Informal Community Transformation

We define a Community of Purpose (CoP) to be:

“A group of self-governing people, organized and constrained within a results-driven structure, who are held accountable for, and defined by, the accomplishment of specific business objectives while constantly improving the quality of their shared purpose.”

 This type of community, is incrementally transformed from an Informal Community, which we define as:

“A network of people, following the governing principles of social media platforms, sending messages, but not necessarily communicating on shared interests.”

 Within the Social Marketing discipline, building a community has been a recognized best-practice for over 20 years now. Member participation flows from social media accounts and focused networks, to a website- perhaps a blog, and then into a stronger relationship of community membership. This flow represents a transformation from the informal community into a formal community of purpose (CoP).

The question for the Social Marketing Specialist, isn’t so much about the creation of a community, as it is the transformation of an existing informal community into a formal community of purpose. If you can define a market, then you have identified the informal community.

The transformation process isn’t magical. Meaningful activities will drive the transformation. As members of the social networks participate in meaningful community activities, the stickiness of that community increases. A good community architect and manager can be all the difference between a successful community and a dead one.

We’ve identified four different categories of activities that have the power to drive community transformation; Collaboration, Asset Sharing, Training, and Practice Improvement. The actual mix of activities needed will depend on your community architecture, community purpose, and community position in its transformation. The activity mix will change as the community becomes more and more formal.

COLLABORATION ACTIVITIES

The Review- This is a peer review consisting of three or more peers and someone from the community leadership to facilitate the meeting. Web conferencing tools are typically used to enable this activity, but forums and chats are also used. From the community members’ perspective, this marks a milestone for the candidate. It provides intermediate reinforcement to change. It also helps exchange ideas and levels of trust between peers. There are two community objectives satisfied by this activity: it promotes the active use of the language for the purpose of knowledge and story sharing and learners are also recognized as insiders within management teams.

The Readings- This is a discussion, led by one person who presents a summary of the determined reading. Others who have read the material make comments on the material presented. The presenter then creates a short paper on the material discussed and the comments made. This helps keep groups aligned with the same readings, helps formulate a common language, and increases exchange of ideas on a particular topic. There are three community objectives satisfied by this activity: it provides access to new practice knowledge and concepts, it helps promote the understanding of the general community language and it also provides a forum for the use of the language for the purpose of knowledge and story sharing.

The Round Table- This is a meeting of peers pulled together to define issues, act as a focus group, develop initial plans, and/or propose responses to situations. The round table is a chartered event, and reports results back to the chartering sponsor. This helps build consensus around issues, develops relationships of trust and respect, and provides for focus and shared experience for better understanding. There are four community objectives satisfied by this activity: firstly, it promotes an understanding of the “CoP language,” secondly, it stimulates the active use of the language for the purpose of knowledge and story sharing,  thirdly, it helps create new information and concepts within the CoP, and lastly, it is a powerful tool to help establish new concepts within the community, enhancing its adoption throughout the CoP.

ASSET SHARING ACTIVITIES

The Community Fair- This is an event where CoP members create "trade show like booths” that display various aspects of CoP capabilities being shared with the rest of the community. Live webinars, demos, podcasts, training, and downloads are all acceptable methods of sharing. This activity provides a fun atmosphere of sharing real applications, and solutions to typical problems encountered by various members of the CoP. It provides insight into innovative approaches that are shared between peers. Members are recognized for superior work, much like a blue ribbon in the county fairs. There are four community objectives satisfied by this activity:

  • Accessing new CoP knowledge
  • Understanding the “CoP language”
  • Active use of the language for the purpose of knowledge and story sharing
  • Learners are recognized as insiders within management teams

The Webinar- This is a live or recorded web presentation, discussion, Q&A, and demonstrations about various CoP topics, which are also recorded and made available to community members. The Webinar provides a touch point for members to gather and share information. It provides members a non-threatening environment for learning new topics, concepts, and language. It also points to additional resources for further development. There are four community objectives satisfied by this activity:

  • Accessing new CoP knowledge
  • Understanding the “CoP language”
  • Active use of the language for the purpose of knowledge and story sharing
  • Learners are recognized as insiders within management teams

The Lunch & Learn- This is an event that occurs on-line or in person. It can also be recorded and feed in streams afterwards. It is a regularly scheduled event, where members of the community and guests present information on different topics. This meeting helps put context around now concepts. It produces a feeling of comradery between attendees. Live meetings produce a tangible feeling, that is hard to reproduce with on-line communication methods. There are four community objectives satisfied by this activity:

  • Accessing new CoP knowledge
  • Understanding the “CoP language”
  • Active use of the language for the purpose of knowledge and story sharing
  • Learners are recognized as insiders within management teams

TRAINING ACTIVITIES

The Testival- This is an event where all available CoP members join together to participate in training and testing of new releases of methods, technology, and products. It is made fun by location, vacation dress, music, food, and fun competitions. This activity quickly introduces large groups of people to new concepts within the community. It provides for a quick way to ramp people up quickly to updates. It helps reduce the number of “bugs” identified after deployment. It provides a great foundation for A/B testing and gathering other market sensing methods. There are three community objectives satisfied by this activity:

  • Accessing new integrated PM knowledge
  • Understanding the “CoP language
  • Active use of the language for the purpose of knowledge and story sharing

The Recorded Demo/Video- This is a presentation that is recorded and made repeatedly accessible to CoP members. It consists of a presentation and concept demonstration which graphically illustrates meaningful concepts to members of the CoP. This activity is slightly more formal than a webinar where discussions take place. The demo is short and concise. It is typically centered on one topic that the community will refer to over and over again in various context. YouTube videos are a common format. There are four community objectives satisfied by this activity:

  • Accessing new CoP knowledge
  • Understanding the “CoP language”
  • Active use of the language for the purpose of knowledge and story sharing
  • Learners are recognized as insiders within management teams

Certification Testing- This is a written, and verbal test sometimes with required performance standards that is proctored by an unbiased party. The purpose of this activity is as much for the one taking the test, as it is for the one reviewing the results. The individual taking the test knows that they have the specified capabilities. Others know that the individual knows what is being certified. This helps reduce the amount of politics found in community recognition and potential financial opportunities within the community. The principle community objective here is that learners are recognized as insiders within the CoP.

CoP Skills Mentoring- Certified mentors provides community members with hands-on instruction using real-time information and addressing actual problems. Many times, classroom instruction appears to be unrelated to the “Real World” because of over simplification. The skills mentoring activities help build confidence while developing standardized approaches to addressing problems. The principle community objective here is to provide access to new CoP knowledge.

CoP Performance Coaching- Certified Coaches provide community members with a personal roadmap for accomplishing specific integrated PM tasks. The coach can provide needed insight for planning the accomplishment of future integrated PM objectives. The principle community objective here is to provide access to new CoP knowledge.

BENEFITS OF THE CoP 

Over 2000 CoP participants across multiple industries responded to a survey questioning the perceived value of a CoP. This survey isn’t claiming that these are the actual values delivered by CoP. It indicates the common reasons people join and participate in a CoP. For Community designers and managers, this becomes the Bible of what to do in your CoP, and helps transform it into a formal community that nurtures and systematically generates sales-ready leads.

CoP member from IBM: I was able to engage two mentors to assist in obtaining guidance and counsel. “As a result, I improved my relationship with the client and was able to leverage subject expertise from individuals to assess and provide recommendations on an IT/business architecture in only three weeks, saving weeks of time. And we signed a $4M contract that would have gone to a major competitor.”

  • IMPROVED CLIENT RELATIONSHIP
  • TIME SAVINGS
  • INCREASED REVENUE
  • NEW BUSINESS

CoP member from Siemans: I was able to get quick and precise leads on things I was interested in. “I used the community’s Round Table forum to ask a question related to a project I was working on. Some of my questions were answered outright whereas I received leads on where to find answers to other ones. It saved me time in that I didn’t need to spend time searching the web or researching. Difficult to quantify savings, but probably in the order of three to four days work.”

  • ACCESS TO KNOWLEDGE
  • TIME SAVINGS
  • ABILITY TO EXECUTE

CoP member from Johnson & Johnson: Documents and templates from other community members saved at least 60% of my time for the project implantation process and around 40% during the planning phase. “It also helped with customer satisfaction, creating confidence that the project was conducted under effective methodology, process, and procedures. Potential cost savings may be in excess of 30%.”

  • CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
  • TIME SAVINGS
  • COST SAVINGS

CoP member from Bristol-Myers Squibb: Certainly, my performance review for the last year would not have been as successful. If not for the level of expertise I gained from others. “The materials I received saved me and my teams between three and six months of research and distillation activities. That time allowed us to kick off the pilot program on time and more effectively than we likely would have done alone. I am convinced we benefited greatly from the improved skills.”

  • CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
  • PROJECT SUCCESS
  • EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE
  • INCREASED SKILLS & KNOW HOW

The summary of survey results are shown in this table.

Type of Reward

Perceived Impact of Community

% Agree

What does participating do for the individual?

Skills and Know How

65%

Personal Productivity

58%

Job Satisfaction

52%

Personal Reputation

50%

How does collective participation benefit others?

Knowledge Sharing, Expertise and Resources

81%

Collaboration

73%

Consensus and Problem Solving

57%

Trust Between Members

50%

How does participating increase organizational efficiency, better serve customers/partners, and provide insights for the future of the firm?

Operational Efficiency

57%

Cost Savings

51%

Level of Service & Sales

46%

Employee and Customer Retention

24%


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