Setting meaningful goals for community building
Per my previous post about my interest in the community-building sessions at MMCC, I'm adding a second set of thoughts here about a different question: How do you set goals for something as emotionally based as "community?"
Sure, my colleague Chris Wood, director of ASAE's Convene Green Alliance (CGA) for sustainable meeting planners, and I could just look at CGA program attendance, newsletters published, registered members, and business partners attracted, but we want to consider goals around value, the quality of the relationships in the community, the relevance of the knowledge shared, and the "ROE" (return on engagement, as so many MMCC speakers referenced), too.
"The challenge [with community building] is to do it at a methodical, measured pace and to introduce one piece at a time," advised Ray van Hilst of Vanguard Technology when I asked him his thoughts. Ray wins my "good sport award" for stepping in at the last minute to fill the shoes of an ill Chris Bonney, supporting Andy Steggles and Joe Flowers in a crackin'-good session about community-building/social networking trouble-shooting.
"Just say 'we're adding a feature to the website,' rather than 'building a social network' to avoid any anxiety within the group, he continued. "Remember, it's quality, not quantity" [that counts most when evaluating a community]. So often numbers and expectations are unrealistic."
Still, if a numerical goal must be established for "community" in a work plan or to satisfy higher ups, he recommends looking at the levels of engagement or percentage of participation in some of your other key activities--maybe in your webinars or at your annual meeting--versus your overall membership size, and "approaching a possible number like that."
Thus, if 20% of your members attend your conference, you might set a goal of developing an engaged community of around 20%.
"Take a look at everything else you're doing [and the respective participation percentages], and ask yourself, 'Would we consider ourselves successful if we did the same thing with our community?' Then you can manage that expectation issue," he advised.
Interesting idea. What do other folks think?