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Monday, 10 February 2014

Community Insights: Helping Community Leaders Enhance the Value of Enterprise Online Communities

Community Insights: Helping Community Leaders Enhance the Value of Enterprise Online Communities

Tara Matthews


Sep 25 2013


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3 people like this

We present Community Insights, a new tool to help community leaders
foster healthy communities that provide value to members and the
organization. Community Insights was co-developed with community leaders
to ensure it provides them with metrics that are useful, actionable,
and easy to interpret.


Background: Online Communities offer Business Value

Online communities are becoming increasingly prevalent in enterprises,
with easy-setup social software and increased awareness of benefits to
businesses and employees. These benefits include breaking down
organizational and distance barriers to knowledge sharing and
collaboration [3,11]; improved skills and ability to execute and retain
staff [11]; improved sales [2]; improved speed of execution, increased
quality, reduced costs [3,12]; and enhanced innovation processes [7].
However, attaining these benefits is no simple matter and an effective
community leader is a critical success factor [1,4,11].

Because of their essential role in fostering community success, online
community leaders are a growing population in enterprises. Some
activities they perform within communities are to encourage
contributions and discussion, contribute and read content, organize and
curate content, answer questions, moderate, create a positive
environment, advertise the community externally, and maintain
infrastructure. Prior work documents effective leader strategies for
enacting these activities [4,5,6,9,10,11,12].

However, there is a critical gap between these guidelines and the
actual practice of facilitating valuable communities. Leaders’ unique
role involves assessing community progress on goals and intervening
to guide the group towards achieving those goals. Static guidelines
cannot help with such assessments; rather dynamic community analysis
tools are needed. However, there is very little research on tools for
community leaders. This background motivated the design and development
of Community Insights.


Community Insights: Designed to Help Community Leaders Run Effective Communities

Community Insights was designed to support community leaders’ two major
needs: (1) assessing community health and value and (2) determining
actions they could take to improve community health. To do so, Community
Insights provides metrics describing a community’s participation, people, and content.


Participation: What activities are going on in my community?


The Participation page provides an overall assessment of your community's health, as shown in the screenshot above. Views (top-left), posts (top-right), and contributors (bottom-left) are important indicators of how active (and thus, how healthy) your community is.


  • Views by application: In particular, our research involving enterprise communities shows that the views metric is a good predictor of member-rated value of the community to their job, i.e., the more views your community's content gets, the higher your members would likely rate your community's value.


  • Posts by application is also an important indicator of how much activity is happening in each of your community's tools over time.


  • Contributors shows how many unique people are posting in your
    community over time and provides a measure of how equally distributed
    participation is across the community’s membership.
There are several other useful features on the Participation page:


  • Use the "Date Filter" at the top of the page to change the dates
    and/or granularity of all of the charts on the page. To quickly switch
    between charts showing the last year, four quarters, 12 weeks, or last
    week, use the links under the custom date range boxes.


  • Hover over any bar in the charts to see an exact value of the bar.


  • Click on any of the blue tool names in the Activity by application table to see a list of every post in that tool and detailed stats about them.


People: Who are the members of my community?



The People page shows demographic information about all your members
(geographic locations, business divisions, manager vs. non-manager), how
many members are in your community, and a list of top contributors (not
shown in the picture above). (Note that these charts are configurable,
since different companies have different demographic information.) These
charts are aimed to help you identify several useful actions you might
take to foster participation and awareness among your members. In
particular, you can click on any circle, pie slice, or data point you
see in these charts to bring up a list of all the people who fit in the
selected sub-group. For example, in the picture above, the user clicked
on the "United States" circle in the map and a list of all the members
from the United States appeared on the right side. At the top of that
list, the user can click to email them or download a spreadsheet listing
their names and contact information. Here are a few ideas on actions
you might take based on these charts:


  • Welcome new members to your community and help them find information: Click on the right-most green dot in the membership chart to get a list of recent new members. Click "email them" to send them a note with community orientation information.


  • Ask managers to emulate community participation for their teams: Click on the "manager" pie slice in the manager vs. non-manager chart to get an email list of managers in your community.


  • Send role-specific newsletters: Click on different business divisions in the members' business division chart to get an email list.


Content: What content and topics do members find valuable?

Next is the Content page, which analyzes the content posted in your community and provides several useful metrics: popular topics, value of posts, and most valuable posts. For example, the popular topics metric is shown here:

Popular topics analyzes all of the text posted in your
community and, using keyword, date and author similarity analytics,
clusters them into topics. On the far left, the top keywords for each
topic are listed along with a bar showing the number of posts in that
topic. When you click on a topic keyword list, more details about that
topic load on the right, including the top contributors to that topic
and a list of the most valuable posts on that topic. For example, in the
screenshot above, we are looking at the "vpn, connectivity, cisco"
topic, which has several well-visited blog and wiki posts that might be
the first place to look for more information about this topic.

An important part of Community Insights are the help and tips. In the screenshot above, you can see a link to help and tips at the top-right of the metric, and can also scroll through the tips ("suggested interpretation & use") below the metric. All metrics in Community Insights provide these. Use help and tips to understand how the metric is calculated and how you can use it to help you manage the community.


Proven Business Value in 3 Organizations

Community Insights has been deployed in three different companies and
evaluated with 1300+ communities and over 3000+ users [8]. Leader
response to Community Insights was overwhelmingly positive. For example,
community leader users have said:

“This tool is exactly what I wanted. It’s like finding gold.”

“Thank you for your work with Community Insights.  These metrics have
been invaluable as we work to improve [our community] in Connections.”

cool... This helps me understand if the content I'm putting out there
(digital reputation, primarily) is providing value to the community – I
can see that it is!

“Very interesting to see the nationality, work functions, etc. of
members, and extremely useful to discover what kind of posts they are
interested in reading.”

Community leaders found it particular useful that Community Insights provided actionable analytics,
i.e., information that guided them toward taking remedial actions to
improve the community. There are four types of actionable analytics in
Community Insights:

(1) Identifying particular sub-groups or members for active engagement. Leaders wanted to intervene most often to engage
with specific subgroups or members, e.g. asking topic experts to
contribute new content, soliciting feedback from people who had left the
community, tailoring content to sub-groups. They found this information
in the people data, as described by one user:

need to know who the people are visiting your community. I need to do
something to get more sales people visiting. I need to send
communications to them, specifically.”

Leaders were particularly enthusiastic about the top contributors
metric, using this list to engage with the most popular contributing
members to take on informal leadership roles, elicit their feedback,
acknowledge stellar contributions, and evaluate their contributions to a
team. As one user described:

been particularly interested in the ‘people’ area and ‘top
contributors.’ We’re trying to create a council of [volunteers] to make
sure content is updated.”

(2) Identifying community health problems that require facilitation. Leaders actively used Community Insights to diagnose and address current or potential community health problems. Using Community Insights, leaders had access to long-term trend data to spot declines in activity.

look at the metrics and facilitate discussions with community managers
based on the metrics. For example, if there’s lots of passive file
downloading, I will recommend that they start weekly community
discussions to facilitate active participation.”

(3) Identifying successful examples to emulate (e.g., popular posts or topics). Community Insights users were constantly looking for successful precedents to emulate to
improve their own community and leadership skills, which they found in
several of the tool’s metrics. For example, one user described:

‘posts’ by application chart… tells me that in certain months, it was a
forum reply that really caught on. So then I can go back into my
community… and look at it and when I compare it with those forums that I
created this month, it reveals whether it was the language of the
forum, or if it was the aesthetic beauty of the forum that really made
the difference, or was it the positioning of the forum that made the
difference. So that comparative study that I could do is really

(4) Evaluating effects of particular actions/events in the community to aid future planning. Leaders examined Community Insights to evaluate the effects of particular actions or events to help with future planning. Most
leaders organized regular events involving phone conferences or
presentations that members could attend. Leaders logged how many people
attended, downloaded event materials, discussed the meeting, and so on.
Leaders used this information to select popular topics for future events
or modify the format or timing of meetings so more people could attend.

we run a call and most of the people who are attending are downloads
instead of live attendees, maybe we have a bad meeting time for that
particular call.”

Similarly, leaders often wanted to evaluate their own actions,
e.g., sending out a newsletter or creating new content, using uptake
data to make improvements. Community Insights enabled them to do so, as
one user described:

are thinking about writing more blogs. We want to see if writing blogs
has an impact in the community. So we want to be able to select a
particular day/time when a blog was posted and see what the metrics look
like before and after.”


Community Insights is Available for Customer Use

Please contact your IBM Software Services for Collaboration representative for more information.



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