.  As as I was told by one programmer a year or so ago when I recommended he start a blog to inform the rest of the community about the latest enhancements and maintenance activities,

“Every hour I spend playing around on a blog post is an hour I spend away from coding!”

Well, that was helpful – thanks! Instead of getting frustrated and ending the conversation, I should have instead elaborated on the benefits that a developer enjoys when he becomes a user instead of just a developer.

  • Higher quality product – you can identify bugs and feature improvements before they become problems for other users.
  • Increased credibility – If, as a user,  I ask how to upload my photo, guess whose response I’m going to be believe – the guy with an empty profile or the guy who’s been active on the community for the last year?
  • Increased “forgive-ability” – Look, we know that these sites will go down occasionally, especially when they’re first being developed.  We can deal with that…if we’ve been reading your blog and know that it’s down this Saturday night because you’re installing the new widget we’ve been asking for. If the site goes down and all we get is a 404 error page stating that the site is down for maintenance…again, we’re going to be less than pleased.
  • Content Seeding – Clients are always asking,  “how are we going to get people to actually work on this site and add content?”  Well, before you even launch, if your project team (including developers, community managers, comms people, etc.) actually use the site you’re building, you’ll create a solid base of content before you even start to open it up to more people.  Adding to existing content (even if it’s not related) is always easier than creating something new.
  • Common Ground – you become a member of the community instead of the guy behind the curtain making changes willy-nilly. You gain trust and respect because they know that you’re dealing with the same issues they are.  You’re struggling to access the site on your phone too.  You’re not getting the alerts you signed up for either.  You’re not able to embed videos correctly.  You go through what they go through.
  • Greater ownership in the final product – The community becomes YOUR community, not something you’re just developing for a bunch of “users.”  You become invested in it and want to make it faster, add new features, win awards, etc. because you’re a part of it.

For all you non-developers out there, would you like your IT staff to be more visible?  Would you be interested in learning more about what’s happening under the hood of your Intranet/Enterprise 2.0 platform?  What other benefits do you see to getting them more involved?

For you developers, what’s preventing you from getting this involved in the communities/platforms that you’re responsible for creating?

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