Contributor: Vanessa DiMauro (Leader Networks)
Our lives are filled with checkups. We get checkups for ourselves, our kids, our aging parents. Even our businesses have checkups to make sure all those important systems are working properly. We find personal coaches, attend parent-teacher conferences, go to the doctor with Mom or Dad. In business, we have board meetings, conferences with attorneys and accountants, seek advice from coaches and, yes, consultants.
Every dynamic system requires a checkup because, well, change is inevitable. We would rather things improve than let entropy have its disorderly way with us or our activities. This is especially true for delicate, difficult or nuanced activities such as building online communities for business. These online social organisms are, after all, made up of lots and lots of people. Change is built in. To keep one of these entities growing and thriving takes present attention, past insights and good deal of foresight to manage the present, learn from the past and keep an eye on and plan for the future.
The word is out that online communities yield substantial business results for those organizations that do them well. Numerous recent studies document the strong top line results when social business initiatives succeed. However, while some are thriving, many social business initiatives are failing. Worse yet, some of their owners and sponsors don’t have a clear idea if they are failing, how they are failing, or why.How could this be? Online communities are tough to launch, and even tougher to sustain.
The finest social business leadership team or community manager can benefit from a little outside guidance, fresh ideas, new perspectives and best practices to keep the social business machinery humming. The good news is that successful communities can perform even better, and laggards can make significant improvements, when the right strategic, tactical, operational, technical and organizational changes are implemented.
That’s the key: identifying and implementing the right changes to keep your community on track. What kind of activities, practices and behaviors should be assessed to ensure it is healthy and operating efficiently to generate the greatest returns? There are well over 120 checkpoints to assess an online community’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for growth and greater success.
These include factors such as:
- Strategic viability – Are operational practices in alignment with business strategy and goals?
- Business plan integrity – Does the business model match up with community strategy and operations?
- Operational performance — Is the member on-boarding process efficient? Is the community growing at the right rate? Are outreach efforts fruitful? Are success metrics on track? Are they the right metrics?
- Technical framework – Does the community face technical limitations that inhibit use? Does the chosen technology platform support the business model? Are the community technologies moving towards greater integration with core business processes? If not, what are the implications of this divergence?
- Organizational practices – Does the organization have the right skills available to support online community and social business? Do the social business initiatives have sufficient visibility and executive support within the organization? If not, what should you do?
That’s always the real question: what should you do? So … to help every online community become a winner, we at Leader Networks offer our Online Community Health Check. Here is a brief overview of the service and more detail about the process. This in-depth research-based assessment tool evaluates your online community’s capabilities and opportunities. Based on our years (decades, really!) of experience, we understand how best to create online environments that combine your network and business needs with the needs of those all-important people – your community stakeholders. Social business success is built on a deep understanding of what it takes to connect and engage the right people around topics that matter to them. Our health check process identifies critical online community success factors we’ve developed and proven through scores of engagements across various industries over 15+ years. We also enhance our practical expertise with an ongoing research agenda which uncovers and applies new understanding for best practices to your online community. If you would like to find out how your community is doing – is it already a winner or would some tweaking and coaching help it succeed? — we would be delighted to discuss how we can help your social business initiative succeed and thrive. Start here.
[This work was originally published on Vanessa’s blog, Leader Networks and is reposted here with her permission.]