Posts Tagged ‘online facilitation’


January 29, 2014 Leave a comment

Monday the 27th Jan is a normal day for most people unless you work in the community management environment.

This year the 27th was a Monday and this meant it wasCommunity Manager Appreciation Day

It’s the 5th year this has run.  And each year it gets bigger and bigger.  Who would have thought that 5 years ago there would be a 24 hour Google Hangout talking about community management?

I have been doing small things over the last few years since I came across #cmad.  It started with just saying thank you to some of the great facilitators that I worked with and has slowly got bigger.

Last year I was able to run a small event that included great presentations from Alan Boulter and Richard Millington which I made a little storify for.

But this year I was able to link up with the Knowledge and Innovation Network to do something slightly bigger.  No not a 24 hour hangout.  But a blended event online and offline bringing a range of different people to talk about how they run communities in their organisation and the tactics they use.

So a big thank you from me for making it such a great event goes out to Erica Hurley, Phil Ridout (Phil’s Skype account) and Dimple Rathod for the organisation.  Sarah Jennings and Liz Copeland for tweeting and helping to capture the day.

A special thank you to all the presenters:

Not forgetting all the people that participated in the day, face to face, online or via the webinars.

Hopefully next year we can make it bigger and spread the word even further about the importance of great community management.

Here’s this year’s Storify


How do facilitators make an active and vibrant group?

May 31, 2013 Leave a comment

I asked 22 facilitators from across the top 50 groups on the Knowledge Hub, how much time and what activities they spend it on when it comes to facilitating their group.

So a big thank you to Daisy, Sarah, Alex, Lesley, Sadie, Rebecca, Michael, Cathie, Richard , Ian, Nick, Michelle, Joshua, Wajeeha, Jonathan, Zoe, Barrie, Jacqueline, Jo, Richard, Michael and Tim.

These are the results compared to activities a professional community manager would do.

Do you notice any significant differences?
How facilitators make vibrant groups v2

Is the 90-9-1 Rule for Online Community Engagement Dead?

May 28, 2013 Leave a comment

This is a great blog from Paul Schneider about the 90-9-1 Rule and is it soon to be replaced by the  70-20-10 Rule of Community Participation

There is a rule that has floated around in the social media world for quite some time called the Rule of Participation Inequality or the 90-9-1 Rule. This rule states:

User participation in an online community more or less follows the following 90-9-1 ratios:

  • 90% of users are Lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute).
  • 9% of users are Commenters. They edit or rate content but don’t create content of their own.
  • 1% of users create content and are Creators.

This rule gives both hope and discouragement to organizations that are creating online communities. It gives hope to companies and associations who launched an online community and are not seeing any business-level benefits since they believe that 1% engagement is acceptable. It also discourages organizations from exploring how an online member community or customer community can impact their business if they believe that only 1% of their audience will fully engage. If you are creating an online community for people to participate in, and 90-9-1 statistics dictate that a high percentage of people will not participate, where is the benefit?

Having heard this rule for years and seeing what I suspected were higher levels of participation in our customers’ online communities, I began to ask myself if the rule is really true. So, I set out on a quest to see if that 90-9-1 Rule holds water.

Testing the 90-9-1 Rule for Online Community Participation

Is the 90-9-1 Rule Still Valid?

Why Did I Conduct This Research?

If the rule did not hold up, many companies and associations may be damaging their business and marketing strategies by basing decisions and benchmarking results using a general rule created in 2006 . So that the readers of this blog have a point of reference for when this rule for online communities was created, keep in mind that Facebook ended 2006 with only 12 million users (Facebook now has over 650 million users).

Study of Online Community Customers

I compiled statistical data from a random sample of our customers so that I could crunch real numbers to determine if the Rule of Participation Inequality was true for private online communities. To begin, I had to assign actions to measure at each level. So here are the actions I assigned:

  • Lurkers: Have logged in and viewed information.
  • Commenters: Have commented on or edited a blog, wiki or file or have answered a forum post that was already initially asked.
  • Creators: Have initiated a blog, file, wiki or forum post.


The thing about the rule is that it infers that all users are doing something since the 90-9-1 all add up to 100%. The problem is that many organizations have profiles of users that are deactivated, past members, or guests. Also, not all members of an online community have access to the same tools, content, and functionality. So, to make a fair correlation, I ran two sets of numbers – one set accounting for all profiles in the system and one set with only the participating users making up the 100%. These numbers are below:

Analysis of the 90-9-1 Rule for Online Community Participation

Findings of the Online Community Research

My belief is that the second chart is a more accurate comparison to the 90-9-1 rule since all users have to be doing some activity to account for the 100% of the sample. So based on the data in that chart, there are a few interesting things we can learn:

  • All but one online community had more Commenters than the 9% the rule suggests. So, people seem to be more open to editing and commenting on existing information.
  • All sites were higher in Creators than the 1% the rule maintains. One as high as 17%! With more and more people getting comfortable with social networking sites, perhaps people are more comfortable in expressing their opinions.
  • The averages for each area are far higher than the rule suggests. (Well, other than Lurkers, but that is a good thing!)


So, maybe we don’t need to be so dire about how many people engage in your online community. Based on this data I would suggest a new rule (with a little rounding):

The 70-20-10 Rule of Community Participation


Has a nice ring to it doesn’t it!

Scary, the perceived perception of an online facilitator

March 4, 2013 Leave a comment

When I get a chance to train a few people in the concept of communities of practice I put a big emphasis on the role of the facilitator.

Good facilitation gives the community a better chance of success.  But what do they look like?

Dion Hinchcliffe suggested facilitators are jacks of all trades.  But as part of the session I ask them to draw the Perfect Online Facilitator.

It’s always a bit of fun.  But really gets them thinking about the role and the responsibilities they have.

Here are a couple of recent examples.  I hope I never get to meet them in person.



A few tips if you’re Starting a Community from Scratch.

October 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Timber Frame RaisingA while back I came across MY CMGR’s Google Hangout about Building a community from scratch.  It’s a great watch and has some amazing insights.

And during a discussion the other week during one of the internal workshops that I was running, we had a few people that where in the same situations

As MY Cmgr said “So many times new community facilitators are put in a position where they must build the community from scratch. It can be a daunting challenge, but also an amazing experience that provides a feeling of reward.”

So what did we do?

Well we hosted an Online Peer Assist in the Online Facilitators Community to help those new to starting an online community.

Below is a summary of some of the great responses and pieces of advice that would be worth while using when you starting a community from scratch.

  1. Start with a small enthusiastic user base and then growing it slowly…don’t aim to get hundreds of people involved straight away as its more difficult to form a real sense of community that way.
  2. Start with a need – have people approached you for help? Do you need help with something yourself? Are there others in your professional networks that also have an interest in the area of work? Once you’ve got your small group who understand the benefit of working together and supporting each other around a common purpose and theme, their enthusiasm will help you grow and develop things.
  3. Form a clear purpose of where you’d like the group to head and have a clear set of objectives to achieve. If all the group members feel like they are working towards something tangible then it’s far easier to communicate with your members (and build your membership.)
  4. Piggy back on any face to face events and mention the idea of the community, the purpose and if you can the WWIFM for them joining.
  5. In the early days you may need to think of incentives to encourage content contribution and participation – these don’t need to necessarily cost anything. Perhaps it’s plenty of encouragement, thanks and showcasing of the contribution (sometimes it might be chocolate though!). 😉
  6. You can use online ways to build the relationships, for example, sending out group messages, getting the group in a bit of an ice-breaker in the forum and online events
  7. Set up a welcome area in the forum for people to virtually introduce themselves. This is a great way to get people to make their first contribution…
  8. Use the announcement function a lot! I change it about once every three days. It points members to relevant material; it keeps the front page of your group dynamic and gives a reason for your members to return to the group
  9. Send out a weekly group message from the admin area of the group that rounds up all the activity. I ask proactive questions to try and catch my members attention
  10. Use the IDEAS tab to gain insight about what the members would like to see in the future for the group.
  11. Try a Knowledge Market Place where you ask people what one or two things they want from the community and one or two things they can offer. You get to find out who the go to people are and what everyone is struggling with and allows you to start building that relationship, especially when can match a want with an offer
  12. Look for focussed succinct question on a particular hot issue of the day that can draw people in.
  13. You can’t do big announcements and launches everyday but if you select a few things that are your big ticket things to really shout about it definitely helps increase member numbers and engagement.
  14. Interject some “fun” into people’s working life then the results dramatically positive and so a great way of building engagement online.
  15. Plan some concrete examples of what will be shared in the community – new legislation, an early release of a publication, a senior figure answering questions through a hot seat. I’ve found that with the best will in the world, it’s hard to get people motivated with a reasonably generic intention to ‘share knowledge and best practice’.
  16. Keep feeding content into the group as much as you can so that people can see its being used often.
  17. Build it around a project, so you already have a defined focus, and roughly knowing who the audience is.
  18. People, who have found a benefit to joining, will frequently come back, such as when they find a document to copy rather than writing their own.  And communicate the benefits to them for example: Want to find out whets going on, visit the community. Want a copy of the documents from the conference, go to the community. Need to ask a question, go to the community. This has meant the community has developed quite quickly and there is now a lot of sharing of ideas and Q & A’s which has saved days of time, thereby making the time investment worth it.  It has had the added benefit of reducing telephone and email project support queries.
  19. Have content written for a few weeks ahead, so I know I always have something to put online. This means when day to day work suddenly gets busy, I know I still have something new to put on my group, which takes the pressure off a bit.
  20. Interviews with members have proved useful as they focus on one area so we can refer to them when answering people’s questions.
  21. Even with a completely new community you’re likely to be aware of some potential members? Speak to them directly and get them on board early.
  22. Ask people stuff. Most folk like to talk about themselves 🙂

A big thank you to: Lesley, Alex, John, Rebecca, Jamie, Michelle and Liz.

Not just another Zombie Story: Bringing a Community Back from the Dead

September 7, 2012 Leave a comment

ZOMBIE EXTERMINATIONI have the unenviable task over the next few months of contacting community facilitators who are looking after communities on the Knowledge Hub that appear to have gone into an inactive state.

When I say inactive, I’m classing it as no new content in the last 6 months.

But you should not despair the community may have served its purpose and it may be ready to close.  And if that is the case please email they can delete it from the system for you.

But if it’s just inactive “Can you bring a dead community back to life?”

The short answer is, yes, because you can always just start from scratch

But before you start you might want to have a look at why it be became inactive in the first place

  • Did people just lose interest?
  • Did the facilitators lose interest?
  • Was the community built around a product or service that is no longer relevant?

If this is still the case.  Then maybe it’s worth thanking everyone who has participated in the community and give it a good send off.

But if the answer is No, or sort of.  Then maybe there is still hope.

Bringing a dead community back to life isn’t so different from building a community from scratch.

While working on the communities of practice Platform I developed a guide on how to build communities of practice in local government.

Which I’m in the process of updating for the Knowledge Hub.

But the basic principles are the same and we say there are 5 key ingredients for most Communities (although these do not constitute a full recipe).


  1. Purpose: a Community needs a clear purpose which is relevant and meaningful to its members. It should specify exactly what the community is for and what will be gained from being part of it.
  2. Facilitation: every Community should begin with a team of three facilitators as a minimum; they will work together to ensure that the purpose of the community and the needs of the members are being met through a variety of online and offline activities and discussions. They welcome new members and keep the community vibrant and focused.
  3. Activities: within each Community there are a variety of activities, tools and techniques employed to aid and enhance conversations and the transfer of knowledge.
  4. Active membership: each community will have active members with a lively interest in sharing knowledge with each other.
  5. Promotion: ensure high levels of management buy in and promote the Communities ability to help solve daily work challenges

It will definitely be difficult to get the original members to just start being active again. They have probably moved on with all the changes in Local Government over the last year and the community is no longer a part of their life.

But, they may still be interested in subject area that brought them all together in the first place so don’t give up on them yet.

What you have at that point is a lot of potential community members, but no actual community.

What you really want to do is build a strong core that will sustain the community, and grow it out from that core.

So focus on rebuilding relationships with individual people, the same way you would if you were starting a community from scratch.

Find the people who were once active and send them a message, maybe hop on the phone. Start introducing people to each other and build relationships behind the scenes.

As far as what to do about the community that once thrived, that’s hard to say. You might want to start from scratch and invite people to the new community. Or you might be able to leverage the existing content to respark conversations.

So in order to build a self sustaining community, you’ll need to build a strong core around an interest that will live on for a long time.

So go ahead and bring your community back from the dead. Or better yet, build one that will never die.

A big thank you to David Spinks at the, for the impeccable timing of his blog which this is based on.

The Power of Peer Assists

August 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Last week I ran a Peer Assist with a group of Online Faciltators.

One of the groups where a little concerned and wanted a bit of advice.

Peer Assists are a great way of sharing the collective experience of the group but also to suggest ideas that have never been tried before.

There’s even a great little video on youtube that demonstrates how they work.

We had three focused questions that where to be asked to the group,  resulting in some great suggestions and tried and tested methods.

  1. How do we expand the core group of members?
  2. How do we demonstrate the value and benefits to our members?
  3. How do I get the most bang for my buck regarding the time I spend facilitating the group?

How do we expand the core group of members?

  • Tweet new content (Check out the upcoming Social Media Week in #localgetssocial)
  • Make use of hot seats
  • Make groups the interactive part of your team offer
  • Use events to promote the community with flyers, posting presentations and following up questions to speakers that weren’t able to be asked on the day
  • Personalised acceptance / welcome notes: personable, friendly, signpost to sources of help
  • Review your membership and target councils where there are gaps; invite them to join
  • Channel shift – post and answer emailed questions on the group
  • Use external forums (LGC, Guardian networks) to promote the community and make links to new audiences
  • Include the expectation of contribution in the group ground rules
  • Have a mix on content that people can interact with – it doesn’t all have to be at an expert level and doesn’t all have to be serious
  • Think about incentives for joining (1000th member celebrations etc)
  • Member of the month / interview key members
  • Face to face events
  • Use e.g. peer review signposting and principal advisers – join up better with other parts of the LGA and other Groups

How do we demonstrate the value and benefits to our members?

  • Review existing content for evidence of benefits
  • Reflect benefits in updates / reviews
  • Look at including community numbers in internal reports

How do I get the most bang for my buck regarding the time I spend facilitating the group?

  • Be personally interested and interesting
  • Think about what content you can post that only the group can see e.g. communications from central Government
  • Try to bring in Govt contacts to the groups
  • Ask people for their views; be provocative
  • Be aware of your own priorities and those of the team – are you focussing on the right things?
  • Use group messaging
  • Review Google Analytics to see what’s working

A big thank you to Rebecca for sharing the notes from the session.

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