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Appreciate it, understand? The conundrum of implementing online collaboration

I recently gave a talk about the issue of getting social media to work in a company, using weight management as a parallel. The whole idea really was to show that, not only is it an endeavour that requires many moving parts to coordinate and be driven together, but that to get it to work on the external community, the internal community cannot not participate either.

While the topic is not at all new, I actually only had two weeks to prepare my presentation. To be brutally honest, I incubate my content for a very long time before I deem it worthy to be seen by public eye, so two weeks is not a lot of time.  Because my three fellow speakers were going into fairly intense topics (strategy, business, FB contests and content), I decided that, as the opening speaker, I’ll go easy on the audience and present something fairly high-level but easy to understand.

No, they didn’t want that. They wanted practical advice, stuff you can actually put into “doing”. Good on them, I say! It’s good that they want practical, implementable advice! It’s good that people are no longer satisfied with yet another philosophical speech on why Social Media Is Good For You. Because: We Know Already Lah. Instead, they want “Yes, yes, but how do I get it to work, dammit?”

So anyway, I made my point: it’s high time to take social media from its fashionable outward-facing marketing role, and bring it back into the organization. Because it’s high time we used social media internally, as an organization tool for knowledge sharing and collaboration. That’s the bit that’s missing in Singapore that keeps us from catching up with the mature social media markets out there, overseas.

But it’s not that easy
But the problem with implementation is at least two-fold. First, there’s the usual stuff about identifying the right software, forming the project team, doing up the ITQ/tender (argh), tech specs, etc. Frankly, all the annoying, boring stuff (except maybe the first one). …. And the fact is, many people have already done this. I’ve done it before. And it didn’t work most of the time. Internal collaboration didn’t happen even when all this stuff was “implemented”. Why?

There are many reasons why. Chief of them is, why, people are still stuck with their emails of course, and unproductive habits of mailing each other Word docs to co-edit. Gosh, it’s 2013 and we’re still doing it! So much for progress! Ridonkulous! We nod at each other with chagrin, wondering why our colleagues still don’t get it. Six months later, nothing changes.

The root of the problem is a certain lack of internal practice. Two things are missing: an appreciation of the social, and the practice of social. Both are related. It’s like: it’s impossible to explain the beauty of Twitter to someone who simply refuses to use it. Even if you somehow get an approving nod at one strategic meeting where you did succeed(?) in explaining Twitter, by the next meeting, the heads that nodded have forgotten. Why? Cos they don’t use it.

It’s exactly like, oh everyone knows sugar is bad for you and you have to exercise. But how many practise that? Not many.

Now the thing is, failure to enable collaboration is not for lack of intellectual understanding. We know precisely, in descriptive terms (you know, like words in the grand Strategic Plan White Whatever Paper), Why Social Is “Good”/”The Future”/”What Your Business Needs”. But knowing the “why” does not translate into appreciation. Social needs to be appreciated. This is the missing bit. This is why 100% of everybody agrees that “collaboration” is holy and good, but only 10%* actually use it, cos that’s the percentage that appreciates it, because they actually use the damn tools.

So, what I’m telling you is that – we’re not getting anywhere in online collaboration, because we just talk, nod our heads in meetings and write papers about it. Stop that. Just do it already. Take a leap of faith – you say you know it’s good right? So just go ahead and implement it. And then you jolly well use it, bosses, managers, people and all.  I’ll have you know that I spoke to a consultant on successful implementation of online collaborative software and she and I had the same conclusion – it’s the support and leadership of management that makes the difference. We sighed in mutual understanding.

*Possibly less.

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Online Community Management – the Unobvious Job

What’s the difference between “Social Media Management” and “Online Community Management”? Is it the same thing?

The term “online community management” is still relatively new in Singapore. And that’s one reason why I’m writing this.

Though perhaps the concept isn’t new – isn’t it basically social media management? Yes and no. Social media management is, simplistically, the running of social media channels, everything from setting up Pages and accounts, tweeting, curating and posting content to reporting   metrics. Its activities are centred around the channel – in a sense, it is channel-centric.

It is implicit in “social media management” that managing the fans, followers and members is involved. That’s where online community management has its focus. It’s in the people in your community, people whom you want to engage, people for whom you want to get a sustained positive response.  So, in a sense, online community management is a part of social media management, inasmuch as social media marketing is part of digital marketing.

I believe the main reason the term “online community manager” is only just beginning to take root in Singapore is that until recently, the focus of most organizations has really been exactly about social media as (marketing) channels, with community management as a secondary concern.

The Obvious vs the Un-Obvious Job

It is inevitable that as companies gain a better grasp of social media channels, they run into issues that are specifically more about online community management. Like the “webmaster” of the past, it will gain importance as the jack-of-all-trades character who is not just doing the obvious thing (“running the Facebook page”) but also the less obvious thing (“managing fans and driving engagement”)

Source: http://www.freshnetworks.com/blog/2011/01/community-manager-appreciation-day-pros-and-cons-of-community-management/
The Online Community Manager is sometimes called a “one-man team” or “crazy madness”. Source: http://www.freshnetworks.com/blog/2011/01/community-manager-appreciation-day-pros-and-cons-of-community-management/

We might argue that not every online community is on social media. For example, the discussion community around a popular blog might not be considered social media (especially since these existed before “social media” did).

Regardless, it’s fair to say that social media management and online community management have many things in common. But here are some ways to differentiate them.

Note: These are not exclusive differences. Social Media Management has some aspects of Online Community Management, and vice versa. The points below are an attempt to differentiate their foci, not to divide the two disciplines. They really do share a lot in common.

* * * * *

If you would like to learn more about my thoughts on
Online Community Management, do check out my OCM course
at the Institute of Systems Science, NUS. </end self-promo>

* * * * *

Focus

  • Social Media Management focuses on the channel. “We want to grow our Facebook fanbase.”
  • Online Community Management (OCM) focuses on the people. “We want to make our Facebook fans happy and engaged.”

Consider: it’s possible to have a social media channel with tens of thousands of fans/followers, but little engagement.

Channel

  • Social Media Management is often channel-specific. “We engage fans on Facebook and Twitter.”
  • OCM is in principle channel-agnostic. “We engage fans. Wherever they are.”

Consider: Many companies start off by saying they want to “get on Facebook” (or the like), not “We must engage fans”.

Target Segment

  • Social Media Management uses marketing to gain new fans. The objective is to bring new fans in.
  • OCM “uses” its community to market to itself. It focuses on keeping fans within.

Consider: social media campaigns often use marketing tactics, such as marketing lingo and giveaways, to attract new fans, while the professionals involved (they could even be the same ones) are tasked to focus on content and engagement to keep existing fans engaged.

KPIs

  • Social Media Management ultimately is often designed to drive a hard business objective. E.g. sales
  • OCM wants to drive participation, interaction, discussion and other means of engagement. Typically these are considered a means to an end (the end being a business objective)

Consider: management often grills social media teams as to what is their ROI, and how do they benefit sales. When a crisis occurs online, management asks how the team will handle it – the latter is a matter of OCM since it involves pacifying a community; whereas the former is about marketing/bottom line.

…. and so on.

All points are entirely arguable. This is no attempt to define the two terms definitively. It’s just food for thought for those of us trying, perhaps, to make an un-obvious job a little more obvious, a little better appreciated.

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Thanks for reading to the end! Once again, allow me to introduce my
Online Community Management 2-day course starting from July,
at the Institute of Systems Science, National University of Singapore. Care to join up? 

Online Community Management for Social Media Short Course at the Institute of Systems Science, NUS