1. Redundant communities can be prevented.
  2. A central directory of communities can be maintained, helping potential members find the right ones to join.
  3. By keeping the number of communities to a reasonable minimum, a long and confusing list for users to choose from is avoided.
  4. Silos which isolate people who could benefit from being connected are avoided.
  5. Critical mass is achieved, helping to ensure that each community succeeds and takes advantage of scale.
  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. The people who can answer a question or benefit from seeing shared information may not belong to the group in which it is posted.
  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 and moderating discussion
  5. Increase the likelihood of questions receiving timely replies
  1. If someone posts in one of the overlapping groups, will it reach everyone who might benefit?
  2. If someone asks a question in one of the groups, will it receive timely and diverse answers?
  3. Are the members of each group seeing all of the conversations relevant to the group’s topic?
  4. Are posts having to be cross-posted in multiple groups, thus increasing the noise level?
  5. Would there be any harm in having discussions take place in a single group with more members?
  1. A new community is requested, but once it approved, it is never launched. No time is available to do the actual work of creating it.
  2. A new community is launched, but then there is no activity. No one is available to do the ongoing work of community leadership.
  3. A new ESN group is created. No posts are ever made to it.
  4. A new ESN group is created. There is an initial post, sometimes replied to with enthusiasm (Great to see this new group! Way to go! You rock!). Then there are no more posts.
  5. A new community is launched, or a new ESN group is created. There is activity for a short time. Then it becomes inactive.
  1. Few, if any, groups suffer from having too many posts. Most suffer from the opposite: too few posts.
  2. Even the most active groups usually have no more than a few posts a day. It’s easy for any group member to quickly scan all such posts, either online or in email notifications, to see if they are of interest. If not, they can be quickly ignored or deleted.
  3. It’s hard to tell in advance which posts will be of interest to which group members. As long as they have some interest in the broad subject covered by the group, there is little harm in them seeing posts over the full range of relevant subjects.
  4. If a group does end up having too many posts on one niche subject, it is easy to spin off a separate group for that subject.
  5. Topics or hashtags can be used to differentiate posts within a group.
  1. Reaching critical mass (hundreds, preferably thousands, of members) for any group is the best way to keep a group active and continue to attract more members.
  2. Online communities work best when they cross geographic and organizational boundaries to facilitate virtual, asynchronous collaboration. Local communities work best when they meet in person, perform local actions, or participate in physical activities.
  3. Keeping things simple is best for both those leading the groups and those joining the groups. If there is just one group to join, that makes it easier for leaders to recommend it, and for potential members to figure out which group to join and post in.
  1. There is only one main group for the topic, so it is easy to decide which one to join.
  2. When prospective members see that there are already a lot of members and posts, they figure that the group is worth joining and will be valuable to them.
  3. There are active leaders of each group making sure that questions are answered, useful content is shared, and discussions taking place elsewhere get redirected into the group.
  1. Annual events: Instead of having a separate group for each year and location, a single group for all posts for all years and from all locations would allow broader sharing, greater likelihood of questions being answered, and increased value for all members.
  2. Affinity groups such as alumni groups: With a few exceptions, most alumni groups for specific colleges and universities will have few members and posts. If instead of all of these individual groups, there was a single group for all alumni program participants, they could all share, ask, find, answer, recognize, inform, and suggest more effectively. And they could create separate topics for each school if people want to follow just those posts, e.g., a topic called Alumni-State for posts directed at State University alums.
  3. Niche topics: These are unlikely to ever have much activity, and they all run the risk of having someone post a question, receive no answer, and decide as a result that the ESN doesn’t work. But if they had posted their question in a large, active group, they would most likely have had a much more positive experience.
  1. Require that communities must be reviewed and approved before being created, and then enforce the rule that there is only one community per important topic.
  2. Regularly review existing communities to ensure that they are still at the right level of focus (not too broad, not too narrow), are still active, and have leaders who are regularly leading them.
  3. Merge groups which overlap.
  • 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.) and share collaboration tools such as an ESN group.
  • If not, ask the other four questions listed in 5 questions to answer before starting a new community.
  1. Schedule: Line up speakers and set up events
  2. Host: Initiate and run conference calls, webinars, and face-to-face meetings
  3. Answer: Ensure that questions in the threaded discussion board receive replies, that discussions are relevant, and that behavior is appropriate
  4. Post: Share information which is useful to the members by posting to the discussion board, blog, and newsletter
  5. Expand: attract new members and content contributions
  1. Review existing communities and groups looking for overlap. Then contact the community leaders/group admins to suggest combining them.
  2. If you find inactive groups or groups with no current admin, take steps to make them active, assign a new admin, or delete if no longer needed.
  3. If you can’t control new group creation in your ESN, review all new groups as they are created or in a weekly new group report. Then contact the creators to suggest ones which can be deleted.
  4. Regularly search for key topics, and see what groups have been created or renamed so that combinations can be suggested.
  5. Regularly promote this message to all community leaders and group admins: If someone else approaches you about becoming an admin for your group, renaming it or redefining it, or deleting it, give it serious consideration. Talk to them, and others with similar groups, about the options. And then make a decision which supports open, global, cross-functional sharing and collaboration.

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Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

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