In a post last week, I explored the success characteristics necessary for an internal community manager. Although these skills and traits apply to all internal community managers across the board, there are some differences that are dictated by the maturity of your network. In this follow-up post, I’m going to explore traits that are necessary for building out a nascent community. Even though a nascent community doesn’t yet produce a lot of volume, don’t make the mistake of assuming that you don’t need to invest the time and effort into it; your community manager is going to be more of a builder, whose job it is to build and sustain engagement. If you are at the point of building out your Yammer community, you are probably in the process of just starting to roll out Yammer (or will be soon). Make sure to check out these tips on how to build the right team for success, of which a community manager is a key part. Here’s what this community builder will need to do:
Find allies: Since you are just starting out, you need to lobby internally to get the support you need. But don’t do it alone; find likeminded individuals who can become your allies. They may be on your team at first, and then you will be able to expand to other departments and business units and make it a truly cross-functional effort. When selecting these early allies, approach those who share your vision and passion for the “Open Enterprise.” Also, make sure to approach those stakeholders who stand the most to gain from the effort. Once the effort is up and running, collect successes (qualitative and quantitative) and share them with others. The best way to get support is to help people do their jobs and look like rockstars in front of their peers.
Get exec buy-in: Getting exec buy-in early is critical; presence of executives legitimizes the internal social effort, letting employees know that posting to Yammer is considered part of the job, as well as setting the expectation to be on their best behavior, as “the bosses are watching.” For example, a “plug” from the AAA COO really gave their network a shot of virtual adrenaline in the arm.
Define strategy, policy and governance: If you are just starting out, you will need to clearly outline the vision and goal of the network, tie it to existing business processes, align the stakeholders, establish policy and governance. When writing the policy, ensure that the right people have a seat at the table (HR, IT, CIO), but don’t go into “analysis paralysis.” When defining governance and best practices, focus on what’s appropriate and isn’t and focus on “do’s” vs. “don’ts.”
Seed the community with the right people. Those early users should be passionate about your shared vision, be genuinely interesting and knowledgeable and possess the necessary etiquette. They will set the tone for content that will be shared and behavior that will be practiced later, so make sure you pick the right people and ask them to help you create (or at least validate) your plan.
Create conversations: When your community is still new (and even after it’s matured), you will need to consistently and proactively create conversations. This is where being knowledgeable about trends is useful; starting conversations around industry events / competitive happenings is a great way to get the conversation started. When a great point is raised, make sure to draw people in to respond — and don’t be afraid to do it in other channels, like phone or a cubicle pop-in This is where being well-networked becomes useful.
Focus on being useful: Communities are like nightclubs. You could have the most handsome design with the snazziest features, but if no one is there, people will leave. Or you could have folks show up on the opening night, with much fanfare, and never come back. Just like a nightclub, building your community is a bit of a catch-22: you need people there, so other people will come, but how do you get the first people into your virtual “club”? This is why seeding your communities with the right people in the beginning is so important. To attract others, your content needs to: 1) help people do their jobs, 2) be useful in realtime (have enough people responding to each other to get results), 3) be useful via archives and 4) connect emotionally. Think emotion has no place in the workplace? Think again! Stories of success resonate the best, since they help us envision success. People love to share stories as well, as it helps them be seen as an expert.
Establish the right structure: Help the community form good habits by establishing modes of communication and community structure, such as using groups, topics and other syntax. If you start doing the right thing from the beginning, you won’t have to “un-learn” later.
Promote in other channels: When you first launch the network company-wide, many people won’t know what Yammer is. You may have to figure out how to promote it in other channels: in email newsletters, via your Intranet, physical flyers. Why not highlight some of the most interesting content tidbits to show people what they are missing out by not joining? To the left, check out the example of promotion on the company Intranet from customer Teekay.
Train, support and be a resource: As the “community gardener,” you need to continuously water the plants — your community members. Train people properly; let them know what your vision is, allow them to envision using it for their own success. Establish and share best practices, give people encouragement and be there as a resource. People want to do the right thing, but sometimes they may not know how; it’s your job to help them.
Integrate business processes: Every company has its own way of doing things. You need to define what online networking and collaboration means to you, and which existing processes it plugs into. Whatever your particular scenario is — whether crisis communication, crowdsourcing ideas, onboarding, sales or support enablement — think through the steps necessary, and the people you need to call on to make it successful.
Back to you, reader! Have you grown a community from nascency to maturity? What did you do to take it from zero to awesome? The comments are yours!
Photo source: Dominic’s Pics