Method – Expert interviews followed by multi-day online community research with community managers
The Need – The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) wanted to identify the best practices around how to develop employee-led online communities. They chose Usability Resources Inc’s proposal from over a dozen responses to their RFP. At the time (2010), social media and online collaboration were just starting to become mainstream and little was known about how to develop, moderate and leverage online communities within an organization.
Our Solution – Kay started with a literature review, attending conferences related to online communities, and networking with emerging leaders like Rachel Happe co-founder of the Community Roundtable. She carried out in-depth interviews with people who had created thriving online communities such as Jono Bacon, founder of the Ubuntu Open Source Community, Meghan Scott Mehrens of Yum! Brands, and Christian Finn of Microsoft. Then she ran a multi-day online research community with online community managers who worked in a range of organizations from the US Air Force to SAP to the Mayo Clinic. The community managers shared their advice on key aspects of how to develop and nurture this type of community. We used social media research to identify the most trailblazing community managers who were creating this new profession.
Results – Our effort produced a rich treasure trove of practical wisdom and strategies for creating successful online communities from scratch. We learned about the different types of online communities, how to navigate organizational politics to gain support and resources to build them, the importance of governance and guardrails, best practices around moderation, piloting and maintaining the communities, and how to choose a technology platform. IABC published a report of our findings “Creating Vibrant Online Collaborative Communities within an Organization which is available on their Web site.