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Planning for Internal Success

Lithium Alumni (Retired)
The last group I wanted to discuss before leaving the topic of people in your community is your internal audience, be they employees, organizational peers, executives or other insiders. Like the previous groups we've mentioned, you need to understand and plan for these folks, and the internal team presents it's own unique challenges. There are two types of activity you must be mindful of:
  • As active participants in the community
  • As consumers of the community content
Regarding participation, we recognized that the Lithosphere was going to be a smaller, more intimate community than many of the ones we deploy for our customers. With that in mind, we expect that we will likely need more engagement internally than is the norm to sustain a healthy level of activity. But while we want to encourage employees to participate in the conversation, we need to be careful not to dominate it. Toward that end we created an employee-specific addendum to our guidelines that addressed internal user behavior, while also developing a rank structure to identify general Lithium employees but visually represent them on a peer level with other members. We also plan to give employees additional motivation to come, such as a private area of their own to discuss internal topics of interest. In short, take a look at all the ways we can influence community behavior, and then see how you might apply them to meet the challenges of this particular audience.

Passive activity is more subtle, but more than with any other group this is where the real value lies. After all, to be truly successful requires that someone do something with what the community generates at the end of the day. For instance, one of our main objectives in the Lithosphere is product improvement through direct customer feedback. The time to discuss how to address product feedback from the community is not after the VP of Product Management has received a query from the Customer Advisory Board! Communicate your message and expectations clearly and early to internal groups who will be involved. Then develop processes to escalate requests internally and to communicate back to the community. The message is not that customer feedback from the community will be immediately addressed, or even that the highest rated requests will be the quickest to be adopted; community feedback being only one factor in a larger process of prioritizing development resources. But a clear understanding on both sides is necessary so that the expectations we set are clear and attainable.

This is just one example. Who else have you made sure to reach out to when launching your community?