I was pleased to be invited to talk about my book and “net work” at the recent Community 2.0 conference in Las Vegas. The conference was focused on building online communities, community platforms, and the business case for extending the conversations among employees, customers, and partners through mediated and facilitated online means. The conference attracted a community owners and developers from a broad range of industries and nonprofits and afforded a lot of interaction.
Much of the interaction at C2.0 and since has been on Twitter, which was the “star” of the conference. I think that many people who attended had not started tweeting before, but certainly the activity from all those at the conference who tagged tweets with “C20″ made believers out of many. See the C20
To maximize my own learning experience from the conference, I attended pre-conference workshops and the keynote sessions. This experience helped me to understand better how work will change as more and more of our work and interactions will be conducted in these online communities. Two experienced online community builders (who offer the bootcamp as a consulting service to individual companies), Kathleen Gilroy and Sylvia Marino conducted the workshop”Bootcamp: Building a 2.0 Community.”
Their definition of a what constitutes a “2.0 Community” succinctly suggests the boundaries and features:
- It provides a repository and interface
- For the collection and distribution
- Of structured and unstructured content
The key to building a 2.0 community is working within a framework that includes:
- Defining the business goals
- Defining the audience (for many communities, the audience are consumers or customers, for many others an internal base of employees)
- Defining the reach (type of content, extent of distribution)
- Defining the business commitment (including the roles that are necessary
- Defining the business stakeholders
Given this foundation, it’s then possible to think about what social tools can best help achieve the goals. And we have so many now: blogs, Microblogs(Twitter), Comments, Forums, Wiki, Photo / Video Uploading (publishing), Embed code, Widgets, Onsite Social Networking (friends lists, connections), Tagging, Rating, RSS, Podcasts, Social graphs… Gilroy commented that Amazon.com, on a single page, provides 24 social components, from book reviewing, to those who bought similar books, to tagging, ratings, comments, and so on.
So with so many to choose from, how do you construct a strategy? Kathleen and Silvia described how to use a “playbook” in a way that it can help to continuously evolve in conjunction with the foundation. The playbook goes through an iterative inquiry:
- The Promise (why) – why the ability for people to engage will enhance or improve the business experience
- The Tools (how)– select the tool(s) designed to fit the job, one appropriate for large or small groups and appropriate for the mode of interaction you want to foster.
- Bargain (what) – understand the value that introducing or providing a specific social capability will be to the target audience and to the community owners/initiators as well as the transaction costs
The workshop attendees were broken into three groups, each of which had to come up with a “play” for a particular strategy area. I worked with the group looking at a social network play for an established professional community. The promise of such communities (particularly inside organizations) is access to expertise, both to answer immediate questions but also to have role models and best practices to follow. We agreed that the tools should provide simple social networking that include discussions. There are a number of platforms to choose from on the Internet; many of these let you start a community for free, and then charge you when you want advanced services (like customization). One of the bargains for participants to share best practices is in developing a reputation for expertise.
The foundations and playbook are are deceptively simple. The actual work, of course, is much more complex; the more complex the set of interactions, the more complex the bargain will be, for example. It’s also important to be continually following a pattern of “probe, sense, and respond” as the plays are developed and introduced. You need to be able to back off something that is not working, and to reinforce good behaviors.
Some of the slides from the bootcamp are available on SlideShare.