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Today's Community Manager Skills: Savvy in Engagement, Social Data, and Business

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Community Managers: The Hub of Social Business

One of the questions I’m asked the most often about social business is about its key success factors. Specifically, what fundamentally makes a given enterprise social media effort likely to be successful? While the answers to this haven’t changed that much over the last couple of years, I’ve found it’s usually key to differentiate at least two — and perhaps as many as four — distinct timeframes over the life of an effort, as the focus on what’s most important changes significantly with each phase of a social business project.

The two major timeframes that matter the most overall are 1) the initial process to define and justify a given social business initiative and 2) the early work to develop an engaged community around the resulting social business solution (a customer community, advocate program, social marketing campaign, etc.) Both of these are delicate time periods that require a careful focus on what matters most. To a lesser extent, two other timeframes are important as well, which I’ve explored in my social business adoption research. These phases are 3) achieving a critical mass of participation and 4) achieving a sustainable process of engagement over the long term.

As it turns out, the first and second phases almost invariably require a passionate and involved management sponsor, preferably a well-respected senior executive that creates the air cover for the changes required in the organization as well as the necessary resources. But it’s the second, third and fourth phases that all require the single most important capability of all: Effective community management.

Community Management: The Hub of Social Business

Over the years, I’ve explored the emerging capability of community management, a greatly under-recognized discipline that requires a specific set of community manager skills and is relatively unfamiliar to those that aren’t involved in social media. At the most basic level, community management is required to nurture, grow, educate, manage, measure, and operate a social business solution. While we’re really still in the primeval ‘cave painting’ days of social business in general, as part of the maturity process we see that community management itself is very much in the process of evolving as well. For example, it is only now reaching the specialization stage, where we can see dedicated roles for functions such as engagement, analytics & reporting, training & development, or even strategic planning.

Other indicators of maturity of the profession have grown as well. An excellent new report, titled The 2013 State of Community Management from The Community Roundtable underscores this with hard data: Community management teams are now establishing standards for their industry around content management and community programming. They’ve also begun establishing well-documented playbooks that their teams can organize around and follow to provide consistent results and cohesive direction. Metrics and reporting, while still highly variable across the industry, are also becoming a core competency for teams as they increasingly attempt to determine and communicate their business impact. We also see that community managers tend to form the core staff of emerging social media centers of excellence.

New Areas of Focus for Community Manager Skills

While the initial era of community management was often defined by tactical activities like moderation and training, we now see today’s community managers have evolving their skills, become more strategic along way, and have refined their purpose, and the data shows it. Specifically, we see these three broad trends:

  1. Sophisticated new engagement strategies. Today’s community management departments realize that they can’t do it all, nor should they. Engagement at scale is increasingly the name of the game, from cultivating and orchestrating advocates to real-time tool-assisted processes that greatly boost the reach and relevance of community managers while reducing the individual task time required to engage widely.
  2. The strategic use of data to guide community management activities and goals. We’ve seen an operational blueprint emerge over the last several years where social data is at the core of the workflow of community management (as well as other social business functions like marketing.) Community managers today can operate analytic tools that derive tactical situations as well as strategic business intelligence, and doing so is part of their core training and an integral part of their playbook. We’re also seeing that they use their content as a strategic data asset as well.
  3. A focus on eliciting valuable business outcomes. One of the most intriguing tidbits from the 2013 State of Community Management report was that “one interesting difference between the survey average and those community teams that can report the value of community management is the higher level of interaction with most other department and the notable increased interaction with their finance team.” Successful community managers have always had a broad interface with multiple departments across the company, but we can now see it’s the business savvy community managers that can zero in on the value and identify ROI.

While some of this is not necessarily surprising (certainly the rise of analytics has been perhaps the most obvious trend of all in social business), the interesting bits are often in the specific details and I urge you to read the 2013 SOCM report carefully.

What else are you seeing today’s community managers focusing on?

 

Get in touch with Dachis Group Today

Building a Community Management Center of Excellence

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Does your company fully understand the importance of community management for business success?

The following slides from Dachis Group’s Kieran Kelly and Cerys Hearsey discuss what a center of excellence looks like in the context of community management and how your company can start building one today.

Get in touch with Dachis Group Today

Six Tips for Better Community Management on #CMAD 2013

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The role of the community manager is no longer rare at major corporations.

These days, most companies have teams of CMs collaborating within and across multiple business units, divisions, and geographies. Community management attracts students and professionals from various backgrounds because it can be an exciting role that’s full of opportunities.

Understanding social media is a must, and this has allowed many to break into the worlds of marketing, advertising, corporate communications, and customer support, but there’s much more to community management than tweets and Facebook posts.

Community managers face an ever-growing amount of incoming messages from customers who expect more from brands than ever before, at a time in which consumers distrust advertising, executives and governments. They usually also deal with low budgets, limited resources, skeptical environments, and high stress situations.

All community managers manage some form of digital/social community, but the best ones inspire those communities to take action, and they take proactive steps to become better representatives for their brands.

Here are six tips for better community management:

1. Cultivate

When we think about community managers, we typically think about social networks, content, tools and social media messages. However, the role of a community manager requires an understanding and commitment to the big picture: What is it that your brand (or client) is trying to achieve and how does community management help? Understanding the big picture is very important, perhaps as important as this key fact: Community management is customer-centered.

Community managers cultivate relationships. What exactly does this mean? Just as with real-life relationships, it starts with getting to know others — putting yourself in their shoes, interacting with them, remembering shared experiences, and anticipating their needs and requests. Creating content, curating content, amplifying stories, and engaging customers is much more powerful when those on the front lines care about their customers. The best community managers understand the privilege, responsibility and opportunity of making a customer’s day better.

2. Advocate

Community managers are brand experts who have a finger on the pulse of customer sentiment. That’s a big deal! They are the “synapse” between the customer and the company, communicating information and insights that are accurate and valuable to both sides of the equation. To this end, community managers know what they can and cannot share; this simply becomes second nature to them.

The best community managers embody the brand at all times, both online and offline, and they advocate on behalf of consumers within company walls. It is easy to recognize those who authentically represent their brand and it is easy to recognize those who truly care about customers

3. Optimize

Managing a community means consistent improvement. Such improvement can be manipulated and purchased, but community managers should have a “social by design” approach that helps a brand enhance its efforts beyond simply acquiring growth and engagement. Quality of content and timing, internal processes, campaign management, message tagging, audience profiling, KPI reporting, etc. — all of this must be perpetually enhanced.

Think: How can I purposefully help our brand be more agile, more proactive, more responsive, more collaborative, more savvy, more engaging, more inspiring, and more relevant? And how can I help our company do this… at scale!  The best community managers optimize appropriately, gaining support from an engaged customer base and internal stakeholders.

4. Innovate

I cannot stress how important it is to innovate. It may not always be easy, especially not when there’s a separate team, agency or champion “in charge” of innovation. My recommendation is to seek opportunities to innovate. Community managers are able to provide input and ideas based on interactions with customers. The best community managers consider the future of their brand’s relationship with consumers, and how innovation can help a brand take efforts to a whole new level.

I firmly believe that, in 2013, many brands will seek to optimize their social media efforts. However, some will innovate and leapfrog competitors in terms of how they target, reach, and engage consumers. They will likely also innovate in terms of internal processes on how to better prepare for risk, coordinate workflow and collaborate across global organizations.

The best community managers are creative thinkers (and doers!) who enable solutions across silos, and demonstrate the value of being close to a brand’s biggest and most vocal fans (and critics, of course).

5. Lead

Leadership is not about power, and it’s definitely not about the leader. Leading is about building others; inspiring, educating, acknowledging, training, and empowering. It is never too early–or too late–to lead. A good starting point is working with others, and serving in areas such as content planning, workflow processes, event coverage, campaign integration and overall social media strategy. Taking initiative and driving small wins is a great platform to take on new responsibilities where there are gaps. Beyond taking new responsibilities, community managers are able to enable collaboration with other teams and partners; this can be of great value, particularly with companies that are very siloed.

The best community managers are those with potential and desire to be great leaders; they take action, lead by example and expectantly seek opportunities to transform their organizations.

6. Learn

The role of the community manager grows in importance and scope frequently. There are more people on more social networks than ever before in history. More customers are reaching out to brands and interacting with them in social media. Everything changes quickly. Understanding shifts in technology and customer needs is key to community management. From reading blogs and books, to curating content, blogging and podcasting, there are many ways to learn each and every day.

The best community managers educate themselves to become experts in their domain, and experts in domains in which they envision themselves in the future. They never stop learning.


To aid community managers in their learning process, and to celebrate Community Manager Appreciation Day, I’m giving away a copy of my book SOCIAL STATE to everyone at no cost throughout today, Monday 28th, 2013. Get yours on Amazon KindleApple iBooksBarnes & Noble Nook or all three formats downloadable through Vook.com (ideal for international readers).

Check out the video trailer below and click here to learn more about the book.

My hope is that this book will be an educational, inspiring and enjoyable read.
Enjoy and happy #CMAD !

Esteban Contreras is Sprinklr Account Director and Strategist, and the author of the book “SOCIAL STATE: Thoughts, Stats and Stories about the State of Social Media in 2013.” The book is available at no cost on Community Manager Appreciation Day here. You can follow Esteban on Twitter @socialnerdia.

Image Credit: engageq

How is Social CRM different than Community Management?

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Found myself in a little Twitter back and forth with the esteemed @britopian on this topic.

 

 

 

Now, why he didn’t force all of those who DID agree with him to justify their positions, I don’t know, but here goes

Social CRM is critical, particularly for the large brands that we serve. It is about connecting the dots between the single social profile of a customer (combining data from all channels) and existing transactional data to get a richer, fuller profile of the individual customer. You want to not only know what people bought in the past, how often, etc., but you want to know what they are passionate about today, what they are talking about, what they are reading, etc. All of these things can be used to better understand your individual customer and, when combined with the right technology platform, operations framework, and governance framework, help large enterprises actually BE Social@Scale.

 

On the other hand, strategic community management, which is something I did at Microsoft for 4 years and then consulted/built revenue-driving communities for a number of clients including JNJ, Microsoft, Yes To Carrots, and 2 NYT best-selling authors, as well as wrote 2 books on the topic (all in a previous life) is something else.

It is more about the plans and activities you do to facilitate and strengthen the connections in/among/between your community. Community Management is about unleashing the value and potential inherent in Reed’s Law. This make you (be it brand or individual) a more central part of the lives of your network members because those surrounding you see value in being associated with you (by virtue of how you enrich their lives through others..and only through others).

And, on the flip side, a great community manager (or team) can also identify and take advantage of the untapped value of complainers in a way beyond CRM alone. By demonstrating to everyone in the community that the company listens, engages, and genuinely appreciates the input of complainers, they further build the value of the brand.

At it’s core, community management takes advantage of the Net’s greatest potential, the ability to facilitate connections.  It’s why you should value a Technology platform not solely on its features and functionality, but on its ability to facilitate relational activity (as I blogged here).

It’s why we build features such as Profile Tagging, so brand community managers can rapidly (and at SCALE) creates these connections that build value in the community.

I am waiting to hear what Mr. Brito has to say in response and you are welcome to add your comments below or tweet me (@jer979) or Sprinklr (@sprinklr) with your thoughts and feedback.

Lord of the Likes: Taming the Feral Community

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While working on a recent project, I was asked to manage a branded Facebook community that already had a very active following. Problem was, the brand presence up to that point was minimal and the community resembled something from William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Lacking an official brand voice, a group of extremely engaged advocates rose to power.

Though their participation and assistance was appreciated, there was a clear need for an official presence in the community. However, we knew that this would not be a simple undertaking. We acknowledged the threat of backlash and carefully crafted our entry strategy to minimize turmoil. As we put our plan into action, five highly effective practices shone through:

1. Start the day on a positive—and influential—note

Without an official morning greeting each day, the tone and attitude of the community can be completely unpredictable. In the case of our project, it was almost assured that the tone would be negative without subtle intervention. Opening each day with a lighthearted greeting and a fun call to action enabled us to announce our presence, engage advocates, align conversation, and put community members in a positive mindset—all in one fell swoop.

2. Set rules and manage expectations

Clear and consistent communication of community guidelines is an absolute must. If a post is removed because it is in violation of guidelines, follow up and explain why the action was taken. Also, if the community does not have 24-hour management, it is important to communicate the parameters for working hours and response times. This prevents community members from feeling ignored if they post after hours. Eventually the community members will learn how to operate within a structured environment.

3. Establish credibility

A sudden brand presence within a community that has long been dominated by members can be jarring. Don’t be alarmed if a user’s first instinct is to disregard your opinion and look to others for affirmation. Building trust and credibility takes time, but with consistent participation and genuine interactions, it will surely happen.

4. Distinguish community opinion from official/brand response

Highly engaged community members often beat even the best community managers to respond. While this level of engagement is great, it often breeds incorrect information. Consistent brand messaging and presence teaches community members the community manager is the official word, even if it is contrary to responses from other members.

5. Nurture advocates

Lastly, pay tribute to the highly engaged community members who established themselves as experts prior to your arrival. Though there’s a new boss in town, their legacy is not forgotten! By acknowledging their efforts, the advocates know that their assistance is appreciated. If they agree to play nicely and provide respectful assistance to community members, there is no reason for them to stop doing what they’ve always done.

When the time comes to establish an official presence in your community, don’t take it lightly. This undertaking necessitates professional guidance and a wrong move can quickly turn the community against you. These five tips will help pave the way, but take time to make them your own based upon your community observations. Make special note of who your customers are, how they use social technologies, and what they expect from the brand and your overall community participation. Your level of consideration directly affects your success. Now get out there and claim your conch!

The Path to Co-Creating a Social Business: The Early Adoption Phase

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The figures vary but in the last several years a major change has begun in organizations around the world. Sometimes the efforts are small and unsanctioned, sometimes they are big and bold, but increasingly businesses are employing social media strategically to engage deeply with both their workers and customers. We see this all the time in the large firms represented in our Social Business Council and elsewhere.

One of the biggest challenges these efforts face, whether they are internal or external, is that engagement via social media is generally perceived as a voluntary activity. As in, workers can collaborate and customers can choose to interact with a business through older channels that are often more familiar and better supported by the organization itself. Or they can engage through social channels. For people to choose the social path of engagement as the most suitable one, there need to be motivations and incentives that are aligned with that path.

As companies seek to ensure the highest level of success with their social business efforts, I am seeing that they want a proven, reliable way to drive adoption of their social business strategy, whether it’s an Enterprise 2.0 initiative, a social media marketing program, or Social CRM effort. But social media is not as deterministic and controllable as the channels that have come before it. It’s one of the reasons I say that adoption of social media can only be co-created. It is as much up to the those engaging to create value, sustain engagement, and build community as it is to those that sponsor them. You can’t own a community like you can buy software or a marketing campaign, social business is a two-way street like nothing quite like it. This makes adoption of social business a very different creature from the way businesses used to engage before.

Phases of Social Business Adoption

Fortunately, after over half-a-decade of experience in scale, we can see the broad outlines of adoption, which have stages that are very different based on the state of maturity and overall rate of social business adoption in the organization. In other words, as much as we might like it, there is no “one size fits all” approach to it. Fortunately, we can organize around these different stages, which fall roughly into four parts given below. Specifically, these are:

Phases of Social Business Adoption

  • Early adoption This is the most nascent and delicate state, where there is perhaps only a seed of community and there is no network effect yet or core membership that can help with the essential work of social business building. The goal is to validate the direction, tools, and social business design. This is often called the pilot phase.
  • Critical mass adoption This is transforming a successful early adoption phase into broader uptake that is self-sustaining. I’ve previously observed that this critical mass is around 20% of workers, but has been verified as even less.
  • Mainstream adoption There is usually a long pause between the first two waves of adoption and late adoption. Early adopters are often very early and the remainder are often represented by those who have challenges in engaging in a different way, for a variety of reasons. Specific steps must be taken to address these adoption issues.
  • Sustainable adoption A successful social businesses contains communities of people, their business activities, and supporting tools. They will largely self-organize and grow on their own once you’re well into the critical mass phase and beyond. However, these communities can also decline over time without appropriate care and nurturing. Employees move on, customers decide to leave, your company changes direction. All of these affect the long term health of your communities, and so specific adoption strategies are required for as long as you have a thriving social business environment.

This post is part of a four part series on social business adoption that will explore each of these phases, with early adoption being examined here. For this effort, I’ve contacted over a dozen experienced social business practitioners, tapped into my research, and aggregated the results of numerous case studies. The outcome is what you see here and while it’s probably as definitive as you’ll find, it’s a necessarily limited view of a rapidly moving new field. Also, in the end, what drives adoption best is whatever actually works for your social business project, and what works best for your project often isn’t what’s in the check lists, no matter how good. Social isn’t as predictable or as deterministic as we might like, and that’s the challenge. Of course, it’s also a large part of the opportunity to drive innovative new outcomes you could never otherwise achieve or imagine. So while your mileage may vary somewhat, the adoption strategies presented here can be a very useful jump start of your social business journey.

Recognizing that that although social business is part of a single continuum across workers, business partners, customers, and the marketplace, that internal use of social business and external uses involve participants that have a very different relationships with the organization. Adoption strategies therefore vary the most between these two groups and so they are presented here separately, though there is often significant cross over, particularly in areas like community management and connecting social business activities to relevant business outcomes and bottom-line benefits.

Social Business Adoption Strategy Phase 1 Early Adoption

Note that these adoption phases also take place during the journey of becoming a social business in the large and will be directly informed by that journey. Individual social business efforts, and their adoption strategies, should be loosely connected to what the entire organization is doing and “calibrate” to align themselves in the same direction.

Early Adoption Strategies – Internal Social Business (aka Enterprise 2.0)

While the blur between internal and external communities continues to increase, for now most efforts are still separate. Listed beow are the top adoption strategies for external social business efforts. Begin with these but experiment along the way and find the adoption patterns that are unique to your environment, culture, and constraints.

  • Establish a clear purpose. Ill-defined and vague social business efforts end up with a similar outcome. As Susan Scrupski, who formed the active and highly engaged Social Business Council (disclaimer: this is a Dachis Group online community), conveyed when I asked her what the single most helpful action she took to foster adoption was this: “We established a clear purpose for the community, combined with fostering a sense of trust and a culture of sharing.” Clearly stated intents and objectives let participants self-select, join in, and find what they are looking for while contributing more of the same.
  • Identify and engage adoption champions. Locate and identify unofficial leaders in your target community and get them involved and participating early. They will ultimately do the bulk of the work during the early adoption phase in drawing in participation using the social networks and good reputation.
  • Help leadership set the tone. One of the biggest triggers for adoption is when leadership clearly communicates how they’d like workers to participate in social business. While setting a personal example through participation is best, all it takes is direct, regular, and public involvement by several well-respected executives.
  • Communicate clear policies for usage (cans and cannots.) Social media policies have come a long way from the 7 page fine print of years gone by to simple and clear directives. Specifically, the lessons learned over the years have distilled to focus on explaining exactly what employees can and can’t do in the most understandable terms. Bonus points for providing effective suggestions on when they should use social business solutions.
  • Test social UX usability with workers. Inexplicably, usability of a social business design is too often under-tested or performed as an afterthought despite it being one of the biggest drivers of early adoption. If you don’t have budget set aside for A/B testing (which is proving to be the very effective, though more expensive) and time in the schedule to fix the biggest usability barriers you discover, you will take an adoption hit.
  • Use a consumer-style marketing campaign. How you communicate to workers and the tone you use will set stage for the way its perceived, and in the early days perception of everything. It must be credible but it must also be memorable and convey what’s new and provide motivation to join and try it. John Woodworth of 3M Lab Collaboration used this approach successfully: “Employees already have a preferred product. By using market segmentation and a value proposition for each ‘segment,’ we identified what they would need and how they wanted it delivered. A good customer doesn’t just try your product; they buy it often and endorse it. Focus the sales on finding the ‘good customers’ and the best markets.“.
  • Strategic community management. Especially early on, the facility of community management is one of the only real assets you have to drive social business transformation and adoption. Rachel Happe, co-founder of the The Community Roundtable and a world authority on community management, notes that “community building is a critical element of social business success and typically organizations cannot get there by deploying social technologies alone. There are a variety of contextual factors that can increase or decrease the ease of building a community but there are also some common best practices“. I’ll note these best practices in this list.
  • Connect to business purposes. This seems obvious stated this way, but many look at social business approaches as a horizontal or general purpose communications method more akin to e-mail to IM than a way to improve a specific business activity. Sometimes this is true of course, but the best results often seem to come from those that aimed their social business design at a specific business opportunity. As Lauri Buczek, social media strategist at Intel, recently noted in Mark Fidelman’s Sure Fire Ways To Become A Social Business, “First, identify the business objectives.Ken Domen, an enterprise collaboration lead at a large enterprise, conveyed to me that finding a “killer app” that solves a particular business problem better than before is a strong adoption technique. For example, Ken finds that IM and calendaring apps, embedded contextually in his social environment, to be particularly effective.
  • Proactively share the adoption process. Communities are built by their members, not companies alone. Time after time, as I see particularly effective examples of social business, I see that this is a core value. The more the process is open and members are encouraged and empowered to provide structure, rules of the road, and spread the word, the more ownership, involvement, and productive work results. Experimentation should be encouraged. A leading example is SAP’s million-plus member Community Network (case study) with their SAP Mentor program.

Early Adoption Strategies – External Social Business

As social business scales up and goes external, successful adoption has a new, though often complementary set of requirements. Some of the differences revolve around motivation in that external participants aren’t typically paid to work for the organization like internal participants and so usually have a very different set of reasons they are involved. Other issues that tend to be unique to external social business includes appealing to a much broader demographic and competing with similar communities elsewhere on the Internet.

  • Identify and engage influencers. Enlisting those with strong reputations and contacts related to the purpose of your social business effort has long been understood as an effective adoption pattern. Engagement with influencers takes many forms and should be connected to adoption whenever possible early on.
  • Use content as a participation seed. At first, there’s little in a new community to draw in initial participation. Rachel Happe says this is one of her top three adoption patterns: “Create a content calendar that provides members with something they value and creates opportunities for them to interact.” Obtaining seed content can be resource-intensive and can require more investment than expected if influencers are not well-engaged early. This should be sustained until at least the critical mass phase of adoption and usually beyond.
  • Go to the audience, draw them in. Building a community on a far corner of the Internet makes it hard for new participants to find it. This is one of the reasons that Facebook pages have become so popular, by going directly to where a vast, already social and participative audience is. There are many approaches to this but it can greatly aid adoption when integrated properly.
  • Personal engagement from key business stakeholders. Having the presence of company leaders and providing structured access to them by recognized members of the social business ecosystem provides the deep engagement that’s more likely to both increase participation and lead to useful outcomes. SAP’s Community Network does this proactively (see case study link above.)
  • Reward the remarkable 1%. By now just about everyone is familiar with the 90-9-1 rule, where 90% are passive browsers, 9% contribute a little, and 1% account for a disproportionate amount of the value created. These are rough numbers for external social business participation. While the specific technographics continues to fluctuate a little as the market evolves, the key to driving adoption is ensuring that your most valuable contributors are incentivized appropriately to contribute, once you identify who they are. While timing and perceptions of conflict of interest can be issues, rewards typically run the gamut from simple recognition to more formal business relationships.
  • Proactive community management. Community management continues to make my top list of what helps define a successful, vibrant social business. Rachel Happe includes this in her top three list as well, noting “allocating a full-time community manager that both encourages member activity and keeps the conversation on track.” The biggest misstep I see many social business efforts make is greatly under-resourcing this capability early on. SAP’s Gail Moody-Bird has observed that resources like this “are not a part time job for everyone.
  • Keep it simple. To be usable and effective for the broadest demographic, simplicity in joining, user experience, and conversation are essential to reduce abandonment and maximize the value being exchanged. This is Rachel Happe’s top adoption point as well, “keep the functional environment simple so new members quickly grasp how to participate.
  • Be authentic, don’t overproduce. Over the years, as I’ve collected best practices for online communities, I’ve noticed a common pattern. The fanciest and slickest social business experiences don’t necessarily achieve nearly the uptake as ones that are simple, basic, and straightforward. Though social media marketing aspects of social business can be an exception, excessive polish conveys a sense that too much lipstick is being put on. As John Hagel has talked about a trust paradox and social business, that being truly genuine and letting human realities be exposed is much more likely to sustain adoption and less likely to actively repel participants.
  • Employ the “Us First, World Second” strategy. Time and again, when I’ve spoken to social business efforts, they explained how in the early days everyone was on deck in the organization and helped create the seed of participation. I’ve even heard it phrased that at first “it was 90% us and 10% them, and then later it was 90% them and 10% us.” Driving early adoption in this was is successful but unsustainable at a high level for long and must be timed right. “All hands on deck” may be problematic for your organization for various reasons but it’s a powerful tool for early adoption when it can be used.
  • Build trust and a culture of sharing. This is one of Susan Scrupski’s adoption lessons and has been repeated by just about everyone I’ve spoke with over the years. It’s not just enough to build trust, the culture must be one where the free exchange of ideas is valued and encouraged, because that’s the observable value that drives innovation, better decisions, and more. Building that culture requires leading by example and rewarding contributors both.

Note that this list cannot be exhaustive and there are literally dozens of techniques large and small that one can attempt to drive adoption of social business. You should also never forget the fundamental cycle of listen, analyze, measure, and respond. However, these cover the more widely used and repeatable techniques that I’ve seen of the many social business efforts that I’ve examined over the years. I’ll be covered the remaining adoption phases in upcoming posts but welcome your feedback to improve and extend this list.

Facebook Places, Locations Coming Out of Beta

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Facebook Places LocationsAs the social world advances, consumers are turning more to location-based social networks to showcase their favorite places and redeem deals for checking-in. There have been discussions among Facebook Developers the past few weeks regarding the new features being released for Places and Pages that began rolling out on July 13th. These features are designed to help brands establish a more localized presence on Facebook, while also making the experience more useful to the Facebook community. However, there are limitations in not providing a custom experience for consumers. These new features will be rolled out to pages automatically and follow the previous set-up of parent-child relationships.

Brands will be able to see features of these new releases in 5 areas:

  1. Locations Tab: The new locations tab has appeared on main parent pages. This tab automatically loads nearby locations for a user and also allows for users to search for locations by zip code. For brands there is the ability to move this tab up, down or to remove it totally. Currently this tab is in beta but once fully functional users will be able to find locations. When determining if this tab will meet brand objectives for a store locator, a good parallel question to ask is “Does the info tab suffice in telling my brand’s story?” If not, and you have a custom Welcome tab or About tab, then chances are, you’ll also want to have a custom branded store locator; as brands will quickly discover, functionality with Locations is limited, and look & feel is locked at Facebook/Bing, as we can see from the Papa Johns Locations tab.
  2. Papa John's Facebook

  3. Parent-Child Linking: For each Place that is designated as a child page there will be a link under the page name to the parent page. For a brand this will prove valuable because there is a background linking architecture and a difference between official and unofficial Places Pages. This linking architecture will most likely have an effect on searching on Facebook and search engines.
  4. Check-In Aggregation: When a user checks-in to a place, all check-ins from child Places pages will be aggregated to the parent page. This will present a more accurate picture of the brand’s social geo-local footprint.
  5. Mass Places Management: Parent pages will have administrative access to their child Places and also appear as an admin for every Place. Only the parent page will be able to remove themselves as an admin and grant administrative access to franchisees. Community managers will now have a way to control individual locations but also a way to empower franchisees and regional managers to become more involved in Facebook, as we can see below within the Locations back-end Facebook interface for Chapters Indigo.
  6. Indigo Locations

  7. New Pages API Features: Brands will now be able to edit many Places at once using new features in the API. The editable areas include wall settings, custom tabs, and Check-in Deals. It is currently unclear if Facebook is going to be providing an interface to manage locations in bulk or if they are simply allowing the APIs to be open for developers to leverage on behalf of brands. If the latter, then brands will definitely want to sync with their Facebook PDC account representatives or Social AOR to discuss development of a custom Places Management interface.

These updates will allow brands to gain more from the Parent-Child and Places experience and increase the control that they have over individual Places in a time efficient manner. However, for many brands to stay innovative in the social space it will be necessary to develop custom applications that tie in multiple locations while allowing users to filter the information that is most important to their experience. As soon as the changes to Places come out of beta keep an eye out for an update here on the final social business impact for brands and their Places presence.

What Basic Friendship Rules Can Teach You about Community Management

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When called upon to explain what it takes to be a good community manager, I often feel like I’m writing a children’s book on how to be a good friend. Truly, good community management is not difficult to figure out, but many people are intimidated by the new avenues of communication in social media and lose sight of how easy it can be to establish a connection with a group of people. If you follow these six simple rules of friendship, you’re well on your way to being a stellar community manager with a highly engaged audience.

1. Be real

The premise is simple: don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. A community manager should be selected because they’re a good fit for the community. Don’t select a community manager simply because they have community management or social media experience; make sure they also have a background that is relevant to the community or your brand. The community can tell if you’re insincere or clueless, and you run the threat of losing their trust.

Additionally, give your personality a chance to shine through. Community managers who are overly dry or technical might as well be robots. Community members appreciate the presence of a genuine personality with whom they feel a connection.

2. Listen

A good community manager makes time to check in on the community at least once a day. Depending upon the amount of activity on each community hub, you may want to check in three to five times a day. Reply to any questions people have asked, and let them know that you’re there for them.

Genuine interaction is a must. Take time to really read and understand what your community members need. Don’t try to make their questions fit into a formulaic category that can easily be answered with a stock response. This will frustrate them and make you lose credibility.

3. Share

When checking in, a community manager should post interesting material and encourage conversation in the community. Don’t feel like your posts have to strictly adhere to the theme of your community; feel free to post a funny video or cute picture when you see fit.

Encourage your community to share, too. When you post, always include a call to action to encourage responses. If you post a video of a puppy stuck on its back, ask your community members to share their favorite puppy videos in the comments. This creates a dynamic of mutual respect and open sharing, and keeps your community members interested.

4. Watch out for your friends

Every good community manager wears the hat of a moderator at some point in time. When a community member comes to you with an issue, do your best to respond and resolve it within one day. If a flame war erupts within your community, step in and take the necessary steps to restore peace. Moderation is an important part of community management, and your community will thank you for the support.

5. Pitch in during times of crisis

When there is unplanned downtime or unexpected technical difficulties, a community manager should do all they can to guide the community through the rough patch. It’s always a good idea to have a crisis response plan in place before it is needed so you can promptly escalate the issue up the proper chain of command and provide a swift resolution.

Radio silence from a community manager during times of uncertainty can lead to panic and frustration from community members. If possible, contact your community members via alternate methods such as email or other unaffected social outlets. If there is planned downtime on the horizon, make sure your community is aware of it at least two weeks in advance.

6. Give your friends space

There’s such a thing as oversharing in a community. Good community managers make sure to avoid posting too often or dominating conversations. Doing so will lead your community members to ignore you or even leave the community.

A good rule of thumb is to not post more than three times a day. Additionally, allow your community members to interact with one another and create organic conversations around a central topic. Quite often, community members’ questions are answered by other members before you get a chance to respond. This builds a strong community based on mutual respect, and makes the community manager’s job a lot more pleasant.

Planning a Community Is Like Planning a Wedding

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I tweeted recently that all of the details of planning an online community reminded me of planning a wedding.  I submitted the tweet at the very moment I felt overwhelmed by the details of coordinating so many moving pieces weeks before launching the community. For the past three months, Dachis Group has worked closely with a community platform provider to design, build, and launch an online community for a client partner.  I am a member of the Dachis Group team managing this project, and I decided to write about my experience.

We spent months conducting research, planning the strategy, establishing the KPIs and measurement plan, creating content and designing the site.  Now that we are weeks away from launch, community planning has suddenly become tracking a growing ‘to do’ list.  Instead of ‘call the caterer, meet with the photographer, email the DJ,’ my list includes ‘email Compliance, call Legal, follow-up with IT’ in addition to daily communication with our client partner and platform provider.  The ‘to do’ list scrolls in my head creating what one of my friends referred to as the [wedding] planning head fog.  The stress hits when you realize one incomplete item on the list will throw off the entire schedule.  This is why each time I mark something complete on the list, I feel compelled to do a little dance in my chair.  Each checked item means we are closer to launch.  It’s exciting.

However, it can also be wearisome.  I’ve been exposed the darker side of community planning as well.  A community planner who has invested lots of time and energy into planning the community may also grow easily frustrated and impatient over details.  (‘How did they miss this important request?’) 

I confess that I came close to turning into the bridezilla of community management.  This image became the stress-relief joke among the team as we plotted how to get everything approved in time for the targeted launch date.  ‘Did you go bridezilla on them?’ we would ask each other.  When things got particularly tense, there was a strong temptation to ‘go bridezilla.’  But in the end, keeping a cool head prevails and we’re right on track for launch.

To avoid turning into bridezilla before launching an online community, I offer 7 lessons learned from my experience so far.

  1. Meet with Compliance and Legal during the initial planning stages to provide context around the project, give notice about content approvals, find out if training is available (goodwill effort that goes a long way) and if Terms of Service language exists for social media sites
  2. Conduct interviews with other groups inside and outside the organization that interact with your target audience (PR, Customer Service)
  3. Don’t assume that Facebook-like features will be supported by every community platform
  4. Allow for plenty of time to receive approval of a new community manager position and to find the right candidate
  5. Avoid ghost-written blog posts (they are awkward and no one wants to endorse before the community is launched anyway)
  6. Allow at least a week for website quality assurance testing (you may need more time depending on how many people need to be involved and their responsiveness)
  7. Schedule time to pre-seed the community site with user-generated content before launch to kick-start sharing activities

I’m sure I’ll have more to add in the future.  For now, I’d like to know if you have any lessons learned in community planning to add.

Source for bridezilla photo: http://pdbb.wordpress.com/2009/04/08/bridezilla/bridezilla/