Originally published October 6, 2015

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I have written about the debate over whether to control groups in an enterprise social network (ESN), or to let them go unimpeded. If you decide to govern groups, here are suggestions for how to use regular reviews and ESN analytics to do so.

Ask those who are thinking of creating a new group, “Are you willing to regularly monitor the group, and to have it measured by the following health indicators?”

  1. Not redundant with other groups
  2. At least one post to the group per week
  3. Posts by more than two different people
  4. No questions left unanswered after 24 hours
  5. At least 100 members after the first three months, with growth in membership every quarter thereafter

If they agree, then they can proceed to create a new group. If not, they should work with an existing group, possibly as an additional group admin.

If you are able to control group creation, then you can prevent redundant groups before they are created. If not, then you should suggest the following governance processes:

Post a policy that states that groups which are redundant with other existing groups, are poorly-described, or have no activity may be deleted by the network admins. For example:

  1. If you create a public group for a subject which is already covered by, or is a subset of, an existing group, the new group may be deleted.
  2. Start with an initial post defining the group’s objectives and target audience. If you don’t post to the new group within one week of creating it, it may be deleted.
  3. If a group will include confidential or sensitive discussions, it should be private. If you create a public group for this purpose, it may be changed to private.

Each week, review all groups created during the past week. Look for those groups with:

  1. A subject which is already covered by, or is a subset of, an existing group
  2. No posts within one week of creation
  3. No description
  4. A description which does not help explain the group’s purpose
  5. Inappropriate privacy (should be public, not private, or vice versa)

Whether or not you are able to control group creation, you should regularly review existing groups to ensure they are effective. Here are group success factors:

  1. 100 or more members (200 is even better — see Does Size Matter in Communities?)
  2. Membership continues to increase over time
  3. At least one new post per week
  4. Posts are made by more than two different people
  5. No questions are left unanswered 24 hours after posting
  6. No redundant groups on the same or a similar subject exist

Each month, review all existing groups to find those for which:

  1. There is no admin
  2. There has been no post in the last month
  3. The only posts are made to give the appearance of activity
  4. There is no description
  5. There have been no posts
  6. There has been only one poster
  7. There are fewer than two members
  8. The name of the group is very similar to another group
  9. The privacy is inappropriate (should be public, not private, or vice versa)
  10. There are questions which have not been answered within 24 hours

For each subject of importance, periodically review all groups having that term (or a variation of it) in the name or description. If there are groups which appear to be redundant, contact the admins of those groups. You can send a message like this one:

— -

TO: Admins of Groups on <subject>

You have each created or are the admin of a group with “<subject>” in the name or description. Here is the list, including group name and number of members for each group:

<include list of similar groups>

The existence of multiple groups presents challenges:

  1. For members, they have to choose which group(s) to join and which ones to set email notifications for.
  2. For people wanting to post, they have to choose which group(s) to post to, and possibly have to cross-post multiple times to reach their intended audiences.
  3. For community leaders, they have to choose which group to align to their community.

If we can consolidate, rename, and/or better describe some of these groups, we can:

  1. Make it easier for users to find the right group to join and participate in
  2. Achieve critical mass of members and posts
  3. Avoid fragmentation and duplication of posts
  4. Share the effort of being a group admin
  5. Increase the likelihood of questions receiving timely replies

If you are willing to consolidate your group with one of the others, delete it, rename it, or change its description, please reply to indicate this. You can use a unique topic to tag posts in another group so that your members can follow that topic and view only those posts, if they prefer.

If you believe that your group should continue unchanged, please review the data for your group and how many different members have posted so far. Consider these questions:

  1. If someone posts in my group, will it reach everyone who might benefit?
  2. If someone asks a question in my group, will it receive timely and diverse answers?
  3. Are the members of my group seeing all of the conversations relevant to my group’s topic?
  4. Are members other than you or the other group admins posting to your group?
  5. Would there be any harm in having your group’s discussions take place in a group with more members?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” please reconsider.

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Provide guidance to all group admins to help them keep their groups active. For example:

Groups which have had no new posts in the past 30 days or which have multiple unanswered questions may be deleted. To prevent a group from being deleted, do the following:

  1. Subscribe to email notifications for the group to monitor what is being posted
  2. Make sure that questions receive answers within 24 hours
  3. Intervene as necessary if something posted is inappropriate, or contains confidential, sensitive, or third-party content not owned by us
  4. Set a calendar reminder to check the group at least once a week to see if new posts have been made
  5. If no posts have been made in the past week, start a new thread, or share relevant conversations taking place elsewhere with the group

Groups may also be deleted if:

  1. There is no group admin
  2. Multiple questions are unanswered after 24 hours
  3. Posts are all cross-posted shares from other groups
  4. Posts are all from the same person, with no replies
  5. Posts were made to keep the group from being deleted, but are not of any value

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Here are additional words of wisdom from two ESN leaders.

Tammy Young Heck discussed verified groups at EY in this Ignite session recording with Steve Nguyen of Microsoft: Gain Organizational Insights with Yammer Data Mining and Analytics. Tammy also posted in the Enterprise Social and Yammer group on the Office 365 Community Yammer network:

“We have about 80 verified groups (we had about 60 at launch) that are sponsored by our service lines and sub-service lines, sectors, and key global initiatives. The groups are featured in a note we have pinned to company resources and publicized in our materials. They are indicated by templates for their group images and typically mention they’re verified in their group info. All the verified groups are global in nature. One of the primary reasons for their creation was to help with the creation of multiple groups for the same purpose, as well as to give people a clearly identifiable and supported place to interact (and get assistance) from people similar to them. The groups have been very successful.

We developed a scorecard for our verified groups. Quarterly, we produce the scorecards and they report on six dimensions which are associated with group maturity:

  1. Clarity of purpose: Does the group have a clear and unique purpose that communicates why the group exists, member, community manager (CM) and leader expectations (content and behavior), and why participation will be valuable to the member?
  2. Leader engagement: How often leaders participate and if leaders are clearly identified
  3. CM engagement: Are CMs trained, as well as how often CMs participate, and the rate of questions being answered (vs. left unanswered)
  4. Quality of conversation: How much of the content is push (one-way) vs. interaction
  5. Diversity of participation: How many people are participating. Is all the content being produced by one or two people or is there a breadth of involvement?
  6. Business value: Are members finding value in your group? We track this by tagging questions with #help and following them to see if they’re answered, as well as using the #win tag which members, CMs and our team can add to any post where someone finds the conversation particularly helpful.

The six dimensions combine to create an overall maturity score that helps compare the group’s progress to others. The scorecards provide key opportunities for the groups to improve their scores and increase group maturity, as well as identify particular areas where the group should focus in the short term given their level of maturity.”

— -

The above thread was started by Melanie Hohertz, who added these suggestions:

  1. “Add all these high-initiative people to a group in your network designed to support group creators, with best practices, boilerplate, training opportunities, support materials. I don’t wait for people to reach out; I rope them into a somewhat manageable meta-community.
  2. Another tactic: Create once & send constantly a boilerplate email message that you will push to owners of just-created groups that you think are genuinely bad ideas. In it, you might call out that groups require an investment of time & energy in most cases to launch and sustain. Ask the creator if they can name some co-admins, or to search for similar groups that they could support, or to think about what people in that group will DO that will offer them value. Attach a job aid on group setup and a job aid on group deletion. Let them make that call.
  3. Create your own version of Verified Groups or Gold Star Groups or what have you. Promote this certification as an ideal to aspire to for group owners; promote these key core groups to help centralize traffic and prioritize where YOU spend your development and support efforts.
  4. At a recurring time each quarter or year, pull a list of all your groups and check for the really low-activity ones. I mean, dead. Bereft of life, rests in peace, if not nailed to a perch he’d-be-pushing-up-the-daisies, ex-parrot dead. Give an intern admin status for a few days and have them go through clicks to start the killing, or buy some pizza and do it with your local power-users. Or this is a good brain-dead multi-task for phone meetings.

Overall these measures will control your group sprawl to some extent, but more important… promote adoption and engagement in your network.”

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Also see Addition by subtraction: When to delete in Yammer

Do you govern ESN groups? If so, how? If not, why not?

Written by

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/

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