Ok, ok , ok.... *maybe* you aren't, but I have a feeling that you probably are even if you don't think so. Hang in here with me for a bit as I explain why I'm nearly certain you actually *are* a community manager.
It isn't JUST you, of course; we are all community managers if we're playing in social spaces. What I am specifically referring to is the idea that we each own responsibility for the content we post in social spaces, and in turn we own responsibility for the comments generated by and added to those posts. As active members in social networks, we create our own ad hoc communities every time we post content, be it a status updated about what we had for lunch or a longer missive on a facet of today's society. In each case, we own the responsibility of managing these ad hoc communities just like a 'formal' community manager would. Likewise, when we comment on other's posts, we are engaging as a member of their community and have the responsibility to act accordingly.
With today's accelerated shift to social platforms, the role of community manager is increasingly important but the definition needs to be expanded to include not only the formalized and structured communities, but also the unstructured, ad hoc, fluid communities. We are all community managers to some extent now, and need to manage not only our own posts, but the threads of conversation which they generate.
If you've been following me for any length of time on any of my social channels you've likely heard me espouse the brilliance of IBM's Social Computing Guidelines. While I may be biased, I do believe that even if I weren't an IBMer, I'd still be highlighting the SCG as a work of genius when it comes to corporate policy to guide employees in social business. But it goes even beyond that... these are wonderful guidelines beyond the immediate intended audience of IBMers... (I've cherry picked the ones which are really universal):
- Be who you are.
- Be thoughtful about how you present yourself in online social networks.
- Respect copyright and fair use laws.
- Respect your audience and your coworkers.
- Add value.
- Don't pick fights.
- Be the first to respond to your own mistakes.
- Adopt a warm, open and approachable tone.
- Use your best judgment.
Aren't those genius in their simplicity?
As we look with new eyes on our own social communities, we can all benefit from the simple guidance put forth above, as these bits are relevant as universal truths to social interaction. Now that we can recognize our own responsibilities for the communities we've built around us, we need now (more than ever) the tools to help guide us through some of those inevitable missteps we will make (or have made) along the way.
This is the new universal truth. Gone are the early days of the internet where we were just participants in one huge community. Now we are all individually responsible for managing our spaces and ensuring our formal and ad hoc communities are adding value to the spaces. As we join in these new and upcoming spaces, we all need to recognize the responsibilities we have and gauge whether or not we are ready to take on that extra burden that comes with participating in social discussions.
If you are posting content to any social channel, you are already managing your communities, whether you realize it or not. It is upon us as individual contributors to ensure we are bringing value to and taking ownership of the spaces in which we play. Our successes depend upon it.
image adapted from: (cc) Some rights reserved by Khaled Hijab
Vacation. The word alone strikes both a visceral and dichotomous chord in any and all who hear it. On one hand it triggers a wistful longing or deep anxiousness to get to it, but on the other hand, well that's where things take a turn... for those of us in the corporate world, vacation means returning to an exploded inbox after a week of ignored email. It means that even as we are away from work, basking in the fact that we have no responsibilities for the week, deep down there is that knowledge and fear of what awaits us upon our return. I'm sure at least a few of us have already recoiled in horror at the thought of actually disconnecting and taking a week's vacation.
Thankfully, a few of us in Rational Support have a tool (or rather, concept) to help us deal with that anxiety which makes returning from vacation so much less stressful: our drive to work outside of the inbox. Now, admittedly, it didn't help me return from vacation wholly without fear, but instead, it assuaged that fear nearly immediately once I did return....
Take a moment and think about the last time you took vacation.... how many emails were waiting for your return? Two hundred? Three hundred? One thousand? Somewhere in between? Enough to make returning to work a daunting proposition I'm sure!
Well, imagine returning to the office to find only 138 total emails in your inbox! Moreso, imagine 50% of those messages being irrelevant spam/sales emails and auto-notifications. That's what I came back to. Now, do the quick math and you'll see that my inbox really only held 64 messages for me which required attention... even more luckily, about half of those were only informational and didn't require any direct action. By the time Monday was over, I was nearly 100% caught up from my prior week off. Prior to our WOTI (working outside the inbox) efforts, being caught up by Monday evening would have been inconceivable; a daydreamer's fantasy at best.
The great news? Just because my inbox was reduced substantially from prior vacations' totals, this doesn't mean I am privy to less information... rather, because of our heavy use of wikis, forums, and blogs, all the information I missed during my time away is still available, relevant, and searchable. Instead of digging in to my inbox to disposition emails and categorize accordingly, most of that content was now visible in my RSS reader and already categorized and dispositioned, or even handled for me via internal crowd sourcing as an effect of the networks of connections around me.
Because this information was now being shared in collaborative spaces instead of siloed inboxes, I was able to be more effective more quickly upon my return from vacation and focus on the work that really matters.
image credit: (cc) Some rights reserved by Sarah_Ackerman
influence: (ˈɪnflʊəns) — n. An effect of one person or thing on another resulting from ability, wealth, position, etc.
Here in Rational Support, we understand the deep value of influence and thought leadership. We work hard to make sure our experiences across the organization are captured and shared out to help all of our clients and other IBMers alike reuse and benefit from our collective knowledge. One of these ways is through our periodic "Top Content" posts which highlight the most reused support content in the prior month.
Identifying and quantifying the value of what we do, however, isn't quite as easy. This is something that we've touched on before, and something which is a huge trend in the 'social' industry today: measuring value. Recently I ran across this article from Wired Magazine discussing one of these ranking systems: Klout. In the closing of this article the author, Seth Stevenson, posits that while this tool is becoming more of a pivotal piece in the social spaces it is likely missing a key factor (or more) to really crack the nut of measuring influence and subsequently value. Seth makes an important note on his own anxieties and calling out what he has seen in terms of who the biggest score holders are: big names that appear caught in an echo chamber, versus those he finds truly interesting who tend to have lower scores across the board.
In Rational Support, we believe we've stayed away from that echo chamber effect in our social spaces, instead focusing in on the information that is critical and necessary for you, our clients, to be successful in your businesses. Sure, we may watch our Klout score with a little interest, but we don't let that drive how we do our jobs. Our core beliefs remain squarely client-first; even if that means our content isn't "viral", or provocative, or witty enough to catapult us into internet fame... we remain focused on you and getting the right information to you when you need it.
Given that influence is comprised of so many differing variables, both observable and intuitive, how would YOU quantify your influence? What are those key factors or variables that are important to you, which do you look for to identify the influencers in your networks? Let us know in the comments below!
image credit: (cc) Some rights reserved by acdntlpoet
Last week Lifehacker shared out this blog post by Jesse Stormier: "Put Your Inbox in the Upstairs Bathroom". And it immediately clicked for me: living inside the inbox is just too easy. This, of course, makes the shift to living outside the inbox even more difficult, as people don't change until the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of change.
This really can come down to a chicken or egg issue: is our addiction to email fueled by the ease of use, or is the ease of use driven by our addiction? In either case the solution, in part, is just as easy. In Jesse's post he notes how he switched from a slick GUI client and push notifications to using a command line email client, akin to putting his inbox as far away from him as his upstairs bathroom. Now, for a Unix guru that's a rather elegantly simple solution, as he is more than comfortable with the command line I'm sure. I'm even guessing it would work for a number of you reading this post here on developerWorks as well, knowing your technical excellence often has you playing on the command line.
Me? I'm lazy. While putting my inbox in the upstairs bathroom is a grand idea (my home office is upstairs, so it really isn't much of a trip at all), going as far as using Mutt on the CLI to access it is more akin to putting my inbox in my backyard, or for other people it may even be closer to their postal box down the street. Making email hard to use isn't really the point of "working outside of the inbox". Rather, the intent is to improve our collaborative efforts using tools better suited to the tasks and not automatically default to using email unless it really is the right tool for the job. So, let's make it easy!
Ok, but where's the solution? What's the recommendation? Two simple parts come to mind here:
Turn off notifications- More than anything, notifications are likely the biggest contributor to time wasted in the inbox. It is human nature to want to clear a flag, or notice, or other indicator that there is an email waiting for us. This is even more compounded if you have any obsessive/compulsive tendencies at all. The need to address a notice immediately can often be too great to ignore, and thus the interruption occurs. (Just in the time I've taken writing this post I've scurried off to deal with no less than 5 notifications about email messages arriving and awaiting my action.) So turn them off. Notices are much easier to ignore if you can't see them.
Close your email client when you aren't using it- As simple as it sounds, for me this is more akin to putting my inbox in the upstairs bathroom. I don't have to go through the extra effort of accessing it via command line, since the time taken to actively think about checking my messages then open my email client and wait for it to load is sufficient. Out of sight out of mind, right? Don't leave it running but minimized, or in another browser tab but not focused. Close it. Completely.
With these two easy bits covered, my last recommendation will be to schedule specific and focused time in your day to address your inbox messages, freeing you from the shackles of your inbox the rest of the day! I know a few people around here only deal with email first thing in the morning when they arrive to work, and last thing before they leave (in between, of course, is when real work is being done and collaboration occurring all across the organization in the right tools for the jobs at hand). Or perhaps scheduling three times to check: on arrival, right after lunch, and again before leaving for the day.
Regardless of how you go about it, finding what works for you is the key to enjoying a life outside of your inbox. I assure you, it is absolutely worth the mild pain of change!
image credit: (cc) Some rights reserved by eperales
First and foremost, all credit for this forehead-smacking moment goes to my fearless cohort, Kelly Smith. She had posted internally on this topic and pointed out that this may make a great "Think Friday" post here on Notes from Rational Support.
If you've been reading our posts for a bit, you'll likely have noticed our typical image crediting at the bottom when we use images not owned by IBM. Both Kelly and I use the Creative Commons attribution pool / search feature on Flickr.com to find fun and interesting images to accompany our blog posts here, and as the Creative Commons license specifies, we add the attribution credit to all images we use from this pool.... but neither of us had ever done this:
As Kelly noted in her internal blog posting on this behaviour: it is...a Forehead-smacking moment. It's gracious, it's social, it's the right thing to do. It is tone-perfect, and the use of the first person makes it personable and warm. Like Kelly, I'm now smacking MY forehead for having missed such a great and simple opportunity to be a better internet citizen. Kelly and I have both agreed and added this as one of our blogging best-practices, and have begun practicing what we preach as you can see here on the image I used for last Friday's "Working Outside the Inbox" post:
As in my prior blog post on my personal site in which I discuss the "Social stewardship of sharing", to us this loop-back thank you is a great way to become a better internet citizen and a better social steward. Rather than simply take-take-take, we are able to borrow and then use our social currency to show direct appreciation to those whom have graciously shared their images for use via the Creative Commons licensing. Acknowledgement and a thank you takes so little time, but really means so much... in today's world of copyright and intellectual property thievery, I feel it is important to stand up as a good internet citizen, to credit and show appreciation for those people who allow us use of their content to share and share alike.
What are YOUR thoughts on this practice? Do you do similar things when sharing? Have you had others thank or credit you in the past in similar fashions? Is this something you'll likely to start doing now or is it a bit too "hippie2.0"?
If you liked what you read in Jason's previous post on social CRM (and honestly, who didn't?), you are going to LOVE this one ...
Jason wrote a most excellent blog post over on his personal blog that you simply MUST read:
Jason continues to hit it out of the ballpark with his thoughtful and thought-provoking articles on what we are trying to accomplish in these spaces, and provides a unique and refreshing perspective from the usual lead- and revenue-generating slant you get from most articles on social business.
Please check it out! What do you think?