Serendipity: A Key Theme for 2012

Serendipity sure seems to be a key theme for me in 2012. First, I was on a panel at SxSWi with a few very smart folks titled “Get Lucky: Create Serendipity to Spur Innovation” – Panel organizer Rawn Shah posted a great recap post here: Serendipity and Innovation at SXSW .

This week, I’ll be having a conversation with Thor Muller about Permeable Organizations and the role of permeability in harnessing serendipity to create value. Thor just put the finishing touches on his upcoming book about serendipity with Lane Becker titled “Get Lucky: How to Put Planned Serendipity to Work for You and Your Business“.
In Tuesday’s session we will be discussing:
– How to find and develop brand evangelists
– How to uncover hidden customer needs to drive innovation
– How to meet the needs of different business stakeholders, while leaving room for serendipity
– What it means to have a successful community in a sales-driven/product-driven or customer-centric culture
– How to design effective programs that serve different community goals
I also plan to grill Thor about the book 🙂
The session is on April 3rd at 11am PDT – this is a free event, and you can register here:
How to Succeed as a Permeable Organization
I hope you can join us!

Community Management as Stewardship – and Happy #CMAD!

stew·ard·ship
: the conducting, supervising, or managing of something;especially : the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care <stewardship of natural resources>

In the run up to Community Manager Appreciation Day, I’ve had a lot of conversations about the evolving role of the community manager. One topic keeps surfacing during all the conversations, no matter how varied the duties and perceptions of the role may be: that of stewardship.

Contexts, duties, community purpose, member demographics, and many other variables can be unique to each and every online community , but one thing remains the same – the role of someone to care for the network of relationships over the long haul… and hopefully to leave the community in a better place than it was when that particular community manager started to engage.

As we honor all of our Community Managers today, I would encourage you to think about the concept of stewardship as it relates to the work of community management – the intention to care for the network over time. The commitment required, and the long-term value inherent.

To all the Community Managers out there: Happy #CMAD! You are all doing important and impactful work. You rock. Thank you.

Developing a Social Strategy: Research Project Open for Participation

note: this is cross-posted from the Online Community Report blog.

The next Online Community Research Network project is open for participation. In January, OCRN members discussed and prioritized a long list of topics, and the issue that made top of the list was “Developing Social a Strategy”.
The OCRN chose to study how social media strategy is developed, communicated and implemented because, frankly, so many organizations are actively struggling with the topic. We hope that by getting real-world feedback, advice and experiences from practitioners (read: the folks ACTUALLY doing the work), we can all gain insight in to this important topic.
If you are involved in the development of your organizations Social Media and Community strategy, I would encourage you to participate in a short survey here:
The topics we are exploring in this project include:
  • The definition of social media strategy;
  • The current scope of community and social media efforts;
  • The current state of strategy development;
  • The process organizations are using to develop strategy;
  • Ownership and governance of social strategy;
  • The biggest challenges that executives and teams are facing
I would ask that you please complete the survey by next <strong>Friday, 3/12</strong>. All participants will get a copy of the results.
The tag for this research project is: #socstrat

Online Communities: Surviving & Thriving Webcast

The archive for Online Communities: Thriving in the Economic Downturn Webinar”>Online Communities: Thriving in the Economic Downturn Webinar is now available.

You can view an archive of the video / audio from the webcast here:
http://www.onlinecommunityreport.com/webcasts/OCSVTV/index.htm

On the webcast today, I was joined by Thor Muller of Satisfaction, Chris Kenton of SocialRep and Scott Wilder of Intuit. Topics discussed in the webcast include:

– Buffalo culture as a new metaphor for your online business
– The customer relationship as a currently squandered opportunity
– Rethinking “ROI”
– The social history of marketing and media
– Setting social media policy and training staff – “Guidelines and guardrails”
– and much more.

Participant bios:

Thor Muller – CEO & Co-founder, Satisfaction

Thor Muller is CEO & Co-founder of Satisfaction, a startup delivering “people-powered customer service for absolutely everything.”

He is also the co-founder and former Managing Director of Rubyred Labs, a San Francisco-based web apps firm. Since its founding in 2005, Rubyred has developed social software for a range of startups and leading portals.

Prior to Rubyred, Thor was a first generation Web entrepreneur, creating Web success stories for companies such as Yahoo, Dell, Bank of America, Intel, Virgin Records, Fujitsu, Discovery Channel, and Sony. In 1995, he started and ran one of the early Web development boutiques, Prophet Communications, later acquired by Frog Design where he served as VP Digital Media. He subsequently founded Trapezo, a venture-funded company that made Web software for syndicating content, acquired by Perfect Commerce in 2002.

Christopher Kenton – CEO & Founder, SocialRep

Christopher Kenton is founder and CEO of the enterprise social media SaaS startup SocialRep, and cofounder and consulting partner at MotiveLab a social media marketing agency. Chris was formerly Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy at the Chief Marketing Officer’s (CMO) Council, and its corporate parent, the international PR firm GlobalFluency, where he managed global business development, client consulting services and program development for business communities including the CMO Council, the Business Performance Management (BPM) Forum and the Forum to Advance the Mobile Experience (FAME).

With an extensive background in strategic marketing and software development, Chris specializes in market development, competitive positioning, marketing effectiveness and measurement, with a special emphasis on marketing technology and social media.


Scott K. Wilder, Group Manager, Intuit

Scott K. Wilder is currently the Group Manager of Intuit’s QuickBooks Online Community and User-Collaboration Web site. Previously, he served as Vice President of Marketing and Product Development at KBtoys.com and eToys. He also has held numerous senior management positions at America Online, Apple Computer, Borders.com, and American Express. While working at America Online, Scott helped create the first Web-based online advertisement and commercial Web site. Wilder has a Master degrees from The Johns Hopkins University, The New York University Leonard Stern School of Business and Georgetown University’s Leadership Coaching Program.

Bill Johnston, Chief Community Officer, Forum One Networks

Bill Johnston works as Forum One Network’s Chief Community Officer. In this role, Bill drives the editorial vision for Forum One’s series of conferences related to online community, leads the Online Community Research Network, and leads the commercial community consulting practice.

Johnston has been building large-scale online communities since 1999. He came to Forum One from Autodesk, where he served as the Online Strategy Manager, with responsibilities including a portfolio of online communities and blogs. Previously he oversaw user experience tasks at TechRepublic, an IT professionals community (now part of Cnet). He also directs the Online Community Roundtable, an invitation-based professional networking series for online community professionals to share best practices and experiences.

Ecosystem Powerpoint Slides

I was part of the “Building a Business Case for Social Marketing” webinar yesterday hosted by Aaron Strout of Powered. During the presentation, I promised to post my slide illustating the concept of a community ecosystem.

The ppt deck has two versions of this diagram, one on a black background with a build, and one with just a white background.

I hope you find the diagram useful in your presentations.

ppt Community Ecosystem Slides

A preview of the ecosystem diagram
A preview of the ecosystem diagram

Online Community Roundtable: Jan 8 in SF

oc roundtableThe next Online Community Roundtable will be held Thursday, January 8 at SolutionSet in San Francisco.

The Roundtable is intended for seasoned community managers and strategists. We have room for 20 folks, and seats are going fast. The event is free.

To RSVP for the Roundtable, please go here:
http://moourl.com/sf_ocr_jan09
About the Roundtables…
The Roundtables have been a regular, but intentionally “under the radar” gathering I’ve organized since July of 2005. The purpose of the Roundtable is to provide an open and safe environment for community practitioners to share experiences and best practices. It’s also an excellent excuse meet other interesting folks practicing in the online community and social media space.

Ground Rules:

* No sponsorships. Host organization provides space, food and beverages
* No pitches. Presentations should be about sharing experiences, having a discussion about a problem or issue you are facing, or reviewing a project or site you are working on.
* The guest list is up to Bill
* Bill sets final agenda based on topic appropriateness and time available
* “Soft” NDA: Blogging / Tweeting etc sessions is ok, unless presenter asks you not to.

Format for the 1/8 meeting:
5:00 – 6:00 Networking hour.
Drinks and food will be available.

6:00 – 7:30 Presentations.
After the networking hour, we’ll share thoughts on community. We request that you bring a 1-2 slide deck to talk to. Topics can range from:

* A report back from a conference
* A new community that you have recently launched
* A feature that you are developing, or are interested in discussing
* Challenges that you are facing in developing, growing or managing your community
* Or any other topic that you feel would be appropriate and enlightening to this audience.

Please email me if you have any questions: bjohnston@forumone.com

Online Community Expert Interviews: The Best of 2007

I just put together a short list of our best interviews from the Online Community Report for 2007. We had a great group of Community experts sharing their experiences, and I think you will agree that the content is worth a second look.
Shawn Morton, CNET
“The big lesson … was to follow the needs of the community first, not the latest new thing that analysts, journalists or bloggers are raving about… unless your community is geared toward analysts, journalists or bloggers.”

Steve Nelson, Clear Ink
“They (communities) form themselves, so what corporations can do is to foster their organic growth, not force it. Understand that they will be equal players at the table, respect them and let them thrive.”

Lee LeFever, Common Craft

“In my experience, there is a much needed focus on the role of the community manager. Companies are starting to understand that community isn’t a technology that you plug in and leave alone – it’s a way of doing business that takes time and hard work. In the best success stories, there is almost always a person or small group that understands community processes, sets expectations, and balances the needs of the community and the organization.”

Scott Moore, Schwab Foundation

Regardless which definition of ROI you want to use (return on investment, information or interaction), I am hearing more and more community managers who are focusing on helping community members increase their return as a main goal. This doesn’t mean that the organization hosting the community gives up on return, but that it’s not the only bottom line (and it’s not just a monetary bottom line).

Bill Binenstock, CBS Interactive
“The good news about our industry and our space is that there are so many incredibly cool things to do and so much innovation taking place. The bad news about our industry and our space is that there are so many incredibly cool ….”

Guy Kawasaki, Garage / Truemors

Not everything has to be a Google or YouTube to be a “success.” Small sites
can be great “lifestyle” businesses: no outside investors, work in your
underwear at home, and use any Macintosh that you want. Life is good in the
garage.
(editors note: my home office is in my garage, but I generally put pants on)

Jake McKee, Ant’s Eye View
“But even as this awareness grows and the tools get better and better (anyone seen Facebook lately??), we still advise our clients of the same thing we have for years: build relationships, don’t implement tools. Relationships are the crucial part of any “social” activity, whether online or offline, whether business focused or personal.”

Joi Podgorny, Ludorum, Inc.
“It has been said before a ton of times, but I will keep saying it until it becomes common knowledge – Communities are hard work. They take resources to design and plan, but more importantly, they take resources to maintain.”

Susan Tenby, TechSoup

“Enlist your most opinionated and helpful volunteers and create a “management group” of sorts. Connect with them every month, outside of the larger group, if possible, through a conference call, take their agenda items and and help them help make the community a success by forming the structure of your community with their ideas and your vision.”

Know an online community expert with an interesting story to tell? Or are you one yourself? Email me, and you may be the next expert interviewee!

Starting the New Year Off Right: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Community

This is cross-posted from the OC Report.

In the spirit of the new year, I wanted to encourage community managers, strategists and teams to do a bit of self-reflection on the old (2007) and planning for the new (2008).

The following are five key questions you and your team might explore in the coming weeks.

1. How are your members feeling?
This is a great time of year to put out a quick satisfaction survey. Conduct a web-based survey to ask members about the quality of the user experience, how they feel about the community, and if they would they recommend your community to their peers? Finally, ask about additional features or community touch-points members would like to see from you. 50 to 100 responses to this survey would be a great baseline. As I’ve mentioned before, tying this survey into any sort of customer satisfaction, loyalty or brand-tracking research you are doing will be quite insightful.

Web-based surveys are a great tool, but if you can get community members together in-person for a roundtable session, even better. If a Survey or in person Roundtable are too much overhead, pick up the phone and call 5-10 active members.

2. How is your staff?
The first of the year is also a great time to gather staff (or, if you are just one, to do some self-reflection) to think about what went well, and what didn’t in 2007. What were the key learnings? Were your policies and guidelines clear, and did they address most issues. Were members generally happy and active? Did your key metrics grow / improve? Most importantly, how are your front line community managers feeling? Are they enthusiastic about another year participating in your community, or dreading it? If it is the latter, you have some work to do. This is also a good time to start looking around for talent on other teams. The demand for community managers, strategists and executives is only going to get worse in 2008, as more companies engage in online community building and social media activities. Hiring is one option, but growing / grooming internal candidates is another option, especially if your current community staff feels squeezed.

3. Who is sponsoring / how do budgets look?

Does you have a sponsoring executive that has a seat at the C table (or your orgs equivalent)? If not, find one! Or better, convert everyone! Seriously, this is also a great time of year for a community roadshow, to “tell the story of 2007”. All the great conversations that happened, all the key wins, key points of friction. Community and social media has a lot of visibility with most organizations senior management right now, so take advantage. Also, most of you have your 08 community budgets planned, start thinking about 09. Seriously.

4. Got Goals?
Community metrics, and in particular, ROI are going to come under scrutiny this year. 06-07 were about convincing the unconverted that it was OK to say “community” again. A lot of efforts were funded on good faith. This year, many senior managers will want to see return. One of the biggest challenges community managers and executives will face is weaving together a “tapestry of value” that contains both quantitative and qualitative information. It is key to have a set of your community goals aligned with some of your overall organizational goals. On the other hand, it is also critical to convince executives that community features, like discussion groups and blogs, are now expected by the market.

5. Where else can you participate?
One of the things that really surprised me when working on community strategy project in 2007 was the tendency for community managers and strategists to just focus on properties they “owned”, as opposed to reaching out to other adjacent community sites, social networks and bloggers. The metaphor I encourage folks to use is that of an ecosystem. There are many places your community members like to play, and your organization can potentially add value in many (but certainly not all) of those places.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the set of questions I asked. Did i miss something? Please drop me an email or leave a comment.

Metrics: Page Views Out, Time On Site In

Nielsen/NetRatings is dropping page views as a key site ranking metric, PaidContent.com and the AP report:

Now, news that Nielsen/NetRatings is planning a major shift in web metrics, moving, according to the AP, from page views as the key metric to time spent on a site.

This new approach will likely shake up current rankings, for instance:

…under the current system, AOL ranked sixth in total page views for May but first in total minutes: 25 billion. Using total time, Google drops to fifth from third in page views. (The reason given is Google’s mission to send people off quickly for answers; that’s probably true but ignores Google’s other mission now, which is to keep people engaged on its own sites.)

In our Online Community Metrics 2007 study (to be released in August), we found that page views were far and away the most collected and reported metric. If general confidence in this metric starts to erode, what will take its place? Is “Time spent on site” the most meaningful metrics for communities?

The other big issue is with online advertising. Most sites are using page views to correlate “impressions”, similar to traditional marketing campaigns. If page views become meaningless, who do marketers communicate value back to clients?

Blogging’s A-list – Off with their heads?

Cross-posted from the Online Community Report.

A cry for revolution was heard over the July 4th holiday this week, for the era of the A list bloggers to come to an end.

It all started (i think) with Kent Newsome’s pretty hilarious spoof on the Declaration of Independence, the Declaration of Blogging Independence, where he takes aim squarely at the Technorati Top 100.

When in the Course of online events it becomes necessary for alienated and isolated bloggers to dissolve the existing blogging hierarchy and exclusionary behavior which have disconnected them from the A-List and made them feel even more nerdy, and to assume among the multitude of powers they wish they had, the equally unattainable station to which the Laws of It Ain’t Fair entitle them, a decent respect for The Onion and Al Gore requires that they should write yet another post no one will ever read to declare the many real and imagined causes which impel them to the third party affected and now ironically embraced separation.

Others quickly joined the revolution:

Joe Duck, from his The Blogging Revolution has begun! (?) post, says:

I’m tired of reading the same old people who in some cases are too busy chasing dollars to blog nearly as creatively as they did in the old days (ie a year ago). The more ominous case is the new trend in blogging that has “A listers” effectively (even if not literally) shilling for big corporations under the provocative guise called “conversational marketing”.

And in a subsequent post actually talks about removing Alisters from his feed list.

Hugh Macleod chimes in here.

In the past, say, from the late ‘nineties until the last six-twelve months or so, Bloggers’ readership grew IN PROPORTION to the social networks that were built up around them. Hence the phenomenon of the “A-List”.

But if we’re honest, looking back, it was always these circumventing social networks that were the really interesting part of the equation. The actual blogger in question, less so. Even if in our celebrity-worshiping culture, we sometimes forgot that.

It’s interesting that some of the backlash was based on the personal accessibility of the blogger, and sometimes the overexposure of a particular blogger, either via the media or at conferences. The reality is, one persons time and attention is only so scalable.

One a personal note, I do think my habits have changed a bit over the last 6 months in that I cast a wider net than just the A-List. For me, this is mostly a byproduct of meeting several hundred new people passionate about online communities and social media because of the Forum One evens I now help run. I am exposed, face to face, to a lot more “b &c” list bloggers that have interesting and insightful things to talk about. They are actually in the trenches doing the work (managing communities, building social networks, developing new marketing techniques), as opposed to just commenting on the industry.

A very specific example of a changed habit: I read Scoble’s shared links almost daily, but I almost never read his actual blog’s feed. I’m more interested in what he is reading and what he is paying attention to.

What do you think? Are your content consumption habits changing because of social networks?