Why communications people shouldn’t manage enterprise social networks

One way communication vs community management

Tired of pushing out messages people ignore? If you’d like to become a community management wizard download the Six Commandments of Community Management for Comms Pros

Couple of years ago I launched an internal social network (Yammer) in my then organisation. I was the internal communications person so I obviously took the lead in posting messages and “getting the network off the ground”.

Big mistake.

I soon realised that I was accidentally signalling to the rest of the organisation that the network was some sort of internal blogging platform for internal comms i.e. me. Very few people dared to post anything because I was dominating the newsfeed. And I mistakenly thought I was sending the opposite message: Look, anyone can post! See – I’m showing you how!

You can kill a fledgling network with this type of one way messaging.

To add insult to injury one of the senior managers had seen our Yammer leaderboard and noticed that I was the top contributor. “You must be pleased”, he said.

I was anything but. To me being the lead contributor signalled that I had failed.

It’s not about you, it’s about them

And here lies the big difference between traditional communications and community management (or network communications). In traditional comms you push your message through a channel and hope for the best. In network communication your role is that of a facilitator – you help people make connections, you detect what the big issues are and facilitate communication around them. You curate other people’s content and ideas (although you might add your own analysis if you are subject matter expert).

It’s an interactive dance between you and the community.

So after this first fail in community management I made a promise: I should never dominate the newsfeed. Most of the posts had to be from other people. If a manager wanted me to push out a message I would say “do it yourself – here’s how.” If I overheard a question I would rush to that person and say: “hey, you could post it on Yammer!” The less people see my face in the newsfeed the better.

But note: community management is a different beast at different stages

Before you rush to change your one way communications tactics into a more interactive community management style I’d like to take this opportunity to note that community management tactics are different in the early days of an enterprise social network. At first it’s kickstarting the machine with all sorts of engagement hacks (you for example need to make sure questions receive answers within 24 hours). Later it’s more about maintaining it and developing it through curation.

If you want to a quick reference on the most important internal community management techniques, simply download the  Six Commandments of Community Management for Comms Pros

– Virpi


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