Someone mentioned today that they hope our organisation doesn’t measure value based on just online communities. That there is so much community activity done on the phone and in meetings that brings value to the business that may not be known about. The concern is that people that are visible are going to get recognition over others that are more offline workers, who may even contribute more value. Consequently communities should be called portals.
First off, you may be the most talented person in a room who works behind the scenes and creates great value, but if you don’t speak up in a room how will anyone ever know. Online communities put you on the map, now you can be seen. Sometimes people don’t even know offline communities exist. If you do have an online community, and you have active members behind the scenes, it’s up to the Facilitator to feature this value by publishing a blog post, etc…or encouraging the member to do some featured posts.
I don’t think the CEO is going to search to see if there is value out there, I think it’s up to you to make yourself known and be seen.
I agree that a CoP does not require any technology, it can be a few people who have f2f meetings and that’s it, as long as it works for them. Communities are not about technology, they are about people with a shared identity who grow and evolve together.
The idea for online communities is to extend this and give an online presence, an enabler to enhance what you are already doing in email, on the phone and in person. A shop front, a place to hang out where you can keep all your documents, and have conversations. Now that you are on the map and visible, others can benefit from your talent and this means your value is now extended to more people, which means your value contributions are greater. You also get the benefit of visitors dropping by, offering suggestions and evolving your content, people you didn’t know beforehand could become the new guru in your team.
I say to people that CoPs are like our central document repository, but here we get a homepage rather than a folder, we get a document repository, and the big thing is all those conversations we have in email can actually be done in the community blogs and forums. My sell is that it’s a document repository with conversations. Everything happens in the one place, nothing is distributed or falls off the radar like in email silos.
I see portals a step up from a gateway page of links, having a page of widgets is more like a portal because you can access stuff from other sites from the one place. Communities are not just a webpage that a bunch of people visit. Communities are a group of people who share an interest and get things done together, and having an online version of these physical interactions can help immensly…and also for exposure of your community.
Just because there are offline communities that are overlooked, and are not getting the kudos like online communities (who may even contribute to a lesser value at large), it doesn’t mean they should be called portals rather than communities. Offline or online, visible or invisible, a community is a bunch of people coming together adding value to their goals.