For Community Managers: Start a Game of Blog Tag – You’re it!

Image credit to DreamsTime.com

Community Managers and Conversation Architects are always looking for fresh ideas to increase activity and engagement.  I’d suggest a lively game of Blog Tag! The great thing about tag is that while one or more players chase other players in an attempt to tag or touch them, there aren’t many rules, no teams required, no scores, or equipment. All you need to do is shout, ‘Game on!‘ and tag the first person to get them off and running.

I’ve written before about a past employer, Exact Software, and the truly great experience it was working for an organization that genuinely encouraged collaboration among their many employees world-wide, and blog tag is a good example of how they did so. Here’s how it works (I’ll give a sample entry at the end of the post):

First, create a blog template with questions that members/employs will answer. Some examples –
  • How long have you worked at/been a member of  _________?
  • What’s exciting about working at __________ ?
  • What are you doing tomorrow?
  • What’s the most exciting thing that has happened to you since you joined _______?
  • What’s the next event (work or personal) that you’re looking forward to?
  • What’s your favorite book, movie, cd, etc. (You get the gist – tailor to suit your own community.)
  • Do you have any suggestions for games, events, or outings for our community?
  • And lastly – and this is the most important one  – include the TAG action: “I asked the next colleague to write a message: (name + hyperlink to profile) because…”
  • Now that you’ve created the template, the next step is to create a landing page or discussion area for the Blog Tag.
Announce the game and post any rules, if there are any.
  • Examples might include a suggestion that people tag members outside of their own department or region. This encourages members to highlight people outside of their usual community cliques.
  • Suggest that posters include links, media, video
  • Include at least one example – your own – and work your manager magic behind the scenes by inviting (tagging) members in each area of your community to get the game going.
Monitor the game
  • Comment!
  • If you see a bottleneck or things slowing down a bit, tag someone else yourself and encourage others to do so
  • As new members join the community or work space, invite them to play as a great ‘get to know you’
  • Likewise, if this is a work community, resurface departing employees’ past tag entry as part of a fun send off. ‘Remember this?’
You get the idea. Blog Tag really spurs new discoveries and conversations for as long as you can keep the game going. (No idea if it is still going at Exact, but we started the first round back in 2004 and when I left years later it was still going strong!) Want to see a sample?  Here’s my entry for blog from Exact (I’ve removed links to the community profiles, but you can imagine how you’d link to your own members & coworkers). I hope you’ll learn from this and start your own game of tag.

You’re IT!

   SAMPLE BLOG TAG ENTRY

Kelly Craft tells us about “It’s all in the Game at Exact” by Kelly Craft, 20-09-2004

1. How long have you been working for Exact and what was your impression of Exact when you joined the company?I’ve been working with Exact software for almost 2 years. My first impression was that Exact would be an interesting place to work. It still is.

2. What is so exciting about working at Exact?Raindrops on roses, And whiskers on kittens, Bright copper kettles, And warm woolen mittens, Brown paper packages, Tied up with strings… Oops, wrong list – those are Julie Andrews’ favorite things, these are a few of my favorite exciting Exact things:

  • my cherished stash of Exact photos, some of which finally get to see the light of day here
  • My Canadian Coworkers on the infamous “Boston via Montreal” roadtrip – these guys are the best team around and as you can see, fun travel companions! Each and every one of them is hard-working, vibrant, multi-faceted and look great in hats.
  • My Boss, Leslie, who is a wonderful and knowledgeable mentor, manager and nice person, unless you win at the Casino and she doesn’t. 🙂
  • Sharing a little Canadian culture (Beer bucket hat on Big Kahuna Foundervisiting from NL!)
  • Making sure that Aad will never find the Canadian office on his own. A different scenic route every time.
  • Enjoying cold beverages, territory fields, “what if…?” and appetizers in Delft with Jeroen, Reinald and Donnie on a Friday evening, then taking the wrong door inside Poortweg 6 and wandering the locked stairwells for 40 minutes (worrying all the while that I would miss my plane home to Canada the next morning) before I finally got the courage to risk setting the alarm off and left through an outside door. I’m still not sure which was funnier, the earlier company of these Gentlemen, or getting locked in and lost in HO on my last night in Delft.
  • Planting myself firmly in front of Leo and Bart and pleading my case with a very tongue-in-cheek, “But I flew all the way from Canada to get this issue fixed!” They laughed, fixed the bug and kicked me back to the Rental team. Now I need a new line, they’re on to me.
  • The Columbus EDI team, who are probably still breathing sighs of relief that my short-lived stint doing EDI has ended
  • Interesting and helpful e-Synergy resources: Mike, Amy, Marion, Brian, Anne, Bridget, Candace, Cynthia, Alex
  • NA Management who actually read my SPAM: “Matt, she wrote me a thesis, should I read it?” ;->

3. What was your most exciting experience since you joined Exact (can be work, private)?

The happiest personal experience I have had since working for Exact has been moving into our new house last September. And travelling all over is also great. But the most exciting experience, (as in heart-stopping chills and thrills every minute), has been handing a set of car keys over to my green-eyed Baby Girl. I just keep hoping she never takes her driving lessons from my coworkers, Jasper & Duane , Canadian 401 “Autobahn” racers extraordinaire.

4. What are you going to do tomorrow?

Tomorrow I will be working on integrating 4 Progression databases into a consolidated e-Synergy for a very nice customer, and working with some PACES data to merge with e-Synergy for another wonderful Wisdom customer. And I hope to finalize my Engage presentation so I can keep Deanna happy because she and her team work so hard to make our Exact corporate events run like clockwork. Or then again, maybe I will write a Dr. Seuss style Exact manual: “GUIDS here, GUIDS there, GUIDS! GUIDS everywhere!”

5. Tell us about your last ‘event’ at Exact.

My last big Exact Event was EPIC this past Spring in gorgeous Scottsdale, Arizona, where I met many Business Partners and resources like John , got a great tan, saw things I’d never seen before: “We are so not in Ohio anymore!” and realized that we really do need a remote Canadian office in Arizona. Alisia and I would go back just to go out to dinner again. ;->

6. Which future Exact event are you looking forward to?

Engage in Chicago this October will be interesting. I am looking forward to spending time with the customers and Business Partners I’ve worked with and finally meeting some of my favourite coworkers in person.

7. Which sports would you advise your colleagues to join, and why?

Rollerskating. Cheesy old music and you can have pom-poms on your feet. Does it get any better than that?

8. What’s your favorite book?

My favourite book is ‘The Past Through Tomorrow’ a collection of some of the best short stories by Robert A. Heinlein. I recommend it, especially for two special Delft co-workers, Arjan and Woyzeck, who think my reading selections have very odd covers. Mind you, their taste in beer is even more obscure.

;->

9. What’s your favorite CD?

Joe Satriani’s ‘Surfing With the Alien’ “Satriani burst onto the scene as the most visible guitar “wizard” since Eddie Van Halen, and is the one-time teacher of a number of metal hotshots, including Steve Vai and Kirk Hammett. Good rhythms set him apart from many other six-string specialists, though there are plenty of innovative lead techniques as well. Though he incorporates some singing into his work on later releases, all tracks are instrumental here. “Satch Boogie” became the modern-day “Eruption” when it was released, as it is tight, building, and compact. The title track has a solid flow, “Circles” features a nice kick-in, and a metallic churning backbone pushes “Crushing Day”. One of Satch’s best numbers ever surfaces in the form of “Always With Me, Always With You.” This is a beautiful, majestically-played slow piece, and excellent from start to finish. A great disc to get for the guitar guru, especially if you can pick up techniques by ear. You’ll learn a lot from this one. ”

I have to agree entirely with this review. I love the whole album, but “Always With Me, Always With You” is also my personal favourite and is the most hauntingly beautiful song I have ever heard.

10. What’s your favorite TV program?

Any news program .

11. Finally, do you have any suggestions / ideas for a sport, work or fun event within Exact?

Laser tag: Sales vs. Consultants, Customer Support vs. Developers and Management vs. ? ;-> (Watch out for our controller, Jocelyn, aka “Rambo Mama”)

12. I asked the next colleague to write a message: (name + hyperlink to profile) because….

I would like Paul Kramer to tell what it’s like,

To be 6’1″ on  a little guy’s trike,

In the Great Ballroom Race,

He set a fast pace,

And won over the marketing psyche!

Are you a Community Manager or a Conversation Architect?

There are many decent ‘how to’ articles out there with tips on being a good Community Manager, like this one from Martin Reed of Community Spark, but there is much benefit in shifting the mindset from managing to architecting vibrant communities. Ask yourself daily if you are being a Communicator or a Conversation Architect as described by Bob Pearson?

“Communicators often share content they have expertly prepared in the hope that coverage will somehow lead to good things.  It might; but increasingly, it might not.

Conversation architects understand how to enter the conversation with their customer and become a valuable partner to share ideas, product knowledge and solutions, and empower that customer to share the story.”

So? What is the difference between managing or designing a flourishing community? Seth Godin explains architecting as a verb:

“… the intentional arrangement of design elements to get a certain result.

Architecture, for me anyway, involves intention, game theory, systems thinking and relentless testing and improvement. Fine with me if you want to call it design, just don’t forget to do it.”

What Is a Coversation Architect?

Whether the actions of a conversation architect may differ somewhat between the internal and external communities, the key attributes remain the same. By definition, an architect is a qualified professional who designs, plans and supervises construction. An architect is a strategist who looks ahead to envision the ultimate goal of building some lasting and stable.

  • What does it look like? How will it function? Who will dwell or work within?
  • How do we bring all the contractors (members) together to work collaboratively?
  • How will we adapt to changes in the original blueprint and scope of the plan?
  • What external influences are important for our internal structure?
  • Do we need to plan for bad weather? Will the structure withstand hurricanes & strong winds? Flooding?
  • How do we craft it to let natural light shine inside & out?
  • What is the maintenance plan? Who will be responsible for fix-ups? Do we have a handyman handy?
  • Do we need professional decorators and landscapers, or should things grow organically?

I’ll admit my bias here to state that I don’t think there is such a thing as an internally focus community that is not effected in some way by external influences. Depending upon the type of community, changes with government statutes may apply, risk management needs to be considered, industry analysts may change trends, or the weather may change with something as simple as the voices of past members who’ve moved on.

Even in a largely internally focused community like an enterprise intranet, the best conversation architects are those who can liaise and start information exchanges and discussions between all the business units, speaking fluently in the languages of marketing, development, customer service, and executive vision.  As a designer, the architect uses their skills to deftly enable communication, with a keen eye checking the plumbing, wiring and landscaping activities at all times.

It’s also a good strategy to explore outside of your community.  Here are a few more ideas for bringing the outside in:

  • Be a link leader for fresh ideas to bring to the community. Enter into external ongoing discussions taking place about subjects within the community’s niche area. Read blogs discussing the topic as well as offline journals, reports and papers covering the topic.
  • Follow keywords on community focus topics via Google News and Google Blog Search. Blog and comment about what is being said.
  • Listen in on TwitterChats related to the interest area.  Wonderful resource for attracting new community members and finding new ‘voices’ you may wish to invite as guest bloggers.
  • Jump into serendipitous conversations with non-community members to get additional perspectives. If you find a mildly controversial discussion going on elsewhere, ask your community what they think about it to nudge ‘like minds’ into fresh activity.
  • Join at least one community that is entirely dissimilar to your own – you might learn some new tricks & tips looking in as an outsider.

No structure is ever truly complete.  All require maintenance and renovations through the years.  The conversation architect just keeps on designing, planning for future additions and minding the little details that cause flaws in the structure, ever mindful to support the basic foundations & underpinnings.

Don’t just be a Community Manager.  Be a Conversation Architect.