4 Keys to Successful Community Sites – SPR Social Series 5 of 8

Read the previous post in the series, 5 Ways to Show Up in Your Profile, or start from the beginning.

In an enterprise, a Community Site is a place where colleagues with specific common interests come together. In this virtual environment, users share information and insights, exchange ideas, discover experts, collaborate on issues or documents, and offer their expertise. Essentially, these sites provide a way to categorize and cultivate discussions across like-minded groups. Today, enterprise Community Sites are either communities of interest, team sites, or (more recently) sites that surface Business Intelligence to selected stakeholders. How to make the most of these communities is a crucial part of success when deploying Enterprise Social technologies. Consider the following:

  1. Begin with the end in mind. 
    When conceptualizing a Community Site decide, as best you can, what the outcome should be. Let’s say you’re looking to create a thriving collective of engineers who participate in highly valuable (and therefore highly valued) exchanges. Give some detail to what that looks like. Maybe a community of 80 is your goal. You may want the members to be geographically dispersed, across Europe, Asia and the Americas. What role should your Distinguished Engineers play? Will the site offer events with live speakers, accompanied by discussions and Q&A? See where I’m going? Details first. Then plan for each component. To reach your initial goal of 80 members, it might be good to start with ten or so ‘founding’ members, those with a bit of reputation and influence. List them, approach them. Have something important to say about the significance of their participation, and why it’s vital to your organization and to them. Do this for each component of your desired outcome, and you’ll be off to a good start.
  2. Spend some quality time on User Experience.
    Technically, User Experience (UX) is a collection of disciplines, including; visual design, content strategy, interaction design, information architecture, and even typography. At its core, UX must be functional, reliable, usable and pleasurable. Until lately, the focus has been on Usability and the pleasurable part has been a consistent afterthought. Not…any…more!

    Any site that you want folks to return to again and again will not only have to bring real value, but it must engage them in a sensory way. The UX has to pull them in, excite and appeal to them. And please, don’t leave this crucial task to your site developers. No disrespect…let’s just say true UX is not what they do. Effective UX is a full-fledged discipline all its own; requiring insight, training and experience. Do yourself, and your firm, a favor. Go with a professional.
  3. Cultivate a group of committed moderators.
    Moderators play an essential role in community sites. These individuals are tasked with key activities, such as; applying rules, reviewing posts, handlingissues, promoting featured discussions and so on. They can also give badges to users, designating them as special contributors to the community. This helps participants build reputation and strengthen personal brands. The best moderators tend to be bon a fide members of the community; as opposed to someone who has no real connection to the common interests.
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    To start, moderators will need a sandbox to play around in. You’ll want them super-familiar with the software. And because they’re community members, they should participate in crafting rules for the site. After all, they’ll be charged with enforcement. Finally, don’t impose moderation on an unwilling colleague. Just because he’s a manager or she’s technically oriented does not necessarily make them a good fit for the job. Select people who are excited about the role, and seriously committed to making the community a rousing success.
  4. Create a participant engagement plan.
    Once the site is ready for launch and the list of target participants is captured on paper, you’d best be ready to engage them fully. Of course, the campaign announcing the organization’s move to Enterprise Social will already be in play, and everyone will have clear ideas about the firm’s objectives and how they can take part. Right? First step. Send an email with the link that invites them in.
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    Include a few tips on how to get started. And here’s a clue, make the email engaging! You may need to send the initial invite several times to inspire those who are slow to move. If they join, as well as take a few specific actions before three business days have passed, offer an incentive. Then congratulate them publicly (along with the promised incentive) once they’ve met the ‘ask.’  Within the first two weeks, have a launch event on the site. Keep it brief, 60 minutes! Preferably scheduled over lunch. Have fun with it, motivate engagement throughout, and make certain they gain value from participating. Be sure and give badges for active contribution. Over the next several months, make precise efforts to continue to engage community members. Try things like surveys, mind-benders and contests. You’ll also need to track participant engagement stats to determine progress and adjust accordingly.

Finally, while you restlessly wait for my next post, Enterprise Social News Feeds are all about action!, available in two weeks, take some time to do a little G2 on the idea of community oriented self-service BI sites. Learn more about Microsoft’s take on Power BI for Office 365.  Building community sites focused on usage, interpretation and application of BI could take the specialty to a whole new level.

Questions and comments can be addressed directly to:

Melissa McElroy
User Experience & Social Collaboration Evangelist – Senior Manager
e. melissa.mcelroy@spr.com
LinkedIn http://linkedin.com/in/melissamcelroy