We're excited to kick off a new blog series called 'Ask The Expert', which involves an expert from the Jive Community sharing on a specific topic that's near and dear to their heart. For a month after this blog goes live, feel free to ask the expert any additional questions within the comments that relate to their topic. These experts are here to help you; give them your rock or single issue that's causing you the most trouble to see if they've overcome something similar.
We want to thank the amazing Rachel Duran, Enterprise Community Manager at Allegis Global Solutions, for being our first expert. Previously, she was an internal and external Jive platform community manager for RadioShack Corp, and before that she served as the Director of Social Media Strategy at Ilfusion Creative. Rachel was also a speaker at JiveWorld and is an active Jive Community contributor. Below she shares some extremely insightful information on internal communities regarding community purpose, management, and reporting.
Discussion Dates: April 8 to May 1
Be sure to sign up for email notifications or follow this document in your InBox. Rachel will respond to questions posted in the comments below during that time period.
About this discussion
Identifying and demonstrating organizational value is one of the most important pieces to the puzzle of establishing, building and maintaining an internal community. Yet, it seems to be the piece that is most often missed and effectively toppled from the edge of the community planning table. Developing brilliant new solutions comes with clout (w00t!) and the responsibility of change management (eek!). Even though your fabulously innovative self intuitively “gets” social business, not everyone in your organization will. It’s time to grab that community value puzzle piece and get ahead of the game with some strategic gumption!
First and foremost, any proposed community needs an established purpose, and that purpose should be reflected in everything — the initial proposal, UI/UX design, and community management style. Even the most straight-forward concepts will face at least one internal naysayer that doesn’t inherently understand how online communities support the organization’s goals. Or worse, your user base will flounder without a clear purpose to keep them engaged after a first visit.
Start by writing up a clear, concise Community Mission Statement before getting started with any proposals or requirements gathering. Here are some questions your mission statement should answer:
- Who is your target audience?
- “Employees” won’t fit the bill for this FAQ. Is your internal audience the entire enterprise of employees, or will it focus on a subset? If it’s a varied group, how will each of those groups be engaged in a way that works for them?
- What problem is this community solving?
- Change is hard! (I think I use that line in every community management blog I’ve ever written). What is it about this community that is going to ignite passion for an evolution in communication within your organization?
- What business goal and/or principle is this community helping to achieve?
- We all have a set of principles, pillars, standards, or whatever your brand opts to call them. Your internal community should fit into one or more of these categories. If the alignment to a company principle isn’t obvious, be sure to make that connection as clear as possible without being too wordy.
Now that your mission statement is in place and you’ve worked up excitement in the executive suite with your brilliance, it’s time to get rolling towards community planning, strategy, launch and management. No big deal, right? Well, if you have any other job duties, I’m sure you have a lump in your throat just thinking about how much work this is going to be. You need a Community Manager!
Proving business value for launching an online community is one thing, but adding a human resource or an entire team into the project budget can be tricky, especially in smaller or otherwise budget-restricted environments. Before pleading your case for moolah, you’ll want to clarify your needs vs your wants. For the launch of your community, can you live with just a moderator/systems admin, or do you absolutely need someone within strategic experience? Do you need a developer or will you start out with out-of-the-box functionality? How many users will you have and how much moderation will they require? How much technical administration is needed for SSO, news features, analytics, security, upgrades, etc?
After you’ve evaluated your resource needs, be sure to do your research on salaries, job descriptions, experience needs, etc. Any community manager you speak to can probably tell you how many of these job posts are way off base from actual community needs and market demand. The Community Roundtable and the Jive Community are both excellent resources in sourcing a team that is set for success.
After your staffing needs are assessed, prepare yourself for the sell. Think of other major communication changes in the past that have required implementation resources other than technology. My favorite anecdotal metaphor is the introduction of email. Execs that have been around for a while will remember quite well that they didn’t just buy email technology and turn on the switch. Help them understand that, similar to email, online communities are not a trend, but a necessary adoption of modern communication. I rarely hear stories of enterprises with a lack of technology, but I often hear complaints about a lack of full technology utilization. That lack of utilization can be due to a number of manpower issues, including mediocre strategy, lack of training, and poorly communicated implementations.
Once you’ve convinced the decision maker to give you what you need to build a successful community, you’re expected to prove business value! That old dreaded phrase starts to come up: “Community ROI”.
Have no fear! You’ve already done the hard part by establishing your community purpose. Now you just need to measure those activities that tie back to that purpose. External communities are sometimes able to see a clear connection through CRM data or shopping cart referral stats in Google Analytics. Internal is often a little trickier and may require a soft value dashboard that displays quantitative results against the previously established qualitative goals.
For example: If you have an internal support community, like the one I previously managed for a major retailer, you may want to report on things like:
- Average views per answered question
- Why – To show that the most of the time that was taken up by community interaction was used for business purposes that improved productivity. Views of previously answered questions count as repeated inquiries, since the user saw their question pop up while they typed what would have been a new one.
- This is now a native report in Jive Cloud and Jive 8!
- Questions as a percent of total content
- Why – To show that the community was mostly being used for its primary intended use case (Q&A, Knowledge Base).
- Average time to answered question
- Why – Same as above
- Expectation was 30 minute average (due to customer-facing urgency)
- Expectation was for avg to continuously decrease as the community matured
- Typical adoption, site use, and content creation reports
- Expectation was to continuously grow
- Average user time spent on community per day
- Why – To show that the community was not taking up otherwise valuable labor time.
As you can see, these examples show community growth that related back to its specific purpose, even if it can’t spell out traditional ROI measures, such as sales increases. This is a great basis for developing an executive dashboard that is repeatable on a monthly or quarterly basis. Be sure to establish what success looks like before you put out a single community report. The most important part of this process is not just reporting data, but comparing that data against goals over time. “We have 15,000 page views per week” doesn't mean anything unless you've compared it to your page view goal and/or difference to last week or, say, a six week trend.
It’s also a good idea to work with other departments to single out a possible community event and analyze how that event’s activity tied directly to increases in its category focus without any other variables. I’ve accomplished this with community-only product knowledge contests, where the overall sales trends for said product are tracked over the promotional period. Having case studies like this in your back pocket can be a great get-out-of-jail-free card if community ROI faces unexpected scrutiny in the future.
Together, a community mission, excellent community manager(s), and a strong analytics plan create a framework that sets your project up for success. Executive buy-in and strategic planning are key to a strongly adopted and engaged internal community down the line. Once your internal community shows some major steps toward helping to reach company goals, you’ll have set yourself up for making an even more profound impact on the enterprise through added capability like gamification and recognition systems. At that point, it’s difficult for anyone in the organization to deny the power of social business. You’ve got a powerful piece in the palm of your hand. It’s time to solve your enterprise’s communication puzzle.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us, Rachel!
Feel free to ask Rachel any follow-up questions within the comments through May 1.