An unmoderated social intranet will often lead to an uncontrolled proliferation of groups. With one client we even found groups made up of one individual, who was just using these groups as an additional hard drive for his files. One thing that good group moderation does is to ensure that your intranet does not turn into a graveyard of long-forgotten initiatives. Proactive moderation can make all the difference here.
Social intranets give members the opportunity to create groups for deliberation and collaboration. These groups can be made accessible to everyone, or only to specific employees (private group). Because it is so simple in practice to start such a group, it’s common to see that new groups are not always set up with enough awareness and consideration. Group moderators need to be aware of the fact that they are taking on a responsibility. A community manager can help them by pointing out this responsibility, and by providing expertise about good group moderation.
Group types in social intranets
A community manager can for instance give an indication ahead of time about the goals which can be achieved with your groups. There are a number of ‘standard groups’ which are common, regardless of the type of organization:
- Community of Practice: A group of employees sharing knowledge about their field. Example: HR employees from different regions sharing their best practices with each other.
- Community of Interest: A group of employees with the same hobby. Example: a group of amateur photographers sharing photos with each other.
- Community of Place: A group of employees from the same place. Example: A group of British employees working at an international company.
- Support community: A group where employees can ask questions about an (internal) service or product. What characterizes these groups is that members also help each other answer questions. Example: The ICT department can start a group for (technical) information and explanation about an application which is used in the organization.
- Team group: A group in which a team or department collaborates. Example: A communications team sharing and revising meetings and minutes online.
- Project group: A group for employees to collaborate on a project. Example: Marketing, communications and IT employees collaborate with external parties in a group to develop a new website.
- Group for events: A group centered around an internal or external event. Example: A group is used to promote and organize the yearly staff outing.
If the intended new group does not fall within any of the above categories, it is likely that something different is needed. It is of course possible to make a report or request for the kind of group needed for a community, but it is also useful for a list of the different group types to be readily available somewhere on the social intranet.
Group moderation is community management
Group moderators are essentially community managers too, they’re just responsible for a slightly smaller group. What this means for the moderator of the social intranet is that he/she has a number of allies who are equally invested in achieving success. This can be a win-win situation, although new moderators will have to be educated as to what is involved in good community management:
- Answering questions from members (help desk)
- Welcoming new members (host)
- providing a continuous stream of interesting content (content creator)
- Classifying, filing and steering conversations and files (moderator)
- Ensuring that the group goals are achieved (project manager)
- Driving and activating the members (moderator)
- Organizing meetings and deliberations (organizer)
- Tracking statistics (analyst)
- Each activity will of course have a slightly different focus in the different groups. But if the group moderator does nothing, the group will most certainly not succeed.
We believe it is essential to provide social intranet training specifically for group moderators. These sessions have a slightly different focus than training courses for ‘ordinary’ employees. Subjects which are touched upon include examples of successful social intranets, books and experts on networks within the organization, the importance of community managers for modern organizations and the role of informal leadership. Also included are practical tips and tricks about what does and does not work in groups. These training sessions can be offered in various formats: live, in text form, and in visual form (video).
Another option is to start a private group specifically for group moderators (so really, a meta-level support community). Group moderators can then exchange tips and tricks in this group. For the community manager, this is a portal through which to regularly put insights, knowledge and questions before all the group moderators. Setting up such a group also fosters a feeling of community, and brings the company-specific uses of groups to the forefront.
The best social intranets give a notification when a new group is started. This allows the community manager to make proactive contact with the group moderator-to-be straight away, which has a number of advantages. By doing this, you strike while the iron’s hot, and it is much more likely that this group moderator will be receptive to your offer of help. It also provides the opportunity to alert them to the possible existence of similar groups, since having five different groups, all set up for the exact same purpose, ranks very high on the list of user annoyances. The conversation should of course also be used to alert them to the group for group moderators, and the training sessions which are offered. This way, contact has already been established, should they need your help further down the line.
A sense of ownership is essential in getting the group moderator to take on an active role. To achieve this, group moderators need access to the right tools to organize their groups the way they see fit. Platforms like Embrace, Viadesk and Plek Intranet allow a moderator to decide which functionalities to use and which not to use. By allowing some freedom in this decision, the moderator can really make the group their own. It’s also important that a group moderator is able to take action when a group becomes less active. This requires insight into user data. A social intranet such as Plek Intranet integrates this function well, and offers each group moderator extensive statistics.
We’re curious to know how you’ve organized groups and group moderation in your social intranet. Do you have any examples of strategies that have proven successful?