We're knee-deep in a lot of "success" work these days -- that is, tying collaboration metrics to project/company success based on the client's goals. It may sound great that a company is seeing a 50% increase in question resolutions in a given week, or a 15% increase in blog posts, but what does that mean if your goal is brand awareness versus project completion time? Ultimately, this will lead to a lot of different outputs, such as whitepapers, deployment methodologies, benchmark studies and other blogs on the subject. In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to share a couple of interesting tidbits.

 

One of these metrics to track is the types of people participating in these communities.  Forrester has provided one way of looking at this for external communities called the the Ladders of Participation, which is based on  general public usage of social tools.

 

Forrester's take is an interesting slice into usage models and works well for most social networking sites, I'm sure. However, it breaks down a bit if you try to apply it to different scenarios since it doesn't take into account the different types of communities, of which there are many. And most of our customers aren't trying to set up social networking sites. Patrick Lambe provides a great breakdown of these types of communities in this interesting video (communities of interest, communities of circumstance, network of practice, community of practice, learning community, etc.).

 

For us to take advantage of a model like Forrester's, it needs to be considered in light of the business goals of each client. For instance, here's how one of our customers (a business community concerned mostly with knowledge-sharing/Q&A) looks when the model is applied. This is more of a "network of practice" according to Lambe's breakdown.

 

 

It's interesting, but weighted at the extremes, which means it's not going to be as telling, but it's still useful. Even more useful if you can set goals around it. For instance, since this particular site is interested in leads, we might want to track not only the breakdown of spectators, but set goals for conversion to collectors, where you now have more of a dialogue open with the user.

 

And as you would expect, this model breaks down when applied to internal communities. The types of users no longer make sense inside a company, which is typically more concerned with how fast people get answers, how much content is being created/reused, how much faster projects are completed and decisions made, etc. Out of curiosity, we decided to see how Jive's internal Clearspace instance would play out on the Ladder model:

 

 

Again, weighted at the extremes. I think the roles I would like to see for our own usage scenario would include things like:

 

experts

answer lots of questions, highly ranked

helpers

participate in lots of discussions in different categories

thought leaders

weighted on blogs, lots of users subscribe to them

content-creators

responsible for reusable content

processors

weighted on docs, use workflows

churchmice

lots of subscriptions, little voice/content

 

And I would remove the "fun" communities from the sample set -- needless to say, some folks are highly active in things that aren't mission critical :).

 

So, the main takeaway is that different communities have different circumstances that tie them together and therefore have unique Ladders of Participation. In order for businesses to determine if they are earning the promised value of increased productivity through social participation, we need to start defining these usage models more discreetly.