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Welcome everyone.I hope this presentation will give you few ideas how to increase engagement in your existing GCconnex groups or in the groups you’re planning to launch. Please note the ideas in this presentation are based on my professional experience and personal reflection, and they do not necessarily represent the views of my employer. They are delivered to you in spirit of collaboration, to guide towards better practices rather than dictate how things should be done. The recent surge in popularity of GC Tools, and particularly GCconnex, has given us the opportunity to be innovative, experimental, and learn from one another.
I hope to pass on to you what I’ve learned during my recent social media journey. You can keep in touch with me by following one of my social media profiles listed on gesikowski.com or my GCconnex profile – if you mark me as a colleague we could chat on GCconnex.I also hope you can provide any comments or ideas you may have via GCconnex. Perhaps I would be able to help or maybe you can enlighten me with something I could pass on that would help others.
Engagement is the Holy Grail of social media. There are things we can do to increase it, but at the same time there are numerous obstacles that demand creative solutions. In the end, there are no guarantees of success. The process of improving social media communications is ongoing.Here are some of my suggestions we will discuss over the next 30 minutes, or so, with about 15 minutes dedicated to questions at the end of the presentation. At the end there will also be a list of take away generic tools that you can download, customize, and start using right away.
In theory, engagement is inevitable. If you develop a great platform, pour in compelling content, attract a community of highly-motivated overachievers with shared values and interests, then the discussions will spark creativity, many questions will be asked, authoritative users will answer them promptly, and everyone will shows just the right amount of appreciation. The group is going to run and manage itself while you, the community manager will reach hidden levels in AngrybirdsStarWars.In practice, engagement requires careful navigation between fragile relationships and around sensitive discussions. There are still corporate communications requirements and direction in which management and/or champions would like to steer the conversation, push content and control development and release of information. One of the methods I would like to suggest is a hybrid approach where free-flowing conversation can develop alongside corporate messaging. One way to achieve that is through listening and anchoring mainstream messages to the developing discussion, adding content to expand issues that emerge from the discussions forming organically – just remember they still need to be planted and watered, they don’t always conceive themselves. Over-enthusiasm can easily sour a great conversation. Sometimes going the most direct route is not advisable or even possible. But there is always a way to sail against the wind and around shipwreck island, as long as you maintain your course and zigzag towards the destination despite being pushed in the opposite direction or into the jagged shoreline cliffs.
Project management techniques are necessary when you’re building a Mars probe – one micron off and you have very expensive fireworks between here and the red planet.Social media community development is more akin to gardening than planning a space mission, but some aspects of project management can still apply. Defining group objectives is key, just as knowing the goal of the project is essential to achieving it. Are you going to grow an unkempt cottage garden on a large yard lot or a bonsai tree in a pot on a window ledge? They may have the same aesthetic goals, but will require very different approaches. The communications plan model is very useful in planning social media. In communications everything starts with definition of an objective and understanding of the audience.Being clear about the aim of the group helps to focus the discussion and keep it within the range of interests of the participants. There are many groups out there, so defining why people should join your group is key to getting members to sign up. Put together a short statement defining the group in its description – it may include outlining of your goals or simply stating the general purpose while you work on achieving your purpose through strategic content development. You don’t have to provide all the details in the description, but find ways to catch the attention of your audience and do what you can to keep them interested in the topics in the group.Knowing your audience ahead of time can be very helpful, but not always feasible. In some cases you may need to work on getting the right people to your group. This may involve marketing in other places (internal newsletters, emails, events, presentations and linking with other initiatives that would attract your audience). If your audience is reasonable in size, you may consider drafting an audience analysis chart that lists all your potential users, their experience with social media and technological capabilities (this will help increase rate of uptake), and current status on GCconnex. Some users will need extra help to create their profile and start using the platform – remember not everyone is comfortable with the speed and transparency of social media communications. Prepare to be patient and spend time on coaching new users and advocating GC 2.0 Tools from now on.
Listening is an art and a key to any conversation. Social listening is an ability to listen to many conversations at once and presenting subtle hints that maximize signal while minimizing noise. Signal being discussion progressing the goals of the group, while noise being whatever detracts from the main purpose. Note, that not all ‘noise’ is bad and some of it provides necessary ambience that is expected in any open discussion forum. Setting out clear engagement rules and enforcing them promptly is key to keeping the tone of the forum in check.Push and pull techniques in communications originated in logistics, supply chain management, and are widely used in marketing. Push is a more traditional ‘if you build it, they will come’ approach where market need is created, while Pull relies on filling the gaps where the need already exists. Push and pull techniques are neutral on their own. Of course, most would agree that ‘pull communications’ works better within social media environment, but there are situations where a bit of the old-school ‘push marketing’ is required. A hybrid push/pull approach requires flexibility and patience.Be Authentic – Encourage senior management to be active users of GCconnex and write in their own voice. Encourage all users to be direct, informal, spontaneous and candid. GCconnex is a new communication channel, but it doesn’t change the basic rules of honesty, courtesy and respect – everyone must be made aware of that and operate within the rules of engagement and Public Service Code of Values and Ethics.Be Responsive & Timely – Establish a ‘community manager’ role and empower that person to curate content and work on community development. Get senior managers to regularly read and comment on posts in the group, both positive and negative – this sometimes requires only a recognition of the comment by hitting ‘like’ or one short text response. The community manager could prompt senior staff responses by monitoring the conversation. Put a standard response time in place to respond to questions/issues posted in the group (24 or 48 hours at maximum).Be Interesting – Give employees a reason to engage. Provide compelling content and generate discussion by challenging users with interesting tasks and issues to resolve. Recognize those who participate. Get grassroots employee buy-in among digital natives and people comfortable with GCTools and online technologies – let them become online advocates and group ‘evangelists.’ Consider hosting live-chat session on specific topics featuring senior staff, especially from the DG/ADM/DM ranks. GCconnex supports a live chat function that could be explored to host a virtual employee town hall. Create ‘buzz’ by getting senior managers talking about conversations in the GCconnex group, without giving away the content.Be Informal – Minimize distribution of official corporate messaging, steer the focus towards content that highlights individual voice and contributions of employees. With time, find topics and issues that are of interest to group users and expand discussions around these. Be Positive & Supportive – Provide information and training, have dedicated staff to assist users with problems and to monitor the group regularly. Adjust expectations for specific employee groups and recognize that every single person has a contribution to make, even if they are not technologically savvy. Persuade, Motivate, Recognize, and Reward to build a team of “DEPARTMENT brand evangelists”. Be Creative & Open about Content – Entice users to drive content creation in the group. Devote a few hours a week to brainstorming sessions among engaged staff how to elicit content via interesting questions/challenges/etc. The community manager can drive the content but it cannot be done by one person. Regular input from all staff is critical to the group’s success.
Evaluate against defined goals rather than things discovered along the way. But adjust evaluation or redefine goals if necessary.All measurement can be contentious. There are numerous ways of manipulating numbers and words that can prove almost anything and persuade almost anyone 99.9% of the time. Measurement, whether quantitative or qualitative, makes sense only when something concrete can be done with the information and should lead to ongoing improvement. Reporting is a way to bring the key messages offline. One of the basic reporting tools is a spreadsheet that captures messages and has measurement and suggested adjustment components. The reporting tool can be modified and customised to fit the requirements of each group, issue, or organization.
I find most challenges in uptake of GC 2.0 Tools and engagement via GCconnex stems from one or more of the following issues: Individual, Systemic, or Cultural. Sometimes they overlap and are not easily identified. Here are some tips how to spot them and come up with challenge-specific solutions.Individual challenges can be based on lack of specific abilities, such as level of comfort with electronic communications and Web 2.0 tools generally. There is also apprehension based on perception of social media tools as being irrelevant and not part of one’s work duties. The best way to deal with these is through personal conversation that addresses concerns, shows personal benefits, and fills information gaps.Systemic challenges are sometimes beyond our reach. We don’t have the luxury of latest and greatest technology at our fingertips and there may be conflicting processes in place that are outdated and prevent access to the proper technology. The way to deal with this is by speaking with the people in charge of change, clearly demonstrating corporate benefits, and tying the objectives of GC Tools to the existing departmental/sector/division priorities.Every organization has its deeply rooted culture that is slow to change, as well as a set of unique operational and privacy issues. Implementing change of any kind, whether through GCconnex or any other new technological platform, requires recognition that change takes time. It’s a process that requires thorough understanding of the historical and current organizational challenges, strong ongoing support from all levels of staff and management, and a lot of patience, knowledge and enthusiasm from advocates of the new processes/tools/and ways of doing things. Sometimes calmly repeating ‘We are the GCconnex team, resistance is futile’ – especially quietly in your own head during the moments of doubt – can be very reassuring.
In the process of planning, running, and marketing (or advocating) GCconnex groups you may come across various questions from all levels of staff, management, or even stakeholders. It’s important to recognize whether they are ‘why’ or ‘how’ questions, as they may be asked in a way that is not clear of what kind of information is required. It’s best to recognize whether the question requires persuasive or explanative answer.Please take a moment now to ask any questions or provide any feedback you may have regarding the presentation.
These tools are templates available for your use and modification. Ensure that you involve your communications team and other stakeholders in finalization and approval of these tools if you’re running a departmental group.If there is more feedback you would like to share or have any questions on the presentation, please contact me via my GCconnex profile. http://gcconnex.gc.ca/profile/gesikowski