Tag Archives: social media

Taking the Next Step: Going From a Grassroots Enterprise 2.0 Community to an Official One

Stairway

As your grassroots community takes the next step to becoming an official one, what challenges will you face?

Way back in 2008, microblogging and enterprise collaboration platform Yammer launched at TechCrunch50. A week later, I became member #1 of the Yammer network at my old firm, a 25,000 person consulting firm with offices all over the country. That started a three-year journey into the world of Enterprise 2.0, including growing our Yammer community from 1 to more than 7,000 when I left, consulting with dozens of organizations and government agencies, managing our official award-winning collaboration community, attending and speaking at Enterprise 2.0 Conferences, guest blogging over at AIIM, and writing a whole bunch of blog posts.

Over the years, “Enterprise 2.0” has evolved from fringe buzzword to an massive industry. The change agents who risked their jobs and reputations to start these networks a few years ago are being held up as innovators and leaders. Organizations that were loathe to spend any money on something as “soft” as collaboration are now spending millions to create robust internal communities on their Intranets.

But with this evolution comes a host of challenges as well. Official communities that began with large budgets are struggling to maintain their success with diminished resources. Passionate evangelists have left without anyone to take their place. Grassroots communities that sprouted up using freemium versions of these tools are trying to transition to officially sanctioned tools.

It’s these communities – the ones trying to migrate from free, unofficial, grassroots communities to official, integrated ones – that face some tough challenges now. There’s often an influx of new members, unfamiliar with the culture. Community mores and processes that worked with a smaller community don’t scale. Community leaders who emerged are replaced with community leaders who are named by leadership. Senior leadership pays closer attention to the conversations that occur, exposing some of the more frivolous discussions that may take place. And usability may suffer as the technology gets integrated into other systems and secured more than ever before.

As these communities make this transition and start anew, officially, I wanted to revisit six of my old Enterprise 2.0 posts to serve as reminders for those people responsible for these official migrations.

Dance with the one that brung ya. As organizations begin turning these grassroots communities into official ones, there’s a tendency to also name “official” leaders, community managers, and admins. Organizations may hire new people to take on these jobs, or they may move existing employees into these roles. While having a dedicated team and resources to manage the community is undoubtedly one of the benefits of formalizing the community, don’t forget about the people who have brought the community this far.  These are the people who, without a formal policy, budget, or title have acted as referees, mentors, teachers, cheerleaders, and janitors for the community, all while also performing their “real” job. These people built and managed the community because they were passionate about it, not because they were tasked to do so. Involve them. Formalize their roles. Get their support. They’ve built up the community’s respect out of what they’ve done for it, not because they have a fancy title. They evolved from users to community managers to role models.

Don’t take the social out of “social media.” Social networking has always been and will continue to be a vital part of any organization, whether it happens online or on the softball field. People who work together don’t just talk about the work they do. Sure, that constitutes the bulk of the conversations, but people also talk about the game last night, share war stories about their kids, or complain about having to work late or the parking situation at the office. All those interactions build up over time, eventually creating trusted relationships among people who work closely together and often leading to more effective collaboration. Social networking platforms just allow us to extend those relationships to more people than ever before. The sooner managers realize that, the sooner they will recognize the benefits that such tools can provide.

Embrace the LOLCats. If 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. 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.

Don’t overthink the tech. Once an organization decides to go from freemium to premium and dedicate actual resources and budget to creating these internal communities, there’s a mad rush to start implementing all the cool features that weren’t available before. Integration with existing systems! Advanced administrative controls! Mass distribution of invitations! Before you get all worked up over all of this cool new tech, remember the three most basic rules – make it fast, make it accessible, and make it reliable. Get your newfound IT resources using the tool themselves so they can identify potential bugs, glitches, and feature requests first, before they negatively impact the rest of the community.

Temper the passions. As you move from an unofficial to official community, there will be a mashup of “stars” – the champions who became the unofficial community managers and those who will be designated official community managers in the new community. These stars and their passions bring both positives and negatives to the community. While these active champions will be responsible for a majority of the content, answering questions, posting content, editing pages, and creating topics, they can also skew the content to suit their own agenda and create a chilling effect on opposing viewpoints and topics. Left unchecked, they do have the potential to take over the community – its members, its content, and its discussion. The key is in channeling their energy and enthusiasm and focus it on helping grow the community as a whole, to include topics other than social media and technology.

Remember that this is about change management, not technology. Getting people to change the way they work takes time. To maintain the momentum, make sure you clearly communicate what problems the community is helping people solve. Help users see how the community will help them in their day-to-day lives. Get senior leaders to lead by example and engage with the community directly using the tools they’re already supporting in their emails and Powerpoints (even if it means occasionally being wrong). Provide meaningful, useful content every day, to every single user. Design the technology for the end-user, not for the IT department or for some senior leader. And finally, evolve the community based on the community’s feedback. Allow them to see how their feedback is shaping the future of the community.

As these organizations make the transition from unofficial, grassroots communities using free platforms to officially integrated communities on expensive, licensed platforms, some will succeed in scaling that sense of community to better the organization as a whole. Other organizations will see bureaucracy and old ways of doing things destroy the very communities they’re trying to scale. To avoid the latter, remember that this is still a community you’re building, not a new IT platform. Sure, it may sound great to talk about the thousands of users or the 90% adoption rate in conference presentations and blog posts, but that’s sacrificing long-term benefits for short-term gains. Stop chasing the numbers and stay focused on your business goals. Slow and steady wins the race.

If your organization is going through this process, what other challenges are you facing? What other strategies and tactics have been helpful in maintaining that sense of community?

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Set Your New Social Media Manager Up For Success

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You wouldn't hire Jonathan Ive and put him in a cubicle with an underpowered Lenovo laptop, would you? 

You wouldn't sign Peyton Manning to run the triple-option offense, would you? 

You wouldn't hire Tony Stark but tell him he's not allowed using your tools, would you?

Then why do organizations continue to hire social media specialists, managers, and coordinators, but then handcuff them with outdated policies, processes, and technology? 

I've seen it time and time again – an organization realizes they don't have the talent, resources, or bandwidth to manage their social media efforts so they go out and hire someone. These gurus, ninjas, strategists, and rockstars often come into this new organization with high expectations ("oh, you're the new social guy? Boy do we need your help!"), low resources ("you're all we could get approved for this year"), and an unclear place on the org chart ("well, you'll technically report to me, but you'll be working with Suzie down the hall most of the time as well as being a dotted line to Tom in Marketing").

Not only that, once they get to their desk, they realize that Twitter and Facebook are blocked, their company-issued Blackberry is prohibited from downloading any apps, and even when they do complete all the request forms to gain access, they're told that any and all social media content needs to be approved by legal and compliance. They've got the experience, the skills, and the knowledge to do the job, but they've been handcuffed by their own organization's legacy practices. 

Before going out and hiring that person to handle your social media, take some time to set them up for success.  

Provide a clear job description. Are you looking for someone to be a community manager for online communities that already exist or do you need someone to create those communities? Are you looking for someone to come in and join the marketing team or are you looking for someone to help you integrate social media across the entire enterprise? Do you need a social media manager to simply create and post content or do you need an experienced community manager who can build an integrated strategy that will increase sales, retention, etc.? Are you looking for a do-er or a change agent? As the hiring manager, you have to have to be able to articulate what exactly you need this person to do because the skillsets required to be the day-to-day community manager are substantially different from those needed to create an enterprise-wide social strategy. If you aren't sure what you need, you probably need someone with to help you figure that out, and that's going to require someone more experienced than you think.

Update your processes. If you're going to hire someone to manage your online communities, be a brand advocate, increase brand awareness and interact with customers, make sure they're actually, you know, allowed to do that. You can't expect someone to succeed in this role if your process requires every post, Tweet, and status update to be approved by the Legal team. If your newly hired social media manager is unable to respond to customer service inquiries because "those are handled by the folks over in customer service, not us," you're setting yourself up to fail. Using social media successfully is fundamentally different from every other approval process at most organizations. If you aren't sure what processes need to be updated or how to even do that, refer back to #1 and hire someone with the skills and experience to make those kinds of changes. 

Have an end goal. What does success look like? How will you determine if he/she is doing a good job? Will that be determined by the number of fans, followers, comments, members? Or by sales, lead generation, and traffic? Maybe it will be based on their ability to create and implement a strategy? Whatever it is, make sure that your new hire understands what is expected of him or her.  

Make technology an enabler, not a roadblock. This should go without saying, but make sure that your social media manager actually has access to social media. An easy way to start this new relationship off on the wrong foot is by forcing your new hire to complete request forms to access to Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. 

Brush up on social media yourself. You're going to have to evaluate this person's performance and you can't do that effectively if you still think you don't need to understand Twitter because "you're too old." If you're going to be managing someone who's responsible for social media, you better know a little about it yourself. Look at similar organizations and see what they're doing. Keep up with industry trends. Ask your new hire to meet with you each week and help educate you if you need to. You can't effectively manage someone if you don't understand what they're working on. 

Be their advocate. Your social media manager is likely going to have to work with people from across the organization, many of whom will have more experience and tenure than they do. They're going to need to quickly establish respect with their colleagues and the easiest way for them to do that is when you make the introductions, highlight their work in leadership meetings, and give them the top cover to do their jobs. Don't hire them and walk away. Stay involved and keep them motivated. 

You can’t half-ass your social media efforts. If you’re going to make the investment in the time, people, and resources to use social media, make the investment in getting yourself and your organization ready to make the most out of this new talent. Spend a few more weeks now setting him/her up for success or spend a lot more time later trying to find another social media manager to replace the first one who quit after two months. 

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Start Your Community With Role Models, Not Influencers

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I just finished reading this article in last month's Fast Company where the CEO of Pinterest, Ben Silbermann, discusses how Pinterest got started, where it's at today, and what its future may hold. In it, they highlight some of the ways in which Pinterest defied best practices when they first started – they didn't include any leaderboards, they didn't highlight the most popular pinners, they used an infinite scroll layout instead of pushing for more clicks and pageviews, and most interesting to me, their first community members weren't "influencers" with high Klout scores. They were role models who would care for the community as if it were their own.

"In Pinterest’s early days, Silbermann gave out his cell-phone number, attended blogger meet-ups, and personally composed weekly emails that were sent out to Pinterest’s tiny, but growing, community. "It’s like you’ve built this little city with nobody inside of it yet," he says. "And you want to fill it up with the right kinds of people who are going to teach future people what they should be doing when they move in." Most Silicon Valley types look at early users as viral marketers; Silbermann saw them as role models. (Until recently, Pinterest’s welcome email advised users to "pin carefully" because "your pins set the tone for the community." The site bans nudity and discourages users from posting images of too-skinny models, otherwise known as "thinspiration," after the phenomenon became a problem.)"

What if PR and social media community managers stopped worrying about targeting the influencers with the most Klout, the highest PeerIndex score, or the highest Empire Avenue share price, and instead worried about identifying the people who are best equipped to create and maintain a healthy community? What if we looked for qualities like good taste, helpfulness, and compassion instead of followers, pageviews, and likes? What if we focused our efforts on the people who will become the community leaders, rather than simply the people with the loudest mouths?

If what we're doing is truly building online communities, shouldn't we first recruit the people who will actually be you know, building that sense of community and modeling the behaviors you want to see from all members?

One of Pinterest's first and most active members wasn't a social media influencer. She's the founder's mom. Silbermann's tactic of starting his community with role models isn't new. This is a tactic that I've used when building online communities behind corporate firewalls. In those closed communities, the first members weren't the VPs or the corporate comms people – the people with the most influence – they were the people who were most passionate about the community. These individuals felt a deep sense of responsibility for the success of the community. They shared the same goals and philosophies. They were the ones who modeled the behaviors that we wanted the rest of the community to emulate. They were the ones who would tell the boss he was wrong so that it would be ok for others to do the same. They may have only brought in 50 new people, but that wasn't their purpose. They were recruited because they were the ones to create that strong sense of community among the current members so that when new members joined, they joined a community with an established culture and purpose.

Now, if your goal is to simply get a million Facebook likes or sign up two million users to your branded community, then by all means, pay Lil Wayne to Tweet your URL to his 8 million followers and watch the numbers stack up. You can trot out your pageviews and member numbers to your boss all you want. Just don't expect those thousands of people to actually do what you want them to do. On the other hand, if you're looking to build a vibrant community of brand advocates who will buy your products, share your messages with their networks, give you honest, constructive feedback and build other brand advocates, then you should instead look for people who will model those behaviors. These people may not have the biggest names or the most "influence," but they're the ones who will create the foundation for what your community will be.

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How a Social Media Evangelist Became a Social Media Realist

When did I become the guy who gets tired of social media? I haven't blogged here in more than a month. I'm substantially less active on Twitter than I used to be. How did I go from annoying everyone around me by my incessant yammering about social media to the guy who grows increasingly annoyed when people talk about everything social media will do?

I'm not suggesting that I'm no longer excited about social media. I'm not suggesting that social media is dead (imagine that link bait, though). Quite the opposite, actually. Social media is not only not dead, it's so alive that it's become ubiquitous. There are Google+ master classes. You can read multiple books for marketing your business on Pinterest. You can go out and get a social media certification. You can buy thousands of Facebook likes. There are more than 125K social media experts on LinkedIn. There are more than 5,000 books on social media marketing. If you're looking for a job and you don't have the words "social media" on your resume somewhere, you aren't even trying. Social media is where it's at man. Everyone's doing it.

And maybe that's the problem. Everyone, from the government to big brands to schools to my parents, feels like they have to be using social media. And there are all too many social media experts, ninjas, and gurus ready to help them get on Twitter, start a Facebook page, and check in on Foursquare. When I first started using social media professionally back in 2006, it was because I recognized that these new tools could fundamentally change the way organizations communicated and collaborated. Back then, using social media in the government was like being among the first cavemen to discover fire. I was part of a small group of people who recognized this and committed to using this newfound knowledge to help the government become more efficient, more open, more transparent, and more collaborative. It was not only fun, it was incredibly rewarding as well. We were helping change the way government worked. We were effecting change that people said wasn't possible. We just happened to be using social media to do that.

Obviously, things have changed since then. Where I used to have to fight tooth and nail to get my clients to use social media at all, social media is now viewed as the first option. Social media has become almost a cure-all for an organization's problems. Suffering from negative media coverage? Start a Twitter account! Poor Q1 sales? Get on Pinterest! High employee turnover? Create an internal blogging platform! Whatever problem you have, social media will be there to solve it! And, there are literally thousands of social media experts out there ready to provide that solution to you (at a low low price if you sign up right now!).

I love getting a senior-level client up and running on Twitter or Yammer, not because I'm getting paid to do it or because these tools are just sooo cool, but because most of the time, it represents the first time in years that he or she communicates with the public without a PR or legal or compliance filter. I was able to give them the confidence, knowledge, and tools to actually talk with people – their customers or employees – like a human being. The only thing that made me happier than seeing a senior executive read an unfiltered feed about their organization and start participating in the conversation was seeing those conversations manifest themselves in actual changes in how the business operated. Now, all that's given way to marketers, consultants, and gurus whose only goal is to get people using social media.

My goal is never to get someone blogging or Tweeting – that's just the means to help them understand how to better communicate and collaborate. Simply using social media should never be the goal – social media is just the means, not the end. For years, clients have been asking me to develop "social media strategies," and for years, I've been telling them that they don't need a "social media strategy." What they need is strategy to help them solve whatever business problem they're looking to solve. Maybe they'll need social media, maybe they won't. I guess it was never about social media after all. It was about what social media enabled people to do, and increasingly, the only thing it's enabling is jamming the same old business practices into Tweets, blog posts, and status updates.

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