During the course of her five years with Jive Professional Services, Carrie Gilbert has guided dozens of Jive customers through the process of defining and implementing their community strategies, drawing on her extensive professional and academic background in interaction design, technical communication, and usability. In this piece, Carrie shares five easy ways to help drive engagement in your community.
Congratulations! You survived the flurry of activity that leads up to the launch of a new community—all the goal-setting, configuration, communication planning, resourcing, and so on. So now you can just sit back, relax, and watch people effortlessly engage with one another, work more effectively, and collaborate like never before!
Right? Oh, wait... that's not what's happening?
It's true: Launching a new collaboration platform does not magically transform the people in your organization into eager collaborators, nor does it render former strangers into idea-swapping colleagues overnight. That transformation often requires time, effort, and a commitment to cultural change (unless your organization is that rare bird that has already embraced a more transparent way of working). That all may sound daunting to the typical community manager—sure, you'll just add "enterprise-wide cultural change" to your to-do list—but that's not to say it's impossible. In fact, some approaches are surprisingly easy and effective at getting people to more actively engage.
1. Like stuff. It's nice to know people appreciate something you've done. It's human nature to get a little giddy when people give us that little, "atta boy (or girl)!" and acknowledge our contributions. This absolutely carries over from real life into the online realm as well: if 15 Facebook friends "like" that picture you posted of your dog, you're a lot more likely to post more pictures of ol' Rex. So lead the charge within your organization's community and start doling out those ego boosts, especially when you see a new contributor in your midst. It takes less than a second to click that "Like" link, but it goes a long way to reinforcing people's behavior: namely, contributing to your community.
2. Reply to stuff. Sure, seeing that people like something you did is great, but it's even better if they take the time to craft a reply. Maybe the reply just agrees with what you said, maybe it takes a different perspective, maybe it outright disagrees. As long as it's done respectfully, it's nice to see people engaging with something you started, and it's even better for the community as a whole to see these signs of life. So make sure people are getting their questions answered and getting a healthy response to their discussions.
3. Become an anti-email activist. Sometimes people have every intention of using a new collaboration platform, but then they quickly fall back into their established work habits (typically email). Don't let people get away with that! Every time you receive an email that could have been better served in the community, reply back and say they should post it instead. (Alternately, post it on their behalf, either manually or via Jive for Outlook.) Make sure they still get the information they need, but make them have to go into the community to get it. Emails especially well suited to this approach include:
- Messages directed to an entire team of people that are soliciting feedback (especially on an attachment) or seeking consensus on a decision. This is perfect discussion thread fodder: all participants get full visibility into the discussion, you don't wind up with umpteen branched conversations, and no one accidentally hits "reply" when they intended to hit "reply all." Plus it saves everyone from hitting "delete" in their inbox for each new message.
- Messages directed only to you (or a small group) that start out, "I don't know if you're the right person to ask about this, but..." Moving this into the community helps teach them that it's easy to cast a wide net when trying to identify an expert on something.
- Messages targeted at a broad distribution list. Wide-reaching distributions that essentially serve as a company's own internal Craigslist often make for good social groups within Jive.
4. Question your team's day-to-day practices. Which recurring meetings tend to devolve into round-robin status updates where no one pays attention until it's their turn to speak? Which workflows typically disappear into black holes, making quick status checks difficult? Which programs could benefit from a new perspective? Get creative and identify ways to take your working group's existing activities and make them more engaging, more fun, or more time-efficient. This will help your colleagues see the community as a better way of getting work done, rather than another thing to deal with when they have time.
5. Recruit more troops. You probably don't want sole responsibility for driving traffic to your community. Even if you did, the "they like me! they really like me!" glow from steps 1 and 2 will quickly fade if all that affirmation is only coming from one person. So spread the love—and the effort. Reach out to your friends, your closest colleagues, your boss, and people who generally seem to "get" the community. Now send them this list and tell them to have at it. Rinse, repeat. We can't guarantee you'll have lovely curly locks as a result, but you will be on your way to a vibrant, engaged community.
What are some other easy and effective ways you have found to drive engagement?