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Communities: The Hub of Social Collaboration


ImageAsk any knowledge and collaboration strategist what the driving force is behind successful enterprise collaboration and they will undoubtedly say “communities.” I’ll venture further to say that it is company-sponsored, strategic communities that make social collaboration most successful and valuable to the business enterprise.

This is not to say that organic communities do not play an important role in social collaboration – they do. My point is that strategic communities strengthen knowledge transfer, expertise, and growth, and foster innovations in areas that matter most to the business. Unlike organic, informal communities, strategic communities require an infrastructure that closely integrates company subject matter expertise, authoritative knowledge content, education and training, as well as external market data in order to be truly effective.

However, creating a model for strategic communities may require significant investment of time and resources.First and foremost, it requires planning.  Positioning strategic communities to support a company’s market areas of strength, target industries, and key employee roles, and aligning them to business objectives and goals is essential.

Second, developing a framework for enablement and evolution is critical to sustaining a successful community environment.  Effective frameworks include a project plan, a communication plan for socializing the purpose of the community in order to attract and retain members, and a culture transformation plan to help employees understand the value of community participation.

Third, communities must be well managed.  I like to use an analogy created by my former Booz Allen colleague, Walton Smith, who likened communities to gardens, each requiring a gardener to “seed, feed, weed and harvest.”  Too often companies launch communities with a “build it and they will come” mindset.  Employees may come, but will they stay and engage?

In order to sustain and attract new members, communities must provide ongoing value. Community managers play a pivotal role in keeping communities viable and helping them grow.  They engage subject matter experts who can provide the right answers to questions at the right time and transfer knowledge and best practices to help community members evolve their skill sets. They seed content and motivate members to share and engage with each other through newsfeeds and community webinars. They promote the exchange of ideas and harvest and repurpose valuable knowledge. They also capture metrics to measure community growth and effectiveness.

Finally, communities cannot be successful without employees who are enthusiastic, engaged and willing to share.  This is where culture transformation comes into play. Successful strategic communities have clearly defined key benefits areas and related use cases to illustrate how community involvement delivers value to its members as well as to the business. Nothing drives behavior change more than a colleague’s positive experience with a new tool, a process or community involvement. Savvy community managers capture and repurpose these success stories to drive membership, increase adoption and validate business value.

Strategic communities that are well-planned, properly enabled and effectively managed can significantly impact the success of social collaboration within the business enterprise. Just ask the next knowledge and collaboration strategist you meet. Better yet, take a look within your own organization and assess how strategic communities can play a role in the success of your social collaboration efforts.

Image: Community/Shutterstock

Join The Conversation

  • Aug 24 Posted 4 years ago Richard Lipscombe

    we have 'strategic communities' in most large organisations now but they are better known as 'social silos'...

    social silos are not constructive elements of organisational culture - indeed, they limit collaboration and cooperation (most important in a digital economy) one of the best exponents of collaboration is Cisco Systems and even they have not really proved the 'economic value' of the frameworks they have establish...Cisco has come to rely more and more on informal or organic communities to drive their collaborative efforts and there are very sound reasons for that - they social networks to be innovative elements or adjuncts within their organisation...

    what is described here are very commonly thought to be useful and in some instances highly sought after .... but these social silos cost a lot to create and maintain and as they solidify they stiffle innovation...

    the best example of building successful strategic communities was the Obama 2008 Campaignl - they did most of what is recommended here and it worked a treat because the communities shared a common purpose - ie elect Barack - and a common set of values - ie a broad set of liberal social values that extended to the far left of politics (is including Occupy Wall Street)...but the Obama 2012 Campaign is not vigorous, innovative, nor is it likely to be successful...

    on the otherside of politics you see the same failure of strategic communities with the emergence in 2010 of The Tea Party with its shared purpose (limit the size of government, reduce debt, cut taxes, etc) and a shared set of conservative sociial values .... it was successful in the 2010 house and senate elections in US but it has stagnated since because again it has not been able ot innovate...

    strategic communities form into social silos and these are dangerous entities...

    cheers, richard.

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