The SOCIAL Shift

Observations on how social connectivity is changing the workplace. And the world. Views expressed here are my own.
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Launching and maintaining an internal social network at The McGraw-Hill Companies has been an exciting learning experience. In my “The Life of a Community Manager” series, I will highlight key aspects that have been central in my experience as a community manager.

That satisfaction of giving joy to others is available to all community managers almost every day. How? In the form of content. Our team realized that people were producing lots of great business content. Functional tips, market insights, competitive intelligence, lessons learned and the list goes on. They were taking time to write it and I was reading it, but the people that may benefit the most from it weren’t always finding it.

So I took on the (ahem unofficial ahem) role of Chief Content Curator. In doing so, it was my duty to give air to the great content that users were generating and to give credit and exposure to the thought leaders that were producing it. So we reserved a space on our homepage that was for user-generated content. The only rules were that it needed to be original (at least part of it), informative and compelling. I would browse for content 2-3 times a week and would post 5-7 items (blog posts, discussions, documents) that best fit the criteria. This turned out to be a great move.

Content creators loved it! They were trying to boost their readership anyway. By putting their pieces right on the homepage, their readership would double, triple and quadruple. And in many cases, this sparked meaningful conversations about important business issues.

Employees loved it! Those who like to be in the know or are passionate about a given issue or company news were able to stay informed more easily. The intellectual exchange and the ability to find people and content that matters to them.

We loved it! Using employee-generated content and surfacing it prominently on our Intranet homepage made the site even more relevant and functional for employees that were adjusting to social functionality as the core of their intranet.

Each time I update this, I tag the “contributors” in my status to alert them that their content is on the homepage.

I think there are three things that community managers can do to give the gift of content to the members of their community:

  1. Find great content- Regardless of the adoption level in your community, there are some people who are producing great, insightful and thought provoking content. So block off 30 minutes and browse or search for that content. It there’s lots of it or you have higher utilization, you may have to spend more time on this or ask people to submit content that they’d like to see get broader exposure. Regardless of how you do it, it’s to yours and e community’s benefit to find a way to identify the exemplary pieces of content.
  2. Surface it for readers- Remember, your users are busy doing their jobs, so they may not have the time to see the great content. Or they mat have just missed it. Find a prominent place where you can place links to the content that you found. That will make it easier for your busy users to take 30 seconds to scan the list, click on a link or two and bookmark something for a deeper read when they have time. I’ve seen great content go from 0 comments, 0 likes and a handful of views to top-liked in the course of 24 hours or less from this act.
  3. Connect users with content that matters to them- Very quickly, you will get to know the people in your community and the type of content that matters to them. You can (and should) help users find the content that matters to them. I will contact them with a direct message linking to the content and suggesting that they take look and leave a comment. Other times, I will comment and tag that user in the post. Your intervention can help build connections in your community that can drive innovations and partnerships.


For Social Business, 2011 was a year of exploration, experimentation and in some cases innovation.  Both small and large organizations in a variety of verticals globally began to realize the power of bringing social behaviors, processes and platforms behind the firewall. According to a 2011 AIIM survey, over 50% of organizations now consider social business to be imperative or significant to their business goals.

As 2011 comes to a close, it’s time to look ahead to what’s next in social business for 2012. IBM’s Alistair Rennie, GM of Social Business, has three predictions for what we can expect to see in social in 2012:

1. Social Analytics 
“In today’s highly connected global business environment, the way people communicate, find and share information and work together has changed dramatically.  In 2012, social analytics tools will become the must have to gain insight and make better, faster business decisions and improve customer satisfaction. Whether it’s analytics of an internal social network, or gaining customer insight through analysis of external social networks, organizations will increasingly rely on social technologies to listen, examine, and connect to act.”

2. Gamification of social networking in the enterprise 
“Gamification, the use of game elements in non-game systems to improve business outcomes, has the opportunity to transform how employees work inside the enterprise and will certainly be something social businesses explore in 2012.”

3. Community Managers Rule
“Just like the Internet opened up a world of new opportunities, the rise of social business is creating new jobs. With the adoption of these new internal and external social business tools comes the increasing need for staff to manage the new processes and communities, to measure their effectiveness, and to educate and enable the workforce to participate. Corporations are quickly realizing they must create new roles like the community manager to take on these new responsibilities. Watch for this role to take off in 2012, with organizations of all shapes and sizes, in a variety of industries calling on experts to help to build, maintain, and activate members in an online location around common interests and topics.  Key skills required:   Ability to be transparent, drive sharing among members, and listening and shaping conversations.”

via sowecreate:

Launching and maintaining an internal social network at The McGraw-Hill Companies has been an exciting learning experience. In my “The Life of a Community Manager” series, I will highlight key aspects that have been central in my experience as a community manager. 
“If you build it, they will come.”
While it worked for Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, chances are it won’t work for your internal social network. Our team has taken this on as a mantra of sorts as we guide users who are looking to manage internal communities on the site. But it has also been a driving tenet for for our team and for me personally. In fact, we flipped it to clearly state our approach:
“Just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come.”
So the question remains: how do you get people in your organization to use an internal social network? While there will be some people who intrinsically make the connection from the benefits of a social tool and how that can make them faster and more efficient, many won’t. Your challenge as a community manager will be to convince the detractors that don’t necessarily understand or use social media much or those who just don’t like change. If you can convince some in this demographic to use the tool, you have a great shot at gain wider adoption and success with your solution. Here are three tips to get them on your side:

  1. Understand the business requirements - Starting the conversation with all the options your site has available is a mistake. Instead, you first want to listen. Understand what requirements the client has, what his/her goals are and what employees need to do to achieve them. Having your potential user speaking in terms that are most comfortable to them - their business - is the first step to winning him/her over.
  2. Identify the goals - Once you understand the context, narrow the conversation. I like to ask the client one question: what are the three things you want your people to do when they get to your site? That usually leads to a conversation about sharing, collaborating, connecting, archiving, etc. Now that your client has clearly identified his/her goals, you can target the functionality in those areas.
  3. Articulate how using the site will help them reach their goals - You’ve spent most of this conversation listening and asking open-ended questions. But now you’re talking about the site. Be sure to articulate how the site will get them to their desired end state. You love this stuff and could go on for hours. Don’t do that or you will lose the client. Tie it back to how s/he will be able to do something with the tool that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible or would have been too expensive or time-consuming.
These steps don’t always happen in one 30-minute meeting or presentation. It often takes people time to digest and understand what you’re sharing. Give them the time they need and answer the questions they may have along the way. Believe me, it’s worth it. Some of our strongest champions are not from the pool of social media-savvy early adopters, but rather the group that was on the fence about “this social stuff” and needed some convincing. In the long run, their endorsement carries more weight than those perceived as social media mavens.
So if you’re going to build it, make sure you invest the time and effort to get them to come and use it.
Launching and maintaining an internal social network at The McGraw-Hill Companies has been an exciting learning experience. In my “The Life of a Community Manager” series, I will highlight key aspects that have been central in my experience as a community manager.

Customer support plays a key role in adoption and engagement of an internal social network. It ensures that users have the base of knowledge to effectively use the tool. It also sets the tone for how the solution will be perceived by the organization. Great customer support in the commercial space can make someone a customer for life. In the same way, a negative experience can create a vehement, vocal detractor. The stakes are similar for a new initiative inside a company. Be sure to provide memorable customer support experiences that will delight your customers and create people who can be advocates for the solution.

While I’m not an expert in customer support, I have learned a few lessons on the topic that will serve well for other community managers as they seek to drive adoption and engagement within their communities: be responsive, create documentation to aid your efforts and use the community.
  1. Be responsive – You need to answer people’s questions in a timely fashion. That doesn’t mean, however, that you need to monitor question in real-time. Community managers should monitor questions 2-3 times a day. That may increase when you first launch your solution or if you introduce significant new features. If you are still learning the tool in the when you launch (like my team and I were), or if someone asks a really complex question, that’s ok. Just be transparent that you need to look into that aspect of the functionality to answer their question. That way, they will know that you heard them and that you’re working on it.
  2. Create documentation – There will undoubtedly be questions that you will get repeatedly. This may seem annoying, particularly if you are being responsive. You may feel like you’re answering the same question over and over. Moreover, you may feel like you’re wasting time explaining the same process five times a day. To save time and your sanity, create documentation that explains the steps or actions to commonly asked questions. When people ask those questions, just cut and paste the response, or send them the link. You can also use your site to this end. Create a place where people can ask questions on the site so those conversations are archived and available to all users. They can serve as great customer support aids and may even prevent questions all together as people find them via search or by browsing the site. It also allows for other users to answer questions. Which leads us to number three…
  3. Use the community – It’s important to remember that you aren’t alone as a community manager. You have a whole community of people who can help you! And that includes your customer support responsiveness, too. As your early adopters gain aptitude with the site, they will have the knowledge and experience to answer questions from their peers who are still learning. Give them the chance to demonstrate their knowledge if they aren’t doing it naturally themselves. This can save you time on answering some of the more basic questions and spend your time and energy on other higher value activities.

Why Customer Support Matters
There’s a learning curve associated with any new tool. That reality takes on a different life in a professional environment. While some people will experiment, there’s a large portion of the population that won’t for a variety of reasons. Reluctant to look inept in front of the entire company, that segment will seek help. If they get it, they may have the confidence to use the tool. But if they don’t they may opt out very early on, or even become vocal detractors, making it all the more challenging to get them, and others, engaged.

Customer support is critical to a thriving enterprise social community. When we launched our internal social network, we had a variety of questions that ran the gamut from very basic tasks (e.g. updating profile, uploading documents) to more complex usage issues (e.g. content migration from existing sites, strategies to drive membership). Answering these questions, particularly early on, will play a seminal role in determining how much (or how little) employees will use the resource.

Here’s a pretty straightforward description of some key pillars for community managers. While this list was composed primarily with external communities in mind, I think they also apply within the enterprise.

My parents kind of know what I do every day at work.

Kind of.

They know that McGraw-Hill has this internal social network and that I’m the community manager. But I’m not sure they quite grasp all that the role of enterprise community manager encompasses.

So when I came across this excellent description on Yammer of what an internal community manager does, I sent it to my parents. I thought it clearly articulated some of the key areas of responsibility for a community manager.

The concept of community management is important for any internal social network. I, and other community managers at all kinds of companies, work to ensure that the community is thriving and enables employees to share freely with their colleagues. That is the core that drives all actions, be that selling the solution to business leaders, moderating discussions or linking employees with similar concepts.

Hopefully, after reading the article, my parents will know what it is I do everyday.