All posts by Mukund Mohan

My discipline will beat your intellect

Lots of good tips and best practices available from other bloggers

Here are some very useful links from other bloggers on their tips for adoption of communities, social networks and collaboration:

1. Christopher Carfi talks about Prerequisites For Setting Up A Business-Driven Web 2.0 Effort
This includes: Why, Who, Where, When and How.

2. Larry Cannell talks about his five tips for gaining Enterprise 2.0 adoption.

3. Jake McKee wrote about six best practices for companies who want to interact with existing, grassroots communities at Community Next.

How not to get JetBlued! And the BEST ROI on communities

Much has been written by several people on the JetBlue saga of apologizing for their cancellations. They actually took out full page ads detailing it on NY Times.

“The advertisement appeared in newspapers in New York, Boston and
Washington, D.C., said Bryan Baldwin, a spokesman for the airline. It
will be repeated on Thursday in several other cities affected by
canceled flights, he said. In total, it will run in 15 cities and 20
newspapers.”

“He refused to say how much the advertisement would cost the company.”

I can tell you if they ran it in 15 cities and 20 newspapers how much it exactly cost them – WAY TOO MUCH.

Instead if they would have consistently had an online community of their fliers, linked to their website which among other things can also be used to get closer to their fliers, will also allow their passengers to “socialize” with one another before the flight and after – (let me tell you I have met many an interesting personality on 11B, on the way from JFK to SFO) they would make raving fans of their already happy customers.

Not to mention they would have known who exactly to apologize to and hence made it less of a big issue.

Here is the ROI:
The best part of it all, building and managing this community I am sure will cost them a lot less than the full page ads.

Best Practices to motivate participants: Money is NOT the ONLY answer

I had a great discussion with Jack Vinson of Knowledge Jolt on the intersection of Communities and Knowledge management. More on that in a seperate post, but here is an idea that I had after our discussion on how to motivate community members to help others.

He mentioned about a company UOP (a Honeywell company, in the manufacturing segment, has been around since 1914) where there was a serious problem due to many years of hiring freezes. A significant percentage of their employees had reached retirement age. UOP wanted to capture the knowledge, skills and best practices (know how) from these retiring employees so the company would benefit going forward.

Each new employee was assigned a mentor to learn from. The key difference was that to the retiring employees this was positioned as “Leaving a legacy”. The program had an excellent success ratio and over 70% of the retiring employees felt engaged and helped with the effort.

How can you apply this to your community? Why not find your own motivating positioning for your participants and have the tenured community members help the newer ones. Find your own “leaving a legacy” positioning, and you will find that it encourages more participation than paying $20 starbucks cards like one of our clients did before we discouraged that practice.

Six Techniques for Creating Safe User Generated Content Sites, from eModeration

Disclaimer: This is a vendor white paper. I am NOT paid by them, dont have any business relationship with eModeration either. But I consider Tamara Littleton a friend and community pioneer in the field of moderation.

The paper, Six Techniques for Safer User Generated
Content Campaigns
, details techniques for creators of UGC sites to protect both
their brand reputations and their users; while creating a site that is fun and
engaging for users.  It makes
recommendations on how companies should: create guidelines on acceptable
consumer behaviour; filter content to avoid offensive, litigious and
hijack-marketing submissions, and how to deal with these submissions; support
moderation techniques with technology; enlist users to help with the moderation
process; create visible moderation actions to discourage users from abusing the
site; and develop usability test plans for moderation.

You can review the whitepaper, as did I and find some really good nuggets.

Thanks to Malini for pointing this to me.

Who would you rather be? Quick case study on “community positioning”

Seth points us to dnscoop. Interesting, but I have seen something similar over 6+ months ago at Small business hub.

Or HAVE I?

Here are the similarities:
1. Both grade your website on standard metrics – google pagerank, how long your site has been around, etc.
2. Both give you an indiciative measure of effectiveness of your website / domain.
3. Both are GREAT lead generation tools.

Here are the differences:

1.  A website grader
tool is not as COOL as a scoop

2. The number at the end – a grade VERSUS money has
different compelling motivations

3. The audience (small business owners) versus web 2.0 prospectors
have different profiles and reach on the web – i’ll bet there are more web users that want to learn the “value” of their website than how “effective” it is.

4. dnscoop is VIRAL because its cool, Website grader is
serious because it’s a business oriented tool

How this applies to communities:

1. “Right position” your community to the audience, based on their likes, dislikes, use patterns and fit it into their lives.

2. Leverage the trend and lets face it – “do something cool for your audience, that will give them more than what their daily lives are apt to give them.

3. Either one engages your audience by asking them to give a little and get a lot in return – what community members and all of us want.

Asking the Expert: Interview Matthew Lees of Patricia Seybold Group



Matthew Lees
is a Consultant and Vice President at the Patricia
Seybold Group. He researches and writes about online communities and social networking. I spend over an hour discussing the current state of communities and learning from his very varied and interesting background. A lot of his community experience comes from his work at MaMaMedia, a community website for children. I have also attended his webinar on Community 2.0: Measuring the Success of Online Communities so I have a good perspective on what he advocates and what his vision is around communities.


Here are the 3 most facinating things I learned from Matthew:

1. More you know about communities than you dont: This was a question I posed on the future of communities. Most executives and senior people at large companies I have been talking to have a back of the mind trepidation about communities. I have heard from several people that “this is all new” and “there is so much to learn” and the dreaded “I am overwhelmed with this community stuff, so I am going to watch how it plays out for year before we do something“.

Most organizations that support User Groups, Customer advisory boards and focus groups already know about getting their constituents together in conversation. There are a lot of new “technology” and social nuances to be learned with online communities and social networks, but you dont need to throw “everything you know out of the window”. You are going to learn 70% new stuff everytime, so what you learned before is useful, but be open to learning more.

His advice – Good customer centric practices DONT change. Great user advocacy does not have to be thrown out of the window. Out of the world customer support best practices are not invalid anymore – the key is to leverage them for the new medium of communities.

2. Senior executives are investing in communities based on their “gut“: Since I have a background workingwith IT organizations primarily over the last few years, I have been tuned to “get me the ROI metrics” and “how do you justify this purchase with a return”. Lot of senior executives investing in communites are doing it based on gut feel – they know that investing in getting their customers to talk to them more frequently and listening to customers is needed, and even if the ROI is intangible and fuzzy they are willing to take the plunge.

3. How to elevate the discussion around communities beyond technology? This is by far the most frequent issue I hear from prospective community builders. There is so much technology and the jargon that goes with it – RSS, Wikis, Blogs, Tags etc.

The key is to ask questions around your business problems or problems that your users have and
how you can help leverage communites to solve those problems.
E.g.
How can we allow our customers to share content with each other about their experiences with our products?

How can we help understand how customers really use our product so we can make it easier for them?

Measuring to get a desired outcome from communities: Best practices from Marc Siegel, IBM


Marc Siegel runs IBM Rational’s online developer community. IBM developer community has over 650+ forums (one or multiple forums exists for almost all developer products of IBM. This represents over 1.5 Million users. Marc purveys thousands of users, and facilitates discussions and keeps “the fun going”. You can reach him via email with some questions.


I met Marc at Le Boulanger in Willow Glenn, yesterday over lunch. He has a very interesting background. After rising up the ranks at several large organizations (including NASA – so he’s as close to a rocket scientist as you can imagine) to manage a team of people, he wanted to get his hands dirty again. He joined a really fun startup – Catapulse, ( know it was fun since a couple of other folks from there remember it fondly) which was acquired by Rational soon after he joined. He joined Catapluse with the express intent to build and grow their online presence.

Here are his top 3 best practices based on years of working these communities:

1. Understand your user behavior, usage patterns and help fit the community into their work (instead of the other way around). Unix adminstrators and programmers were the first “developers” of the products that he was responsible for to build a community. Now, if you know these folks at all they are not exactly patient with the “Windows crowd”. The online medium of community though gave these developers a great avenue to share scripts, information and tips and tricks on getting things done quicker. With minimal frills and a simple design this community has thrived and grown in its significance.

The other interesting point was that not most of the developers were at their desk waiting to help others. Some of them had a 45 min train commute and would love to get the questions and other information to their laptop and work with it offline and respond back the next time they were connected. This is a great example of “making it easy” for them to be a part of the community and “fit into their pattern of work”.

2. Graduate from measuring simple metrics to the ones that affect change. Most metrics collected by Marc today are around page views and user signups. The key project for 2007 is to get the next level of support metrics – how quickly were questions answered, how many questions were answered, etc. These are a better reflection of the objective measurement of the community.

He mentioned the folks from SAP said their developer community was so strong most questions to the community forums (88% of questions) with a mean time to solution of <1 hour. That is a great metric. I would love to learn more from SAP and share it with our readers.

3. Understand the usage of technology for the benefit of your community more than its capability. Most communities are okay with just a message board and simple chat. Putting together a blog and wiki (just because they exist) does not really help UNLESS you integrate it with a process that resolves a problem or supports a use case for the community members.

From Future of Communities: Communities, Social Networks, Collaboration Networks – what’s the difference

I posted this to Future of Communities a few days ago.

Hint: I dont know for sure, since I get easily convinced by different people they are the same and they are all different.

I must admit I was not surprised when I was asked by a prospect
yesterday when I was using the terms “community, social network,
collaboration ” all in the same sentence and trying to give him
examples of each.

He said “I think your strategy is to either convince me you know more or confuse me – please tell me which?”

When I think of the word “community” to me it
usually refers to a group of people that are linked together by
something(s) common. These group of people are joined together for a “common goal”. But there is something they are trying to achieve together that they believe they cannot achieve alone.
When I am expressing “social network”
the perception in my mind (right, wrong or otherwise) is Myspace,
Facebook, etc. This to me is a set of people that are trying to further
their own “self goal” within a group of like minded people.

So a social network has individual first mentality, as opposed to a community – which has a group first mentality.
Collaboration Networks are a nuance. I tend to think of them as temporary groups of people “aligned to a same objective”.
Note I said objective NOT goal. These are more time-bound, with
specific criteria that they must meet for the team and inviduals.

Here is a chance for 3 people to win a Starbucks gift card each. See below.

Lets take some examples. You can put in the comments section what
you think these fall under. All you have to do is put the number and a
letter A, B or C next to it. I will put the first comment as an example.

Bonus points for adding to the definition of these terms.

A= Community, B= Social Network, C=Collaboration Network

1. Youtube
2. MySpace
3. Threadless.com
4. We are smarter than me
5. Intranet for HR folks to share information with the rest of the company on policies
6. Message boards for customer support online
7. Discussion and sharing forums for customers and prospects to understand issues about a particular industry
8. InfoWorld IT EXEC connect
9. Quest Software online groups
10. BMC Software online groups

Understanding the economics of support communities: Best practices from Joe Cothrel of Lithium


Joe Cothrel
has a very deep and rich background with Communities. Having been at
Participate.COM which was one of the first moderation service
providers, he has been researching, managing, running and developing
communities for at least the last 10 years. He is currently the VP of Community Management for Lithium and also blogs there.


Joe works out of Michigan and his team
provides
community management and moderation services to customers using Lithiums on-demand
software
.  Based in Emeryville, California, Lithium was founded in 2001, has about 50 employees and supports more
than
50 customers including Dell, Cingular, Comcast, Linksys, Sony,
Salesforce.com
. Lithium
provide
s a hosted solution for community and
price
s its product on a monthly
basis based on page views. They also charge a one
time setup
fee.
Software fees start at $1300/month. Joes team provides ongoing services in moderation and
management
as well as one-time assessment and
strategy projects.

Since Joe has a good background on support communities, we discussed a
particular issue that consistently comes up with Support
executives:

“I am concerned that if I start a support community,
I
’ll need a very large
staff
to manage and
support
it

This is an understandable concern: the goal of support is
to
keep customer satisfaction levels high and do it at the lowest possible
cost
, and the number one cost of support organizations is
headcount.
  However, the truth is that support
communities
typically dont require a large staff.  

Here
are
three best practices that I learned from Joe to leverage the power
of the community and keep your support costs low:

1. Define your
interfaces
.  
Effective
and efficient support communities are well integrated with existing processes in customer care, technical
support,
marketing, product development, corporate
communications,
and
legal
One of the first questions Joe asks in his
community management working sessions is
Who in your
organization will touch this community in any way?
  You can then begin
to think about whether

the interfaces are
routine (i.e.,
escalati
ng unanswered questions to support
specialists),
periodic (reports or notifications on topics being discussed
in
the community), or ad hoc (i.e., product managers participating in
discussions as their interest and time allows). 
Needless to say,
when communities are isolated from other processes they take more effort to
manage, because everything falls to the community manager.

2.
Develop

your users.
   Joe made the
interesting observation that while
we all talk
about
companies needing to learn and change (Cluetrain
Manifesto
, etc.), we forget that customers are learning and
changing too. 
Community management
is, in part, a process by which we help
customers develop their competencies in collaborating
with
us and with their peers If we dont help them learn and grow,
they
ll simply create the
same problems for us to contend with over and over again.

3.
Develop your leaders.
  According to Joe,
every
community is, at a minimum, two communities:  the community of the
average user, who may come once a week, once a month, or even
just
plain once, and the much
smaller
community of superusers or hyperaffiliates, who are 10 times or
100 times more active than the average user. 
Its not uncommon to see communities
where
0.5% of users provide 60% or 70% of the
answers. 
Are these people important in making
customers happ
y and reducing your costs?  You bet they
are. 
The economics of communities ONLY work if you let the community help
itself.
  The temptation to have support specialists answering questions
in
the community is strong. But you have to be
careful not to set a pattern in
the community that this is the place to get answers directly from the
company.
  You may never fully benefit from the knowledge and experience of your
customers
. 

The personal blog of Mukund Mohan