It's never been all that hard to get users involved in social media. However, many companies who eagerly adopted "Web 2.0" systems to cultivate new ideas, both internally and externally, have found the reality has not quite lived up the promise. Once you begin to build a community, how do you keep them involved and show them that their ideas are actually coming to material fruition?
Author and innovation strategist Nicholas J. Webb explores how to make collaboration work for business in his book, "The Digital Innovation Playbook." An excerpt of the book, "Harnessing Social Media Intelligence, Smartly," is available free to IT Business Edge users here in the IT Downloads library.
Webb speaks to executives at crowdsourcing pioneer Spigit about tools that not only allow users to submit new ideas, but to grow and refine them as a community. He then use the Spigit platform to illustrate tactics he believes will both deeply engage users in a community and help management mine that community for the best ideas.
Use technology to help you find the relevant content. If you run a local coffee shop, you probably have time to personally scan comments on your company's Facebook page. If you run a regional chain of coffee shops, you don't have that luxury. Spigit uses a wide array of tech - from game theory to basic Web analytics - to track how many people are positively interested in an idea. Whatever solutions you pick, be sure you can customize trigger event levels to match your culture. Then, when the system brings an idea to your attention, pay attention.
Incent your best community members. Webb sums up the problem with most Web 2.0 systems this way:
They buy the software and yes, they may get some interesting conversations going, but at the end of the day it's hard to determine where the value actually lies in these discussions. The problem is that generic collaboration platforms have no structure to manage the ideas. And they have no incentive to entice participants to continue submitting ideas and stay active within the community. So what happens? Community members lose interest.
Companies may choose to employ awards programs for the most active participants in their networks - Webb endorses this approach - but for many community members, just seeing their ideas advanced is reward enough.
Include a wide array of sources in your communities. Your own employees should know your business the best, but that can be both a blessing and a curse. Employees tend to get locked into their own daily grind and not see the whole process, and they certainly don't see the business through the eyes of a customer. Use a platform for your communities that allows interaction between employees, clients, suppliers - anyone with anything to do with your business. You may want to create pools of community members with certain specialties, but as time goes on you will see less value in that. After all, the system ensures that only the good ideas advance.