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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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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.

Can an A-ha moment encourage member blogging?

September 9, 2014 Leave a comment

No I’m not talking about the 80’s Norwegian band.  But the moment when members of a community start to believe that you do not need to be an expert to write a blog.

A ha moment

A number of facilitators of communities that I have spoken to would love to have more member’s blogging about the subject area.  But when they speak to them, they are a little shy and do not believe they are expert enough to write a blog.

So this is a little idea that you could try out with them to show how easy it is.

There are a number of blogging styles that you will see when you start to read.

Event blogging is one of the easiest and if very common place.  You even start to see some people rushing trying to be the first to post a blog after the event. (Maybe that’s just some of the events that I go to)

Event blogging is– sharing impressions, opinions and insights from and event of seminar with others who may or may not be able to attend

So what’s the simple way to do this?  Well next time you are at an event with a number of your members of your community ask a few of them if they would like to fill in the A-ha moment.  I came across this idea at one of the Henley KM Forum but never thought to use it in this way. 

When you approach your member say that as a key member of the community we would love to capture your insights from the event so we can share with the wider community.

At the end of the event quickly take a photo of what they have written down.  And now you have a range of insights that can be shared with your members of the community.

Hopefully, a simple example like this will show your members how easy it is.  And maybe for the next event, you may even have some volunteers.

What are the tasks of facilitating an online group?

August 19, 2014 Leave a comment

We all only have a limited amount of time when it comes to facilitating our group.  From previous research the average was around 4 hours per week for some of the most active groups.  

Active a vibrant groups survey
 

And The State of Community Management report backs up that the correct types of action by the facilitator can really increase participation rate. 

SOCM

So what are those tasks that you need to do and have to do to maintain and active and thriving online group?

Well that’s why we had an Online Chat all about.

It’s been mentioned many times that as a group facilitator we have to wear many hats to get the job done.

Get Satisfaction has a great infographic called Inside the mind of a community manager to demonstrate this.

But what is the secret to balancing such a variety of activities and roles and what are our hacks for productive task management?

During the discussion we tackled three questions.   For group members you can access the full discussion here.  

Here’s a quick summary of the discussion

What does your average week look like?  Do you have a routine of facilitation tasks to manage your group?

  • Some facilitators didn’t realise that they had a routine.  Until they thought about it.
  • The routine changes slightly depending on how busy the group is
  • Tasks range from accepting and declining members, keeping an eye on conversation and helping them flow, uploading new content and creating activities for members to participate in and keeping in touch with key members and connecting with new ones.
  • Highlighted how to manage your group on 10 minutes a day.

How do you prioritise your tasks and what ones are the important ones?

  • Anything that helps members engage
  • Accepting members (you don’t them waiting at the door)
  • Responding to questions (24 hour rule) even if it’s a holding message

Do you delegate tasks to other members of the facilitation team and how do you go about it?

  • Take it in turns to respond to acceptance messages.
  • Take it in turn to send a welcome message
  • Have an agreement between the facilitation team who will do what and when so no one feels too pressured.
  • You don’t have to limit the facilitation team just to one organisation

If you are a facilitator of a group on the Knowledge Hub and would like to join our next chat you can join at https://knowledgehub.local.gov.uk/group/facilitatorscommunity

How I used a Knowledge Marketplace and Ideas factory to generate community activities.

May 29, 2014 Leave a comment

Idea FactoryI’ve used a Knowledge Management technique called a Marketplace to help at the start of building communities in the past.

Using two simple questions.

  • What they want from the community
  • What can they offer the community

This normally helps identify the topics of interest to the group and what they already know.  Allowing you to create some quick wins and match people and the knowledge up and share this to the wider community.  Giving the group a great kick-start.

So taking this idea to a more established community I combined the marketplace exercise with an Ideas factory tool.  (A tool that allows members to vote and comment on the idea)

At the end of 2013 I sat down and asked the members of the community what they would like to do for the next 12 months.  Using the Knowledge Marketplace technique originally in a forum I asked members what they could offer and what they wanted from the community.

This resulted in a considerable number of want and offers which we then took into a wiki and started to theme them.  This gave us 9 activities to work towards from the year.  And importantly members who would like to help out.

These 9 activities where added to the Ideas factory and members were asked to vote on the priority of these activities.

We have only completed 3 activities out of the 9 so far.  But each one of these has been led by members of the community.

Two webinars sharing their experience on a particular topic and the other the creation of an editable flyer that everyone can use.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the other 6 activities come together.

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