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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.

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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.

Is there a mystery behind engaging new members in your group?

December 24, 2014 Leave a comment

From research conducted Nonnecke, B., Andrews, D., Preece, J 2006 suggested that only 13.2 % of those questioned had no intention to post from the outset.

Historically participation levels have followed a pattern.

On Wikipedia it is suggested that participation levels will follow the 1-9-90 rule. This is based on the idea of creator, contributor and lurker.

Socious suggest its 10-20-70 whereas Community Roundtable (with full time facilitation) says it can get towards 15-30-55.

So what happens to all the rest in the middle?  What can we do as facilitators to increase participation and member engagement?

That’s what our latest online chat focused on.  How do we engage members especially the new ones?

We asked four questions to help guide the discussion.  Below is a summary of the discussion.

1.What are your key elements of your acceptance/welcome messages that help engage new members?

  • Introduction to the group
  • Introduction to the facilitators
  • Reminder to set up notification
  • Direction to key content
  • Direction to key discussions
  • Links to welcome pack
  • Link to walkthrough video

It was also noted that a large percentage of groups with low activity and low participation rates, did none of the above.

2. When and how do you follow up with new members?

  • Follow up after a certain period of time to ask if they need help (time dependant).
  • Follow up after first participation.
  • Encourage a second participation as quick as possible after the first one.

3. How do you help new members participate without feeling overwhelmed?

  • Tip from an external community was to provide a hotline number for members to contact the facilitators.
  • Include your email address in your group description.
  • Simple message reminders asking for help or input to discussions to all members.
  • Encourage people to people interaction.  Don’t hide behind FAQs.

4. How can other community members help engage new members?

  • Encourage a buddy system between members from the same or close by organisations.
  • Build a core group of members (Champions to assist new members).
  • Member referral.  And the person who referred the new member will be the buddy and introduce them to the group.

A big thank you to Ken, Melissa, Yvette and Dimple for taking part in the discussion who provided some great insights.

Where do you go for inspiration that helps you stimulate group activity?

December 19, 2014 Leave a comment

InspirationA lot of groups have periods of slow down or lull’s due to outside influences.  These can be down to a range of subjects.

This can also affect the discussions, content and activities that the facilitators have up there sleeve to stimulate activity.

Quite often, you run out of ideas or don’t know where to turn to get that spark of inspirations.

This is what our latest online chat focused on.  We asked 3 questions over an hour and this is a summary of the discussion.

Q1. What are your favourite online/ offline resources that spark ideas and content for your group?

  • Chatting with members and other facilitators to gather ideas.
  • Looking at newsletter and publication on the subject area
  • Twitter chats on the subject area
  • Influential bloggers from the subject area
  • Looking at content curated sites such as Storify and Scoop.it
  • Other online communities (e.g. LinkedIn or professional bodies)

Q2. What types of activities have been really successful in your group in regards to gaining responses, comments or likes?

  • Hotseats
  • Polls
  • Competitions (Fun and work related)
  • Forum discussion asking for advice and help
  • Forum discussion sharing experience of an activity, review or process
  • Online chats (Question based or Ask me anything)

Q3. Do you have a plan of content, discussions or activities to roll out with your group?

  • Yes, it’s regularly updated at team meetings so we have a plan of action that can be rolled out
  • Yes, starts of as ideas on a post-it and gets refined over time to allow changes and new ideas to come in depending on the members needs at that time.  Mostly based around discussions, activities and communication with the members
  • Yes, initial based around a work programme.
  • Yes, running regular activities like online chats, group messages and updating members.
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