Archive for the ‘Community Management’ Category

I just published an article on LinkedIn with 10 lessons learned from my recent major cleanup of the groups on our enterprise social network at Humana. Perhaps other online community managers and professionals can benefit from these takeaways that I jotted down while removing about 43% of our internal community’s nearly 1,700 groups.

Brenda Rick Smith

Brenda Rick Smith

Note from Jeff: One of the smartest things a manager can do is hire great people and then get out of their way. With that in mind, I am thrilled to have Brenda Rick Smith as a new colleague on my team at Humana to serve with me as a community manager for our enterprise social network, Buzz. To say that I am thrilled to have her is an understatement. Her expertise, work ethic, communication skills, insights and humor make her a great addition to an already fantastic team. It is, therefore, with joy and gratitude that I am pleased to share this space for a guest post from her on what she learned in her first month with us at Humana. You’ll want to follow Brenda on Twitter at @brendaricksmith.

Here’s Brenda…

On March 2, 2015, I started my dream job. I became a community manager for Buzz, the social network for Humana employees, under the leadership of Jeff Ross.

Here are three things I’ve learned in my first few weeks on the job:

People crave community. There’s no getting around it – humans are social creatures. We are built to seek the comfort, wisdom, joy, drama and myriad other things that come from interacting with our fellow human beings.

Buzz has hundreds of groups covering just about every conceivable topic and interest. People pop in to ask questions (Should I upgrade to the new chat/conference software? How do I set up an email persona?), solve problems (Why is my pedometer not recording my steps properly?), get advice (What kind of wearable fitness tracker should I buy?), share victories (Here’s a before and after picture of me. I lost 100 lbs!) and seek support (Do we have a support group for coping with sickle cell anemia?)

I love watching people connect with each other. Buzzers freely offer advice and help. They are quick to praise and celebrate. For each message and comment, a need is met. For some, it’s the need to be heard and validated, and for others, it’s the need to be helpful. For everyone, these connections are a reminder that we aren’t left all on our own, but we can depend on each other.

Never underestimate the power of good documentation. When I arrived, Jeff presented to me a document that detailed daily, weekly and occasional tasks. With that document in hand, I could quickly master the basics of my job. When I had a question, I could refer back to the document and get it answered.

That simple document empowered me. I didn’t have to be dependent of Jeff for every single bit of information. It reduced the number of awkward “Wait…tell me how I’m supposed to do this again?” conversations we had to have. It set me up to have early successes, too. I felt good about myself and my new role when I was able to come in on day two and actually perform some meaningful work, thanks to the documentation.

Because I didn’t have to struggle with learning all these new basic processes, I’ve been able to get my feet on the ground and tackle other bigger projects pretty quickly. My mental resources haven’t been drained by these basic tasks.

The lesson here for leaders is simple: as much as possible, document what it is that you do. Jeff launched Buzz, and has grown and managed it solo for five years. I’m sure it’s been tempting for him to put off documenting his regular tasks because it takes so much time – a resource that’s been in short supply for him. But by taking the time to document what he was doing, he made it possible to share his load. That’s an investment that will pay off for Jeff, for me, and for Buzz in the long run.

Community takes courage. My first few days on the job, I was surprised at just how much I saw people sharing. Why would people share so much – personally and professionally – on an enterprise social network? I quickly came to the conclusion that people share so much because they trust their colleagues, and they trust this organization. They feel safe.

It also takes courage and maturity for an organization to truly embrace community. Associates might say things that are uncomfortable to hear. They might voice truths unartfully. They might even voice untruths.

But the reality is those things are going to get said anyway, whether it is in an online community, in an email, or in a water cooler conversation. Isn’t it better to have those conversations in the open, where others can benefit from the discussion?

It speaks volumes to me that Humana is willing to provide this type of platform for engagement, and that so many Humana associates embrace it.

I’m delighted to be part of this team and this organization. And most of all, I’m thrilled to play a small part in shaping a 42,000-member community.

Construction SiteAs online communities continue to grow in number and usage, the professional role of community manager is also growing in prominence as a valued position that can, frankly, make or break a community. Of course, I’m biased from my perch as a community manager for the past 3.5 years for my company’s enterprise social network and a few external communities. Still, one of the key lessons I’ve learned in my role is the necessity of having the right person at the helm who understands communities – especially online communities – and who has the passion, training, knowledge, judgment and evolving experience to know what needs to be done, and who has the leeway to act accordingly.

Others have written great articles about the many hats community managers wear, the mind of the community manager, and qualities effective community managers must have. There are a host of phenomenal online resources related to community management such as Rich Millington’s Feverbee.com, Tim McDonald’s My Community Manager and others. In this post I want to make a simple point that will be self-evident to other community managers but not always so obvious to others.

First, a little background…

Our Enterprise Social Media Team at work has had a couple of open positions for a few months for various social media roles, one of which is for a community manager. We have no shortage of people applying for the roles. In fact, back in the spring of this year when we posted for an open position we had over 200 applicants. However, the number of people worth talking with and interviewing from among those applicants was in the single digits. Why? Nearly everyone thought that because they used social media to some extent in their personal lives, they were therefore qualified to be a community manager.

Let me state this as clearly as I know how: The fact that you use social media personally does not qualify you to be a community manager.

Billions of people on earth use social media. There are not billions of qualified community managers out there. Anyone can be a part of an online community, but using one and building one are two very different things. Using one and managing one are light years apart in skill sets and mindset.

Imagine that you are in the automotive industry. You are about to hire various people to do the best job possible designing and building your next great car model. How successful will you be if your criterion for hiring is that the person has used a car before? Using and designing are not the same. Using and building are not the same. While you may (and should) care about and consider input from everyday users throughout the process, the ones with the ultimate responsibility and authority to design and build the model will surely be limited to those trained in, passionate about, and experienced with that aspect of the process.

Another example… You’re a business owner and you want to create or greatly improve your company’s website. To whom will you go for advice on what is possible and effective? Hopefully, you’ll go to those who are experienced in website design, marketing, user experience and any other aspects specific to your purpose for the site. You won’t consider going, for example, to your neighbor next door because he’s used a lot of websites before. It won’t enter your mind to have your social media-addicted family member create your business website just because she is online all the time. Using and designing are not the same. Using and building are not the same. Using and managing are not the same.

The analogies could continue: You would not, for example, leave the construction of a major business complex to those who have merely worked in offices before. You would not entrust the creation of a fine, multi-course meal for your wedding guests to a few friends who like to eat. You would not eagerly wear clothes made by people who like clothes but who have no experience in sewing or working with various fabrics and materials. Why, then, do so many businesses use such failed logic when it comes to community management?

I heard someone proudly mention recently that in her company those who have responsibility for their enterprise social network have “real roles” – meaning other full-time jobs and that nobody has the title or responsibility of community manager. I’m sorry to hear that. I’m sorry that the company proud of that situation doesn’t understand the value a community manager uniquely brings to the table. I’m sorry that the company is not getting the most possible out of their internal community due to the absence of passionate, qualified community managers. It’s great that they have some enthusiastic users, but I’m sorry that the company doesn’t grasp the difference between using and building or managing. I wonder how much the company and its employees are missing out on?

My simple case for community management is this: It takes special skills and qualities to design, build and manage online communities, and merely having used one or more before doesn’t quality anyone for the role. If we understand that there is a difference in building, using and managing other areas of life from cars to websites, then it’s time we recognize that the same holds true in building, using and managing online communities. We need specific community manager roles to exist and we need training and professional development paths and opportunities appropriate for the role expectations so that those interested in the profession have a legitimate opportunity to break into the field and to succeed in the role.

When it comes to building, using and managing online communities, the typical community participants do one of those three things really well – they use the platform to connect with others. That is why they are there. They are, of course, vital because without them the communities would not exist. They are the reason we community managers do what we do.

The best community managers, however, know how to do all three – build, use and manage.

Your online community – whether internal for your employees or external for the public – needs at least one dedicated, trained, community manager.

I love web tools that are easy and fun to use.  While I’ve seen many Storify.com stories from others, I never bothered to set up my own account and experiment with it until the last few days.  The basic idea behind Storify is that you can easily grab text, graphics, video, social media posts, etc. from various places and arrange them in a “story” on Storify, adding your own text to narrate and explain as needed.

Storify-Ending-7-27-13For my first story, I wanted to simply grab the tweets and retweets I posted on Twitter for the past week around the subjects of community management and social media, and add a little commentary along the way.  You’ll find the story here.  What is especially nice is that the tweets are fully interactive through the links on each tweet (unlike the static image here on the right).  It is simple to locate what I want through a search on Storify or by normal web browsing and then selecting the contents to add.  The sort buttons and bare bones text editing capabilities keep the interface simple but functional.

I’m planning on starting a weekly Twitter chat in September and have spent some time this past week exploring options to archive those chats.  I think I’ve found the simple, quick, effective solution I need to do just that.

Thanks, Storify!

Twitter logoI continue to be amazed at how much I learn each and every week from following key people related to the subjects of social learning, collaboration and community management. By taking the time to read the articles linked in their many posts, I am getting a better and more relevant education now on these subjects than by any other means past or present. Below are my 71 tweets I retweeted for the week ending 5/7/2011 plus one or two of my own. Enjoy!

2011-05-07 23:53:35
daily list of articles from links by people followed by @JaneHart of @C4LPT at http://paper.li/c4lpt

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