We present Community Insights, a new tool to help community leaders foster healthy communities that provide value to members and the organization. Community Insights was co-developed with community leaders to ensure it provides them with metrics that are useful, actionable, and easy to interpret.
Background: Online Communities offer Business Value
Online communities are becoming increasingly prevalent in enterprises, with easy-setup social software and increased awareness of benefits to businesses and employees. These benefits include breaking down organizational and distance barriers to knowledge sharing and collaboration [3,11]; improved skills and ability to execute and retain staff ; improved sales ; improved speed of execution, increased quality, reduced costs [3,12]; and enhanced innovation processes . However, attaining these benefits is no simple matter and an effective community leader is a critical success factor [1,4,11].
Because of their essential role in fostering community success, online community leaders are a growing population in enterprises. Some activities they perform within communities are to encourage contributions and discussion, contribute and read content, organize and curate content, answer questions, moderate, create a positive environment, advertise the community externally, and maintain infrastructure. Prior work documents effective leader strategies for enacting these activities [4,5,6,9,10,11,12].
However, there is a critical gap between these guidelines and the actual practice of facilitating valuable communities. Leaders’ unique role involves assessing community progress on goals and intervening to guide the group towards achieving those goals. Static guidelines cannot help with such assessments; rather dynamic community analysis tools are needed. However, there is very little research on tools for community leaders. This background motivated the design and development of Community Insights.
Community Insights: Designed to Help Community Leaders Run Effective Communities
Community Insights was designed to support community leaders’ two major needs: (1) assessing community health and value and (2) determining actions they could take to improve community health. To do so, Community Insights provides metrics describing a community’s participation, people, and content.
Participation: What activities are going on in my community?
The Participation page provides an overall assessment of your community's health, as shown in the screenshot above. Views (top-left), posts (top-right), and contributors (bottom-left) are important indicators of how active (and thus, how healthy) your community is.
Views by application: In particular, our research involving enterprise communities shows that the views metric is a good predictor of member-rated value of the community to their job, i.e., the more views your community's content gets, the higher your members would likely rate your community's value.
Posts by application is also an important indicator of how much activity is happening in each of your community's tools over time.
Contributors shows how many unique people are posting in your community over time and provides a measure of how equally distributed participation is across the community’s membership.
There are several other useful features on the Participation page:
Use the "Date Filter" at the top of the page to change the dates and/or granularity of all of the charts on the page. To quickly switch between charts showing the last year, four quarters, 12 weeks, or last week, use the links under the custom date range boxes.
Hover over any bar in the charts to see an exact value of the bar.
Click on any of the blue tool names in the Activity by application table to see a list of every post in that tool and detailed stats about them.
People: Who are the members of my community?
The People page shows demographic information about all your members (geographic locations, business divisions, manager vs. non-manager), how many members are in your community, and a list of top contributors (not shown in the picture above). (Note that these charts are configurable, since different companies have different demographic information.) These charts are aimed to help you identify several useful actions you might take to foster participation and awareness among your members. In particular, you can click on any circle, pie slice, or data point you see in these charts to bring up a list of all the people who fit in the selected sub-group. For example, in the picture above, the user clicked on the "United States" circle in the map and a list of all the members from the United States appeared on the right side. At the top of that list, the user can click to email them or download a spreadsheet listing their names and contact information. Here are a few ideas on actions you might take based on these charts:
Welcome new members to your community and help them find information: Click on the right-most green dot in the membership chart to get a list of recent new members. Click "email them" to send them a note with community orientation information.
Ask managers to emulate community participation for their teams: Click on the "manager" pie slice in the manager vs. non-manager chart to get an email list of managers in your community.
Send role-specific newsletters: Click on different business divisions in the members' business division chart to get an email list.
Content: What content and topics do members find valuable?
Next is the Content page, which analyzes the content posted in your community and provides several useful metrics: popular topics, value of posts, and most valuable posts. For example, the popular topics metric is shown here:
Popular topics analyzes all of the text posted in your community and, using keyword, date and author similarity analytics, clusters them into topics. On the far left, the top keywords for each topic are listed along with a bar showing the number of posts in that topic. When you click on a topic keyword list, more details about that topic load on the right, including the top contributors to that topic and a list of the most valuable posts on that topic. For example, in the screenshot above, we are looking at the "vpn, connectivity, cisco" topic, which has several well-visited blog and wiki posts that might be the first place to look for more information about this topic.
An important part of Community Insights are the help and tips. In the screenshot above, you can see a link to help and tips at the top-right of the metric, and can also scroll through the tips ("suggested interpretation & use") below the metric. All metrics in Community Insights provide these. Use help and tips to understand how the metric is calculated and how you can use it to help you manage the community.
Proven Business Value in 3 Organizations
Community Insights has been deployed in three different companies and evaluated with 1300+ communities and over 3000+ users . Leader response to Community Insights was overwhelmingly positive. For example, community leader users have said:
“This tool is exactly what I wanted. It’s like finding gold.”
“Thank you for your work with Community Insights. These metrics have been invaluable as we work to improve [our community] in Connections.”
“Very cool... This helps me understand if the content I'm putting out there (digital reputation, primarily) is providing value to the community – I can see that it is!
“Very interesting to see the nationality, work functions, etc. of members, and extremely useful to discover what kind of posts they are interested in reading.”
Community leaders found it particular useful that Community Insights provided actionable analytics, i.e., information that guided them toward taking remedial actions to improve the community. There are four types of actionable analytics in Community Insights:
(1) Identifying particular sub-groups or members for active engagement. Leaders wanted to intervene most often to engage with specific subgroups or members, e.g. asking topic experts to contribute new content, soliciting feedback from people who had left the community, tailoring content to sub-groups. They found this information in the people data, as described by one user:
“You need to know who the people are visiting your community. I need to do something to get more sales people visiting. I need to send communications to them, specifically.”
Leaders were particularly enthusiastic about the top contributors metric, using this list to engage with the most popular contributing members to take on informal leadership roles, elicit their feedback, acknowledge stellar contributions, and evaluate their contributions to a team. As one user described:
“I’ve been particularly interested in the ‘people’ area and ‘top contributors.’ We’re trying to create a council of [volunteers] to make sure content is updated.”
(2) Identifying community health problems that require facilitation. Leaders actively used Community Insights to diagnose and address current or potential community health problems. Using Community Insights, leaders had access to long-term trend data to spot declines in activity.
“I look at the metrics and facilitate discussions with community managers based on the metrics. For example, if there’s lots of passive file downloading, I will recommend that they start weekly community discussions to facilitate active participation.”
(3) Identifying successful examples to emulate (e.g., popular posts or topics). Community Insights users were constantly looking for successful precedents to emulate to improve their own community and leadership skills, which they found in several of the tool’s metrics. For example, one user described:
“The ‘posts’ by application chart… tells me that in certain months, it was a forum reply that really caught on. So then I can go back into my community… and look at it and when I compare it with those forums that I created this month, it reveals whether it was the language of the forum, or if it was the aesthetic beauty of the forum that really made the difference, or was it the positioning of the forum that made the difference. So that comparative study that I could do is really important.”
(4) Evaluating effects of particular actions/events in the community to aid future planning. Leaders examined Community Insights to evaluate the effects of particular actions or events to help with future planning. Most leaders organized regular events involving phone conferences or presentations that members could attend. Leaders logged how many people attended, downloaded event materials, discussed the meeting, and so on. Leaders used this information to select popular topics for future events or modify the format or timing of meetings so more people could attend.
”If we run a call and most of the people who are attending are downloads instead of live attendees, maybe we have a bad meeting time for that particular call.”
Similarly, leaders often wanted to evaluate their own actions, e.g., sending out a newsletter or creating new content, using uptake data to make improvements. Community Insights enabled them to do so, as one user described:
“We are thinking about writing more blogs. We want to see if writing blogs has an impact in the community. So we want to be able to select a particular day/time when a blog was posted and see what the metrics look like before and after.”
Community Insights is Available for Customer Use
Please contact your IBM Software Services for Collaboration representative for more information.
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