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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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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.

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.

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.

Do you have a plan for when your community manager moves on?

April 8, 2014 Leave a comment

transferring......So your community manger is moving on.  You ask them to write handover notes.  You get a list of social media accounts that they use and they move to a new job.

Will the community survive? Probably not.

Most online communities have one real driving force behind it.  And you have missed the opportunity to hand the baton over to other people.

It’s the conversation that is normally missed out and it makes such a big difference and identifies so much more than you can write down.

This happens a lot in organisations when someone moves jobs, it’s only an afterthought.

There becomes a Knowledge Gap.  I heard that it normally takes 18 months for a new employee to become profitable to the organisation and for them to be fully integrated with the way of work.

Can you afford that time delay in an online community?  And would the members be happy with someone new just turning up without an introduction?

If you get a chance just do a search on Knowledge Retention and Transfer.  There’s some great stuff out there that will help you start the conversation if your community manager is about to move on.

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