Your indicators say that your online communities are very busy ? So what ?

When a social media project is launched, whether internal or external, it’s often structured in groups or communities. What every project manager fear is to end with empty or moribund communties, so making them busy is an obvious goal from which indicators are drawn. This is pure logic. These indicators are linked to the the use of the tools that support the project. It’s also logical.

It’s obvious that if the indicators depress (ie the community is dead) it’s a bad news and it’s important to take things in hand. But is it right to assume that things are doing well when indicators are doing well too.

Of course, no benefit can be expected is the tool is not used. (Saying that I assume that the whole project was designed and positioned in order to bring real operational benefits and that the tool supports processes that contribute to value creation in one way or another).

But even in the opposite situation, viligance is needed.

– lots of members (or even a satisfying number). Ok, people registered. And so what ? They updated their profile ? Came back once, twice, regularly ? And why do they come for ? Make sure nothing has changed since their last connection ? (Of course I don’t mention the hypothesis of people being registered automatically whithout knowing why…)

– lots of groups are created ((or even a satisfying number) : that’s one more step. Who structures the social space wants to use it and identified needs that groups can meet. But, at the beginning, the number of groups created “only to try” may be huge so being carried away may be a mistake at this time. In fact it’s not a risk but a common practice for users who try to find out what they can do with their new tools. Then, according to the governance, some groups may not be work-related (but some companies accept it because it helps to foster relationships anyway). Of course, I’m not talking about groups created by the company according to its organizational-chart or its own expecations, without making sure that the people in the groups know what’s it about and feel engaged.

– lots of contents (or even a satisfying number) : so you have users distributed among purpose driven groups. Well. If the indicators say some (or a lot) of content is published, you are getting closer to success. But here agin, try to find what’s the reality behind the numbers. On a qualitative point of view first (is the information useful, does it help people to move forward, to improve..) Then have a look at the publications/members ratio. Of course if you have a group open to anyone and if your purpose is to gather as many people as possible to sensibilize them about something, the 1-9-90 rule should apply. If you group is made of people who actually work together in real life, everyday, who have shared goals, participation should be more balanced. If 95% of the contents come from one only person whose job is to feed the group in order it won’t look like a dead end…your indicator is biased. You are doing nothing but moving the main function of you old intranet into on a social platform. It may be a transitional step but in no way a solution for a project that is meant to bring any added value.

Admitting everything is doing well, that indicators are relevant and well interpreted, a last point remains. You should be sure that the information, the discussions, are used to solve real problems (day to day behaviors and use to be implemented), can be reused by anyone (ability, “authorization” to implement what is learned…and sometimes even to access the information). Whithout that, there will be no bridge between the value inside the tool and business operations.

It does not matter if you rev counter say that your engine is working find. What is the goal ? Having a 4 000 rpm engine speed or going from a point A to a point B ?

As a conclusion

– indicators related to the quantitative use of a platform are only middle indicators. The final indicators has to be operational or, at least, linked to expected outcomes.

– being mistaken about the goal and focusing on making people use a tool rather than working better often brings to achieve neither one nor the other.

So, it’s better to take the time to build a coherent system that works than botching up a model apartment.

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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