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5 Posts authored by: Sandra Brueckner

What do a penguin and a community manager have in common? Certainly more than you think! In Pokeshot///SMZ’s latest white paper you’ll learn about the different phases of the community lifecycle and the experiences of John, the Penguin Community Manager, as he builds up and manages his customer water community.

You can download the full white paper here.

All communities (with a few exceptions) pass through a community lifecycle that consists of the same phases: Inception – Establishment – Maturity – Mitosis. Yet community managers’ tasks can vary considerably from phase to phase. Our white paper will reveal the components of the individual phases and how you can adjust your activities accordingly. Learn the most common mistakes customer community managers make, plus experience the penguin effect from a new perspective.

This white paper is not only a valuable resource for customer community managers, but also provides community moderators, community owners and interested laypersons with a good overview of a customer community’s phases and the different tasks involved in each of these.

Should you have any questions about the community lifecycle or a customer community manager’s activities, or if you are in the process of building up your own customer community, don't hesitate to ask me.

A question that companies often face today is not: What is social collaboration? But rather: Where do we stand on this issue? Experience has shown that most companies know perfectly well what modern collaboration is. They are no longer asking: What is Web 2.0? What is a blog? What is social business all about? Instead, they are interested in the maturity level of their own collaboration initiatives. This concern is usually accompanied by questions such as:



Companies without a clear vision of what they are trying to accomplish with their own collaboration and social business initiatives and without a well-defined process framework will be unable to answer these questions in a way that furthers their aims. Thus they should first be well aware of where they stand on the issue and know exactly where they want to go. 


Many clients, however, fail to ask these questions, which can stem from a wide variety of reasons:


  1. Starting point: “Modern collaboration in the field of social business is not present in my company, so I’m starting from scratch”: Is this really the case? Informal systems of collaborations have developed in most companies over time as more and more millennial employees have joined the workforce – whether it’s WhatsApp or a Facebook group for an after-work beer or the usage of an external chat client such as Skype for quick communication while working. Modern collaboration exists in many different forms.
  2. Goal definition: “We know exactly where we want to go with our collaboration initiative”: Are you really well aware of everything that such an initiative entails? Have you examined questions such as: How do my employees communicate? Who are the stakeholders? Which IT systems do I use? It is important that you have sufficiently analyzed all aspects before taking further steps to implement a social business platform. 
  3. Employee collaboration: “We know exactly how our employees collaborate”: Do you really know this or do you just think you do? Employees often find ways to communicate that circumvent corporate guidelines. Engage in dialogue with rank-and-file employees in order to get to the bottom of such questions as: Why do they bypass the rules? Why are other forms of communication better for them?
  4. Technology: “We have already decided to use a particular solution, so we don’t need to conduct a pre-implementation review”: Be sure to remember that “a fool with a tool is still a fool.” The right technology is a crucial factor in determining how frequently modern collaboration and social business tools are used. Here usability and simplicity are key factors. But how can you be certain that this solution of the all the tools available is the right one for your employees if you have neither involved them in the decision-making process nor have familiarized yourself with how they currently collaborate.


You should find answers to these key questions before rolling out a modern collaboration and social business platform in your company. Through a so-called “collaboration review,” Pokeshot///SMZ works closely with its clients to do just that: We ask you the right questions, identify gaps in your strategy and provide you with a road map that allows you to successfully realize your modern collaboration initiative. Get in touch with us! 

About the author

Sandra Brueckner, who studied business informatics at the Technical university of Dresden, has worked as social business consultant since 2012.



JW14_2The industry gathering you've been waiting for! The leading social business event JiveWorld14 is opening its doors at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas from the 21st to the 23rd of September, 2014. After winning the Jive Award "Extend Jive" at last year's event for its social learning management tool SmarterPath, Pokeshot///SMZ returns for the second year in a row as Jive Partner Silver Sponsor. We can't wait to see if all our expectations are once again exceeded this year, and we look forward to interesting discussions and talks.

The motto of this year’s JiveWorld is Connect. Communicate. Collaborate. Connect with Jive partners such as Pokeshot///SMZ, who are working hard to improve the way you work by developing innovative services and products. Communicate with the top minds in the industry throughout 50 breakout sessions and workshops. And collaborate with other developers in interactive workshops. You can maintain and expand the new international contacts made at JiveWorld14 in the Jive Community.


What’s more, all participants of JiveWorld14 get the chance to glean key insights about the products and services of Jive partner Pokeshot///SMZ. This year, our colleagues Stephan Müller-Ziebur, Nils Heuer and Kristina Johanssen will be on hand to answer all your questions. Plus, co-founder Nils Heuer will present the much-anticipated session "Jive as a development platform" on October 22nd from 1 pm to 2 pm in Gracia 7 together with Mark Weitzel from Jive and Tracy Maurer from UBM. We look forward to a full house at Nils’ session and a chance to meet you at our booth (watch out for Social Business made in Germany).


We hope you’re just as excited as we are about JiveWorld14. The bar has been raised quite high after the last few years, but we're confident that Jive Software will fulfill all our expectations. If you have questions about us or JiveWorld14 that you'd like to ask in advance, please contact us via our website or the Pokeshot///SMZ area of the Jive Community. You can also arrange an appointment at the JiveWorld14. We look forward to seeing you!


Register here with the following registration code: JW14POKESHOT

About the author

Patrick Fähling graduated with a master’s degree in business informatics at the beginning of 2013 and then spent a half-year-long stint working as a social business consultant at a large digital solutions agency in the UK. He has returned to Berlin to strengthen the Pokeshot///SMZ team as a Junior Consultant for Social Business Strategy.

Patrick Fähling und Sandra Leupold recently conducted Pokeshot///SMZ’s Gamification 101 Workshop for one of its clients (a large German sports apparel manufacturer). Pokeshot///SMZ offers this service as a basic module in its community management consulting portfolio.

Gamification can be defined as the “use of gaming functionalities in a company-based environment” and refers to practices such as awarding points for particular actions or enabling users to level up. Karl Kapp describes the basic principles of gamification in his video tutorial “What is Gamification? A Few Ideas“ on YouTube. Our Jive customers have been able to take advantage of the Advanced Gamification Module since fall 2013. This important strategic partnership with Bunchball (see “Jive Gamification Module Powered By Bunchball” on YouTube) makes it possible to tap into the full potential of gamification.

In practice, gamification should always be accompanied by a strategy definition process. Thus the content of the Gamification 101 Workshop closely follows Pokeshot///SMZ’s strategy framework: Principles – Technical Aspects – Strategy Definition. To give future clients an idea of the workshop’s content, we will now describe in the detail the different components of the Gamification 101 Workshop:


This part of the workshop introduces participants to the topic. They learn that gamification is not just about motivation, but also builds loyalty, enhances interaction and even changes behavior – while also learning how to align these goals with different gamification mechanics. These mechanics include:

  • Points – awarded for a specific action
  • Badges – earned for a specific action or different actions
  • Status bar – visualizes the progress of a specific action
  • Missions – bring together several actions and also connect points, badges and the status bar
  • Levels – show the activity and membership status of a user
  • Teams – enable users to work together to complete challenges
  • Rewards – give users something special, online or offline, for their successes
  • Leaderboards – recognize active members for what they have achieved

The workshop is strengthened by lots of real-world examples and insightful tips. For example, we show our clients which mechanics work best with which types of people and how important it is to give your gamification badges an unambiguous and appealing design.


This part of the workshop closes with a discussion on how the mechanics are incorporated into a gamification strategy and how this reinforces the larger community strategy: IntegrationFigure 2: Integration of a gamification strategy into a company‘s community strategy

The second part of the workshop teaches participants how to use the Advanced Gamification Console. This gives them the knowledge they need to implement mechanics on their own after the workshop.Customer_Feedback_1_1

Technical aspects

To be able to effectively present the technical aspects of Bunchball’s Gamification Module, it was very important for all employees that were to be involved in the company’s gamification initiatives to attend this part of the workshop. This ensured that the various staff members working together on gamification had a common understanding of what can be achieved with the Bunchball Gamification Module, while showing them where it is necessary to take a different approach for special requirements.Bunchball’s Gamification Console brings together the strategy and the actual implementation of gamification mechanics on the platform. It can be used once the module has been purchased and installed in Jive. Before delving into the new console and all of the features it offers, participants first learned what types of general settings are available in the Jive Admin Console. This covered the rights concept for the Gamification Console and the new tabs in the Jive Admin Console that provide several new capabilities. Once the first settings were made, which included assigning rights to workshop participants, the following elements were presented and explained:

  • Structure of the Gamification Console
  • Team formation
  • Creation of actions and missions
  • Catalog set-up
  • User management

Bunchball Console

Figure 3: Screenshot of the Advanced Gamification Console

The Gamification Console is divided into five main areas, which are:

  • Site (general overview of settings, security options, levels, teams, etc.)
  • Actions (overview of all actions and missions)
  • Catalog (overview of items that can purchased)
  • Users (detailed information about individual users, e.g. completed missions, point totals, action tracking)
  • Analytics (data on real user actions to help measure the success of gamification initiatives)

These items were especially stressed at the workshop, because in actual work scenarios employees have to be able to navigate quickly and easily through the console to find exactly what they’re looking for. The learning process was reinforced by having participants create some workshop materials themselves, which helped them to become familiar with the Gamification Console and learn how specific changes and individual settings play out on the platform.After this introduction we explored the technical possibilities in greater detail in order to show participants how to implement special scenarios and complex missions. They now had the chance to put the theoretical knowledge they acquired in the first part of the workshop into practice by creating custom missions (with complex rules and interconnections). These requirements, which were planned in discussions prior to the workshop, were to some extent client-specific. Here it became clear where theory and practice diverge and where it’s necessary to adapt one’s own approach to realize a particular scenario with the Gamification Console. Participants were taught, for example, how to:

  • Define rules for accomplishing a mission
  • Create missions for teams
  • Assign missions to a particular area
  • Integrate new point categories

This method of instruction and the fact the workshop took place on-site turned out to be very advantageous as it made it possible to quickly clarify difficult points through immediate feedback and develop new solutions together.


Strategy definition

It is crucial to view gamification as a supportive measure; it should never stand on its own without any connection to the larger community strategy. Why is this so important? Gamification itself can have a number of functions, whether it’s increasing motivation, building loyalty, enhancing interaction or even changing behavior. The company that wants to leverage these possibilities must first absolutely sure what the overall objective is. Implementing badges and points in the wrong area won’t create added value for the company. In fact, this could have a negative effect by encouraging undesired activities. Our client recognized this as well and re-examined in detail its gamification strategy, prompting several changes to the mechanics. A good example is the “following people” feature. The client originally planned to award points and a badge for this activity. Over the course of the workshop, however, it became clear that this does not support any of the community’s goals and that the emphasis should instead be placed on encouraging sharing and interacting – not motivating users to keep track of what other users are doing. This approach ultimately brought about a strategy that was consistent with and complementary to the goals and use cases of the sports community.


Summary and outlook

The workshop gave the client a deeper understanding of the concept of gamification and its various mechanics. This enabled it to then acquire a good grasp of all technical aspects and appreciate the importance of incorporating the gamification strategy into the larger community strategy – before working together to craft a strategy for the client’s specific situation. Building on the topics covered in this workshop, Pokeshot///SMZ offers further modules and support as part of its community management consulting portfolio. This ranges from strategy development assistance to implementation services and the definition of custom KPIs.

If you want to learn more about our Gamification 101 Workshop or other clients’ experiences with this workshop, please feel free to contact us.

This article is about the customer community penguin manager John who is leading his customer penguin community through the four steps of the community lifecycle*. Within the article the reader will learn what customer community tasks a community manager has to do in the second step of the community lifecycle:: the establishment phase (learn more about our customer community approach here).


In my previous blog article about the inception phase, John the Community Manager Penguin literally took advantage of the penguin effect to reach a critical mass of users in his aquatic community. Now it’s important that he adapts his activities to the needs and requirements of the establishment phase, shifting the focus from a micro-oriented approach (directly contacting users, initiating discussions) to a macro-oriented strategy. I will explain in this article why this is important and how he makes the transition.


Nearly all communities pass through a community lifecycle that consists of the same phases:

Inception Establishment Maturity Mitosis. This article will deal with the most important aspect in the establishment phase: engaging in macro-level activities.


John’s customer community is growing larger and larger. He still maintains his contacts with the penguins by sending messages, starting discussions and writing posts. But he’s slowly realizing that the customer community is becoming so big that he’s no longer able to contact each member personally. And on closer examination one sees that this isn’t even necessary. The community has reached a size where it should do this on its own. An emerging group of multipliers now perform these community tasks for John. Multipliers are those members who identify strongly with the customer community; they do lots of important things like getting discussions started, helping other members find their way around the site and winning new users.


John quickly recognizes the new situation and rethinks the activities that he had undertaken for the inception phase. He sees that it is now necessary to identify and support the multipliers. After all, they bring in new members and motivate existing ones. After a while, he notices that fish alone is not incentive enough for the multipliers to stay engaged; instead, they prefer to acquire different rights and privileges like being able to start their own multiplier group or ban penguins from the community for misconduct.

John also has to realign his strategy for acquiring new members. He no longer has the time to contact all potential new members personally. In fact, he needs to pinpoint his target group and divide it into subsets of penguins who have similar needs and priorities, while also developing a suitable marketing plan. The main questions he should ask himself are: Who is my target group, and how can I effectively reach them?


In this phase, John begins to organize regular events and activities in order to keep the customer community attractive to his penguins. He makes sure to plan both one-time and recurring events to provide users with not only a sense of regularity but also with new incentives to stick around. At this point at the latest, John should use gamification techniques to encourage members to engage in the community.


One thing that is extremely important is the community’s content. This should always be up to date and give users new insights into community-related topics. A tried-and-tested approach is creating content directly from the community’s members and activities. There is nothing most members would like more than to read about the community itself. John therefore publishes each week a blog article that introduces interesting penguins in the community. Who doesn’t like reading about himself or his friends? By taking this approach, John is able to create community-based content that prompts other penguins to visit the community, read the blog articles and make efforts to be featured in articles themselves.


He is also putting a lot of thought into the customer community’s strategy during this phase. He knows that it is necessary to constantly collect and evaluate data. Without such information, he can’t tell how the community is performing and whether it’s in good shape. What’s key here is not only gathering quantitative data like the number of active and inactive penguins, but also collecting qualitative data. One such qualitative metric is the so-called sense of community. This measures to what extent members feel they are integrated into the community and the community understands them, as well as how strongly members think they can influence the community. A healthy community has both: very active users with a strong sense of community. John compares the data on his community with his targets and can make adjustments if things aren’t developing as fast as he had hoped.

If John hadn’t adapted his efforts to the phase his customer community is currently going through, the aquatic community would have slim chances of achieving sustainable, long-term growth. Large numbers of his penguins would most likely get bored of connecting in the ocean water, because the community wouldn’t be offering anything new and exciting (events, activities, content) and wouldn’t be further developing itself (strategy). But John wouldn’t even notice this, since he wouldn’t be gathering and evaluating community data.



During the establishment phase, John needs to boost the number of members, make existing members want to stay in the community and keep developing the community’s overall features. In short, his community tasks include:

  1. Attracting new members and multipliers
  2. Motivating existing members to be active in the community through both special one-time and regularly recurring events and activities
  3. Ensuring members and visitors have an exciting experience through, for example, engaging content
  4. Further developing the community through the insights gained from the collection and evaluation of KPIs
  5. Creating a sense of community among the members

John’s customer community will eventually reach a point where only low growth and a modest increase of user activity can be expected; this is called the maturity phase. You’ll learn what community managers like John should do in this phase in my next blog article.


About the author:


Sandra Brückner, who studied business informatics at the Technical University of Dresden, has worked as social business consultant since 2012. She recently joined the Berlin-based social business consultancy and technology provider Pokeshot///SMZ, where she leverages her extensive intranet and community expertise to consult organizations on how to optimize their change management and community management processes.

**The community lifecycle model presented in this article is based on the works of Iriberri, A. & Leroy, G. (2009): A Life-Cycle Perspective on Online Community Success and Millington, R. (2013): The Online Community Lifecycle.