COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT WITH COMMUNITY MAPPER
“Community” in different contexts has many meanings. Traditionally we have thought about communities being where our home is and the neighbours we interact with, quite independent of our ‘work’ life. Community activities could span working with the local municipal council authorities around community facilities, development of special interest clubs, be they for sport, craft or vocational activities and the like. Over time however, we have come to value the informal support and cohesion regularly experienced in our ‘home’ communities to the extent that many businesses are looking to replicate that experience in a business context. Many large-‐scale organisations have successfully adopted communities of practice to leverage technical expertise across their respective organisations. Some of these organisations have extended these communities into their supply chain, developing communities of ‘preferred’ suppliers. More recently mainstream businesses have discovered the value of facilitating customer communities. Labelled ‘Social Customer Relationship Management’, in essence the idea is that by building communities of customers around your company’s brand, they are less likely to move on to your competitors. The story of Ebay is a great example of this, where the development of ‘Collectors’ communities staved off technically superior auction sites when Ebay was just starting out and highly vulnerable. Not for profit and social enterprises rely heavily on their community of volunteers and donors to sustain their operations. Government agencies often play a large part in the funding and support of these organisations, who take on the lions share of the work in the field on behalf of these agencies. For these agencies the ‘Not for profits’ are a part of their stakeholder community. One common theme for all incarnations of ‘community’ is the existence of a strong central theme or purpose and the voluntary nature by which these communities form. Experience has shown that strong communities need effective facilitation and therefore ‘community management’ has become a key success factor in generating effective community action. The need for effective community management has only been amplified by the advent of online communities and social networking software like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.
What do Effective Community Managers Need? Whether you have the formal title of ‘Community Manager’ or are part of the marketing, procurement, sales or operations teams, building effective communities is about building cohesion amongst the membership around an agreed purpose. That purpose may be described in a simple mission statement like ‘reduce world poverty’; ‘find new cures for cancer’; ‘be the mobile phone of choice’; ‘provide the lowest cost, highest quality ….’; etc.. Your mission statement may attract interested parties, but your next step is to engage these interested parties in ‘win-‐win’ activities i.e. you benefit but so do they. The following schematic identifies the typical evolution of an effective community:
In the initial stage of community building, we want to know who is out there that is interested in our mission or purpose. This is an exploration where we are trying to determine the level of support there may be for our intended community. Based on our findings we may need to adjust or adapt our mission to arrive at a happy medium of value exchange required to sustain a community.
Once we have identified prospective community members it is important to then engage them in some activity to bring them together. This could be in the form of a physical meeting or event. Alternatively a simple survey and reporting of results may be sufficient to gain that initial engagement. Once we have an engaged community we now have a resource that we can mobilise to leverage and exploit in terms of our mission or purpose. Leverage can mean many things for different communities, ranging from volunteered activities, a better product or service, fund raising, or simply a place for self-‐development. Either way the level of cohesion amongst the membership is a strong indicator of the health or status of a community. For community managers the ability to ‘see’ the cohesiveness within their communities will meet a key need for their effective facilitation and management.
So how does Community Mapper Help?
A key feature of the Community Mapper is that it helps you built your community by visualise your potential community member network. Using social network analysis techniques, Community Mapper can show how your community members (or prospective members) are connected to one another. This initial version of Community Mapper is focussed on the exploration phase of community building. Connections between prospective members are identified via their overlapping interest profiles. Interest profiles are collected via a simple on-‐line survey panel. As interest profiles are collected the visual network map will emerge identifying the character of the community around the different dimensions or elements of your community. Your community map will evolve as more prospects add their profiles to the map. Individual respondents will be keenly interested in those that are clustered around them and therefore who share common interests. Facilities exist which enable these people to reach out or connect to them, providing an initial attraction for participating in your community. The ability for members shown on the map to contact each other provides a vehicle for turning ‘potential’ connections into actual ones. Links to Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and Google+ are optionally available on the maps, so if a participant finds the map useful they can invite their friends or contacts to also join in. By connecting the community to the external social networking world the opportunity for your community to ‘go viral’ is enhanced. For the community manager it is helpful to understand which elements of your brand or mission prospective members are most interested in, enabling you to better facilitate community engagement. The Community Mapper analytics provides this information
along with metrics around community growth and a similarity index identifying the degree spread across your nominated interest topics over time.
The first step is to identify say 15 to 20 key terms that describe your purpose or mission. We do not limit the number of terms you can choose; this is just a typically good number. Now in developing the key terms describing your brand or purpose it’s important to select terms that are of similar levels of abstraction. For example, in the example community we are building around Community Mapper, we could describe our brand in terms of the following taxonomic hierarchy: Level 1:
Business Related Communities
Social Responsibility Related Communities
Public Service Related Communities
Business networks Clubs and communities Customer networks Event management External communities of practice Fund raising networks Internal communities of practice Not for profit communities Personal networks Political networks Professional societies Special interest groups
Stakeholder relationships Student communities Supplier networks Technical user group communities For Community Mapper we are looking for terms at about this level. Working at this level it forces the Community Manager to think carefully about the different elements or dimensions that comprise your mission or purpose. While there will inevitably be some degree of overlapping between the terms, the more distinct the better. You have the option of providing more detailed explanations of the choices on the web page that you embed the survey panel into. You also get to choose the number of ranking choices a respondent has. For 15 to 20 choice elements we find 5 is a good number. However, if you are anticipating a larger number of respondents, say more than 300, it might me a good idea to make the number of ranking choices larger, to provide larger scope for differentiation amongst respondents.
Addi$onal)op$onal) a+ributes)can)be)collected) from)your)respondents)
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As)a)minimum)you)can) allow)respondents)to) email)each)other) You)decide)the)number)and) content)of)the)interest)areas)as) well)as)the)number)of)choices) allowed)
The above graphic shows the data entry panels on the left and the resultant HTML snippets for the survey, map and analytics panels on the right. These snippets can be directly copied and pasted into your web site1. A facility exists for you to preview what your panels would look like before deployment.
Step 2 When you are confident that your Community Mapper facility is ready for deployment you simply need to embed the HTML snippets into the appropriate pages of your web site. If you are not web savvy you may need to get your web master to help with this. We find it’s usually good to have the survey and map panels on the same page. In this way when a respondent completes an interest profile they can see their node added to the current map directly on the same page. The analytics panel is of most use to the 1 Care needs to be taken to ensure that there is sufficient screen real estate available
to render the panels. www.optimice.com.au
community manager, but often the respondents will also be interested in these results, so you may chose to put all three panels on the same page. An example of an embedded set of panels can be seen here: http://www.creativeinnovationglobal.com.au/Ci2011/networking/. Other than your own web site, it is also possible to embed the Community Mapper panels on an organisational or even personal Facebook Page or Blog, if these are the sites that you are looking to build your community around, more so than a traditional web site. By having the Community Mapper panels on say a Facebook page, members would be encouraged to keep visiting the page to see how the community map was evolving and/or if there were new people that they want to connect with in your community. For those who would prefer not to embed the panels in their own web site, Optimice provides a hosting service where a simple page can be developed and hosted on your behalf.
Step 3 Once you have your community of interested prospects up there it is time to consider how you can better engage them in your community activities. The analytics panel can help you here in designing activities to influence the community in the most appropriate way. For example, the areas around which the strong clusters are forming are an opportunity to strengthen the engagement by developing activities targeted specifically at these interest areas. If you are running an event, the opportunity exists for you to facilitate ‘birds of a feather’ sessions where members of network clusters around particular topics can physically meet. Some of the less popular areas may be because the area is new to most of the community members. You may look to design some ‘bridging activities’ to help bring some of the members of the stronger clusters across to explore these new areas. For example, we may have a strong cluster of interest around not for profit communities, but much less interest in say, political networks. We may choose a topic for a webinar that talks about political issues in not for profit networks.
The similarity measure identifies the level of overall affinity/conformance that your community is exhibiting over time. This may or may not be a bad thing, depending on your mission or purpose. For example, if your main aim is to build a focused community, then having the membership polarised around a few key terms will show the strong cohesion result that you are looking for. On the other hand if you aim is to expose your community to the full breadth of your offerings or brand then one might expect a lower cohesion score, with many pockets of interests across the full range of your interest topics. The analytics panel provides the data from which you can design appropriate community engagement activities.
Step 4 Once you have an engaged and active community, mapping the actual working connections between members becomes more indicative of community health. Links to social networking tools like facebook and twitter on the maps aid in this process. Currently Optimice provides a survey tool: http://www.onasurveys.com that can be used to collect this type of data for visualising in public domain tools like Netdraw2 or NodeXL3. A future version of Community Mapper will provide a stripped down version of these tools, which will be wholly web based and operate similarly to this initial version of Community Mapper.
This paper introduces the Optimice product 'Community Mapper', identifying the concepts behind it and the benefits it provides to community...