Create a Community Strategic Plan for the whole team

Using the Community Strategy Plan

There are common challenges every team of community builders faces. Contribution to company’s goal, team members alignment, long term planning and execution with the next step already in mind, a diverse and rich community landscape to support, etc. Mine is no exception, and we tried to address, or at least mitigate, some of these challenges thanks to the Feverbee’s Community Strategic Plan.

Why the Community Strategic Plan, and how?

I’m deeply rooted in the importance of the whys, the reasons motivating our actions. In the context of a brand community program, the whys are the goals the company wants to pursue, thanks to the community tool. The complexity every community professional faces is to link those goals with dat-to-day execution. The Community Strategic Plan creates a clear connection between these two extremes. Via interconnected hops, defining the overall community strategy, tactics, expected results, resources allocation and other important elements.

The first time we worked on the plan, we followed all of its canonical key elements. The second time, we deviated slightly from the manual, focusing on the following key elements:

  • Goals: what the organization wishes to achieve from the community.
  • Objectives: what behaviors community members need to perform in order to achieve the goals.
  • Emotions: what feelings to amplify and leverage, in order to influence community members to perform desired behaviors. We expressed them using the perspective of user stories. For example “I’m proud of giving back to my local ecosystem thanks to technologies“. Or “I am motivated to offer compelling content to my members to increase hands-on learning at different levels“.
  • Tactics: the specific projects the team will execute to amplify these emotions. We didn’t go too deep into defining action steps, because we made the plan in the context of an entire team. Once a person, or sub team, starts working on a specific tactic, they will also have the freedom, and responsibility, to define detailed steps.

The Community Strategic Plan and the existing team culture

In Google, we use OKRs. For the Community Strategic Plan to be truly adopted and followed, and not to be forgotten after the initial enthusiasm, we had to find a way to insert it into the “existing team flow”. Luckily, it’s wasn’t that difficult, as a mapping between the Community Strategic Plan and the OKR framework is pretty straightforward. From the OKR angle:

  • Objectives express goals and intents
  • Key Results express measurable milestones which, if achieved, will advance objective(s) in a useful manner.

So, considering the key elements of the Community Strategic Plan aforementioned:

  • A goal provide an high-level categorization of a group of Objectives in the OKR
  • An objective maps with an Objective in the OKR
  • A tactic maps to a Key Result in the OKR

Bonding the Community Strategy Plan with team OKRs was the way to keep team members focused on the tactics. In general, I strongly encourage to adapt and connect the Community Strategic Plan to the existing team habits. For several teams, adopting the plan is already an important mindset shift, so it should not be weighed down by further changes to team routines.

Work on the Community Strategic Plan in an remote team setup

Honestly, it was quite a complex exercise to work on the Community Strategy Plan in a remote team setup. Because of the many consequent steps, the many “diverge-converge-decide” phases, the non trivial amount of time, focus and effort required to formalize the entire plan.

I started making each team member aware of what is a Community Strategy Plan, and the potential advantages in adopting this new framework in the team. Thanks to previous retrospectives about the work we did together, I had enough material to support the proposal.

Then, with a sub group of experienced community builders, we set goals, objectives and emotions. We iterated twice on them, to be sure we developed quite extensively the company goals, without leaving anything behind. The experience of the sub group allowed to focus on the important elements, to interpret goals considering also “historical context”, and to identify emotions, thanks to their deep knowledge of community members.

Finally, we shared the pre-work done with the whole team, and leveraged everyone’s contribution for a tactics brainstorming. Fresh-air and alternative points of views, provided by newer team members, were really useful. We then prioritized tactics and picked up the top ones, completing the last element of the Community Strategic Plan.

Challenges and opportunities ahead

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, strategic thinking and purse team alignment while working with the full spectrum of communities is one of the core reasons we created our Community Strategy Plan. With the plan now in place, I asked every team member to constantly check if the ways they’re spending their time with communities resonate with one or more priority tactics. If yes, đź‘Ť. If not, or they may need to refocus their effort, or we may need to improve and adapt the plan, as no tool is the perfect tool, especially over time.

Speaking about time, the more you move closer to execution (from company goals down to tactics), the quicker is the “speed of adaptation“. It means goals are here to stay for the long period (ideally), while tactics may change quickly. When we prioritized tactics, we had to left behind some interesting ones, or others that needed for some pre-condition to be true, in order to become feasible. I’m quite sure, in the future, we’ll include some of those tactics into the official Community Strategic Plan.

Measurement is another area of untapped opportunities: in fact, for some of the priority tactics, we hadn’t a precise idea on how to measure the impact, or even the progress. We had a feeling it should be possible, and that was enough to commit to do it later. It’s not a “postpone-to-forget” attempt, but it could become without the right discipline. So I foresee lot of data-oriented learnings we’ll acquire executing those tactics.

(Credits to Unsplash for the post image)

How to organize a Community Scavenger Hunt

Community Scavenger Hunt

Gamification can be a powerful lever to foster engagement in a community. In this post, I share the why and the how of the Community Scavenger Hunt we run at the European GDG Leads Summit.

(This post is part of a series about the European GDG Leads Summit organization. Partially to give to GDG leads some behind-the-scenes of the event, partially to share with other community managers lessons learned, partially for personal fun)

Why a Community Scavenger Hunt

Inspired by a similar activity run by Monique van den Berg and the Atlassian team during one of their community summits, I imagined our scavenger hunt serving two main purposes: to offer attendees additional occasions to connect, and to contribute to the social buzz for the event. In both cases, both before and during the event.

The hunt structure and quests idealizations

A typical scavenger hunt keeps participants engaged, quest after quest, toward a final recognition. The last could be extrinsic or intrinsic, like a physical prize, or the pleasure to solve an intricate puzzle first, respectively.
To maintain the level of engagement high, each quest should contribute in some way to that final recognition: distribute points for a leaderboard, provide access to the next quest, offer physical / virtual goodies, etc. Potentially, it could also happen to have diverging quests, quests that won’t contribute to the final goal, but useful for having additional fun or fulfill specific, secondary, goals.

I decided for the competition among participants as the intrinsic motivator to leverage, and collect points for a common leaderboard for quests contribution. In addition, considering the social buzz generation goal, each quests had an output on the social media channels monitored for the summit, Twitter and Instagram.

With all of this in mind, we brainstormed in the team a set of quests, with the following result:

  1. Post an ice-breaker activity you’ve done in your community meetups. Bonus points if you have a picture of it
  2. Share your road to GDG Summit pictures from airports/car/trains. Extra points if you’re with other leads. Only one post per person counts, but feel free to post more than one :)
  3. Estimate how many countries are present here today (here = at the summit)
  4. Share a picture of a “human GDG logo” a logo made by people
  5. Find someone who likes the same Google technology as you and take a picture
  6. Record a video where you and other GDG leads say “Thank you” in your native languages. The more people (and languages), the higher the score
  7. Take a picture of as many googlers you can, with your community sticker / logo
  8. Share the best moment you had as a #GDG organizer (inspiring / motivational / funny)
  9. Find someone with a Google t-shirt and share a picture together
  10. Record you and other GDG leads singing together a song
  11. Ask an organizer from your GDG that is not attending the summit, to send a picture of what they are doing, tagging you.
  12. With another GDG lead from a different country, record a short promo video to promote a food both of you like a lot

Two final shrewdness. The first one was to assign progressive scores to quests, less at the beginning, and more toward the end, to avoid that players who joined later the hunt had no chance to compete against the ones participating since the very beginning. The second was to decide a time interval for each quest (when to launch and duration), to maintain participants curiosity high, not disclosing all the quests at the beginning, and to keep them engaged, solving quests within a given time. Clever gamification tricks ;)

Tools used

In order to run the community scavenger hunt, they were four main needs to cover with some tools: where to list quests, how to alert summit attendees about new quests available, how to check for quests results, and how to maintain a leaderboard with hunt progresses.

Where to publish quests: I went for the quick-and-scrappy way: a simple Google Docs, published as website, where all the open quests were listed. Not the best result in terms of UI, but it required zero code skills, was available on mobile (the main medium participants used during the event) and was very easy to keep updated, publishing new quests at given time.

Alert summit attendees about new quests: two different solutions adopted: before the summit, we launched the community scavenger hunt via an email sent to all summit attendees, inviting them to participate to quest #1 and #2, to warm them up and pass the idea of the activity. During the event, we leveraged the features of Swapcard app, the unique tool we selected to communicate with the attendees, sending push notifications once new quests were available.

Check for quests results: this one was the least automated part, and required a fair amount of time. Luckily, we had a dedicated social media manager for the event, and this person also kept an eye on the quests results. How? Thanks to two specific hashtag we asked to add to each quest reply: the event general #GDGSummit, and a #Quest01, #Quest04, #Quest12, etc. Same for Instagram. The time interval for each quest helped to distribute participant efforts, with the social media manager checking times to times for new quests replies. If found, the corresponding quest points were added to the scoreboard under the Twitter or Instagram handle of the participant.

A leaderboard to show hunt progresses: again, the quick-and-scrappy way: A Google Sheets chart published on the web, showing the scores as soon as the social media manager updated them. Again, not the best graphical result ever, but it worked, required zero code and infrastructure setup. An additional optimization, once we had enough participants, was to limit the graph only to the top 20 results.

Does the scavenger hunt work?

Let data speaks: 70 people participated, of 290 total summit attendees, generating 330 social media contents, a 10% of total contents created. The leaderboard had different top performers over time, and this kept the engagement high, as gave everyone the feeling that winning was still possible till the end.Follow some of my preferred contents generated.

Continue reading “How to organize a Community Scavenger Hunt”

Road to European GDG Leads Summit – Creating community personas

Community Personas

Once decided the main purpose of our European GDG Leads Summit, it was time to find content and activities to fulfill it. For an event hosting hundreds of attendees, from all over Europe, with very different backgrounds, the key to be successful is to find a content proposal able to satisfy different people needs and expectations. In this post, I’ll explain why and how we created community personas, and how we used them to orient activity idealization.

(This post is part of a series about the European GDG Leads Summit organization. Partially to give to GDG leads some behind-the-scenes of the event, partially to share with other community managers lessons learned, partially for personal fun)

Why community personas

It’s impossible to build such tailored content (or activity) proposal without knowing exactly for whom it is being crafted. Personas are fictional characters, created in order to represent the different user types that consume a service. In our case, summit attendees. If the purpose is the North Star, community personas are the compass to check if decisions taken are pointing to that star.

Create community personas

We started defining macro-groups of attendees. We brainstormed in a small circle of colleagues, all working every day with communities, focusing on real people we had in our mind. We found common traits and differences among them, and then we decided what criteria to adopt to clustered them. We felt right in going for experience and objectives at the summit. And then we created a high level descriptions for each group, gave them names and voilĂ , we obtained our first personas draft. It was fun.
Initially, we had 5 different personas.
Then, we shared these personas with another group of colleagues, asking for their feedback. If the descriptions were clear, if the grouping was meaningful and if we were leaving behind something. Thanks to these feedback, we cut one of the personas, obtaining this final list:

  • The rookie community leader: Enthusiast to be for the first time at GDG leads summit, representing a small-mid size community, very eager to learn new stuff.
  • The knowledge hunter: She comes with a clear idea about the desidered summit outcomes, carefully cherry-picking the agenda topics, with the will and the experience, to speak loudly during common sessions.
  • The community professor: Experienced GDG leads summit attendee, prefers unstructured networking moments to sessions, to confront with the others. Knows Google history better than some Googlers. Lot of experience with the community management.
  • The casual summit attendee: She’s at the summit because it was cool to apply.

More details on these personas here.

Match personas with attendees

If creating personas is an art, matching them with event attendees is close to black magic. It generally boils down to two main approaches: ask people directly where they think they fit better, or infer personas from information on the people.

We went with the latter. We drafted a specific set of survey questions, and asked them as part of the event registration form. Every reply contributed with a specific weight to the different personas. For example, a reply “Just started (less than 1 year)” to the question “What’s your experience as a community leader” contributes with 20 points to the “The rookie community leader“, with 10 points to the “The knowledge hunter” personas, etc. Once added up contributions from all the questions, the highest scored personas was the one better describing the attendee.

Easy, right? In theory, because in practice finding the right balance in the weights of the different contributions wasn’t immediate, and in the same small circle mentioned above, we tested different approaches, using some leads we knew the most as “test cases”. Once we found a decent contribution matrix (the complete version in the personas doc) was time to apply it to all the summit attendees.

Match personas with the attendees, at scale

If the manual assignations of personas works for testing, doing it manually for 400+ people was not a viable solution. So, resurrecting my dev skills (dev once, dev forever), I collected people survey results on a Google Sheets, opened the Script Editor and coded a custom function. It takes as input questions replies, assigns the different contributions to the different personas, and return the personas with the highest score. Here the gist with the code.
(Please don’t judge me for having used Apps Script. Practical sense here was the main driver)

Once collected personas for all attendees (a simple copy-paste of the row with the formula to the other rows), I finally obtained the distribution of the personas of the summit attendees.

Once again, feedback are important, so we asked to the extended team to double check if personas seemed appropriate for the community leads they knew. With my big surprise, they mostly were!

Good. So we finally had the estimated personas distribution for the summit. (~350 attendees registered so far):

If you’re one of the summit attendees, where do you think you are? Let me know, and I’ll be happy to tell you if your judgement aligns with our system (and rest assured your judgement will always win)

Apply personas to summit organization.

Time to make these personas useful. We used them to understand if, in every content segment, we had proposals targeting all the personas.

For example, we arranged the 4 parallel tracks with sessions from the community with content for the different personas in every time slot.
Or, given the high number of Community rookies, we organized a specific activity to help newcomers to start their communities. And much more!

Why a CMX Connect Milan?

CMX Connect Milan

If you know me, you also know I’ve been advocating since 2015 for a space, in real life, where community managers can gather, discuss, grow together. So the first CLSxItaly was born, and it was a blast! Fast forward to nowadays, we organized 6 conferences, gave a stage to 35 speakers, re-branded from CLSxItaly to Italian Community Managers Summit (ICM Summit, for friends), connected hundreds of Italian community professionals in real life and on a Facebook group.

Today, I decided to make another important step along this journey: open a CMX Connect chapter in Milan.

The reason is still the same of 4 years ago: offer to community managers, builders and professionals a platform to connect each other, to learn and share about this common passion we all have, to create a group identity to avoid the feeling of being alone. To grow, together, in this profession.

The choice of the CMX Connect format was pretty straightforward. After the first couple of conferences, we organizers immediately noticed an insatiable thirst to keep meeting and sharing with our fellows community builders. So strong, the cadence of the conferences was too diluted to satisfy it. We knew we should have organized meetups between the summits, but we had no time to do that (remember, we do all of this for free). Then, one day, I noticed the CMX Connect initiatives, and how their 5 Ws fitted perfectly with the idea we had in mind, plus the access the richest and strongest network of community professionals around the world.

And so, with a pinch of courage, I founded the CMX Connect Milan chapter, with Chiara and Alessio helping me running it (and more help always welcome). It will be the bridge to close the gap between ICM Summit events (next one on 15 Nov, tickets here). It will allow us to experiment with more lightweight formats, with a shorter cadence, with the same passion behind.

And the dream of seeing, in the near future, several Italian CMX Connect chapters collaborating together to organize the ICM Summit. Let’s see if this future will land.

Living / working in Milan area and interested in community management topics? Become a member of the CMX Connect Milan and see you at our next events!

How to Be an Effective Manager of a Community Builders Team

(This post was originally published on CMX Hub blog, I’m adding it to my blog to keep everything in order)

A lot of community builders are working as a one (wo)man band, doing everything on their own to support their beloved communities. Far less common is the situation where you have a team of community builders working together on the same community program. As a manager of a team like this, how does one build, sustain, and grow it?

Luckily, a lot of the existing culture surrounding team management can be applied with success. I like to think about Tuckman’s stages of group development as a good starting point. It describes the inevitable phases in order for a team to grow, face up to their challenges, find solutions, and deliver results. What are specific elements and suggestions to consider, within the frame of a community builder’s team?

Phase 1: Form

In this phase, a new team is created. Its members join for the first time, start to think about the common project, and the reasons to work together. They also begin to get to know each other, both professionally and personally. There are three essential key responsibilities for the team manager: establish the vision, hire team members, and connect them.

No one more than the team manager should know the reason for such team to exist, why the company needs the community. And this reason should drive the hiring process too: there are plenty of resources on how to hire good community managers and builders, but just the right skills are not enough. It’s important to identify someone who shares the same vision and is motivated by the same whys. Initially, that vision will be a strong first element of commonality among team members. Subsequently, it will help everyone to have a clear understanding of their part in the journey. Over the long period, this alignment will provide a major boost to members’ spirit, productivity, and happiness.

Once there is a common goal among team members, another manager’s core responsibilities during the Form phase is to shift the newly formed group mindset from “me” to “us,” increasing as much as possible the many:many relationships inside the team. Think, for example, about engaging members in some type of collaborative effort, so they can motivate one another and hold one another accountable. When the shift happens, the team unleashes its real potential, obtaining results that are more than the mere sum of people’s individual contributions.

Phase 2: Storm

Once team members start to collaborate with each other, sooner or later, the vast majority of teams will go through a phase of conflicts, where the focus is on the differences among members, more than on what unites them. On failures, more than on successes. On conflicts, more than on collaborations.

To successfully deal with this stage, the manager should address areas of uncertainty and foster collaborative discussions with positive outcomes among team members, to contrast that “conflict element.”

Among those areas, two of the most important are the definition of success and the community strategy. Connected with the aforementioned team vision, identifying what success for the community looks like, and the tangible returns the community should provide, helps the group to understand how the community can serve the company, and concentrates energy and resources in one common direction

Once the definition of success is known, the manager should ensure the team creates a proper strategy to pursue it. Tools like the community strategy canvas can help to lay down a clear path to follow while leaving space, at the same time, for diverse set of contributions, added values, and creativity every team member can bring into play. The canvas should be reviewed time to time by the team, to adapt to changing factors and to tackle new challenges in pursuing success.

Another common source of conflicts in a team of community builders, is when there are divergences on the appropriate behaviors community members should have. To avoid countless discussions, the manager can help the team to find and articulate a community tone. Once decided upon, these guidelines can both reduce conflicts inside the community and, for the ones that still happen, team members can find an easier way to solve them by following the tone.

Phase 3: Norm

This phase is where team members really cooperate together, all working toward the common goal, knowing and accepting each other. Despite lot of positive elements, a good manager knows the major risk of this phase lies in the inability of the team to challenge the status quo. The community is a living organism, always changing; a team that blindly sticks to outdated models to support itself could potentially represent a problem.

Investing in member training can prevent that. Participate in conferences on community management, organize recurring lectures or brown bag sessions about books or the latest articles on the matter, encourage folks to actively participate in a community of community builders, and much more. Whatever is useful to broaden views and expertise of the team and to bring fresh new ideas, you should be doing it.

Once these new ideas are found, it’s important to provide team members a protected space to test them. Especially for mature and big communities, the fear of a small spark, generated by an error of a community builder, becoming a wildfire damaging the community with a negative impact for the company, can prevent the team from introducing changes. So, the team manager should first set a culture where small and controlled failures are not only tolerated, but there is acknowledgement they are needed to improve, and then allocate resources to perform tests in a protected environment. For example running focus groups, or creating a special group of early adopters inside the community, etc.

Bringing an external point of view can also help: someone outside of the team could easily identify areas of improvements for the community, without being “emotionally connect and involved” with the rest of the team members, and the community itself. Once spotted, the manager should work to create a plan to solve these issues, and follow up on its execution.

Phase 4: Perform

In this phase, the team performs at its peak. Autonomously, well connected with company’s goals, and with very little guidance needed. Thanks to that, the manager can collect the most substantial fruits of their labor and has more time availability. How can one reuse both of them wisely?

For example, one way would be trying to grow visibility internally into the company and to obtain more resources, in the form of a budget increase, more team members, and so on. Even if reports that show connections between the community outcomes and the company needs have to be available since the first day of the community, in this phase there is more time to increase their accuracy, deepen the analysis, extend the long-term contribution measurement. All of this should be done with one main goal: show how indispensable the community is for the company. And the team manager has to be the spokesperson of this bond, more in this phase than ever, to guarantee a bright and long-term future for their team.

Alternatively, the manager can start looking for new company challenges to address, connected either with the community-related skills team members possess, or with new needs the community can solve for the company. Has the community, initially born to provide scalable support, proven to be a good source of ideas and product feedback? What about integrating it in the creation process for new products, or new versions of them? Has the community, born to mobilize a group of people toward a cause, proven to be a source of inspiring stories and loyal customers? What about morphing it in a place for brand ambassador? Creativity is the limit.

Just a final thought to recap: every team is like a small community, and it changes over time. While the main manager’s duty always remains to connect it with the rest of the company one side, and to serve it and allow team members to thrive on the other side, knowing the most typical phases of a team can allow the manager to be more prepared, and more effective, in fulfilling their duty.

(This post was originally published on CMX Hub blog, I’m adding it to my blog to keep everything in order)

Road to European GDG Leads Summit – Setting the purpose

GDG Summit Purposes

If you know me, you know I love to start with why. In addition, as Priya Parker wrote in her book “The art of Gathering“, “by having a clearly identified purpose for the event, participants will have more chances to actually connect, and not be disappointed”. So, once our European DevRel team decided this year to shift from several regional GDG Leads summit, to a European-wide summit for 500+ attendees, we set down together, to define the main purpose of the summit, the North Start that would have influenced all the other event-related decisions. How we made it is the topic of this post.

(This post is part of a series about the European GDG Leads Summit organization. Partially to give to GDG leads some behind-the-scenes of the event, partially to share with other community managers lessons learned, partially for personal fun)

Get inspiration from the past

To warm-up our brains and create a common ground for follow-up discussion among the 12+ people in the team, we started with a retrospective exercise. We looked at the regional summits we run in the last two years, wearing two hats: one that considered attendees feelings and emotions (community is all about emotions), their comments and their feedback; another that considered our goals and impressions as organizers. We used the Start / Stop / Continue model, adding a fourth “Best” element to it. And this was the result.

Start / Stop / Keep doing / Best of past regional GDG Leads Summits

An incredibly dense wall of insights! We briefly discussed the points and, unsurprisingly, the ones that emerged more often were about knowledge and experience sharing, the sense of community, networking activities, training on community-related topics, feedback and discussions, intimate conversations, fun together. We also smiled a lot at your past, because was full of great and heartwarming memories.

We added into the mix the results of the interviews we did during Google I/O to several community leads there, asking them the most valuable activity they wanted to have during a GDG Leads Summit.

Identify the core summit purpose

With all these information in mind, we started to think, individually, about a desired purpose for the summit. With these key characteristics:

• Represents the sweet spot between what attendees want and enjoy, and the event organizers goals, with a slight preference for the attendees side.
• Tangible and inspirational at the same time. Able to leave a feeling in between “we made it” and “there is still road ahead”. The “we made it” to positively justify the time spent, the “there is still road ahead” so attendees feel it’s already time for another summit, to continue the journey together.
• Offers a high level narrative that could be addressed during different events, using different angles and themes, but still part of the same, consistent, story.

And we put ideas together, obtaining another “surface” full of great insights:

GDG Summit Purposes

That flip chart fed an intense follow-up discussion that, after setting priorities, voting the different proposals and adding other elements into play, left us in agreement about the following GDG Summit purpose:

Empower GDG Leads connecting them and with them at a personal level, fostering a European identity and celebrating their successes, while providing tools to growth in their community manager role.

Skills and tooling, identity, connections, appreciation. Four areas we’ll work on to draft the agenda!

Stay tuned for the next post on the European GDG Leads Summit!