Earlier this week I published an article on Forbes:"The Private Social Network: It May Just Be What Your Company Needs
," which explores the quiet but powerful revolution private online communities are bringing to businesses. Unlike the bright lights, buzz and superficial attention generated by public social media efforts, private communities have a significant impact on organizations and the customers and stakeholders they serve, yielding higher-quality actionable outcomes than their flashy public counter-parts.
I wrote the article to raise awareness of private online communities from a leadership perspective and provide an opportunity to explore the reasons why these communities fail to grab headlines. Here's the good news: for those in the know, the benefits of private networks prove themselves every day. Comments on the article are loud and clear, offering powerful points of view on the value of private online communities. Some examples:
One commenter, rosemaryoneill, mentioned that "in highly regulated fields, or industries that deal with sensitive information, a private community can become a safe zone for collaboration."
Commenter Jay Abramson discussed the concept of 'systems of engagement' within private communities as a foundation for knowledge management. "This [private networks] can really redefine the concept of Knowledge Management, and help organizations truly move from Systems of Record to Systems of Engagement. The idea of connecting two people who have never met, but can share critical information is a big idea."
Jay went on to say:" In the old days, businesses had a core footprint which enabled exchange of ideas and connections within the four walls of the workplace...either in the cafeteria, hallway, breakroom or just walking down the cubicle aisles. As you fast forwards to the 2010′s teams are dispersed around the globe, and even if people are in the same city, they are work from home folks and mobile workers. So, the challenge is how to connect people and try to simulate what we had prior to mobilization and globalization. This is where the online communities can play a huge role."
Bradfordpower asked: "Have you seen smaller private social networks that might have a few to a dozen members? For example, I worked with nine healthcare providers who became a cross-organizational team working on hip and knee replacements. Or I saw four manufacturers that collaborated in a supply chain from metal forming to lawn mowers."
tiafisher recounts her experiences with a long-standing private online community: "I belong to a community aimed at social media professionals which was started way before LinkedIn became what it is today, and it's an excellent example of your point: 'To thrive, they must accelerate a business process or make possible some activity, exchange, or collaboration that wasn't feasible before. The appeal of privacy coupled with the strength of affinity leads to high levels of peer-peer and peer-firm engagement, just as in the offline, face-to-face world.' It's a community in which we feel free to ask and answer calls for help and experience irrespective of whether we are in competition with each other. The emphasis is on sharing information and support, and not spamming or attempts to influence or impress. It's an important space which allows for exchange of opinion but because it is gated, the exchanges remain on topic and civilised. I agree with you on the importance of such areas :)"
I'm pleased the capabilities of "quiet but powerful" private social networks are garnering some long-overdue attention. So here are some questions for you:
- What is your experience as a member of one or more professional online communities?
- Have they helped you solve a problem or learn about a topic in any way?
- As a customer of, or stakeholder in, a company or organization, would a private community benefit you?
Feel free to share your ideas and experiences by sharing here or on the Forbes article. You'll need to register first but it is quick and painless. Here is the link to the article on the Forbes site. I look forward to continuing this conversation.