How to Address Internal Obstacles to Growing Your Community?

(JFleetDattoCM) #1

I was hired back in November to help my company launch a community Forum. The community Forum launched successfully last week but the challenge that I am facing is with internal employees.

There seems to be very little understanding of how communities work; and I have found my self frequently having to talk people out of bad ideas such as creating private groups for various segments of our community, deleting posts that didn’t cast us in a 100% positive light and most recently that I (the CM) shouldn’t be so “present” in the forum because it would discourage partner participation

As the only community manager - reporting into people who have no experience with communities or even marketing, its been challenging to face these opinions with very little back up. Anyone else find themselves struggling with internal forces?

(Sarah Hawk) #2

Tagging @HelenSilby into this conversation.

@Nick_Emmett may also have some interesting insight. I know he has come up against stakeholders that just don’t get it.

(Anton) #3

I do.

I only spend time to teach and share useful articles with a single admin I care about. I fire the mods that do not wish to educate themselves or explain their views with proof. If I can’t fire, I just do what I need to while ignoring their thoughts.

But that’s just because I’m a co-owner and simply do not have enough time to teach people, unless they ask for advice.

I’m sure the tactics should be different in a different case!

(Helen Silby) #4

You are not alone. I believe that this is a common issue and that often people can’t understand “community” outside of the context of it being “out in the community” as in your local community. I’m responsible globally for Social Media as well as Community, and getting buy-in from the internal team for Social Media can be a struggle let alone Community, it’s fair to say though, that the reason why there’s often lack of buy-in is simply because people just don’t understand Community, they need to be educated and they see nothing in it for them. Thankfully, I feel even though it is an on-going challenge, knowing the organisation you work in and understanding the internal hierarchy can help. The following steps are what helped me (still helping me) to get people on board the Community train, maybe they can help you if you haven’t already tackled them.

  1. Leadership (not just Management) need to understand Community. If you want your internal team to buy-in then start with the top who will be key influencers in driving Community across your organisation.

  2. Start with WHY. (Simon Sinek wrote an awesome book on this) Set up an internal page on your intranet site for Community. People need to understand what the purpose of Community is within your organisation. If they don’t know the WHY, HOW or WHAT of Community then it will be meaningless to them. Begin with the end in mind, and what you want to achieve - that is your WHY. Community is all about relationships and what value people get from them, so start with your internal team and building those relationships, helping them to see what they can benefit from it.

  3. Transparency should be embraced. With your WHY, HOW & WHAT, inserting a one-page document with a Community Strategy that is easy to follow would be helpful too. You could even post another one-page document (no one likes to read clunky documents especially when they don’t directly affect their role) on Policy and what NOT to do in Communities.

(JFleetDattoCM) #5

Thanks @meglio and @HelenSilby!

I think you raise some great points about educating folks, and I like the idea of hosting something on the intranet.

We did send out a communication when we launched about the why, but I am wondering if there is a way to (quickly) educate leadership and management about communities.

(Sarah Hawk) #6

As infuriating as it is, people don’t really absorb broadcast information unless it directly affects them.

When we work with clients on new communities, as part of the strategy process we run communication sessions with stakeholders. We have individual calls with them and usually follow it up with a group session. The aim is to communicate the potential value of community to the business, how that value can be directly measured and applied to business goals, and to manage expectations around timeframes for a ROI.

The individual calls are good because they give people a chance to voice preconceived ideas or concerns. The group session reinforces the messages.

Would it be feasible for you to do one or both of those things?

(Anton) #7

There is one way I know about that’t effective but costly. Let smt bad happen as a result of their actions and then discuss it :slight_smile: For example, let someone leave the forum. Then make their job to bring the person back to the forum. They WILL learn a lot while going through all this.

Disclaimer: this worked too well with me.

(Nancy Kinder) #8

Some great points made here already.

Here are a couple more based on my experience.

Go where the energy is, start with 2 of 3 groups which show all the solid signs of community management (passionate leader, the group meets members needs etc) Help them describe what they are trying to do in draft charter or terms of reference and how best to work collaboratively together. For example, outlining specifically what they will do - “We need operate on an open platform because we need to increase visibility on what we are working on and invite wider network of experts in to help accelerate our projects and deliver value both to the members and the organisation”. Get these groups role modelling the right behaviours and interacting well, collect their success stories and then influence the “closed” groups with the success of their peers.

In parallel, build relationships with leaders and influential stakeholders. Like @HAWK said, interviews are a great way to get an understanding what is important to them and what keeps them up at night. Perhaps, its the next product development and sales, if you can connect their needs to areas the community could help. Then ask for their visible leadership in supporting a community or group in the form of praise or questions, your internal audience will then hear the same community message from leaders and peers alike.

All the best and let us know what you try and how you got on?

(Nick Emmett) #9

Apologies for my late entrance here, I’ve been away and off grid for a few days!

Some great advice already here from everyone, here’s my take on this, including some further points to what’s already been said. @HelenSilby is right - your WHY is incredibly important, however, what’s also important is giving room to not just the official WHY, but remember that every team and individual user will potentially have a different WHY. You need to try and tap into what that is. You need to be able to prove to everyone the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) - what specific value will they each get from being an engaged member of the community.

I also agree with @HAWK in that broadcast communication about the launch and purpose doesn’t always suit everyone. There’s definitely a place for this and I wouldn’t not doing, but as the person leading the charge here, get yourself out there. Get some workshops scheduled in with the teams to help establish their WHY and WIIFM. Run webinar-style sessions for people to come in and do similar things, helping them to navigate and use the features.

Also, something that I’ve seen mentioned many times on this very site, don’t be afraid to start small. In fact just look to start small, afraid or not. find who your most likely core members might be be, across the business, get them in there and sharing and engaging as soon as possible. then as you workshop around the business you can steadily add more advocates from those groups of people and teams who are starting to “get it”!

Community itself isn’t the problem often, I find people will happily engage if they understand the WHY/WIIFM.

At my current Community I still don’t have a huge internal presence on our Customer Community, but that doesn’t worry me as the core members that ARE there are doing a great job and will pull others from around the business in as and when. We still have pockets of the business who are coming to me, and vice versa, and we’re discovering new WHYs a year in. I don’t want that to ever stop. New WHYs means more people engaging.

(JFleetDattoCM) #10

Thanks for your advice @Nick_Emmett!

I guess my struggle is less about getting internal employees involved in our forum and more about getting them up to speed on community management basics.

Specifically we have a few…lets say loud, voices that are overpowering the conversation regarding how we get our community off the ground. For example, they do not want internal employees to have a strong presence on the forums. While I get that there is a balance that needs to be achieved, the forum is still in its infancy and I think that it only hurts us to leave comments hanging in anticipation of a another community member chiming in.

(Nick Emmett) #11

What sort of community have you launched and what’s the WHY?
Who are the voices and what’s their interest in the community?

I’m the kind of person that says, in this kind of instance, you hired me to do this - please trust me to do the right thing. Arm yourself with as much information and knowledge as you can to be able to stand your ground and back you and your ideas up. I’m lucky now that I’m in a company that has given me the trust to basically crack on with the Community and manage it essentially as I see fit. It’s difficult, but it sounds like you need to focus on influencing these people - often the best way to do that is by producing the goods by doing things your way.

Try sending them links to articles and information that you find that explain what you mean and show industry best practices. There’s some great content out there - one of my favourite links on Feverbee, especially starting out is this one - I still keep checking back now to refresh my mind when I feel I need a reset.

Where are you based? Are you heading to SPRINT? There’ll be some really awesome content there if you can get there.

(JFleetDattoCM) #12

Our company sells about 95% through the channel so the community was launched exclusively for our partners. Our two main goals are:

  • To facilitate Knowledge sharing & a self service culture
  • Provide a channel to collect feedback regarding our products and services from partners

I have a meeting today with one of the higher ups, so hopefully I can persuade them not to capitulate to the demands of the few, yet loud, folks.

I wish I was able to attend Sprint, but I am based out of Boston so I don’t foresee them sending me to London in the near future, haha. However I am pitching the AEM course to my boss since that can be done remotely.