Do your Online Community / Social Media initiatives need a living trust?

stepsIt is no secret that there is a lot of turnover happening the social media industry – just take a peek at the regular “People on the Move” updates on Jeremiah Owyang’s blog. This is only going to get worse as more organizations adopt social media, organizational structures change, the economy improves, and people in social roles mature (or burn out).

One key reason I bring up the growing churn in the industry is this: Social media and Community programs suffer when staff turns over… especially when that staff is the senior leadership that helped make key platform, policy and program decisions, or community managers that have built relationships with large swaths of the community.

I was talking about this with some folks at the eMarketing Summit in Portland last week, and the concept of a “Social Media Living Trust” surfaced.  What if, as part of the requirements for social strategy & governance, senior leadership had to create a living trust document that outlined:

  • A look forward: The 3-5 year strategic plan, with assumptions about market conditions, platform, staffing, funding and performance metrics.
  • A look backward: The rationale and history behind key decisions like: platform, policy, team structure, personal, etc.
  • An overview of most active / impactful members & subgroups
  • Naming the person / team that would succeed the current team, and assume stewardship of the community / social program?
What components of the “living trust” am I missing? Would this be valuable in  your organization? Would it be viable? I’d love to discuss via comments,  or use the hashtag #smoclt on twitter.

5 responses to “Do your Online Community / Social Media initiatives need a living trust?”

  1. I’m totally with you on the turnover/churn and its potential (negative) impact on communities and social media programs, as well the desire to set expectations and make a commitment to these programs. While the four components you’ve laid out are indeed important, I see them more as things for different groups, even at different times. Execs and business sponsors should be defining and adjusting the long-term strategy and keeping track of the history, community managers should be aware of lead users / key contributors and groups/subgroups, and business sponsors should ensure smooth transitions and succession planning. It’s just part of good business planning, perations, and communication. So I guess I’m not sure why it needs a special name (“SMLT”). Perhaps to make sure these things really do happen…

  2. Thanks for the comment Matthew – admittedly, the “SMLT” is more of a thought exercise as opposed to something I would actually create or recommend someone creating. With that said, I do think continuity and stewardship are very real issues that even the most sophisticated organizations are struggling with. As an example, I spent a good chunk of time over the last year trying to piece together key facts about legacy decisions made about our community platform.

  3. You’re definitely bringing up painful memories about “trying to piece together key facts about legacy decisions.” Been there. (Am there…) How much time, effort, and frustration would be saved by jotting down those things! So I’m all for doing what’s necessary to capture that info up front, as well as on an ongoing basis when there’s something new and relevant.
    “Stewardship” is a very apt concept. My former colleague Sue Aldrich writes frequently about the importance of someone to act as a search steward — to keep synonyms up to date, ensure relevant word rankings, and do a million other things — and the need is equally essential in a community.

  4. This is a great concept and one I’ve thought about before, although a bit differently. One thing that I think is critical, which you allude to in spots but not in this way is have a ‘community history book’ and a historical archive. This actually can be a great role for a volunteer as their are a lot of amateur history buffs out there. But, documenting culture is key to maintaining a community that can survive and evolve through various leaders.

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