Picture this scenario – you are interviewed for an internal community management position at an awesome company. You’re already comfortable with community management best practices, the company’s community platform and you were able to eloquently answer all the questions based on your past experiences.  After three phone interviews and five face-to-face interviews you got the job. Now what? Before you stir the pot too much with your big plans and ideas, refresh yourself on a few best practices to set you up for success as a new Internal Community Manager. These are tips based on what I learned after landing the awesome job of enterprise community manager for Jive’s internal community, Brewspace, just four months ago.

1. Learn the culture

If you don’t understand the community culture, you are not going to succeed, period.  From my research and interview, I knew that Jive would have an open, transparent, and fun company culture.  But it only really hit home after I saw the daily postings of cat gifs, references to 90’s sitcoms in executive blogs and understood what the acronym GNAK meant (Good Natured Ass-Kicker). That’s when I felt like I started to get the Jive culture.

Here are few tips to help you quickly acclimate to an internal community’s culture:

  • Listen carefully to the language, tone and reaction of people to conflicts and how they challenge ideas before diving in with new plans (applies to online as well as in-person interactions).  This will tell you a lot about how to manage conflict and possible moderation challenges.
  • Read the most popular content of all time within your community. This will tell you about the style of humor in a company and the level of tolerance for free speech.
  • Look past the loudest speakers to see who might not be speaking up. You’ll have to account for their needs as well as the squeaky wheels.
  • Look at whether people are willingly offering impromptu help as questions arise in a discussion thread or they are redirected to a process. This will tell you how helpful and outspoken a community is in general.

To better understand the community culture, I asked the entire organization to describe Jive culture in three words. Check out the culture summary word cloud below.  The larger the font size, the more frequently the word was described by our Jivers. I use this as a compass to help nurture these cultural elements as part of my community management framework and roadmap.  Consider conducting your own poll or coming up with a different community engagement initiative that would promote culture.

2. Get the full story from stakeholders & super users

In an existing community, there may already be a strong governance framework and you are simply the new owner of that framework. In other cases, you might mention governance and get a blank stare back. Regardless, it is important to know who the stakeholders and super users are within a community and start engaging them as you develop or refine a roadmap and a governance strategy for your community. At Jive, there are tons of super users. By talking to them, it helped me to understand what people cared about.  If you need help identifying your super users and stakeholders, ask the following questions:

  • Who keeps the community platform running?
  • Who owns how leadership and corporate communications are delivered to employees?
  • Who owns employee engagement and satisfaction?
  • Who are the people that provide tips on how to use the community?
  • Who are the veteran users that have been around since the time the community was introduced to the company?

In my first 30 days at Jive, I had several dozen 1:1 meetings.  After each meeting, I left with a wealth of insights on how to make our community better and who I needed to engage when. In your first month of your community management post, you should talk to as many people as possible about the existing community.  What worked? What could be improved? What changes can make your organization work better with others? These insights certainly helped me start refining my community management success indicators and roadmap.

3. Explore the analytics goldmine

When I started, I was tempted to send out a company-wide survey to get immediate insights about Brewspace from every Jiver. I’m glad I held off, however, because there was already a goldmine of data in the system. Before you send out a survey, look under the hood of your community and analyze the existing data first.  In most cases, quantitative answers can be found in the community database. Combined with input from the stakeholders and super users, you’ll be able to hone in on some of the critical areas and start formulating what information you should track on regular basis to ensure the success of your community.

4. Start small in the beginning

In my first few months as community manager, I did a lot of investigation work. It was easy to get lost in the flood of insightful information and I had trouble determining how it would translate into a grand plan.  I knew that there were tons of cross functional projects I could immediately start with in our community but also there were a lot of smaller projects needing attention. My approach was to start small while I was learning. I stared with the use cases and projects for which I had business support for making-over. Examine the ways in which you might start small. It may be your community help section contains content that is out of date or your community is looking for a better on-boarding program.  Focus on improving small areas within your community and you can build credibility to help other more complex use cases later.

5. Make yourself available

Finally, make yourself known — you are the community manager after all! Jive has an awesome ritual of having all new hires write their first blog called “My first week at Jive.” I took the opportunity to be completely open about my questions and ideas. This helped me validate ideas and I was able to obtain insights on things I should focus on for short-term, mid-term and long-term. Consider using the following tactics to introduce yourself, explain your role and outline your goals for the community:

  • Blog about your ideas and be open to input from the community members.
  • Create a community calendar and start scheduling content and activities.
  • Set up a community management “virtual office hour” once a month where anyone in the community can come in and ask questions about the community.

No matter how seasoned you are in community management, coming into an already established internal community can be a challenging task until you learn the lay of the land. I will continue to blog about my community management journey at Jive with more details on areas highlighted, so stay tuned!


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