Originally published March 2, 2015
A set of requirements should be used to decide if a community should be created and if it is likely to succeed. There are five elements that communities need: SMILE — Subject, Members, Interaction, Leaders, Enthusiasm
- Subject: A specialty to learn and/or collaborate about
- Members: People interested in the subject
- Interaction: Meetings, calls, and discussions
- Leaders: People passionate about the subject who are dedicated to creating, building, and sustaining a community
- Enthusiasm: Motivation to engage and spend time collaborating and/or learning about the subject
Before starting a new community, here are the key questions to answer:
1. Is there an existing community which covers the topic or a related one?
- If so, offer to become a co-leader of that community rather than creating a new one
- Add a tab, section, or link to a sub-page on that community’s site (e.g., sub-topic, local chapter, etc.)
- Share collaboration tools such as an enterprise social network (ESN) group
2. Is the topic defined using widely-understood terminology?
- Try to use industry-standard, conventional terms
- Avoid esoteric or company-specific nomenclature
- Start with as broad a topic as is reasonable
3. Are people likely to want to join in sufficient numbers to achieve critical mass (100 or more)? They should:
- Identify with it: view themselves as specializing in it
- Be deeply interested in it, view it as relevant to their work, and want to deepen their understanding of it
- Be willing to spend time learning and collaborating about it
4. Are you willing to spend the time it takes to lead a community by performing the following activities?
- Schedule: Line up speakers and set up events
- Host: Initiate and run conference calls, webinars, and face-to-face meetings
- Answer: Ensure that questions in the Yammer group receive replies, that discussions are relevant, and that behavior is appropriate
- Post: Share information which is useful to the members by posting to the discussion board, blog, and newsletter
- Expand: attract new members and content contributions
5. Are you willing to measure the community by the following health indicators?
- Activity: at least one post to the community discussion board per week, posts by more than two different people, no questions left unanswered after 24 hours
- Content: at least one document, newsletter, announcement, or blog entry posted to the community site per month, and content is reviewed to ensure that it is appropriate, current, and accurate
- Membership: at least 100 members after the first three months, with growth in membership every quarter thereafter
- Events: at least one conference call, webinar, or face-to-face meeting every quarter, listed in the community events calendar, held as planned, with at least 10 people participating in each event
If the answers to questions 2, 3, and 4, are “yes,” check your company’s community directory to see if a community already exists which is focused on your desired topic, or on a related topic. If so, volunteer to help with that community. If not, request or create a new community and prepare to regularly take the SHAPE actions listed in question 4.
Measure your community every month using the ACME metrics in question 5. If any of these metrics is not achieved, take the necessary actions to improve. If these actions still don’t result in a healthy community, then retire the community.