Think about your online community as a business

January 4, 2018 Leave a comment

Building an online community is easy, right?  You just press a few buttons on some great new bit of technology and everything happens for you.

Everyone is doing it.  Hundreds of thousands of online communities are springing up everywhere due to the enhancement of technology and our use of social media.

But there is a wasteland of inactive online communities out there, that had so much promise.

They thought they would get members, engage them and make it self-sustaining and just like the underpants gnomes from Southpark whose business plan was

  • Phase 1: Collect underpants
  • Phase 2: ?
  • Phase 3: Profit

 

They failed.  But why did they fail?

At least the underpants gnomes had some sort of plan.  Most online communities start with none and try and make it up as they go along.

If you were to start a business that would be crazy.  Yes, you would be learning as you go along.  But if you did not have the basics in place it would be a waste of time and effort. Don’t let this happen to you.

Let’s start to think about building your online community in the same way you would start a business.

Could you answer these questions before you start?

 

1: Am I ready to start a business?

Are you ready for the time commitments and attention that you need to make it a success? Will you have too many distractions that will take you away from working on it, then perhaps it’s not the right time

 

2: What value am I providing?

You need to provide value otherwise no one will want to take part. You provide value by solving a problem or filling a need.

 

3: Who else is doing what I’m doing?

Your competitors are the second most important factor. While you have obviously started with an idea, you don’t want to do it exactly the same as someone else. Figure out how you can do it better and/or different than your competitors.  This will help you stand out from the crowd.

 

4: What contacts do I have in my industry?

Building a strong network is extremely important when starting. You can’t do this on your own. Build relationships with your industry and work out the ones that will participate and the ones that need to know.

 

5: What is my growth plan?

There is no shame in starting small and growing organically. In most cases, it will limit the amount of time you need to get started. It also gives you a chance to work out any kinks in your planning before you start scaling up.

Regardless of whether you are starting big or starting small, you need to set out a growth plan to ensure you hit milestones to indicate success. Start by identifying what you ultimately want to achieve and then work your way backwards to the beginning to figure out how you will get there.   And be realistic about your goals. It’s highly unlikely you’ll take over the world within the first 6 months.

 

6: How do I resource my growth?

Once you figure out what your launch looks like and when and how you will grow, figure out your resourcing needs. Only indicate what you need, regarding time, people, content and resources. This may change throughout your growth, so look at options for each milestone.

 

7: What are my hard stops?

One of the most important things is to know when to call it quits. It doesn’t mean you can’t move on to a new idea, but sometimes, what you are working on just isn’t working. Be realistic about your limits right from the start:

  • How many hours are you willing to put in each week before things get going?
  • How much resource do you need to help you make this work?
  • How long can you go without any engagement?
  • What is the minimum number of members you need to sustain activity?

The list could go on. Determine what is important to you and what you are willing to give up.

 

8: Is a plan really that important?

Yes. You’re not getting finance from a bank or other investors.  But a plan will help lay out your strategy all in one place. It will act as a roadmap for you to achieve success. And if you feel things aren’t working, then you can go back to your plan to figure out alternative strategies.

 

9: Do I believe in my idea?

This is possibly the most important question you could ask yourself. Believing in your idea doesn’t just mean “it will work.” You need to have a bit of passion for what you do because you will be spending a lot of time with that idea, shaping it and growing it.

Starting a business is never an easy thing to do, even if you feel like you “just fell into it.” It takes hard work and passion to get the idea off the ground, but it also takes sound strategy.

That’s nine tips on how to start a business.  How many have you thought about when starting your online community?

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December 20, 2017 Leave a comment

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Make blogging an essential tool in facilitating your group

December 15, 2017 Leave a comment

It was part of discussion that came up in our Newbie Tuesday discussion in the Online Facilitators community on the Knowledge Hub.  A lot of facilitators liked the idea of blogging.  But didn’t know where to start and the best ways they could use it.

I’m no expert in blogging.  But I do like to write my thoughts down.  So here are my thoughts on how to make blogging an essential tool in facilitating your online group.

Why should you do it?

Growing your group, refreshing your member and keeping everyone in the loop as to what is going on is essential to continued activity and engagement in your online community.

Blogging can be a great tool to help you do this. But how do you get started?  How do you plan and review blogs and what different styles can you use?

Let’s start with the basics

As you always have to quote Wikipedia in a blog (unwritten rule) here we go.

blog (a truncation of the expression weblog)  is a discussion or informational website published on the World Wide Webconsisting of discrete, often informal diary-style text entries (“posts”). Posts are typically displayed in reverse chronological order, so that the most recent post appears first, at the top of the web page. (Wikipedia)

 

For me over the last few years, Blogging has started to become an essential tool in a group facilitators armoury.   Not only can it be used to promote the group and the activities, it can lead to recruitment and recognition of what the community is doing,

It can become the place that holds the knowledge and history of the community due to it chronological order allowing new members to see what has been happening and allowing you to remind the members of what you have been able to accomplish.

What are the fundamentals of blogging?

 I would say there are 4 things to think about when writing and developing your blog posts.  The First 2 are around writing the blog.  The second two are the forgotten ones.  What’s the point of writing a blog post if no one has a chance to read it and if they do, what made them read it?

 1. Pick a topic and a title

  • Pick one topic to focus on per post
  • Make the value of the post clear
  • Make sure the title describes the post
  • Keep the title between 50-60 characters (shows the best on search engines)

2. Format and optimise the post

  • Whitespace is a good thing
  • Use section headers to highlight points
  • Use bullets and numbering
  • Bold important statements

3. Promote your blogs

  • Share on social media
  • Share via internal newsletters etc
  • Link from previous post
  • Add links to relevant previous blog posts

4. Analyse the performance

  • Number of views
  • Number of comments
  • Number of likes
  • Shares, likes etc on social Media

 

So, what are the different styles of blogging and when can you use them?

There are a number of different styles of blogging that you can use to support your community.

I have broken them down into 3 different themes to help you pick the style that you want to use depending on the situation.

Looking to promote your group

 

  Description Buzz Difficulty
Reporting back from events

 

Instead of just letting your team or close colleagues know, you can now tell a wide range of people who were unable to attend and look for further discussion from people who did. 1 out of 5 Easy
List blogging

 

This is the highly popular of the top ten list (or any other number) list about something.  Blog posts in this type of format are frequently bookmarked or shared

 

5 out of 5 Medium
Interview blogging

 

Conducting an interview and publishing either audio, video or transcript of the interview into a blog post.

 

4 out of 5 Medium

 

Looking to grow your group

  Description Buzz Difficulty
Recruitment

 

Writing blogs pointing out the work of your group or interesting things that are relevant to your group are great ways to recruit new members as you can also add a link to your group. 4 out of 5 Medium
Re-post

 

Taking a post or article from another location and reposting a significant part of it as a blog post with limited original commentary 1 out of 5 Easy
Topical

 

Concentrate on a particular specialised topic. Using links to news or articles and personal opinions. 3 out of 5 Easy

 

Keeping members in the loop

  Description Buzz Difficulty
Live blogging Blogging at a face pace about something in real time as it happens. With constant updates to a blog or a stream of blog posts. 4 out of 5 Hard
Announcement blogging Break news about an announcement or news that was not previously available elsewhere. For maximum effect, being the first to break the news matters most. 5 out of 5 Hard
Link blogging Collecting a series of links to websites, blogs or other online content to create a list of resources with links in a single blog post.

 

4 out of 5 Medium

 

Remember.  You don’t have to create all the content yourself. 

Just look around and you will find lots of content and ideas that you can cherry pick for your group.

How do I start?

  • Follow relevant Twitter #tags.
  • Join other online communities.
  • Sign up to organisational newsletters.
  • Identify and follow influential bloggers.
  • Sign up to newsfeeds on relevant websites.

If you have already started to do some of the above, you have already started on the content curation journey.  Now it’s about flagging up interesting items that you have been writing in your blogs and sharing with your member.  You can do this via ‘Announcements’ and ‘Group messages’ leading to greater engagement within your group.

Are we just distracting ourselves?

November 20, 2017 Leave a comment

While technology may be boosting your productivity in some ways, it could be hurting it in others,

We know, in the workplace, there are many distractions.  There are those just in our environment such as Noise, Meetings, Tea / Coffee run, and Clutter.  Just to mention some of the most common ones

But with more of us working in the Digital Workplace.  This could be within an office or home working, the distractions are becoming more common place due to Social Media.

But is Social Media really the fault for all of our distractions?

With some much information, not only at our finger tips but also looking for our attention

The getting back on task is probably more of the issue.

During the Liferay conference there was a great slide shared about distraction based on self-interruptions in discretionary multitasking by Rachel Adler.

Rachel suggested that you can have

  • 87 distractions per day
  • It can sometimes take around 23 minutes to get back on task (not everytime)
  • 65 of those distractions are caused by yourself.

I agree that a lot of the distraction can be caused by yourself.  Content that we subscribe to, items that peak our interest that may leads us to something else.  I’m always looking for that serendipity moment which may lead to other ideas.

But at the same time, you should judge the priorities, do you have the time to explore, learn, ask, discuss and put that knowledge into practice.  I hope that you do on occasions.

Otherwise, it’s back to the task.  You can always bookmark or save for another day.  Just try and not get distracted.

 

21 surprising ways to kill collaboration in your organisation

June 13, 2016 Leave a comment

We all talk about encouraging collaboration as a way of working in our organisation and across organisations.

It’s a difficult task. In a recent APM Knowledge SIG that I took part in we looked at Collaboration, co-operation and competition – project environments through a knowledge lens.

With some great example of how different organisations are encouraging collaboration.

But the fun started when we asked the audience how do you kill collaboration in an organisation?

And how do you do it at different levels in the organisation?

We asked for them to come up with silly, crazy, insane and a few sensible answers to this question.

And here is a summary of some of the responses:

Staff

1.Refuse to use common systems

2.Hide behind rules

3.Be unwilling to share experience/knowledge

4.Be unwilling to stay informed

5.Lack of communication / commitment

6.Claim responsibility for other work

7.Undermine others

Manager

8.Allow no time to collaborate

9.Insist on email only for communication

10.Have no team meetings or briefings

11.Be a mood hover

12.Have a lack of emotional intelligence

13.Micro manage

14.Constant Team restructure

Leader

15.Have no strategy

16.Create a blame culture

17.Using unhelpful metrics

18.Reward wrong behaviours

19.Be invisible

20.Discourage social interaction between colleagues

21.Create the fear of failure

One thing we did note is that there will be a lot of cross-over between the levels. But the impact of the behaviour by people at the different levels will make or break collaboration in the organisation.

What other ways could you suggest would kill collaboration in an organisation?

How do you make an online group fail?

March 19, 2015 1 comment

bad eggs (redux)

It’s not very often that you can say to your members you can be a little bit bad for a while.  But this is what we tasked them with for this month’s online Chat

Normally you ask for advice on how to make thing better.  But for this one we asked how you make things worse. 

Loosely using the concept of “smart failings” by Victor Newman we asked the members of the Online Facilitators Community on the Knowledge Hub if they could come up with 25 ways, online facilitators can make a group fail.

This is what they came up with:

  1. Bombard users with direct messages
  2. Don’t allow anybody to join
  3. Randomly delete members from the group, particularly most active members
  4. Be rude to anyone who posts – trolling and flaming
  5. Don’t allow any content to be created in the community
  6. Setting up a new group without testing the idea of it with potential members
  7. Not having a plan of ideas and activities
  8. Don’t invite anyone
  9. Set up such a complicated structure with so many different threads
  10. Don’t allow people to PM each other
  11. Tell people off or disagree with them publicly / belittle them for their lack of knowledge.
  12. Consult with members but do what you want rather than what they want.
  13. Have lots and lots of rules
  14. Use terminology only a small number of members will.
  15. Exclude members from communications just because they can’t attend or take part in particular group activities.
  16. Politicising it
  17. Email documents and other content directly to members so that they never have to visit and interact with the group.
  18. Never respond to any questions that have been asked by members of the group
  19. Keep referring people to other sites to get the answer.
  20. Go on Holiday for two weeks and turn off all the functions so no one can post for two weeks.
  21. Disappear/leave the group without any warning and go off and start another group without planning it and in fact invite the same people and make the same mistakes all over.
  22. Invite people who you know will never participate or view but it looks good that you have them as members.
  23. Make the most junior member the lead facilitator and do not support.
  24. Upload all your content on the first day
  25. Delete posts of members who you deem to have less interest in the topic.

This is only 25 but there must be so many more.

As we now know 25 ways to make them fail.  I wonder how many we have done by mistake.

A big thank you to, Coryn, Dimple, Gill, Julie, Richard and Stacy for your great suggestions and examples.

London Knowledge Hub Online Facilitators Meet Up

February 20, 2015 Leave a comment

You always know that a get-together has gone well when you get kicked out of the room and everyone is still in in-depth conversation as they are walking out of the room and still chatting in the corridor and lift.

Tuesday 17th Feb was our first face to face get together of Online Facilitators across the Knowledge Hub and a couple of guests.

This will hopefully be the first of many, as there are plans for other meet ups in Scotland, the South West and the Eastern Regions.  Look out for more details for future meet ups.

Maybe if there is interest we can run a regular one in the London area every quarter.

Back to what happened during the meet up…  The discussion was based around the biggest challenges that you face for your group / community / network.  (You can choose which one is appropriate to you)

The topics included:

  • Increasing contributions
  • Turning ‘lurkers’ into participants
  • Knowing what technology to use and when
  • Packaging useful resources
  • Keeping the momentum going between face to face meetings
  • Moving past just facilitators posting.

So what did we talk about?

  • Welcoming members and helping them take their first step into participating.
  • Asking good questions that will get members involved, rather than just providing information.
  • Creating regular activity and planning content and activities.
  • Using the wiki to repackage key resources. E.g. New members or those who just want the answer.
  • Creating a network of key relationships in the group to move past just facilitators posting.
  • Adding fun/social elements to your group’s activity plan, eg. competitions, recognition rewards, photos, and questions of the month.
  • The culture and expectations of members and testing out different approaches to get a feel for what works well.The all-important purpose statement for a group to help plan content and activities.

Plus a lot more which I’ve probably forgotten.  You had to be there!

There were also a couple of great ideas that I feel we can look at in more detail.

  • How do you encourage more people to dip their toe in the water?  (Getting first time contributors sharing their initial issue or challenge with a question for the group.)
  • Learning from teams that use a number of groups to manage their programme of work and the different stages involved.

Lastly a big thank you to Melissa Whittle from Geoplace for hosting our first meet up, and for all the people that came along and contributed. You made the get together worthwhile.

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