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Community Leadership: Getting Everyone to Participate

Written by Calista Rollogas | on July 25, 2016 at 9:00 AM


Leadership hype always focuses on the C-suite – are your executives on social media? Do they have direct contact with customers or community members through formal feedback systems or a product advisory board? Do they understand shared value for your community initiatives? Most communities fall short in some categories and exceed in others - it’s rarely A’s across the board for executive participation.

But here’s another consideration: have you ever tapped leadership beyond the C-suite?

The new question should encompass more than just CEOs: Is your entire executive team participating in your community?

The Community Roundtable’s State of Community Management 2016 Report (SOCM 2016) has some fascinating findings to share: moving up the community maturity ladder may depend more on getting participation from vice presidents, directors and subject matter experts than we previously realized. The survey data was surprising but encouraging: participation from other, lower-level executives correlated even more highly with community maturity (compared to CEOs).

Community maturity and executive support

Right now, community has the strategic spotlight. Senior executives are paying attention and past years’ data shows communities are growing in popularity -- they demonstrated their potential and kept those in charge of budgets interested and invested.

According to the SOCM 2016 results, there is a sizeable correlation between community maturity and executive support for communities. The best-in-class communities surveyed excel at garnering lower-level executives to participate -- these are the people who are closer to daily employee and customer experiences. If they already interact with community members in other channels, then it’s a great opportunity to streamline those interactions and offer support and resources in one place.

62% Executives in mature communities participated regularly

66% Mature communities had formal leadership/advocacy programs

Extend leadership beyond traditional roles

Leadership extends beyond your organization’s c-suite and executive team. Have you considered expanding your community’s program leadership with members and outside experts?

The report’s best-in-class communities that did so had higher engagement levels and better overall maturity than the average community. This extends beyond an advocacy program -- think of opportunities for community members to volunteer in moderating discussions, mentoring fellow members, organizing in-person events and collaborating on content.

A lot of executives don’t understand the power of community unless they get involved. The caveat: they don’t have time to get involved. How can you create a framework that easily gets executives involved and helps them look good doing it?

There are plenty of small tasks that don’t require heavy screen time. This is where community builders need to get creative with engagement. Example: a lot of executives spend time traveling - ask them to take a picture of where they are and include a sentence about who they met and what they accomplished.

It’s an intimacy perspective for both the organization and the community members. Other ideas include quick video interviews in between meetings or an email Q&A that can serve as a blog post or feature article.

Multi-tiered advocacy programs

Why not improve engagement for community staff and members? An advocacy program can provide both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for different groups. Managers and lower-level executives can organize a program to foster better networking and bridge communication gaps. Community members can participate in a program that encourages thought leadership, relationship-building, and resource-sharing.

The SOCM 2016 Report recommends that communities invest in these multi-tiered advocacy programs. Furthermore, advocacy nomination programs -- where the community recruits MVPs and evangelists to join the ranks as official advocates-- that were manager-driven saw more success.

For more details on advocacy programs and leadership, check out Dion Hinchcliffe’s recent post on how communities are faring in 2016 and the SOCM 2016 Report - it’s a richly detailed wrap-up.

Take action on community leadership

How can you take action on leadership participation right now? The Community Roundtable’s Rachel Happe and Tim McEnroe had some great takeaways in their recent webinar. Try one or all of the following:

  1. Distribute leadership and decision-making to scale. This is about getting at the value of support and enablement. Help others gain community and leadership skills. As information is networked, community management will eventually become just management.
  2. Enable culture change to be more collaborative and innovative. This community approach can incrementally and easily change behaviors, which helps organizations efficiently make culture change possible, in an organic way.
  3. Maximize employee/customer/partner productivity and satisfaction. Communities have a unique opportunity, because they provide social support and challenge in that context to enable potential and satisfaction. We work better when we have control over our work, feel supported, and get challenged. Communities will be critical to the future of work.
  4. Deliver consistent integrated customer and employee experiences. Community requires us to design for the ecosystem - we need to architect this social system so everyone has a clearing understanding of where to go for what. The type of network shouldn’t matter, and right now the experience is often too jumbled and confused for the end user.

How are you encouraging participation from your executives?

Topics: Community Platforms & Updates, Online Community Management, Engagement, Online Community

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