Tag Archives: community management

If You Want a Culture of Collaboration, You Need to Accept the LOLCats Too

January 5, 2012

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"Even with the sacred printing press, we got erotic novels 150 years before we got scientific journals."

- Clay Shirky at TED Cannes in June 2010

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite people in the business, Clay Shirky. I particularly like it because it illustrates the period many organizations find themselves in when trying to integrate social media internally.  Before wikis were used by the Intelligence Community to develop reports on IEDs, people were creating user badges to show off their favorite NFL teams. Before my own company's Intranet won any awards, we had people talking about how they enjoy skinny dipping on their profile. Before our VPs starting using Yammer to communicate with the workforce, we had groups of Android geeks and fitness gurus.I'm telling you this because if you're implementing any type of social media behind your organizational firewall, you should prepare yourself, your colleagues, your bosses, your senior leadership for this one inexorable truth.

If you will freak out when you see this on your Intranet, you're probably not ready for a social intranetIf you want to create a vibrant culture of collaboration, you need to be OK with pictures of LOLCats, posts about the NFL playoffs, arguments about Apple and Android, and criticism of company policies.

Accept and embrace this fact now and your communities have a much better chance at succeeding. Or, continue thinking that things like this are a waste of a time and are unprofessional, and get ready to pay a lot of money for a system that ultimately no one uses unless they absolutely have to.

Unfortunately, "social" seems to have become almost a dirty word in the workplace, conjuring up images of employees whittling away their time on Facebook, talking to their boyfriend on the phone, or taking a three hour lunch break.  Let's all agree now to stop trying to take the social out of social media. "Social" interactions not only needs to be OK, they need to be encouraged and rewarded. Shirky explains why at the 5:33 mark of the below TED video:


Shirky says:

The gap is between doing anything and doing nothing. And someone who makes a LOLcat has already crossed over that gap. Now it’s tempting to want to get the Ushahidis without the LOLcats, right, to get the serious stuff without the throwaway stuff. But media abundance never works that way. Freedom to experiment means freedom to experiment with anything.

The same principle holds true when talking about social media and the business world. There's this tendency on the part of senior leadership to want to skip the blogs about company policy workarounds and the wiki pages detailing where to get the best burritos near the office and move right to co-creating methodologies with cross-functional teams and crowdsourcing initiatives that save millions of dollars. It doesn't work like that. Collaborative communities don't just start innovating because you build a website and send a memo. Just like we had to experience erotic novels before scientific journals and LOLCats before sites like Ushahidi, we will also have to accept the fact that your employees will be talking about fantasy football and what they're doing over the holidays before they're going to be ready to use those tools to conduct "real" work. 

This makes intuitive sense though, doesn't it? Isn't posting about fantasy football or your favorite lunch spot a lot easier (and less frightening) than uploading that report you've been working on for three weeks? If someone doesn't like your favorite restaurant, who cares? If, however, someone criticizes the report you've spent weeks writing, that's a little more intimidating.  Once you've taken that step – that step from doing nothing to doing something - it's a lot easier to take the next step and the step after that. After engaging in that conversation about your favorite burrito, it's suddenly easier to join the conversation about the new IT policy. Then, maybe you upload a portion of the report you're struggling with to see if anyone can help. Viewed from this perspective, even the stupidest posts and most worthless conversations have value, because they provide a safe, low risk means for people to dip their toe in the water and take that first step. It takes time for employees to feel comfortable using these social tools at work. If you give them the ability to grow and learn together at their own pace, your community will become much more scalable and sustainable.

So embrace the LOLCats, the fantasy football threads, the lunch discussions, and the custom avatars – at least your employees will be creating and sharing something with someone else. Because what will follow is that these stupid, silly, foolish discussions will lead to relationships, questions, answers, and finally, very cool innovations, products, and solutions that will save you money, win you awards, and really and truly create a social business.

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Enterprise 2.0 Success is About the Players, Not the Field

October 10, 2011

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Watch your local Pee-wee football team’s practice sometime and you’ll see a lot of dropped passes, missed tackles, and a whole host of other mistakes. But…what would happen if you put that team on Heinz Field and gave them all the same amenities as the Pittsburgh Steelers? Yep, they still wouldn’t be able to complete a pass, kick a field goal or break a James Harrison tackle. Clearly, just because they were put on a better field and given the latest equipment doesn’t mean they will suddenly learn to play football.

Southern Tier Youth Football Conference, NY - Newark Valley @ Maine Endwell Gold

It doesn't matter what kind of equipment you give them, these players aren't going to win the Super Bowl

Similarly, simply adding the latest Enterprise 2.0 platform behind your firewall doesn’t mean your employees will suddenly learn to collaborate with one another. Collaboration doesn’t just magically happen because you went out and bought the latest Enterprise 2.0 or Social Business software. It happens because they have a reason to collaborate. It happens when they are rewarded for sharing information. It happens when they like working with the people around them.

Over the last few years, I’ve seen dozens of failed wikis, blogs, microblog platforms, forums, and idea management deployments, and I’m sure I’ll see many more. This is frustrating on a couple of different levels for me. First, since I suffer from HOLI (“Hatred of Losing Information“), I hate seeing the missed collaboration opportunities that result from these poorly implemented solutions. Secondly, I know that because of these failures, these organizations will most likely write off social media behind the firewall as some sort of snake oil.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of all of these failures is the reliability with which their failure can be predicted. If you’re implementing some sort of social media behind your organizational firewall, and you’re doing any of the following, I can tell you right now that you probably won’t be successful:

  • The same IT department who installed your email system, your ERP system, or your databases is responsible for leading the implementation of your wiki, blog, microblogging platform, etc.
  • You don’t have anyone talking about user adoption and community management on the team from the very start
  • You don’t have a plan for funding this initiative beyond this year
  • You’re measuring success by the number of “users” you can claim
  • You’re talking about giving away iPads and candy bars to get people to use it
  • There are numerous conversations among senior leadership about how to mitigate the risks of your employees using the tools “as a dating service,” to “goof around,” to complain about everything, or editing things they don’t know anything about.
  • You’re more concerned with the available features instead of making it fast, reliable, and accessible
  • The team responsible for the platform doesn’t even use it

Instead of trying to give the players the latest and greatest stadium and equipment, start focusing on improving their passing and tackling skills. Maybe you could have them run some pass patterns instead of installing a state-of-the art locker room?

  • Do my employees have a reason to collaborate with people outside of their immediate team?
  • Is collaborative behavior rewarded during the performance assessment process? Are they punished for hoarding information?
  • Does leadership model collaborative behavior?
  • Are colleagues encouraged to spend time with each other outside of work hours (softball teams, happy hours, etc.)?
  • Are there multiple levels of approvals needed before anyone can share anything?
  • Do your employees trust each other? Do they trust management?

If you’re interested in learning more about why your Enterprise 2.0 implementations are failing and what you can do to help them succeed, take a look at the webinar that I just did for UBM TechWeb.  The “It’s Not the Field, It’s the Players” webinar will be archived here, and the slides are now available below. 

[UPDATED TO INCLUDE THE PRESENTATION BELOW]

[slideshare id=9663453&doc=e20webinar-draftfinalslideshare-111012142902-phpapp02]

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Just Because You Run the Same Plays Doesn’t Mean You’ll Get the Same Results

March 23, 2011

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The Packers dominated teams using the Lombardi Sweep, but few teams had the talent to run it as effectively

“That’s easy – even I could do that!”

Really?  Could you?  How many times have you been watching a game and said that about that highlight catch that you saw on Sportscenter?  How many times have you watched Tiger Woods swing a golf club and then try to recreate that yourself? How many times have you yelled at your favorite team to just run that one play because you just know it’ll work?

Guess what – you wouldn’t have made that catch, you can’t golf like Tiger, and your play calling leaves a lot to be desired.

This same thinking unfortunately, also carries over to the business world. Over the course of eight years in the consulting industry, I’ve noticed an increasing number of colleagues, peers, and clients thinking that just because they read/downloaded/heard a white paper, strategy, or presentation, (a play, a swing, or a catch) they too can go out and be a communications or social media expert too. Or, they ask for the detailed step-by-step guide for “using Twitter/Facebook/blogs successfully.” Like the weekend golfer who tries to be Tiger Woods or the YMCA rec league player trying to dunk, the results are similarly predictable. You downloaded that community management strategy that I did for a client two years ago and you’re now using it with your team in a totally different environment with a totally different culture? How’s that working out for you?

In the 1960s, the Green Bay Packers repeatedly ran the “Lombardi Sweep” with great success. With Vince Lombardi coaching and Hall of Famers Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, and Jerry Kramer running the play, it became virtually unstoppable. Seeing this success, other teams started to incorporate the play into their playbooks although none were able to duplicate the success the Packers had with it. Running the Lombardi Sweep with four Hall-of-Famers had predictably different results than when you’re running it with a bunch of guys off the street! The actual play wasn’t some proprietary, secret play – it’s actually a pretty simple play to run that many teams already had in their playbook. Despite the widespread availability of the play and game tapes of the play being run to perfection, no one was ever able to consistently duplicate the results that those Packer teams had. Because they had one thing the other teams didn’t – Hall of Fame talent running the play.

The current world of social media isn’t all that different. All it takes is a simple Google search and you’ll easily find millions of blog posts, white papers, presentations, and case studies on social media best practices. You too can use the same tactics used by Zappo’s! You can create an Enterprise Social Computing Strategy just like Intel!  Unfortunately, just like your repeated attempts to dunk like Blake Griffin, your ability to emulate the successes by these companies will likely leave you frustrated and in pain. Do you have the talent to implement something like that? Do you have the right people on staff to help you?

Remember this the next time you read a white paper or listen to a presentation about social media or community management and think to yourself, “hey, I could do that!” There’s a reason people recruit, hire, and pay experienced community managers and social media specialists to do these things – because these things are hard to do. Stop looking for the quick fix, magic bullet strategy/play/framework/model/methodology/secret sauce to social media – it doesn’t exist. Instead of trying to copy another team’s success, focus on recruiting, hiring, and developing your own talent and matching up your strategies to fit. After all, you may never dunk like Blake Griffin, but you might be able to shoot the three better than him.

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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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