This post is part of an ongoing series about developing an online community strategy. As a reminder, all posts will be tagged #ocb2b
Define Business Goals and Objectives
As I mentioned in my previous post, the recommended first step in developing (or refining) your organization’s online community strategy is to answer the question: What are you, as an organization, trying to accomplish? I acknowledge that this is a simple, but loaded, question. Answering the question of Organization intention is 1/2 of the equation for a successful community strategy. The other half of the equation is understanding community member’s needs and predisposition, which I cover in the next post in the strategy series.
Generally, an executive taps a strategy lead to help develop online community initiatives at an organization. In some cases, the strategy lead actually rises out of the ranks to propose direction to the executives. In both cases, there are two essential roles:
Said another way: The Sponsoring Exec has the financial and political capital to fund the community initiative, and the Strategy Lead executes research and planning necessary to create the community strategy.
Next, the Strategy Lead forms a core team to facilitate discussion with the extended stakeholders around the following topics:
Identifying and Engaging Internal Stakeholders
The current definition of stakeholder on wikipedia describes the role of stakeholder as “… a party that affects or can be affected by the actions of the business as a whole.” Given the inclusive nature of many social media and community efforts, an argument could be made that everyone in the company is a stakeholder in the strategy, and in a sense, that is true. In order to actually get work done, you need to trim the list a bit, down to relevant and representative stakeholders that represent key roles and departments affected by, or expected to contribute resources to the community.
A list of likely internal stakeholders includes:
Process: Kickoff, Work Sessions, Interviews and Synthesis
So, how does all of this actually come together? I’ve used the following process on the job at my former employer Autodesk, as well as in our services practice here at Forum One. The process starts with a kickoff meeting, continues with individual interviews with key stakeholders, includes follow up working sessions with a core team, and concludes with analysis and synthesis of all of the inputs by the Strategy Lead.
Kickoff: A meeting is convened by the Strategy Lead, and usually includes the Executive sponsor as well as key internal stakeholders. The group is generally no more than 5-7 people. The kickoff usually lasts 2-3 hours, and covers:
After the kickoff, interviews with key stakeholders are held to take a deeper dive in to the questions explored in the kickoff meeting, and also to give the stakeholder “airtime” to state requirements, explore ideas and express concerns. The interviews can be done face to face or over the phone, generally last between 30-45 minutes, and are conducted by an interviewer, with backup by a note-taker. Depending on the size of the extended stakeholder pool and the complexity of the project, I generally try to do at least 8 stakeholder interviews. As an augmentation to the in person interviews, I’ve also done an online survey for stakeholders that is based on the interview script. This is a good way to reach a wider audience and get a large set of quantitative and qualitative data.
In addition to the kickoff, there are generally 1-3 work sessions to review and refine key points from the discussion in the kickoff meeting. These additional working sessions are a great place for brainstorming potential community features and engagements, and to discuss examples of online community and social media from competitors, leaders in the industry, or shiny object examples outside of your industry. The outputs of the work sessions are analyzed in the Synthesis phase.
The outputs of the kickoff, working sessions and stakeholder interviews are analyzed by the Strategy Lead, and summarized in to a working strategy brief (typically a word doc). The key elements of the brief generally include:
Next Up: Member Needs Analysis
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, the Organization’s goals are half of the equation for a successful community strategy. The other half is obviously assessing the needs and predisposition of the community. In the next post in the series, I will talk about how to find and solicit feedback from potential (or current) community members, and what to do with that information.
The topic of online community strategy is one of the things that occupies a large chunk of my mental cycles. I’ve written about a pretty basic process and framework a few times over the years, and I think the baseline concepts have held up well. You can read a couple of relatively recent posts here (I’d love to hear your thoughts):
How to Develop a Community Strategy
Holistic Community Strategy
I’m very passionate about the opportunities that online communities and social media bring to the table, and I’ve had my fair share of real world experience (10+ years), but the primary reason I want to write this series is pretty simple:
Organizations are still challenged with setting strategy. From our efforts with the Online Community Research Network, we still see that only about 25% of our participant organizations have a comprehensive community strategy in place. Over the next few weeks, I will explore the following topics, offering my own opinions and insight, data from our ongoing community research, as well as other relevant content from experienced community-building professionals. I’ll also try to post as many templates that I use (or can borrow), where appropriate. In short: I’ll be posting, you will be adding to the discussion, and we will all (hopefully) be making our day to day community practices a little better. I hope that sounds like fun The Topics
The topics, which generally follow my strategy development process, will be: 1. Goal Definition:
How to assemble an internal stakeholder team and facilitate definition of business goals for the community. 2. Member Needs Research:
Processes and techniques for engaging community members in a process of discovery and conducting member “needs” research. 3. Social Media Ecosystem Research:
Methodology for conducting a discovery exercise of the relevant parts of the social web to find out where your community (or potential community) is already working and playing. 4. Designing an Online Presence Architecture (with a hat tip to Chris Brogan):
Factoring the goals of the business, the needs of the members, and the opportunities in the social media ecosystem to create a presence architecture that maps out where to focus engagements. 5. Engagement Planning:
How to develop content & activity plans for the community, including
–Where: to engage (home, outposts)
–Who: responsible party
–How: specific activity
–When: frequency of activity
–What: expected outcomes (prototypical metrics!) 6. Community Platform Selection:
Guidance on how to select a community platform, along with recent ratings for major platforms. 7. Management & Moderation
An overview of the important and evolving role of the Online Community Manager, building an online community team, and best practices on moderation. 8. Metrics & Reporting
What metrics to collect, what they tell you, who to report them to, and how often. 9. Policy Creation & Roll-out
How to develop community and social media policies that fit your organization, and how to deploy them. 10. Governance
Creating a governance structure in your organization, keeping exective stakeholders informed and engaged, and achieving the right balance of of inter-departmental communication and guidance. 11. Superusers / Elites
A review of the best superusers programs, with a focus on process, identification and incentives. Again, I would LOVE your feedback on the topics above. My goals is to write an article a week over the next 12-14 weeks. Each article will be labeled “Back to Basics”, and will be tagged #ocb2b
It is that time of year again… SxSW Panel Picking!!!
I have two proposals this year, and I would appreciate your support for either or both.
Bill Johnston, Chief Community Officer for Forum One (that’s me), will present and then lead a discussion about best practices with community & social media metrics and reporting, based on 4 years of ongoing research and data from thousands of participants on the topic. This session will dive deep into the topic of online community and social media metrics and reporting to explore:
• The role of community strategy in shaping reports
• Specific data sets that should be included in community and social media reports
• The limitations of native community and social media platform reporting
• Report design, distribution and frequency
• Stakeholder satisfaction with current community and social media reports
And Panel #2:
Social media practice and implementation is a dynamic and volatile subject that effects all functions in a company from the obvious (product, support, marketing) to the not so obvious (hr, operations). Hear from 5 seasoned social media practitioners (plus YOU!) about where we are on “the map” of social media adoption and practice, and where we are headed. The mood will be lively, the panel bright eyed and prepared, and the audience smart (and involved).
1. Where are organizations on the social media adoption curve?
2. What departments should be involved with online communtiies?
3. What online community and social media metrics are organizations tracking?
4. What is the level of satisfaction with community and social media efforts by stakeholders?
5. Is ROI important?
6. How is the “static” organization web site being impacted by social?
7. How will online presences evolve?
8. What role will employees play in expression of brand online?
9. What’s on the horizon for online presence?
Check out this panel of Awesomeness! I’ll be joined by:
Aaron Strout – Powered
Jake McKee – Ant’s Eye View
Shawn Morton – Nationwide
Sean O’Driscoll – Ant’s Eye View
The archive for Online Communities: Thriving in the Economic Downturn Webinar”>Online Communities: Thriving in the Economic Downturn Webinar is now available.
You can view an archive of the video / audio from the webcast here:
On the webcast today, I was joined by Thor Muller of Satisfaction, Chris Kenton of SocialRep and Scott Wilder of Intuit. Topics discussed in the webcast include:
– Buffalo culture as a new metaphor for your online business
– The customer relationship as a currently squandered opportunity
– Rethinking “ROI”
– The social history of marketing and media
– Setting social media policy and training staff – “Guidelines and guardrails”
– and much more.
Thor Muller – CEO & Co-founder, Satisfaction
Thor Muller is CEO & Co-founder of Satisfaction, a startup delivering “people-powered customer service for absolutely everything.”
He is also the co-founder and former Managing Director of Rubyred Labs, a San Francisco-based web apps firm. Since its founding in 2005, Rubyred has developed social software for a range of startups and leading portals.
Prior to Rubyred, Thor was a first generation Web entrepreneur, creating Web success stories for companies such as Yahoo, Dell, Bank of America, Intel, Virgin Records, Fujitsu, Discovery Channel, and Sony. In 1995, he started and ran one of the early Web development boutiques, Prophet Communications, later acquired by Frog Design where he served as VP Digital Media. He subsequently founded Trapezo, a venture-funded company that made Web software for syndicating content, acquired by Perfect Commerce in 2002.
Christopher Kenton – CEO & Founder, SocialRep
Christopher Kenton is founder and CEO of the enterprise social media SaaS startup SocialRep, and cofounder and consulting partner at MotiveLab a social media marketing agency. Chris was formerly Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy at the Chief Marketing Officer’s (CMO) Council, and its corporate parent, the international PR firm GlobalFluency, where he managed global business development, client consulting services and program development for business communities including the CMO Council, the Business Performance Management (BPM) Forum and the Forum to Advance the Mobile Experience (FAME).
With an extensive background in strategic marketing and software development, Chris specializes in market development, competitive positioning, marketing effectiveness and measurement, with a special emphasis on marketing technology and social media.
Scott K. Wilder, Group Manager, Intuit
Scott K. Wilder is currently the Group Manager of Intuit’s QuickBooks Online Community and User-Collaboration Web site. Previously, he served as Vice President of Marketing and Product Development at KBtoys.com and eToys. He also has held numerous senior management positions at America Online, Apple Computer, Borders.com, and American Express. While working at America Online, Scott helped create the first Web-based online advertisement and commercial Web site. Wilder has a Master degrees from The Johns Hopkins University, The New York University Leonard Stern School of Business and Georgetown University’s Leadership Coaching Program.
Bill Johnston, Chief Community Officer, Forum One Networks
Bill Johnston works as Forum One Network’s Chief Community Officer. In this role, Bill drives the editorial vision for Forum One’s series of conferences related to online community, leads the Online Community Research Network, and leads the commercial community consulting practice.
Johnston has been building large-scale online communities since 1999. He came to Forum One from Autodesk, where he served as the Online Strategy Manager, with responsibilities including a portfolio of online communities and blogs. Previously he oversaw user experience tasks at TechRepublic, an IT professionals community (now part of Cnet). He also directs the Online Community Roundtable, an invitation-based professional networking series for online community professionals to share best practices and experiences.
I gave this presentation at the Geneva Web Meetup on May 1st. The net of the presentation is that I encourage the use of a comprehensive strategy as a lens to evaluate opportunities for engagement in the social media ecosystem.
Steve Rubel had an interesting post this morning, titled “Historically, Most Online Communities Haven’t Stuck”
Only a handful of community sites over the last dozen years have had staying power. If you study them you’ll find moats to protect them from competitors and fickle users. These barriers to entry include peer-to-peer commerce (in the case of Edelman client eBay), robust user reviews (Amazon.com) and deep entrenchment in vertical markets (BlackPlanet.com).
I think the spirit of Rubel’s post rings true, and I think that in general he was trying to make the statement “don’t bet the farm on Facebook”, but I think the post misses the mark on a couple of points.
First, (as commenters like David Binkowski state) there is a difference between an online community destination and an online community. Many communities of practice, interest and support travel from destination to destination over time.
Second, I’m not convinced that most marketing and PR firms are best suited to mediate long-term relationship building between companies and online communities. I say this with the utmost respect to both Steve (whose blog and tweeter feed I read daily) and his firm Edelman. I think that if the “center of gravity” for community building and engagement isn’t internal to an organization, that organization’s efforts are likely in a lot of trouble.
I think John Hagel did a great job in his Community 2.0 postof assessing the community-related carnage of the bubble, and setting expectations for the period we are currently in online:
I am deeply encouraged about the commercial prospects for virtual community. When I published Net Gain ten years ago, it unleashed a huge wave of investment – there was a period in 1998 when virtually every business plan submitted to VCs in Silicon Valley claimed to be establishing a virtual community.
Of course, few of these ventures were actually virtual communities and even fewer had any real understanding of what was required to build sustainable virtual communities. As a result, much of this investment was wasted, consistent with the broader pattern of the dot com bubble. An inevitable backlash set in – virtual community became a suspect term. Lots of interesting initiatives continued to be pursued under the radar screen without much publicity or visibility, but helping to build skill sets, experience and performance results.
The net? Communities that don’t provide value, don’t stick. Those that do will grow and evolve. And there will be a lot more than a few.
This is cross-posted from the OC Report.
In the spirit of the new year, I wanted to encourage community managers, strategists and teams to do a bit of self-reflection on the old (2007) and planning for the new (2008).
The following are five key questions you and your team might explore in the coming weeks.
1. How are your members feeling?
This is a great time of year to put out a quick satisfaction survey. Conduct a web-based survey to ask members about the quality of the user experience, how they feel about the community, and if they would they recommend your community to their peers? Finally, ask about additional features or community touch-points members would like to see from you. 50 to 100 responses to this survey would be a great baseline. As I’ve mentioned before, tying this survey into any sort of customer satisfaction, loyalty or brand-tracking research you are doing will be quite insightful.
Web-based surveys are a great tool, but if you can get community members together in-person for a roundtable session, even better. If a Survey or in person Roundtable are too much overhead, pick up the phone and call 5-10 active members.
2. How is your staff?
The first of the year is also a great time to gather staff (or, if you are just one, to do some self-reflection) to think about what went well, and what didn’t in 2007. What were the key learnings? Were your policies and guidelines clear, and did they address most issues. Were members generally happy and active? Did your key metrics grow / improve? Most importantly, how are your front line community managers feeling? Are they enthusiastic about another year participating in your community, or dreading it? If it is the latter, you have some work to do. This is also a good time to start looking around for talent on other teams. The demand for community managers, strategists and executives is only going to get worse in 2008, as more companies engage in online community building and social media activities. Hiring is one option, but growing / grooming internal candidates is another option, especially if your current community staff feels squeezed.
3. Who is sponsoring / how do budgets look?
Does you have a sponsoring executive that has a seat at the C table (or your orgs equivalent)? If not, find one! Or better, convert everyone! Seriously, this is also a great time of year for a community roadshow, to “tell the story of 2007”. All the great conversations that happened, all the key wins, key points of friction. Community and social media has a lot of visibility with most organizations senior management right now, so take advantage. Also, most of you have your 08 community budgets planned, start thinking about 09. Seriously.
4. Got Goals?
Community metrics, and in particular, ROI are going to come under scrutiny this year. 06-07 were about convincing the unconverted that it was OK to say “community” again. A lot of efforts were funded on good faith. This year, many senior managers will want to see return. One of the biggest challenges community managers and executives will face is weaving together a “tapestry of value” that contains both quantitative and qualitative information. It is key to have a set of your community goals aligned with some of your overall organizational goals. On the other hand, it is also critical to convince executives that community features, like discussion groups and blogs, are now expected by the market.
5. Where else can you participate?
One of the things that really surprised me when working on community strategy project in 2007 was the tendency for community managers and strategists to just focus on properties they “owned”, as opposed to reaching out to other adjacent community sites, social networks and bloggers. The metaphor I encourage folks to use is that of an ecosystem. There are many places your community members like to play, and your organization can potentially add value in many (but certainly not all) of those places.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the set of questions I asked. Did i miss something? Please drop me an email or leave a comment.