As CIOs and Chief Knowledge Officers bring tools that have been used on the Internet – blogs, wikis, microblogs, profiles – behind the firewall, they tend to expect the same results. “We’ll have our own Wikipedia!” Or Facebook…or Twitter – you name it. Unfortunately, as many have already discovered and many more will continue to discover, successful communities are dependent on many variables, from the accessibility, speed, and reliability of the technology to your community managers. Despite the newsletter articles, blog posts, press releases, and conference presentations, many “communities” are nothing more than a new version of the same old Intranet, only with shinier tools.
So, if you’re deploying social tools internally, what kind of community is your organization creating?
- What group/community receives the most visits and/or posts on a particular day?
- The Intranet development team
- The Social Media/Web 2.0/New Media Community of Practice
- The Android/iPhone User Group
- An group focused on the core mission/operations
- On any given day, what % of your organization participates (reading or contributing) in your community?
- Less than 10%
- 10% to 49%
- More than 75%
- Senior leadership participation can best be classified as:
- Shhh! Don’t tell them or they’ll shut this site down!
- Big Brother-ish
- Lurking, but not active
- Active and insightful
- If someone posts, “I can’t get my email to work on my phone – help!” What kind of response will they get?
- Total Silence
- “Call the help desk at 1-800-555-5555”
- “What problem are you having – maybe I can help?”
- “Many people have had issues with this so we created a wiki page to walk you through how to set it up the right way”
- Your CEO announces large-scale layoffs. You visit your online community later that day – what do you find?
- “I’m not going near that one!”
- Complaints and criticism
- Praise for leadership and the difficult job they have to do
- Balanced, professional discussion containing constructive criticism, ideas, and empathy
- Most of your employee profile pictures look like:
- Someone publishes a blog post highly critical of a senior leadership decision – what’s the reaction?
- Trick question – all posts have to be approved by management and that never would have made it through
- The administrators delete the post and send a note to the employee’s manager
- Other employees leave comments recommending that the post may be unprofessional and warrant some editing
- The senior leader in question posts a comment himself thanking the employee for his feedback and explaining the rationale behind the decision
- You create a wiki page for your team containing the text of a report you’re working on. What kind of edits can they expect to receive?
- Yours and yours alone, since no one else your team understands how to make the edits themselves
- Your project team’s edits because no one else can access the page
- No edits, but you do receive several comments and questions on the page
- A wide variety of edits ranging from minor to major and coming from your team as well as from people you don’t know
- Your boss asks to review the latest version of a document you’ve been working on. You sent her the link to the wiki page where it’s stored. What’s her response?
- Can you attach the file and send it to me?
- I couldn’t figure out how to make any changes so I’ve just included them in the attached MS Word file
- She makes her edits as comments to the page
- She edits the page directly
- The conversations that occur within your community most resemble:
- An empty room
- A board meeting
- Happy hour
- The hallways at the office
- It’s Friday night and you just discovered that you have a TPS report due first thing Monday morning. To do it, you need some examples of similar reports that have been produced by other teams. Where do you head first?
- You email your immediate team
- You send a blast email out to multiple distro lists asking for help. After all, at least one or two people have to respond, right?
- You search your Intranet with every keyword you can imagine
- You search the TPS forum and post your request there
Do you have a better idea of what kind of community you’re building? Healthy communities aren’t just about collecting users – they’re about interactivity, a positive atmosphere, usefulness and more. Why do you log into Facebook every day? Not to play with all of the cool features, but to interact with your friends and family. Internal communities should have some of these same qualities – they need to have a purpose and be based around human interactions, not the latest technology.
If your score was 16 or less, you don’t have a community, you’ve got the man cave of a new dad. The place is filled with the latest technical toys but no one is around to use them. From the Xbox to the pool table to the fully-stocked bar, you had envisioned many nights partying with the boys watching football, but now that you have a new baby, the only thing all those toys are doing is collecting dust…just like your blogs, wiki pages, and profiles.
If your score was between 17 – 24, your community most resembles China. You’ve got a lot of users (primarily because people are forced to create profiles), but very little sense of community. People talk with one another because they have to, and only when they need something. Conversations are guarded and transactional, and information is protected even more closely as trust between individuals is lacking. Non-work conversations are prohibited – none of that “social networking” stuff here!
If your score was between 25 – 33, your community is most like a high school full of people still trying to figure out who they are, who their friends are, and how to communicate with each other. The adults are confused by the kids, the kids are kind of wary of the adults, but they all co-exist fairly peacefully. Diverse cliques form early and often – iPhone enthusiasts, social media geeks, developers – all with different goals and reasons for being. A few individuals stand out and connect these cliques across the entire school. Social conversation occurs, but is often forced, as people are trying to fit in and test the boundaries of what is allowed and what isn’t.
If your score was between 34 – 44, congratulations! You’ve got the makings of honest-to-goodness social business community. People willingly share information freely across geographic, administrative and cultural lines not because they have to, but because they realize that by pitching in and helping, everyone benefits. Conversations run the gamut – some days, they’re about LOLCats, but on other days, they’re focused on how to best create a culture of innovation. They are overwhelmingly professional in nature, but the content is also overwhelmingly informal. People are only vaguely aware of the number of abbreviations following someone’s name and the titles that precede it, but hold the value an individual brings to the rest of the community in high regard. Employees willingly (and often) spend their own time and money to improve the community, whether via handing out awards or creating new features. And most importantly, this sense of community exists both online and off. From the conference room in the morning to my couch late at night, I know I’m not just an employee number, I’m a valued member of a community that depends on me.
I took this test for my own company’s social Intranet tools, and I discovered that we’re most like a high school. We still only have a fraction of the firm using the tools on a regular basis and the relationships between staff, management, and senior leadership are in that awkward stage where we’re all still trying to figure out how to talk with one another.
(note: this isn’t meant to be used as some formal “diagnostic” or “roadmap” or anything of the like so please take it for what it is – a fun way to gauge how well your community is actually acting like, you know, a community)
Really enjoyed the post.
I particularly like this analogy and the #4 – hallways of office.
For outside firewall communities like GovLoop, I say a similar thing – a great conversation at a conference (that great q&a of a thriving session, or a great conference lunch with 4 other smart people you haven’t met)
The conversations that occur within your community most resemble:
answer: none Not allowed. Some people do sneak onto FB and use that chat (but hey with Uncle Sam, he’s like Santa Claus, he knows what you’re doing anyway)
Great post, clever way to consider the health and robustness of a business community. I would add that most successful online communities don’t get that way without nurturing and encouraging interaction among the participants. I’m sure many of us have joined a community only to click around, get confused and not be sure what to do with it. There’s got to be value in it and a sense of belonging for participants to get active and stay active. Don’t underestimate the need to make a sustained investment in resources focused on managing interaction with the community.