Internal comms has always been about getting the message out there, using whatever channels you’ve got at your disposal, to engage your colleagues with what’s going on in the business. The top-down approach has been, and always will be, a core part of the role. But the rise of side-to-side communication via enterprise social networks and digital workplaces – many of them the initiative of a visionary IC person – has meant that community management gives whole new dimension to the IC role: that of enabling and encouraging conversations, and curating what’s gone on in them.
This means embracing a whole new skillset on top of your existing one. Who’s got the time, or the inclination?
Luckily, the skills required have been pretty well defined in recent years, though mostly in connection with consumer networks rather than internal ones. They are the skills of community management.
Typically a community – whether it’s the support community for a technical product, or a community of interest like Mumsnet – will have a manager who is trained to make sure that the conversation is kept fresh and alive, that people get heard and get the answers they want, that the tone is acceptable, and the combined knowledge of the members can be easily shared.
These skills need to be brought into the business.
Your digital workplace will – or should – have dozens, maybe hundreds, of communities: built around functions, like sales, or products, or locations, or personal interests, or activities like conferences. Some will be relevant to just a few people, and may need to be hidden, others may be open to thousands right across the business. All of them should be creating value in some way, helping your business achieve its objectives more effectively.
The functionality is familiar to everyone – groups are well-known from all kinds of social media platform; but the skills that ensure that the groups actually deliver value for their members and for the business, those are less well-known. And this is where IC comes in.
A small IC team can’t possibly manage the hundreds of communities in a business; but what they can do is make sure that each one has a manager or owner who understands – is helped or trained if necessary – on how to run that community and how to make it deliver real value.
And IC can bring together all those community managers to share their ideas and experiences. A “community of community managers”, which can be run (managed) by IC, can be a great way of getting your internal network to buzz, and it can become an important new channel for IC to get messages out there, too.
And a good community manager’s role – just like the IC one – is all about content: creating great, unique, valuable content that engages the community, and curating great content that other people have created.
What sort of person makes a good community manager?
Luckily, the attributes needed for community management are very much the same skillset as you have already!
- Socially intelligent
- Good listener
- Skilled writer/editor
- Business acumen
So it shouldn’t be too hard for you to skill yourselves up – and to support the rest of the community managers across the business.
Your business might already have an external-facing community overseen by customer services or marketing. If so, find out how they got trained, and how they’re managing and measuring engagement.
And look at that list again. These are attributes every manager in a social business ought to have. In fact, a real social business is one where every manager sees herself as, in some respects, a manager for her community – and sees that community both as her immediate team and as a wider cross-functional community that can contribute to her success.
Lawrence Clarke of Shilbrook Associates, and Emma Cumming of We Are Social, will discuss Internal Comms and Community Management at Smile Expo on May 21st. Book your ticket and find out more here.