I have been fortunate enough to go through momentum with two different companies. This first was in the late 1990s with Starbucks and the second time is now with It Works Global. When a company grows at such a fast rate, creating communities within the company is so important. It allows people to not get lost in the growth and makes for a much more enjoyable ride.
In both the offline and online world there are a few things that are very important when building communities within a large group.
Have a Purpose
The bigger your organization gets there will be a need to departmentalize it. This can be done based on things like management teams, stores, geographic location, people that have achieved the same thing, maybe a certain award. You get the idea. This community should have a mission or a purpose for their members. Are they all trying to achieve something? Are they helping each other? What is the ?why? of the members? Define the purpose of the group and how members can help each other achieve their goals. Do this early on and make sure new members understand it.
Choose Positive Leadership
This might be the most important thing that you can do for your internal communities. People need a leader. If you pick the wrong one, members may not want to participate. Just like a real town or community, there has to be a sheriff or a leader. Usually this will be the person that starts the group. The leader must be consistent and engage the group in discussion that is beneficial to the purpose of the group. This might be reminders or posts about updates or other important information that people need to know.
The leader should be of service to the community and often act as a host, while maintaining authority. They should create a positive energy and be able to listen to members needs. The leader should have integrity and be able to take action quickly when needed.
If something goes wrong people will be looking to this person for answers.
Sometimes the leader of the community needs help managing it. Consider appointing a community manager that can help with monitoring posts and moderating questions. This will take some pressure off from the leader and make the members feel like they are always being heard. It?s important that when members ask questions or have needs that they are answered in a timely manner. This could be overwhelming if there is only one person in charge of that.
Creating a name, slogan or logo can be a cool way for people to associate themselves to the community. If you are online you can also create #hashtag for your members to use so they can always follow what is going on.
Members will become restless if they can?t find what they are looking for. Work with your community manager to create a system to store information and then make sure your members understand how to find things.
Rules can be set so people feel safe there. Some types of rules can be related to privacy, tone or even posting. Let?s look at a few examples:
Privacy- what happens here stays here. There has to be a trust that anything said in that group will be confidential. It is critical that this rule not be broken and if it is the member of the group needs to be removed or held accountable for it somehow.
Tone ? Online or offline a negative tone is not beneficial to the group. Nip negativity in the bud.
Posting ? It?s important that posts be made with a purpose and an intent to communicate something of value. We are all busy and if there is someone constantly posting frivolous things, the members of the group will get restless. Members must respect each others time.
While groups will always have bystanders, you want to encourage engagement in your community on or offline. Ask questions that will people thinking. Ask for help. Ask for suggestions. Do contests.
When you can trigger positive engagement in your group you will have a stronger team. Engagement triggers positive energy. It gets people excited and makes them proud to be a part of your community.
Have a schedule of when and what you will be posting for your community so they can grow to count on it. If things go quite the members can lose interest and may not want to bother with it any more.
On and offline people need to hear updates about what is going on in their community. Work with your community manager to strategize what your members needs are and how you can help them get what they need to achieve their goals.
Recognition is Key
Recognize members that have achieved something outstanding and make a big deal out of it. People will take pride in this and you will be helping to build a strong foundation to your community. Once you start recognition within a community you must be organized and consistent about how you do it. If you forget someone they could turn negative one you.
Eliminate Toxic People
The tone in a community should always be positive. Negative comments can become toxic and create frenzy from your members as well as making some feel very uncomfortable. This will happen. You will not be able to please everyone all the time and at some point you will come across a member that needs to be warned or even just removed from the community.
Organize Group Meetings
Online meetings can be help via Google+ or other webinar type programs, while offline meetings can be organized daily, weekly, monthly or whatever works best for your group. However you organize your meetings make sure you are valuing the member?s time and providing them with a positive experience. Online members that get to meet each other in real life helps with the bonding of the team. If there is a way to do this try to arrange it.
Empower Your Members
Encourage members to answer questions when they know they answers. Again this will make your foundation stronger. When your members go out of their way to answer, make sure you recognize them publicly.