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Serving as a Group Community Manager in Social Collaboration

Particularly in larger organizations, you’ll typically find a distinction between enterprise community managers (or strategists) who manage the overall health of the social collaboration network and the owners and managers of specific groups or communities.

Here, the word “group” is used generically to cover a number of types of subcommunities within a social collaboration network. Terminology varies on different platforms from different vendors. Group-level community management is important because often that’s where the real work gets done — in project groups, special interest and expertise groups, management groups, research groups, departmental groups, and so on.

If you create a group (or request that one be created on your behalf, depending on the process at your company), you may be asked to take on some community management responsibilities as the group owner. This may include some administrative duties but nothing particularly technical. For example, if group membership requires approval, you become the person who approves requests to join.

But it is be up to you to keep the community healthy and productive. That means inviting people with relevant skills or expertise to join, getting discussions started, moderating as necessary, and reminding members to visit. The role of community manager is sometimes compared to that of a party planner: You can’t do it all, but you try to invite the right people, introduce them to each other, create a welcoming and interesting environment, and keep the interaction going.

Of course, the person or team of people managing the social collaboration network on an enterprise-wide basis will help, but those folks can’t be everywhere at once. Also, there are advantages to doing community management at a level closer to the specific community. Think of the difference between local government and state or federal government, where the local officials understand how the local community works.

Similarly, the community manager for a finance group with representatives from all divisions of the company will have a better understanding of who the most knowledgeable and helpful community members are. A community manager at the enterprise level who is not particularly knowledgeable about finance would have a harder time understanding the group dynamics.

Serving as a group community manager is a great way of raising your profile on the social collaboration network and placing yourself at the crossroads of a lot of professional connections and expertise. However, you should understand the responsibility you are assuming and take it seriously.

Basic things that every group owner should plan to do include the following:

  • Define the purpose of the community and keep it aligned with company goals.

  • Act as a liaison with the enterprise community managers.

  • Build group membership by publicizing it and extending personal invitations.

  • Start conversations, invite participation, and recognize the contributions of others.

  • Answer questions or bring them to the attention to someone who has the answer.

  • Keep content fresh and relevant. Delete outdated items or archive them if needed, making sure that the latest versions are displayed prominently, are properly tagged, and show up in search.

  • Monitor activity within the group and resolve or report inappropriate activity. (Incidents should be rare, but be prepared to intervene when necessary.)

Plan to spend at least an hour per week actively participating in and managing the community. If you find it difficult to invest the time necessary, maybe you need to delegate or share the responsibility, but do not let these basic activities slide.

To go beyond the basics, here are some additional ways you can contribute:

  • Collaborate (online or off) with the enterprise community managers and other group owners about overall strategy for the social collaboration network and productive group-level tactics for building community.

  • Evangelize social collaboration to the broader organization, citing success stories from your community group.

  • Cultivate a broader audience by using @mentions and other mechanisms to alert others of content within your group that they may find interesting.

  • Integrate online and offline community building tactics. Organize offline events that allow community members to meet in person. Use the online community for follow-up activity after an in-person meeting: for example, host a discussion where everyone will post updates on to-do items after a project meeting.

  • Offer formal or informal training at “lunch and learn” events or company meetings to get more people familiar with how to use the social collaboration environment to its full potential.

Thanks to Tracy Maurer, Bryce Williams, and Melissa Rosen of the Internal Community Managers group on the Jive Community website for contributing their thoughts.

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