Back to Basics: The Community Strategy Team & Goal Definition

This post is part of an ongoing series about developing an online community strategy. As a reminder, all posts will be tagged #ocb2b

Define Business Goals and Objectives
As I mentioned in my previous post, the recommended first step in developing (or refining) your organization’s online community strategy is to answer the question: What are you, as an organization, trying to accomplish? I acknowledge that this is a simple, but loaded, question. Answering the question of Organization intention is 1/2 of the equation for a successful community strategy. The other half of the equation is understanding community member’s needs and predisposition, which I cover in the next post in the strategy series.

Generally, an executive taps a strategy lead to help develop online community initiatives at an organization. In some cases, the strategy lead actually rises out of the ranks to propose direction to the executives. In both cases, there are two essential roles:

  • Sponsoring Executive: The C-level or SVP that is the champion of community & social media in the C-suite. This is often the CMO, the VP of Marketing, or VP of Support.
  • Strategy Lead: The person charged with directing strategy development from kickoff through launch or annual engagement planning.
  • Said another way: The Sponsoring Exec has the financial and political capital to fund the community initiative, and the Strategy Lead executes research and planning necessary to create the community strategy.

    Next, the Strategy Lead forms a core team to facilitate discussion with the extended stakeholders around the following topics:

    • the intention in engaging the community;
    • the potential value the organization hopes to create for itself and its customers;
    • the risk associated with engaging, including worst case scenarios;
    • the overhead, including headcount, budgets and staff time;
    • the level of readiness to participate, and the required culture change to be successful
    • Identifying and Engaging Internal Stakeholders
      The current definition of stakeholder on wikipedia describes the role of stakeholder as “… a party that affects or can be affected by the actions of the business as a whole.” Given the inclusive nature of many social media and community efforts, an argument could be made that everyone in the company is a stakeholder in the strategy, and in a sense, that is true. In order to actually get work done, you need to trim the list a bit, down to relevant and representative stakeholders that represent key roles and departments affected by, or expected to contribute resources to the community.

      A list of likely internal stakeholders includes:

      • Marketing: Representatives from brand, field and demand generation;
      • Web Team: User experience, analytics, content and technical / development resources;
      • Product: Product management, product marketing;
      • Support: The manager of any existing support forums, knowledgeable, as potentially a representative from technical writing;
      • HR: HR representatives to help develop participating policies and guidelines;
      • Legal: to develop policies and guidelines, as well as terms of use;
      • Process: Kickoff, Work Sessions, Interviews and Synthesis
        So, how does all of this actually come together? I’ve used the following process on the job at my former employer Autodesk, as well as in our services practice here at Forum One. The process starts with a kickoff meeting, continues with individual interviews with key stakeholders, includes follow up working sessions with a core team, and concludes with analysis and synthesis of all of the inputs by the Strategy Lead.

        Kickoff: A meeting is convened by the Strategy Lead, and usually includes the Executive sponsor as well as key internal stakeholders. The group is generally no more than 5-7 people. The kickoff usually lasts 2-3 hours, and covers:

        • Project scope, participant roles, and communication protocols;
        • Review of the current state of online community and social media activities (if any);
        • Discussion of potential goals for the community strategy, related to organization’s mission and annual goals;
        • Potential sources of value from online community engagement, including qualitative and quantitative measurements;
        • Recent customer research and/or feedback;
        • Existing customer community touchpoints & activities (blogs, facebooks groups, etc)
        • Possible Inluencers / Lead users in the community ecosystem (bloggers, Twitter pundits, etc)
        • Discussion of additional stakeholders to involve;
        • Discussion of potential risks;
        • Stakeholder Interviews:
          After the kickoff, interviews with key stakeholders are held to take a deeper dive in to the questions explored in the kickoff meeting, and also to give the stakeholder “airtime” to state requirements, explore ideas and express concerns. The interviews can be done face to face or over the phone, generally last between 30-45 minutes, and are conducted by an interviewer, with backup by a note-taker. Depending on the size of the extended stakeholder pool and the complexity of the project, I generally try to do at least 8 stakeholder interviews. As an augmentation to the in person interviews, I’ve also done an online survey for stakeholders that is based on the interview script. This is a good way to reach a wider audience and get a large set of quantitative and qualitative data.

          Work Sessions:
          In addition to the kickoff, there are generally 1-3 work sessions to review and refine key points from the discussion in the kickoff meeting. These additional working sessions are a great place for brainstorming potential community features and engagements, and to discuss examples of online community and social media from competitors, leaders in the industry, or shiny object examples outside of your industry. The outputs of the work sessions are analyzed in the Synthesis phase.

          Synthesis:
          The outputs of the kickoff, working sessions and stakeholder interviews are analyzed by the Strategy Lead, and summarized in to a working strategy brief (typically a word doc). The key elements of the brief generally include:

          • A statement of purpose or intention for the online community strategy;
          • Business goals for the online community initiative, ideally showing support of organizational mission and goals, and with initial metrics of success;
          • Key findings from the stakeholder interviews (which will have informed, and ideally support, the two points above)

          • Next Up: Member Needs Analysis

            As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, the Organization’s goals are half of the equation for a successful community strategy. The other half is obviously assessing the needs and predisposition of the community. In the next post in the series, I will talk about how to find and solicit feedback from potential (or current) community members, and what to do with that information.

            Posted via web from Social Architect

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